Love is a funny thing, right? It can hit you out of a clear blue sky in the awesome phenomenon some call The Thunderbolt.
It can grow over time too, in a way that creeps up on you without you even realising it.
And it can fade slowly, or fall away fast, leaving one party wondering how they could ever have believed in it and the other shell-shocked that it’s over.
Linfield and Sevco had a love thing going for a while there.
It must have developed fast, since the Ibrox NewCo is only five years old or so. But by God, it looked strong. It’s clear Linfield saw in Sevco a little of the old Rangers, but it was never completely clear to me why they felt such a need to act as if they were star-struck.
They’ve certainly fallen out of love now, though.
Last night, Linfield fans told those of Sevco where to go.
It’s been coming for a while.
When we played Linfield in the Champions League, after Sevco had already been pumped out of Europe by the nobodies of Progres, some of the Linfield backroom team talked about “flying the flag on behalf” of them. I never got that. I thought the whole point in being in Europe was to fly the flag on behalf of yourself. They are the title winning club. They were the team seeking a seat at European football’s top table. It was demeaning for them.
In the run up to the game, I pointed out that although a section of the Linfield support simply refuses to live in the civilised world the club itself wants to move past the sectarian connotations and all this Halloween in July nonsense with which it has been associated for years. You see, Linfield’s directors can clearly see the writing on the wall. The old rites no longer work the old magic. The next generation will not give a damn about the flag or the crown.
Things are changing, and a club that wants to survive changes with them.
Linfield’s directors get it, and so too do some of their fans. And a lot of those fans were in Scotland last night, for the game against Dundee Utd, and they were bitterly unhappy with the sectarian singing which blighted the game. From their own end.
But not, according to them, from their own supporters.
They blamed a “Scottish contingent.”
They blamed Sevco fans.
And the message they sent, in tweets and interviews with the media in Dundee and back home in Belfast was clear; “stick to embarrassing your own club. Don’t toxify ours.”
You know things have changed when that happens.
Linfield wants to be a grown up club, free from all the baggage.
And the last thing they need are desperate hangers-on who see bigotry as a bond, and who are so success starved they will latch on to a team from the Northern Irish League if it means seeing trophies and titles. Linfield has outgrown them, on and off the park.
Who ever saw that coming?