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The Joys of Goole - Part 2
By: Chris Smith
GOOLE also have another big asset. The pies! The pie, peas, gravy and chips were voted the best in the Unibond League. I first came to Goole matches on Tuesday nights when Gary, knowing I was into the non-league scene down South, suggested coming to a few.
I've worked out that if I avoid every club that I have an issue with, I can coast through the season without watching a game. After all, my home town club give me the hump on a regular basis, which is their role in life (with a few moments of glory on the way to remind me why I still come back for more). That’s twenty three games accounted for.
Darlington and Rochdale always beat us so why bother? Cheltenham, substandard ground. Hereford and Shrewsbury because, er, they're Welsh or near enough. Rotherham-would you build a ground for them? Port Vale’s prices are a rip-off. I could go on and on and most folk would say I do already.
However, Goole had a game on, and as Gary lives near the town, we decided we'd go and watch the friendly game against Scarborough Athletic, the team that did for our youth team last week. They also have a game against the Chimps next week which looks inviting. Being a bit of a groundhopper, I thought I'd ask whether they were doing a programme and sent a text on Friday afternoon to the club. When I hadn't heard anything by this morning, I thought no more of it. I sent a text to Gary so he knew when I'd be arriving there as the chavcab (sorry, bus) times have changed. The bus actually picks up outside my house in Thorne and drops off at the top of Carter Street where I walk down to GAFC. I got a text straight back, or so I thought, saying "Teamsheet today". I was surprised how Gary had found this out and replied saying "How did you find out, better than nothing" It shows why I should read who has sent me texts because I received the reply "Because I happen to be the chairman" Oops, a reply from GAFC. Gary isn't nicknamed the Chuckler for nothing and had a good laugh at my expense. I'm just glad I didn't put the normal expletives in my communication. Or, I think I didn't. Got me worried now...
As if this wasn't an unpromising start, I was chatting to a neighbour whilst I cloudbathed in the garden, (you know the score, put a bit of sunscreen on and cue the thunderheads) and said I was going to a game this afternoon. "Is your brother picking you up then?" Eh? That seems to have been a case of mistaken identity; my brothers aren't in the habit of picking me up at home, living as they do in Qatar and Wales. I don't know who stood to be more insulted by this, but as a Town fan, I play a magnificent victim, so decided I had come off worse. Sorry Gaz.
I duly caught the chavcab and did an impression of Michael Jackson in his heyday whilst trying to avoid a wasp on the top deck. However, I safely arrived and made my way down to the Victoria Pleasure Grounds.
Quite a few non-leaguers don't like Goole’s ground, and whilst I appreciate that the running track around it isn't ideal, it has plenty of atmosphere. It has lots in common with Blundell Park as well, surrounded by tight terraced housing, a railway running by the side and even docks on the doorstep. I probably see two thirds to three quarters of Town’s games during a season. On the odd Saturdays I don't see them and so long as I've been to a game, and especially a ground like Goole’s on a cold Saturday afternoon, I feel that I have done my bit contributing to the game in general and that I can hold my head up high when watching the parody that is Match of the Day nowadays.
Goole has a small side stand opposite the dug-outs and a larger one nearer the ground entrance. This actually has good acoustics as the rowdy Leek Town fans discovered last season. The rest is open, but there is no need to get wet as plenty of fans can be accommodated in the standing areas. I'd love to see Grimsby play here in a pre-season game, or even better, in the FA Cup. It wasn't lost on me that if we hadn't had a chairman bankrolling us and had ended up in liquidation, AFC Grimsby would quite probably have been playing in the Unibond Premier League, one division above Goole. If we were lucky.
I got into the ground about twenty past two, and immediately recognised several of the volunteers. Ann Smith, who used to be the club secretary and still helps out, came up for a chat. Ann knows me and Gary are Town fans. I first spoke to her to check games were on a few years back, not realising that my Non-League Yearbook was out of date. Goole had serious problems with pitch drainage up to a few years ago which wasn't helped by some seriously wet summers, so it was always best to check. It was never a problem contacting Ann, who on one occasion when I was checking an away match was on, asked me for the ground’s postcode so she could programme her sat-nav. I spoke to Eric Lawton, who is the outgoing Vice Chairman. Eric is still active with the club, making sure match officials are paid and running the club shop.
Non-league club shops are marvellous ways to fill gaps in programme collections and are worth a look on any visit. It isn't unusual for visitors to bring their club programmes in as a donation or a swap, so there can be some gems on the shelves. I've often gone into Eric’s shop, coming out with a good selection and with the price settled by a shrug and a discount for buying something else.
Because Goole play in the Unibond, any purchases have often involved Unibond give-aways from plastic bags to hats and car flags. The hats have been worn by several Town fans on uncommonly cold days and I had about five of them. We jokingly pointed out that we were ahead of the fashion at times when it looked as though non-league football for Town was a reality. I like to spend a bit of money on each visit to help the club coffers and have a fair old collection of shirts and scarves and badges. Oh, and a mug, appropriately. I jest actually; I just like collecting football memorabilia.
After spending a fair bit of time exchanging pleasantries, I ascertained that a team sheet would be forthcoming and agreed to buy a golden goal ticket if the seller could track one down for me. Not a problem. You know, if the warmth accorded to fans at non-league grounds such as Goole was replicated at professional clubs, we would all be a lot happier. I've always been made to feel a valued visitor here and probably make between eight and a dozen trips here a season depending on Town’s fixtures. It was a shame that there wasn't a programme as Goole produce a very good one, with features from Statto to Big Mal Rants. The club obviously rely heavily on sponsorship, and the number of local advertisers who get behind them is testimony to the effort that goes on behind the scenes.
