Gulls come from behind to defeat K’s
Wilko Johnson, of Dr Feelgood (and latterly Game of Thrones) fame, was born on Canvey Island. A recent documentary featured the guitarist wandering the mudflats and rocky estuary beaches musing on his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and the medical experts’ firm warning that he had something less than a year to live.
But knowing he was on his way out didn’t sadden him. Instead, for the first time in his life, he professed to feeling intense rushes of joy, ecstatic moments of connection with nature and a stoical sense that he wouldn’t or couldn’t have lived his life any other way.
This is a man who suffered from depression for decades, had been riven by anger at an abusive father and had seen his childhood sweetheart succumb to cancer herself 10 years before. But here he was, at the end, smiling. Because Canvey Island was, for him, for now at least, heaven on earth and he needed no promise of anything more to come.
I thought of "The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson" a lot on Saturday. I thought of him when two ships sailed past the tiny stadium, stealing the horizon and sending a shadow over Britain’s worst skatepark. I thought of him when Andre McCollin raced clear from a Pico flick and scored the opening goal, hugging and high-fiving the away support with a beatific grin on his face. I thought of him when a K’s fan, seeking to retrieve the ball from the narrow space between the net and advertising hording at Park Lane (the keeper being happy to leave it there in his efforts to timewaste), reached too far over the side and collapsed right over and into the goal. There was a confused pause, the odd concerned look and then 250 people, in unison, cracked into uproarious laughter – not at the hapless victim of circumstance but at the utter Ryman Premier absurdity, the collective joy of a shared moment when time stands still and meaningless hysteria is all we have and all we need.
But I also thought of him when Canvey’s Cliff Akurang equalised for the Gulls from an ugly longball scramble header and when four minutes later more calamitous defending allowed Ross Johnson to bobble home a winner via two deflections - both incidents of accidental, random, uncontrollable happenstance. I thought of him when the Canvey goalkeeper turned to the away support and uttered a word no family club should ever hear. I thought of him when erstwhile bete noire Steve Sheehan fist-pumped wildly at the final whistle, the epitomy of injustice and human cruelty triumphing over good.
And as I thought of him, I smiled. Because while Wilko was making the documentary and saying his goodbyes, a miracle happened. A doctor reckoned there was still hope. There was one last operation to try. And, having accepted death and embraced life, Wilko suddenly found himself free and with years left to live. He’d come to Canvey to die and instead found reasons to carry on.
K’s might not make the playoffs. We might not even make it to 2020. But 2015/16 has been, whatever happens, the ultimate “Season of Fun”; from Friday Night Football at Grays to Steve Butterworth, from Leiston in the fog to the Royal Enclosure caterpillar, the scores haven't mattered all that much. If this season is dragging itself to a funereal close, let’s enjoy every last manic, intense, precious moment. Call it The Ecstasy of Alan Turvey.
Match report by Taimour Lay.