Thursday, September 3

After the return of the prodigal son

‘I gave them happiness, but I was not so self-serving as to let them forgive me. Not quite, not yet’
- Atonement

I’ve been standing at the mouth of the tunnel, feeling the waves of post-match fatigue wash over me, as I look at the penalty area in front of the East Stand. Thinking of goals from the last few weeks; thinking of goals from two years ago.

It’s been a month now, a month of trying to do what I’ve wanted to do for some time. Not to go back to that time two years ago, although I would be a liar if I were to deny I would do it if I could, but to find some kind of atonement for what came after.

The problem for this month has been this: how can a footballer achieve atonement for the past when forgiveness seems to only live in the present, so fleetingly? How many of these moments must there be before there can be atonement? The supporters may forget the past in the moment I score a goal, but can they ever really forgive? As the euphoria dies, is there not a look that tells me they can’t quite give themselves entirely to the moment - not yet - as I once didn’t give myself to them?

Perhaps it was always an impossible task, and perhaps that is precisely the point. The attempt was all. I can give them happiness, but I am not so self-serving as to let them forgive me. Not quite, not yet.

If I have the power, I would conjure them at a promotion party in April… a spring day at Minchery, milky sunlight slanting across the pitch, the supporters, jubilant in the stands, a sea of yellow as we confirm the championship? It’s not impossible.

(The images of Matt Green in this post are courtesy of Steve Daniels/Rage Online, reproduced here with kind permission.)

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