I've realised that I've been quite lucky as a football fan in that with all the teams I've picked up along the way I don't ever recall being in a relegation fight, never mind being relegated. The worst I've had as a Manchester United fan is them being mid-table and mediocre under Big Fat (and now racist) Ron. I got into Preston 10 years ago when I moved to the town (and now city) since which they've been promoted twice and involved in the play-offs on four occasions.
Times do change though and thanks to the acquisition of a Fulham season ticket and the collapse in trust of a nice, if weak, manager in Preston means I am not so much having a flirtation with relegation, but a full blown affair. I wonder if I should buy a Valentine's Card?
A relegation battle is harder work on the fans than the players in my opinion. If the player is good enough they can just transfer to a non-relegated team in the close season. The fans are stuck with it. The hard part is the hope. Personally I though Fulham were going down after they failed to beat Derby at home. When they went one down to Villa, I questioned whether Fulham would get any more points at home at all. But suddenly they started playing. And won. And provided that kernel of hope that relegation would be avoided. But the existence of that hope makes the dread of relegation even harder to stomach. I'm sure Derby fans are quite relaxed and trying to enjoy what's left of their season. But for the other clubs in the mire, games are so tense there's no sense of enjoyment. Only relief.
I went over to Colchester United last night to see Preston play at Layer Road (before it gets bulldozed at the end of the season). I really wanted to go and watch a game in terracing again and it helped the atmosphere and singing. However PNE got beat 2-1, not helped by an atrocious officiating performance by the referee and his assistants, a result which leaves North End very much in the relegation mix. The players tried their hardest, but I still couldn't help feeling betrayed. It's horrible this relegation lark. I can see why the Americans don't bother with it - the sales of Prozac would treble within a season.
Still - here's hoping!