The article continues in Part Two GOOLE also have another big asset. The pies! The pie, peas, gravy and chips were voted the best in the Unibond League. I first came to Goole matches on Tuesday nights when Gary, knowing I was into the non-league scene down South, suggested coming to a few. This tied in with my arrangements as I would work Wednesday to Tuesday in London and travel back up in the afternoon. I'd manage an hour at home, and then get the train up to Goole and have my tea at the ground. And it was well worth waiting for! I'm on a low meat diet now, for health reasons, but make an exception in some circumstances. In fact, I was asked at an annual clinic last week whether I had a balanced diet and I thought, sure, I eat rubbish every day. Not true, but it was the chance for a cheap gag. In fact that is probably what you are doing right now.
Having starved myself into submission in the morning to make the most of the anticipated repast, I was mega disappointed when they weren't available at the Scarborough game as the caterers didn't think they'd have a sufficient crowd to feed. However, I'll have plenty of opportunity to make up for lost time later in the season. Gary was equally disappointed, but being Town fans, we don't lack for stoicism and entertained ourselves when, after getting over the shock of seeing Leo Fortune West in Goole colours, decided to make up a chant about West which rhymed conveniently with what he might be past. Leo didn't make an impression in the game, but it is early days and he must be seen as a good acquisition at this level.
The teams came out to The Liquidator, a tune that we have "Wolverised" so that we sing something obscene about Scunthorpe before shouting "THE TOWN" when on our way to away games in the car. The tune can be played a few times on some journeys. Big Jim started this off on the FA Cup away trip to Morecambe last season, and has been known to rewind so that we get the track repeated half a dozen times in quick succession. Even better, the tune was heard twice more as Goole went into a two nil lead just before Scarborough pulled one back immediately and bang on half time. The second Goole goal was a chip and the best of the match. Cue our favourite tune for the start of the second half during which Scarborough got an equaliser. There was a decent crowd of 161, about Goole’s league average. Gary and I also bumped into an ex work colleague who is doing a determined groundhop himself and we contentedly scoffed his son’s sweets whilst he was on ballboy duty. From what we could see, the linesman on our side of the pitch was a Scarborough player pressed into action which probably explains why he didn't get any baiting from them. We only saw one H*ll shirt all game and no Man Ure tops which was a relief.
It would be difficult to read too much into this game. Goole will hope for better things this season. Having overcome financial difficulties last year, they went through a free-scoring period before finishing badly. The previous season had seen a concerted assault on the play-offs before tailing away, but the 2006/7 season saw the West Riding Cup lifted. Gary and I managed to get to all the away games in the competition and I was grateful for the lifts as they were in far flung places as far as public transport goes. We went to Ossett Albion, where the Vikings went through on a penalty shootout. Albion’s board includes Helen Worth a.k.a. Gail Tilsley or whatever she’s called now, from Corrie. There were a good number of Goole fans there who we recognised and spoke to. As the cup campaign wore on, we were becoming to be seen as lucky mascots, I'd barely seen a Goole defeat all that season. We also went to Thackley, near Shipley, and Harrogate Railway Athletic. The win there was especially pleasing to me as I'd been on the receiving end of some banter after banging my head on the "Mind Your Head" sign at Armthorpe Welfare’s ground (where I once got a programme signed by Macca who was playing a few games there-just thought I'd drop that in). They are quite a mouthy lot so revenge was sweet.
The final was played at Woodlesford, outside of Leeds and the home of the West Riding FA. The later stages of the cup campaign were an enjoyable diversion as Town had already secured their league status. The poverty of Town’s performances earlier that season had made us idly consider just jacking it in and getting a season ticket here. If anyone thinks that was a moment of disloyalty, try travelling to Torquay and back on a Friday night to be acknowledged by only the home keeper and Martin Paterson, a loan player, after a gutless 4 1 defeat. Goole deservedly won 3 1 against Guiseley, a team one division higher. We saw Ponte Mariner there, who was supporting Guiseley as the West Riding team. Goole, sadly, are in East Yorkshire which surrounds the city that should not be named. We saw Eddie off with a version of a Goole chant which told Ponte what they could do and "We heard you ran from the Nostell", another non-league side local to Ponte. It was a very good turnout of Goole fans who would frequently put some of our league visitors to Blundell Park to shame. In the promotion season of 2004/5, they were taking 70 or so away from home, and whilst some of the distances don't quite compare to that of our rivals, when you consider the level they play at it is a commendable effort. How many did Morecambe, Accrington and Dagenham bring last year?
As non-league sides play in a lot more competitions, I'm sure I'll soon get plenty of opportunity to gorge on the pies at The Pleasure Grounds. Hopefully, I'll see a few more goals like the one last season against Lincoln United from about 35 yards, bettered only by Adrian Forbes’ acrobatic effort at Barnet. we've had some good days out at Goole, and nearly frozen to death at Hallam watching them.
At the end of the day though, Town get the nod. They always will. A good day out today but roll on Cheltenham! As Gary often says "I hope I never grow up." I hope I don't either.
Chris is a regular contributor to the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust web site
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