At the Bromley v Dartford game tomorrow you will find several hundred Bromley fans, several hundred (very noisy) Dartford fans and at least one Sunderland fan, a Peterborough United fan and a Leeds United fan. The odd ones out in that sentence are the teams of choice of the three of us travelling to Hayes Lane for this FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round game. And the great thing about tomorrow's game is that all paying customers will be standing together. There will be no segregation. Supporters of both participants will mingle freely before, during and after the game. All genuine football fans with a shared passion for the game.
One of the definite highlights on this FA Cup road so far has been the lack of segregation at the grounds. Fans have still grouped together and swapped ends at half time, that is only natural. Tribal instinct prevails. But I have stood amongst Sittingbourne and Chertsey fans as they trade good humoured jibes with each other. I have stood between Dartford and Sittingbourne supporters as both groups bemoan the quality of refereeing. I have stood at one end of Camberley's ground and spent alternate halves of normal and extra time stood with either the home support or the away support.
After my son came with me to watch the Dartford v Camberley game, I was surprised how much he enjoyed it. I asked him why, when at other games he had become bored or twitchy long before the players were tucking into their half-time oranges. The answer didn't really surprise me. He enjoyed the freedom of being able to move around the terrace and watch the game from a variety of different vantage points. He enjoyed not being confined to one seat for a full 90 minutes. He didn't feel trapped.
I saw a question raised about the Bromley game tomorrow; would there be segregation at this game? It is a fair question as a big crowd is expected. Bromley have stated that there will not be any segregation.
I wonder how long into this FA Cup journey I will travel before I encounter a game where fans are forced to stand apart? Possibly in the 1st Round Proper when the league clubs enter the fray. A friend of mine has already asked where I would stand for segregated games; the home or away end? To be honest, I don't know. In the latter rounds I'm sure it will be where ever I can get a ticket.
Thinking of all my family, friends and work colleagues who are into football, the range of football teams that they support is quite large. I've already mentioned Sunderland, Peterborough United and Leeds United. QPR and Fulham have also been represented on this FA Cup journey. Other teams supported in my social coterie include Manchester United and Manchester City, Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, Nottingham Forest, Marlow, Altrincham, Aldershot, Hereford United, Hull City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Coventry City, Newcastle United, Stockport County, Sheffield United, Newport County, Cwmbran Town..... I could go on. The point is that we all have been to watch games with our friends and enjoy doing so, irrespective of who is playing.
And irrespective of where you stand or sit.
Tomorrow we will have a choice of where to stand. I just hope I'm not stood next to any weird Sunderland or Peterborugh United fans.