In between the Glossop match and last Saturday afternoon I unfortunately watched my beloved Torquay United capitulate meekly to a very average Burton Albion side at the Pirelli Stadium. It was a performance so clueless and aimless that are, unfortunately, more common than not in the old Division 4. It was the width of a gnat’s arse better than Aldershot away last season, Grays or Eastbourne Borough away in the Blue Square Premier days or Peterborough away back in 2005 or 2006 when I snapped after the left flank (Stephen Reed and Kevin Hill) surrendered and let The Posh go 5-2 up. I had enough, decided to walk out, then changed my mind, went hunting for Bovril instead, Tea Bar shut, went for a “lucky” piss instead (a “pipe dream” piss more like) and then got doused head to toe in ice cold water whilst washing my hands under the tap holding back an Iguazu Falls volume of water.
Since Burton I was unable to kindle any sort of joy for football. I went to visit mother in Devon but avoided the Pompey game (a 1-1 draw). I didn’t watch much Match of the Day and I didn’t bother to stay up to watch The Football League Show and get treated to Steve Claridge mentioning that “so and so who manages that team” have at least now got the team “set up right”. I didn’t even bother looking at midweek non league fixtures. Post November football depression it was. Burton seemed to point the way down the well trodden path towards a season of painful struggle before arriving at Relegation Battle Parkway towards the end. Police Dogs and Football League Ground Regulations can only save us so many times.
However as the week continued and, after I survived Hurricane Jude and South West Trains twatting about more than normal, I found myself not fancying any of the other matches around so I texted JB on Friday evening and before I knew it we agreed that Saturday would be Destination Gigg Lane. Proud home of Bury FC and two times winners of the FA Cup who incidently, still hold the record score in a cup final when they put Derby County to the sword and won 6-0 in 1903 at Crystal Palace in front of 63,102. 63,101 of those wearing flat caps, the other 1 being a bearded Frenchman sporting a Beret.
I picked him up from his Gym on Saturday morning. Diesel bought at a BP Garage up the road and the full limitations of the BP Meal Deal were cruelly exposed when we both chose Pickled Onion Monster Munch instead of the regulation Gary Lineker specials. The Ham, Cheese and Pickle wasn’t bad but I couldn’t taste much Oak, either aged or smoked. We sped up the M1 and then turned off at Chesterfield for a re-enactment of the Glossop run a couple of weeks before. A very beautiful county is Derbyshire. How Yorkshire got placed 3rd this week in the Lonely Planet’s guide of best regions to visit is way beyond my comprehension. Have they not seen Ferrybridge? Yorkshire is to Derbyshire what Cornwall is to Devon. A second rate county where the locals haven’t discovered the benefits of wearing shoes yet. 😉
There was still time for watching a driver in a Fiat Grande Punto brick himself as both he and a lorry both headed towards the same sharp bend just on the way to Barlow. Just a small dab on the brakes there Sir. Then a short hop over Snake Pass down into Glossop and then smack bang into a right ho’ of a traffic jam which saw us make about 50 metres progress in 30 minutes before we decided to have a small detour around the backstreets of Glossop which eventually saw us emerge at Glossop Caravans after visiting Glossop Bowling Club twice and Hadfield once, which as some of you may know doubled up as Royston Vasey in The League of Gentlemen.
The jams continued though before we emerged onto the M67 and headed past Denton on the M60 then heading past, Hyde, Ashton-Under-Lyme, Audenshaw, Failsworth, Chadderton, Oldham, Middleton and finally onto the M66 for barely a couple of miles before pulling off into Bury. To my absolute amazement I managed to right across the road from the ground outside a house called Shakers View. Shakers indeed. Named so after a past Chairman said before the 1892 Lancashire Cup Final that of their stronger opponents “We will give them a good shaking. Indeed we are the Shakers”. Or something a little less Victorian.
The first pleasant surprise was that we only paid £15 to get in. Still more than most German Bundesliga clubs but I’ve run out of fight arguing the toss over that sore point. I wasn’t sure if the full security pat down was absolutely needed for the 157 souls who chose to sit in the away end that afternoon. The bloke didn’t find my camera anyway. Some nice ample turnstiles as well. The Tea Bar was visited. Tea and Pie more like. Very tasty if a bit expensive. The sight of JB aroused the Tea Bar lady. “A hunk” she cried “A hunk”. She lovingly rubbed her ample bosoms as well. Not something you see everyday.
So onto the match. Rice in goal. Tonge, O’Connor, Downes, Nicholson. Not a back four blessed with pace, apart from young O’Connor who is on-loan from Blackburn Rovers. Midfield of Chapell, Mansell, McCourt (a kid on loan from Leicester) and Azeez (kid on loan from Charlton) and up top we had Elliot Benyon (jesus wept) and Paul McCallum (kid on loan from West Ham). A strong looking bench though of Karl Hawley, Damien Mozika, Pearce, Poke, Sullivan, Tom Cruise and Nathan Craig. Cruise and Hawley in particular must have been wondering what on earth they’d done to upset Alan Knill in the week.
