Sunday, 18 August 2019

pie-less in Thackley

It’s not a great start.
For a new non-league football blog whose hastily made-up name promises pastry-based coverage from around the grounds, I must cut a forlorn and dejected figure when, at our first match of the season – Thackley AFC v Goole AFC – I find no pie to be had. Woe is, apparently, me.
This season, you’ll recall, I’m on the hunt to rekindle my footballing mojo, and it’s to Dennyfield where I head first. (More about that here.)

Pie-less, I bed in at the traditional clubhouse whose leathery lounge seats have supported the heft, I reckon, of at least a couple of decades worth of arse-cheek. I like it in here, with yer club ties available behind the bar (£7.50), its framed photos of teams of yore on the walls and its massive bags of cheese and onion for a quid. Next time I’ll come earlier and stay later.

It’d be refreshing to see clubs being a bit more imaginative with the beer offering, mind – it’s Tetley’s or Carlsberg for me, here – but I know this a football-wide thing. 

Sky Sports News, milking what it can from every bit of not-really-news news, flashes its big countdown timer, ticking off the minutes AND SECONDS ‘til the Hollywood Ball kicks off. I sup up. Seduced by the enticing whiff of greasy meat and meaty grease, I take my place by the tea bar where, despite a pie blackout, business is brisk in the burger and chips market. 

Right, a disclaimer. This isn’t going to be the place to find minute-by-minute match reports - does anybody read them - and, besides, one of the joys I hope to take from watching non-league football is the opportunity to get mildly sozzled in the process, which means you cannot count on my reportage to be in any way accurate.

I do know that Goole come fizzing out of the changing rooms though, peppering the Thackley goal in a frenzied – yes, frenzied (I’m putting you in the action, reader) - opening ten minutes. In a classic move of wing-cutback-finish, it’s no surprise to see Goole go 0-1 up.
I think that their Number 7, Archie Brown, plays a part in that goal. He certainly plays a part in many of Goole’s best moves, pinging it about joyfully, and I Google him to see if there’s any history. I don’t think he’s the Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford Uni, who the search engine throws back at me first, but is more likely to be the lad who bagged a hat-trick on his league debut a couple of weeks ago. Well played.

It remains 0-1 at half-time, with Goole in control but Thackley having, as we must say, a good go
Thackley come out buzzier in the second half. There are goal-line clearances, cross-bar shuddering strikes and an old-school 50/50 in which I hear the unmistakeable war-cry of “’ave him!”, from not a supporter but a team-mate. Yep, I’m well into this.
It’s a tennis match of a last ten minutes, end-to-end action that sees a Thackley player sin-binned and a Goole penalty miss from the hitherto impressive Devante Morton, who makes it too easy for Thackley’s stand-in keeper. We end 0-1 and with Goole at the top of the NCEL Premier.
Word around the ground – yep, I’m the bloke earwigging – is that a few Thackley players are still away in sunnier climes, and I wonder if at full-strength this might’ve been a different story. But Goole are good for their win, strong throughout, with the dependable Ambo Adama and Ashley Cooper bossing it at the back.
After two games Goole top the table. I’m not too fussed about the score though. I’m here to try and re-engage with a game I once couldn’t get enough of, and, although without pie, I’m absorbed. 

Dennyfield - professional but welcoming - is precisely the type of ground I want to visit, and
this - lively, involving - is precisely the type of game I want to see. more of. I haven’t been condemned to sit in one place for 2 dull hours, I can get a beer if I fancy and some people have bought their dogs.
There might not be pies but there is well-priced competitive entertainment, a warm welcome and massive bags of cheese and onion crisps. This is the stuff.

Thackley 0
Goole 1
Entry: £5
Pie rating: n/a

Saturday, 17 August 2019

emergency crumpets

Scuse the dramatics, but I’ve fallen out of love with football. Well, that’s what I like to tell myself, and whoever else will listen, when I try to explain why my one year sabbatical away from the game is now into its 4th season. But to fall out of love with something would imply that there was a time when I was in love with it, and, really, I’m not sure that I was.

It had its moments, of course. Trips to Wembley and Old Trafford, B&Bs in Morecambe and a freezing cold Don Valley Stadium will never be forgotten, and nothing can dampen my enthusiasm for some pre-match pub action.  Well, I say nothing, but increasingly it turned out that the football could always ruin a good drink.

Perhaps it was down to the league club that I still consider myself as a supporter of - if not an actual attender of games at - going through some well-publicised and damaging changes that prompted me to call it a day. That’s a bit of a cop-out though, if I’m being honest. The inertia kicked in some time before the new owners rocked up and things started to go awry on and off the pitch. I was bored bored bored.

Have I missed it? Not really. I miss the pub, and I miss travelling to away games, but I haven’t missed the 90 minutes of ‘action’ itself, so I’m not sure why, hungover and on an emergency crumpets mission at the local shop, I picked up a copy of the Non-League Paper for the first time and read it front to back, soaking its pages with Lurpak-stained fingers as I read match reports for teams I’d never heard of from leagues I didn’t know existed. 

What the frick is the Isthmian Premier, I pondered.

Perhaps I’ve missed it more than I thought then, and buying that newspaper with those crumpets was my gateway back in. Whatever the reason, I’ve bought the paper ever since and have subsequently spent months Wiki-ing the heck out of non-league clubs and its divisions, principally in an attempt to work out why Gloucester City are in the National League North.

There’s a lot to go at, isn’t there, and I like the cut of Non-League’s jib. There’s history and there’s passion and, excuse me if this comes across a little patronising, there’s a ‘properness’ about it that appeals. 

As such, I’m going back in, but am eschewing Big Football in favour of the non-league stuff. 
Let this be the season where I make my glorious re-entry into the world of football, and let this website be the place where I write stuff about it.
There will be blethering. 

There will be mis-remembered match reports. 

There will be pies.