Away Day Robins


The latest report from the famous Blackburn & Darwen Robins comes from the recent FA Vase tie at Thornaby.
Despite the early departure time of 4 o’clock, there were four of us who made the trip. Me, Auntie Sheila, Jimmy ‘mad-dog’ and Billy ‘the-kid’ Hughes, Dave was ‘darting’ and Michelle was at night school doing her diplomacy course. Picked everyone up then shot off to Great Harwood, stopping off at Thomco to get some quality building supplies. As we boarded the team coach we were pleased to see about fifteen supporters making the trip, which at this level is a very fine turn-out.
“Have you lads got any cans of beer?” Shouted the driver with a snarl on his face. Billy was just about to confess when I answered back: “No, so you can forget the Spanish Inquisition and get your foot down!” It was true, I hadn’t got any cans of beer. Billy had the cans, I had the bottles!!
Off we set in glorious sunshine and we arrived at the ground at just after 6 o’clock. As we reached Thornaby we were astounded by the architecture of the ‘new town’. It was a disgrace. All the houses looked like boxes or garages and Prince Charles would surely have a heart attack if he ever saw them. They were all squares with stupidly shaped roofs and it was certainly the ugliest town that I’ve ever seen. With an hour and a half to kill, we went in the club as the nearest pub and chippy were in Sunderland. The snooker table had been made by the same people who made the pool table at Blackpool Mechanics (hit it towards the top pocket and it ends up on the bottom cushion. Half the nets were missing on the pockets and only half of the green beige was still on the table. Had a game of bar football despite there being no balls available. I put 50p in only to discover that the machine was knackered and no balls came out. We had to take it to bits to get our hands on them and the 50p that I’d been robbed of. Thrashed Billy 8-0. Believe it or not, we were in the clubhouse yet still had to ask the way to the ground! It was hundreds of yards away down an unlit path through a forest! I kid you not, ask anyone who went. You couldn’t see anything. Jimmy tripped up and fell in a three feet deep puddle. Billy stumbled into a thorny bush. I stepped in a cowpat. Another Harwood follower went wandering off the main path, into the woods and wasn’t seen again until ten o’clock, and Auntie Sheila ended up falling down a disused mine shaft and we had to call the fire brigade to haul her out. There were no turnstiles or gate, just a couple of blokes at the end of the path collecting the dosh. The terraces were about three feet deep and you actually needed a stepladder to get down them. I know you think that I’m making all this up but it’s all true!
Set up the flags and scarves and gave the bugle a good blow to give the ancient monument of a football ground it’s best atmosphere since Stockton won the Amateur Cup a hundred years ago. Half the crowd were from Harwood and we did our best to cheer the lads on to victory. The opening half saw the home side slightly on top but the only goal of the half came from a calamitous attempted clearance by one of our defenders. I don’t want to name names or single anyone out but it was Lee Rogerson. As he tried to clear the ball, he succeeded only in setting up a grateful forward who tucked the ball home. The goal gave Thornaby a confidence boost and they were good value for their lead. Harwood’s best chances were two free-kicks, both about 30 yards out, on opposite sides of the penalty area. The first was taken by Dennis Hill who hit it way over the top, and the second was struck by Neil Kennedy who also saw his effort hurtling towards Newcastle. Just before the break, Auntie Sheila arrived at the ground. She’d managed to free herself from the mineshaft with a little help from the local fire brigade.
The second half started with the Robins on the attack and some slick passing saw Thornaby struggling to keep in the game. Anywhere would do for the Teesiders as we took full control without testing the keeper too much. Spurred on by the vociferous following, our best chance until the final five minutes came when we had a free-kick right on the edge of the box. Eastie stepped up and planted the ball straight into the defensive wall and it looked like it wasn’t going to be our day. As full time approached, a run into the area by Eastie was halted by a crude tackle which amazingly went unpunished by the Ref. and as the ball fell loose, a two-footed lunge was also ignored and you sensed that it was all up for the Robins. Then, with 90 minutes on the clock a great run and cross from the right saw the ball sail over the keeper towards the onrushing Harwood forward – I think it was Daz Rogers – and despite a tremendous piece of defending, he headed the ball towards goal. SMACK! It hit the crossbar, bounced down onto the line and was cleared into the night sky. The ref. played about five minutes injury time due to the excessive time-wasting by the home side, but with us piling on the pressure, he blew the final whistle and another cup run had come to an end. The poor old man in black really got some stick from the crowd at the end but it was all in vain as there was nothing that was going to change. Back to the club for a few more pints to drown our sorrows. The officials turned up but soon cleared off in the interests of safety. Billy got the drinks in and paid for them in 50 pence pieces. “Where’d you get all the coins from Billy?” I enquired.
“Oh, I came up on the football machine,” he said.
If the defeat was disappointing to the loyal band of followers, then it was twice as bad for the football club as the tie was apparently worth around £1,000 to the winners. Set off back at about 11-15 and arrived back at Wood Street at 1-30. The atmosphere was pretty subdued and most of us tried to get a bit of shuteye. Just before we reached Harwood, Billy phoned his girlfriend. “Yes love, I’ve arranged for you to see the specialist tomorrow about getting rid of that ugly blemish on your neck, O.K. see you in half an hour.”
“What’s she having removed Billy, a birthmark or a wart?” I asked.
“No, her head!” He retorted.
And they say that romance is dead!
Dropped everyone off then had two hours kip before getting up for work.
Despite our poor record this season, the away support has been absolutely outstanding and each and every one of those present in the North East did the club proud.
There’s never a dull moment following the Robins so why don’t you join us for the next trip.

Rally round the robins!

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©2009 J Fenton