I cringed when the first pro-Lee Mansell and Kevin Nicholson songs were sung. On Friday Captain Mansell had come out to moan about abusive tweets he’d been receiving from “mindless idiots”. Nicholson had also been receiving some less than complimentary feedback via Social Media. The problem is that they are both coming to the end of their league careers and are both on a decent wedge after previous manager Martin Ling quite surprisingly renewed both their contracts. Lots of money is being spent and very little in the way of value is coming back. Nicholson is looking slower every season and Mansell is living off the back of the one stand-out season he had under Ling the season before last. Both use twitter a fair bit. Both were quite happy to take the plaudits when things were going well but are now realising that there’s another darker side to twitter when the form dries up and the moronic #believe tweets start to grate. Both are likely to be offloaded in the transfer window, well hopefully anyway. The problem is that I’m not even sure that they are Conference standard any more and with the amount of money they are currently being paid I can’t see anyone willing to take them on. The compounding problem is of course that our budget has been slashed this season hence the arrival of talented kids both on thrifty youth loans or on low-cost permanent deals who, for obvious reasons, haven’t been able to consistently show their worth. As for the senior Pros. Poke, the first choice keeper has been injured since the start of the season. His replacement Martin Rice isn’t that commanding. Aaron Downes has been injured, likewise Ben Harding The highly rated Krystian Pearce has been diagnosed with a type of sickle cell just as he was beginning to settle in and both the other new arrivals Dale Tonge and Karl Hawley have suffered a bit trying to cover areas unfamiliar to them, although Tonge seems a bit ordinary to say the least. We’ve waited years to sign a proper right back (probably since Paul Holmes came back to us after spells with Birmingham City, WBA and Everton). If you then throw in the Mansell and Nicholson situation and it’s not really hard to see why we are where we are in the table.
Still hope springs eternal and all that. Bury started off the stronger and forced several corners so it was a bit ironic that we’d open the scoring down the other end from a corner with Aaron Downes heading home after 18 minutes. Then the Shakers equalised through Nathan Cameron who took full advantage of another defensive mix up to score and then got himself a daft yellow card celebrating. We then scored again 5 minutes later when West Ham loanee Paul McCallum headed home past Brian “The Beast” Jensen in the Shaker’s goal. We weathered the slight Bury squall until half time, but not before I’d told perennial cheat merchant Shaun Harrad to “fuck off”. So two-one up at half time. Unexpected and largely unexplainable by anyone to how we were winning with such a lack of attacking intent. Football is a truly bizarre game sometimes. The conclusion we arrived at was simply “they’re much shitter at the back than we are”.
The second half started. They almost scored twice. Young McCourt making a decent clearance for one and Rice making a good save for the second. Then Elliot Benyon surged down the right and put in a decent cross. The Bury defender slipped and McCallum finished with class. 1-3 away from home.
Then the rain was replaced by thunder, bolts of lightning, torrential rain and a massive hailstorm. Bury were shot. Their fans just resorted to cheering every crack of lightning instead. Jak McCourt almost made it 1-4 when he ran onto a decent ball, controlled it fantastically and slotted it past The Beast only to hit the post. Mansell almost scored as well. Thank goodness he didn’t though. We were all spared the over-the-top-badge-grabbing fist-pumping goal celebration with the fickle moronic supporters in a kind of surreal Lourdes moment where nobody actually meant it. I afforded myself a wry smile. We were worried however that the ref would call the game off but thankfully the storm abated and the standing water stabilised at acceptable levels. We were lucky. The game down the road at Spotland was interrupted when lightning struck of the floodlight pylons. No repeat of that at Gigg Lane. A handsome 1-3 away win. Man of the match went to young Anthony O’Connor who showed composure, strength, two good feet and good concentration. He’s far too good for us and he’ll go on to be a good Championship player.
I have to say that Gigg Lane is a lovely ground. The Stewards were relaxed and friendly. It was also cheap by League 2 standards to get in. I was also impressed that the club don’t do the normal annoying trick of trying to ram everyone together in a small block of seating. It’s nice to spread out a bit and distance yourself from those who don’t share your ethos.
The hailstorm had also exfoliated my car of all the accumulated pigeon shit. An extra bonus. We went the same way back as we come with a slightly more direct route through Glossop. A slightly wetter driving back over snake pass and then we treated ourselves to Fish and Chips in Chesterfield. The usual impeccable standards from the North Sea Fish Bar on Sheffield Road. Best Chipper in the land. A Michelin Star wouldn’t go amiss. JB says that it’s the only Chippy that’s made him question his Atheism.
I tweeted Captain Mansell over a strong coffee and buttered Crumpets on Sunday morning. No reply or retweet as yet.