So then, a brief obituary to the terrace which gives this blog its name, a terrace knocked down by AFC Wimbledon in the name of progress. More accurately, a terrace which AFC Wimbledon were forced to knock down by the FA’s definition of progress. This very same misguided definition of progress has been responsible for the destruction of countless other terraces throughout English football over the past two decades, and hearing the news that yet another fine structure has been earmarked for an ‘upgrade’ is never a good moment. But it was only the demolition of this particular terrace which made me genuinely sad.
Can a grown adult actually feel melancholy as a result of the destruction of some bricks, mortar, concrete and steel? Well, yes, I can’t deny that I did. And I wasn’t alone, either, judging by the number of others who lingered after the final whistle at the terrace’s last game for a goodbye photo, for an emotional final sing-song beneath its roof. So, why did we feel like we did?
Well, it was a brilliant football terrace for a small non-league club. It had a low roof, low enough to reach up and touch (or to bang your head on during a goal celebration for anyone over 6’2″), and low enough to reverberate the noise so well that 50 people sounded like 5000. In fact, I’ve never stood on another terrace which had such an uncanny ability to amplify noise. It was also incredibly close to the pitch, close enough to shake the net at corners and calmly detail the failings of opposition keepers so that they could hear every word. Us singing fans felt that we could have a real effect on the team’s performance for 45 minutes every other week. That may very well have been nonsense, but it certainly had a particular magic which very few non-terraces possess. Every behind-the-goal Kingstonian fan was sad that such an atmospheric structure would be replaced by an oversized, seated, soulless stand. But I’d like to think I’m rational (and not mental) enough not to get emotional about that.
No, the real answer to why its destruction stirred up emotions is this: memories. If you spend a certain amount of your life in a certain place, and experience highs and lows, laughs and deep disappointments, you develop an emotional attachment to that environment. Most of us feel a fondness for our home town, or wherever we grew up; all of us, I’m sure, feel some deep sense of attachment to the home in which we spent most of our childhood. And, in my case anyway, you don’t necessarily realise you have that sense of attachment until you leave your home town, your childhood home. So that’s why I suddenly felt a deep sense of sadness midway through the second half of the Kingston Road End’s swansong, the game against the Met Police in April – it was the knowledge that a place imbued with so many intense memories would no longer be there. Unlike my home town, I wouldn’t be able to revisit it in the coming decades to bring back those feelings, to bring those almost-forgotten memories back into the forefront of my mind. And that is sad.
So, farewell then, Kingston Road End. We were lucky to have known you.