As some of you will already be aware, for the next few weeks Monday night is now literature night here on Twohundredpercent. We are delighted to welcome back Football Hobo’s Alan Smithy back to our pages this evening for the third act of his seven part epic which traces the life of the football supporter in relation to the celebrated monologue from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” that is best known as “The Seven Ages Of Man”, or “All The World’s A Stage”. This evening: The Lover.

The themes of hope and desperation run through a number of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, in much the same way that they run through the veins of football fans. He wouldn’t have had a clue about transfer deadline day, and yet the green-eyed monster descends upon fans of all clubs as they eye up the latest rumoured transfer targets, and parting is such sweet sorrow when your favourite player gets snapped up by a bigger club. Yep, old Billy was well ahead of his time as far as football fans are concerned.

I reckon he could’ve churned out some superb plays about togger if he were around today, but perhaps he was more prescient about football than we give him credit for. If you take one of his most famous soliloquys and look at it from a funny angle, you might find that it was written about us fans all along.

I’m referring, of course, to Jaques in Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It, and his seven ages of fan.

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”

Jacques moves us on to the third age

“And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow.”

Your mistress in this case is the beautiful game. In the age of the lover, we hope you’ll be reaching the age of consent (or if you haven’t that you keep word of any such activities away from prying ears; it might not just be the morning register at school you’re signing on to, otherwise). Yep, you’ve reached your teenage years, and this is when football properly grips you and love takes hold.

Of course it’s during the age of the lover that all your  first loves fall in to place, not just football. You’ll have your first crush, first girlfriend, first favourite band that you’ll always keep coming back to no matter how old you are, your love of computer games and first experiences of so many things. This time of your life is among the most important, as it is where so many ideas are formed, and you experiment with so much. In a way, the third age of fan is like your very own version of the Wonder Years, albeit vastly improved by the lack of annoying American internal monologue. It’s like a footballing rite of passage.

The age of the lover is when so much of the childish, irrational behaviour that goes hand-in-hand with being a football fan is allowed, such as the ridiculous attention to paid stats and the knowledge of everything that’s going on with your club. It’s perfectly fine, in fact expected, for a 16 year old Football Manager obsessive to know intimate details about the club’s next signing following the first rumour hitting the message boards by the time morning break comes around at school tomorrow. Announce over your morning tea-break at work that the unheralded foreigner whose name appeared in the paper actually had three good years in Bosnia before he broke through in the French second division, and that at 6 foot 4 he’ll be exactly an inch and a half taller than your current centre back stalwart, and you’ll more than likely get some funny looks from your colleagues.

Also, while still legally a child, it’s the last time that it’s still permissible to cry about football in public. At least it’s the last time that you’d be willing to admit to it, anyway. Breaking down in the office because your long-standing manager has left the club is a sure-fire way to a disciplinary. Or some time signed off.

They say that we all have a little touch of autism about us – not quite in a Rainman toothpick-counting sort of way, but everyone seems to have that capability for obsession, and for most of us it kicks in around our mid teens as our football gland goes into overdrive. Fed by newspaper reports/teletext/fanzines/the internet (delete as appropriate for your particular age-bracket), the obsession develops to worrying levels. You live for football. You talk about it constantly. The last match, the next match, the one after that. You doodle formations and team-lineups on the back of school notebooks and cigarette packets. If someone asks who you’re playing on a particular weekend 3 months from now you’ll undoubtedly know.

You’ve largely left behind the jumpers for goalposts playing days of your childhood. You still enjoy a good kick-about, sure, but too often it gets in the way of football you’d rather be watching. Or girls you’d rather be chasing. You might not be doing well in History at school, but it’s in this age that you truly become a student of the game – searching past clips, videos and reading up on club and world football greats from times past.

If you’re looking for an analogy, the progression into the third age of fan sees us casting aside Match and Shoot and moving on to FourFourTwo. We’re hungry for knowledge, want to know what the big names think, and want a little more than the comics of our mis-spent youth. For today’s third agers, there’s the wide world of the internet to discover as well – apparently there’s some football sites on there, too, in amongst the bountiful thrapping material.

Follow Alan Smithy on Twitter here.

Follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter here.