I wrote recently about quitting things I love (downhill mountain biking and playing five-a-side football). Another consideration, which pains me to admit, was the watching of football. Like many of my countryfolk I have fallen hook, line and sinker, since early childhood, with the beautiful game and some of my most ecstatic memories have come via the vehicle of the sport, be it Barnet staying in the Football League in a last-day decider, or England providing yet another false dawn in a major tournament.

But recently, I have found myself putting on the games, as a televisual comfort blanket, I would surmise, and becoming utterly bored at the offerings. Touted as the pinnacle of the game, the Champions League and Premier League are sold as the Selfridges of sport: offering glossed up, highly produced works of art which ultimately end in dull tactical stalemates as, against our better judgement, we continue to buy into the lie.

But then, having turned over for a recent game to watch American Nightmare which, as a tale of a kidnap in the States, was infinitely more entertaining than Wolves against Fulham or whoever it was, I, on my last legs after nearly 50 years of watching the game and on the verge of quitting, stumbled upon the reason why, although dimmed, my love will never be allowed to die.

On a nondescript Saturday afternoon, I switched on the Ipswich V Maidstone FA Cup Fourth Round game. Languishing in the dregs of non-league, the semi-professional Kent plumbers, against the odds and with only two shots on target, somehow managed to defeat, away, the Tractor Boys. The stats were staggering: Ipswich had 38 shots to Maidstone’s two, they also had 79 per cent possession and nigh on four times as many passes, but due to grit and determination, the cramp-writhen postmen and builders held on for a famous 2-1 victory.

The joy was palpable, and I couldn’t help but well up at the scenes afterwards: this was their World Cup final and what it meant to them was indescribable. They jumped with glee and hugged and cried and then the man of the match, the goalkeeper, Lucas Covolan, took his moment to be interviewed about what it meant to him. He explained, with tears streaming down his face, how this was the pinnacle of his life after a tough personal ride.

An instantly likeable chap, Covolan suffered with depression and anxiety as he tried, and failed, to make his way in what is a short career through the leagues but ultimately ended up in Maidstone which, know it as I do, is not the most aesthetic or pleasing of places. Non-descript is how I would best describe the town, and the football club, and Covolan, until on this cold, brisk day when all of his stars aligned and he cemented himself in the annals of FA Cup history and grabbed his moment of triumph, humbly, but with a firm grip.

So the next time I think of a retreat from the game that I have been intimate with for half a century, I will think back to Jimmy Glass, the on-loan keeper who kept Carlisle in the Football League with a last-minute goal all those years ago, or Covolan to whom the victory meant more than the world as I buy into the emotion and back story, and not the tactics and staidness of big league football.

It is, in many ways, like a marriage: there are times you are sick of the sight of each other and it can be as dull as a hyped up big four ‘battle’, but ultimately, if you stick with it into extra time, the defences break and the excitement comes back when you least expect it and that is why we should not be too hasty in getting rid of things we love, when their time is nowhere near being up…

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher