Away Day Robins
The latest report from the famous Blackburn & Darwen Robins comes from the midweek trip to Curzon Ashton at the end of last season. A momentous game for the Robins and undoubtedly the most important fixture for years. The local media built up the exciting finale to the East Lancashire public with huge pre-match coverage of the event during the day. Well, Radio Lancs didn’t actually mention it, and ah, the Lancs Evening Telegraph, ah, didn’t mention it either!
Refusing to be downcast and full of optimism that we could achieve the win needed to avoid the drop, I spent most of the morning unravelling toilet rolls, cutting paper up, and re-rolling the loo rolls with the paper inside. Decked out the car with flags and scarves and set off at 6-15 to pick up Andy ‘The Spannerman’, Jimmy ‘Mad Dog’, Billy ‘The Kid’ and Auntie Sheila. We were all really up for it and rocked like never before as the stereo was turned up full blast and we sung along for the next hour. I’m not saying it was loud but the car was shaking, one of the wing mirrors cracked and Auntie Sheila’s teeth flew out! Arrived at Stalybridge to find the car park packed, blimey, there’s going to be a huge crowd. Not a bit of it, they were all at the Indian Restaurant which adjoined the club, and the health centre which was also part of the complex. Four of us had a game of futty in the car park while Billy peered through the windows of the health club eyeing up all the crumpet doing aerobics. Entered the ground at 7-30 with our arms full of flags, trumpets, scarves and loo rolls, much to the dismay of the two old guys on the gate. The ground was absolutely superb, with two cracking stands at the sides and two covered terraces behind the goals. Despite the importance of the game, it looked like being the worst Harwood following of the season, around a dozen, although rumour had it that another 150 had gone to Woodley Sports because of the confusion surrounding this particular fixture. We were greeted by the Altrincham branch of the supporters club, and their leader Paul stopped Jimmy in his tracks when the young feller said that he was going for a pie. Paul had asked for one but despite the hot cupboard being full, his request was refused. “They’re for the players at the end of the game!” Said the Old Hag. Blimey, the crusts’ll be so well done, the players’ll all need a dentist tomorrow! We were also joined by a Harwood regular who hails from St. Albans, but I’m sorry that I don’t know his name. Went into the clubhouse for a pre-match pint and nearly died when the barmaid asked for £9 something, which made it the dearest round of the season.
Put the flags up behind the goal, sounded the air horn, blew the trumpet and generally made as much noise as possible, singing and shouting till we were hoarse. There might have only been five of us singing but we still made it seem like a home game.
The opening exchanges were pretty even with both defences well on top and chances few and far between. A bumpy pitch meant that neither side were able to string together more than a couple of passes, but that’s all that Curzon needed when a long ball down the Harwood right found a forward looking decidedly offside. He took the ball on into the area before slotting it home to put the Robins in serious trouble. Despite the best efforts of the players and the Blackburn & Darwen Robins, we made little impact up front and rarely looked like forcing an equaliser. Apart from the goal, the most exciting thing that happened was when we were giving the Curzon players a good ‘ear-bashing’ when one of them, a ginger nutted skinhead, turned the crowd and insulted Auntie Sheila – BAD MOVE! From then on until the end of the game, we tore him apart and every mistake was jeered as we mercilessly shouted to him what a complete and utter failure he was as a footballer.
The ‘Magnificent Seven’ trooped round to the other end and decked the crush barriers with the flags. Once more we sang constantly to encourage the lads onto better things but the second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with little goalmouth action to excite us. Curzon began wasting time with over half an hour to go and the keeper in particular was taking ages with every goal kick. Tempers, not surprisingly, got a little frayed but it was the home side, with much less at stake, who were the sinners. One dreadful tackle on Darren Rogers was punished by only a yellow card, and soon after, another Curzon player went into the notebook for whacking the ball away long after the whistle had gone. Another bad tackle brought yet another yellow card and that was soon followed by old ginger nut getting his just deserts after a series of bad fouls. The spoiling tactics worked and we could only create the odd half chance as the minutes quickly ebbed away. Then with time running out, a previously cautioned home forward was penalised for offside. He took the ball on for a few yards before launching it towards the corner flag. YES, HE’S OFF! No he bloody isn’t! The Ref decided that seeing as though he’d already booked him, it wasn’t worth a sending off. Quite right, kicking the ball away shouldn’t result in a sending off, BUT THOSE ARE THE RULES, CHEERS REF!
With just minutes remaining, the Harwood faithful, realising that the game was up, burst into a chorus of ‘You’ll never walk alone’, bringing a tear to eye of the assembled crowd. No point taking the toilet rolls home so as the final whistle blew, the Blackburn & Darwen Robins chucked a barrage of bog rolls into the night sky. As they unravelled, the air was filled with ‘confetti’ and for a moment, I thought I was in New York and half expected President Bush to come driving down the touchline. It was a great sight, but the old goat who was picking up litter from the terracing was less than impressed.
“Stupid b*****s, that’s b****y ridiculous!”
That’s true, but nevertheless, it was great fun.
The players left the pitch not only with a tickertape farewell, but also with a chorus of ‘We’ll support you evermore’ ringing in their ears.
We were down but we knew that the players had given it their all, as had the famous Blackburn & Darwen Robins. We then set about stapling together the first ever away, post-match programme which was distributed to supporters and players within five minutes of the final whistle.
The defeat meant relegation although rumour had it that there may only be one club going down, Cammell Laird’s ground not being up to scratch and Spennymoor quitting the Unibond etc. but we had to face facts. If Atherton Collieries got a point at under-achieving Bacup on the Saturday, we’d finish bottom anyway.
Still, at least we’ve seen some exciting games towards the end of the season thanks to the players’ never-say-die attitude. We waited for the lads to get changed so that we could congratulate them on their efforts and as we were waiting outside the clubhouse (we couldn’t afford to go in!), who should turn up but old ‘ginger-nut’. “Oh, I hope that you come straight back up next season, all the best…..and what are you on about you *!^*’>*!” he shouted at Auntie Sheila! Bloody half-wit! There was no point in getting involved, as the NWCL hierarchy would surely have blamed Great Harwood Town for any trouble.
We left Bower Fold with the car windows open, music on full blast, the horn tooting out tunes and the five of us singing out Harwood songs. Hope none of the local residents were thinking of getting to sleep early!
We had a right good singsong all the way home and managed to get to a ‘proper pub’ The Dog Inn at Belthorn, in time for last orders. “I’ll have an Orange Bacardi Breezer,” chirped up young Jimmy. “There’s no alcohol in it is there?” Asked Auntie Sheila. “NO WAY,” replied our angel-faced-lying-through-his-back-teeth buddy!
Although we’d gone down, we weren’t too downhearted and once again we’d had a good night out. Sadly, the people of Great Harwood had shown their total apathy to the football club with less than half a dozen from the town itself supporting the team when they were needed most. But like we said at Stalybridge, the Blackburn & Darwen Robins will support you evermore. If you fancy a good time and enjoy singing, then join us for the next trip, there’s never a dull moment!
Rally round the robins!