Walking to the Match

Going to the Match

Scarves out and the van parked.

The corner turned and a grab of the arm leads the way to the the centre of the Universe.

Walking down Longshut Lane past Muslim men in robes who pray to their own Mecca.

Via the pub and the scent of an aromatic shrub.

Through the  estate where lines of loose jeans appear from every direction, following and leading,

all in uniformed kit and discussing what will evolve;

like an army under a self-imposed command to come together for an uncertain fate.

Mercian Way in sight and caught in the fast track bound for the pitch.

No looking behind, to the side, up or down – only in front.

Stepping carefully between the puddles,

following the orbit of club culture.

Reaching the point of no return where a seller of programmes and a leggy cheerleader

lurk to catch the crowd and call in the coins.

Down the dark diagonal, the unlit narrow path.

Through the car park, past the fast food and the fast boys,

to our Lady of the Turnstile, who gathers all in to her grassy fold.

Food for thought.

A well-known local broadcaster recently announced, with tongue rather insincerely in cheek, that all vegetarians should be rounded up and shot. There was no place in football, according to him, for vegetarianism.

Strong views from a man who considers himself every inch a football fan, most of all a true blue County fan.

There are lots of “isms” that don’t have any place in football -such as racism, sexism, hooliganism…………………………………….but vegetarianism? Please, get a grip!!!!!

People have repeatedly said to me, “You don’t look like a football fan”. I also don’t look like a teacher but taught successfully for many years before my retirement. If I don’t look like a football fan then the question begs to be asked, “What does a typical football fan look like?” Is there a list of features and requirements necessary to be considered acceptable to the crowd? Maybe being a vegetarian is my big problem.

Even though I call myself a vegetarian, I am really a bit of a fraud in that department as well. I do eat fish so a really strict vegan would eject me from the fold of true vegetarianism. Roy Keane would also be rather sniffy with me because I admit to enjoying a prawn sandwich occasionally. Guess I don’t fit snugly anywhere.

I’d like to think that not looking like the sort of person who does the things I like to do presents more of a positive challenge for me and allows me the freedom to expose the ridiculous notion of being “typical”.

Last season, the local press delighted in finding any excuse to ridicule the club and its fans. They insultingly announced that, according to the results of a survey, Stockport County fans were the most overweight in the UK. I felt this was all part of kicking a club when it was down. County was, for every City and United fan, an easy target. As well as making bad jokes about the football, they could now make fun of the fans’ waistlines.

Too many pies and burgers, maybe? Possibly for some.

However, I would be the first to stand up for any fan’s right to enjoy traditional matchday cuisine if that’s what he or she chose to eat. What leaves me hot under the collar is the clannish attitude of some who stubbornly maintain that you can’t be a real football fan if you don’t eat the things we eat. Stubbornly hanging on to etched-in habits can go a bit too far sometimes. Nostalgia and pride in the history of your club is all very well but not when it seems to create a barrier to change.

Can any club afford attitudes of this type today? Certainly not. Survival depends upon getting more folk through the gates, more paying folk who don’t necessarily look or act like your traditional fan. That’s why I think the matchday experience at County should change to allow future fans more freedom to be “untypical”, including making choices on what food they eat. Money-bags clubs like City are already offering a diverse range of dishes on match days and have found that many fans are enjoying trying something new. The meat pie brigade are still a strong presence and long may they reign but new fans will emerge, hopefully, from every walk of life and our own club should be working towards the position of offering families and individuals a choice between both a traditional and an alternative menu with healthy options.

At the moment I am quite happy sitting in the Main Stand with my lentil pie amidst a sea of meat pies. I do look forward to the day when I will be able to buy my lentil pie from County catering but until then I will, no doubt, represent to some, vegetarianism rearing its ugly head at County!!!! Quel horreur!!!!!

 

Bury your dead or Bury! You’re dead.

What a satisfying feeling it is to go to a football match convinced you don’t have a sheep’s stomach of a chance of winning and emerge 90 minutes later victorious. The bonhomme in the crowd, the opportunity to study the gloomy faces of opposition fans and gloat, the jaunty walk(or should I say race) along the main road with other departing fans. Totally satisfying!! L.S Lowry captured that walk in one of his paintings; a walk that’s driven by the momentum of restored hope.

As a Stockport County fan, I attend all our matches armed with boredom comforters like toffees, live frogs, a Build your own Viaduct set and that old stand-by, laudanum.

Yesterday’s match with Bury, classed as a local derby, saw us up against a club that had the best away record in the League. We, on the other hand, have a goal difference that could legally qualify for a bus pass.

We had been slightly cheered by the arrival of a new striker from Southend in the week. He was soon blooded, literally, when he collided head first with a Bury player minutes into the match and nearly knocked himself out, needing 4 stitches. 4 stitches increased to 6 stitches as the game went on. His poor father had travelled all the way up from the South coast to watch him play and must have been going through torture witnessing the dressing on his son’s head getting bigger and bigger. Our manager does not believe in taking anyone off until a major artery is severed.

His bravery was to be rewarded, however, as he got that all important goal and in front of his ol’dad at that. I think we may see him wearing head protection next week, possibly an improvised Egyptian saucepan helmet, in club colours, of course.

Following another Bury player biting the dust with concussion, the second goal came from our other striker, Anthony Elding, who hasn’t scored since he came to the club. So moved was he by the occasion that he kissed the Edgeley Park turf and ran half way round the pitch to celebrate. In the postmatch interview, it was obvious he had transformed into a maudlin drunk.  His moonwalk speech consisted of, “I really love this club, I really love this club………………………………………….” The interviewer was taken aback by all this raw emotion and momentarily forgot how many players there are in a football team. 

And so, dear friends, Stockport County moved off the bottom of the table and I put my frogs back in the canal and dismantled my viaduct for another week.