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If You're all going to Gainsborough..

By: Chris Smith
Date: 23/07/2009

I'VE been looking away from Blundell Park for my summer football fix this pre-season. Whilst our regular crew put in plenty of miles last year, I've boycotted the home pre-season games this year as I didn't intend to pay for games I expected to see for free.

Enough of that. I don't want judging over something I've decided on a point of principle just as I wouldn't pass judgement on anyone who paid. I know why they would. After all, I've had the bug for my home town football club for nearly thirty years. The same jokes that apply to marriage and life sentences are relevant here.

Despite the fact that the pre-season results last year were dire, I can look back and say that we enjoyed the evenings out. We had a good trip down to Corby with a good pub meal beforehand in nearby Rockingham. It took a bit of the edge off the subsequent humiliation and we had a good go at outsinging a raucous home support. For those who weren't there, I did enjoy the home fans' rendition of:

You are my Steelers
My only Steelers
We re only happy on giro day
We re always stealing
Always drug dealing
And we'll steal your hubcaps away

The first musical celebration of chavdom I've heard.

Winterton was a nice evening out, again sampling a local hostelry before inventing a song about Nathan Jarman which got us a mention in the Telewag the next day. We only found this out when we were told by Town fans at Gainsborough the following night. We are playing them next week as far as I know so I recommend hitting the carvery at the Trent Port just outside the town. This is a regular haunt for us when we go to Lincoln. We were a bit naughty with some of the singing by adapting a Brentford song for use at the 'keeper as we took a two nil lead. It just goes "It's all you fault" continuously although there is a sort of tune to it. I saw Bees' fans rattle the Scunny goalkeeper a few years back in a league game and to the extent of him getting booked for throwing a tantrum. I had a go at starting it at Chesterfield away in 2007/8 and was happy to see it catch on. I think it rattled their number one and after all, all's fair in love and football.

I did feel a smidgeon of guilt as we had been given a good welcome at Northolme. The gent who ran the club shop went to the effort of putting a four page programme together and had a good selection of older programmes for sale and I was delighted to pick up a Town v Bees issue which represents our record lowest gate. Little did I know that the next win I would see would be away at Bury. Farsley away was a disaster as per the previous year. Apparently, our previous visit had generated enormous bar takings and may have had something to do with them scheduling this as an extra friendly. Their fans enjoy sport at your expense so we probably got what we deserved given that we don't mind rubbing it in on the rare occasion we get the chance.

The thing is, I like visiting non-league grounds. You can stand, it s cheaper, and the clubs are run by real enthusiasts. The beer is normally cheaper, if that takes your fancy, and you can drink it watching the game in some of the leagues. Your support is also very much appreciated, which isn't always apparent at the professional level. The entertainment value is also surprisingly high. Last year, I saw Thorne Colliery, my nearest team, in a friendly, and they produced an excellent programme for 50p despite anticipating a gate of about thirty. Frickley did the same against what were York Reserves, and Hatfield Main put one together for a game against Buxton. Just to mention Gainsborough again, it is a well appointed ground, with roofed stands and the acoustics are spot on, so go and enjoy a change of scenery if you've nothing better to do. I'll do my best not to have a bit of sport at Phil Barnes's expense though if the rumours about what he is being paid are true, I think he won't be worrying too much.

We are spoiled in the People s Republic of South Yorkshire when it comes to non-league football. Every pit village that was has a football team which would be subsidised by a levy from the miners wages. It is also a great testimony to the folk that kept these clubs going after the economic devastation from The Pit Strike. It is a shame that Grimsby have only Grimsby Borough representing the town in the non-league pyramid. Scunthorpe have Appleby Frodingham and Bottesford who play at the same level as Borough and who both run many youth and children s teams.

Anyway, turning down the opportunity of spending £14 at a Lincolnshire Cup game the other night, I saw that Appleby Frodingham had a game against Borough in a charity game, the Ashby Benefit Cup for injured ex-footballers. I made the short hop from my home in enemy territory to the well appointed Brumby Hall ground, owned by Corus, and about a five minute walk from Scunny station. I've been here a few times and it isn't unusual to be served a cuppa (in a proper mug!) by the same bloke who puts up the nets, sells the programmes and. charges admission. In fact I wouldn't be surprised to see him run on the pitch and score the last minute winner to seal promotion if needs be. I was one of the first there and got a gratis cuppa whilst chatting to a few locals who had seen a young Town side (U16s I think) play Bottesford Town there on the preceding Friday night. They confirmed what Woodsy had told us at the Scarborough game in that Town had turned in a decent performance. As I mentioned in the Bridlington piece, it is nice to take a more personal interest in the youngsters now that we are helping to sponsor the Youth set up, and knowing that it is very much appreciated by the coaching staff.

I paid my £3 to the good cause and commented that it would probably be better value than the game I was missing and the locals were taken aback at the cost of the Lincs Cup game. They didn't do a programme for the game (their regular issue is of a high standard), but the secretary for the game painstakingly completed two team sheets for me as a souvenir which was above and beyond the call of duty. Whilst we like to think we have issues with Scunny fans, they have their team to support and we have ours. This gent was a Scunny season ticket holder and didn't make any disparaging comments about Town and nor did anyone else despite their general allegiance to The Iron. In fact they were eager to talk about prospects for both teams for the following season. Mind you, they were also eager to give me updates on the game at Blundell Park! I was able to tell them that I thought we would do a lot better given some good signings, a good manager and a clearout of last season s rabble. They were obviously optimistic and are hoping some of the experience from their previous foray in the Championship will stand them in good stead. Actually, I've just realised I'm a right hypocrite given that I was belting out "One year, you only got one year" at them in the JPT last season.

The article continutes in Part Two

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