Can football be romantic, even for a Carrick Rangers fan?

Carrick Rangers FC

Albert Einstein is credited for his work on the Special Theory of Relativity. Probably the most prominent genius of modern times. Even he, though, would struggle to explain why so many Carrick Rangers fans embarked on the recent trip to the Bangor Fuels Arena to take on Ards in the Danske Bank Premiership.

To put the fixture some context, Carrick hadn’t won a game in seventeen attempts (an unwanted club record). Their last win was in British Summer Time. They had scored seven goals in that winless run.

I’m no Einstein, as is apparent to anyone that knows me, but here’s my own Theory of Relativity.

As a Crusaders fan, success is measured in silverware. For Linfield fans, there is an expectation that they win every game: the boos echo round the ground any time they fail. Further down the pecking order, the odd cup run is enough. Glentoran fans dream of finishing in the top six.

Drop down nearer to the basement, and supporters of Ballinamallard, Warrenpoint, Ards and Carrick and every point is embraced with the love ordinarily retained for a sweetheart.

Like any strong love affair, it’s not always plain sailing.

Sometimes no sailing at all!

Well, for Rangers’ fans, the looming of St. Valentine’s Day seemed to be a turning point. A time to put the past where it belongs – in the past. Sleeves rolled up, determination to stay with the true love of their lives (warts and all), hatchets buried, love rekindled, kiss and make up.

The catalyst for this renewed love-in? Not a hundred percent sure, though a few factors came into play.

First, an acknowledgement that the law of averages meant a win had to come – eventually.

Secondly, manager David McAlinden had given the squad a bit of a makeover, adding a decent amount of attacking flair to the panel.

Thirdly, the Spirit of ’76 Supporters’ Club offered free travel to the game, and everyone loves a bargain. The rationale for this generosity was based on a belief that positivity feeds positivity.

Like a well organised date night, the match played out like a perfect romantic evening.

Jonathan Smith delivered an early appetiser with a neat turn and finish. Cue the flowing football that an opening goal can encourage. Ralph Cottoy caressed the football from one end of the pitch to the other as the men in Amber set about their opponents.

The second half had hardly warmed up when Paddy McNally stroked home a volley from ten yards, and was then embraced by the travelling contingent as he raced into their open arms in celebration.

Better was to follow when Lee Chapman danced his way through a packed defence to leave the Amber Army in rapture, before the same player teased the Ards defence on the right flank before delivering a pinpoint cross that the diminutive Eamon Scannell guided into the net with an expertly executed header. Cue delirium on the terraces.

The final whistle was met with the overwhelming joy. And I mean overwhelming, as grown men acted like love-struck teenagers. Wanton hugging, knowing smiles, pure elation. A feeling we had almost forgotten, but was now back like a first love.

No silverware.

No medals.

Unconditional love, though, does not rely on those material things. It’s what happens in the heart: that’s what really matters. Carrick fans’ faith, trust, loyalty and devotion was repaid in spades by their partners on the pitch.

Like any strong relationship, there are ups and downs. Sometimes even the odd disagreement. Sometimes, its the making up that is worth it.

I love this game

I love Carrick Rangers.