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With the football season over prematurely due to the Coronavirus Pandemic I’m in the unusual position of actually having this blog up to date! So to keep the content coming, and for something to do, I’ll do some old grounds and games where there’s a story to tell.

Tuesday 11th March 2008 ko 19.45

Northern Premier League- Division One South



Att 77

Entry £6

Programme £1

Back in 2008 I worked for a major bank, and found myself on the second and last day of a meeting in Sheffield. Now the one advantage of my banking career was those nights away in paid-for hotels. Other middle-management types used to sit in the bar and drink the evenings away, but I’d go and find a game anywhere local. Hotel beer never seemed up to much anyway!

But this meeting really wasn’t what I wanted. Monday and Tuesday, with a finish Tuesday at 5; just enough time to hit rush hour traffic on the M1. More to the point I knew Stocksbridge Park Steels were at home that evening just 10 miles away. Now at this point I must confess I was a little naughty.

I phoned the wife and told her the traffic was appalling (which it was) so I’d find a meal in Sheffield then head for home. She’d got her parents visiting so I knew she’d have company was what I told myself. Now while it’s fair to say I bent the truth to breaking point I did actually eat at the ground- that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! I’m also bound to say my little lie did come back to haunt me, but you’ll hear all about that later!

I got to Bracken Moor early; well over 90 minutes before kick-off. So there I was dressed in my bank suit and tie, and a three-quarter length coat and with nothing better to do I paid at the gate and settled for an hour or so in the bar.

But then a friendly face tapped me on the shoulder. It was club president Jack Newton, a very sprightly 85, and when he found I’d “delayed” my trip back to Banbury he decided to make me his guest. He told me how the ground was built by former miners and paid for in part from their redundancy money from the NCB, The pride was obvious even down to the locally produced pork pies, served in the board room at half time.

He gave me a tour of the ground, including the “Strippin’ Rooms” and the stand with its seats rescued from the redevelopment of Hillsborough with that touch of local pride that I always find incredibly endearing. Of course history records that in the future he would have more reason to be proud, future Leicester City and England striker Jamie Vardy played in this game (and unusually didn’t score) and wasn’t to leave for Halifax for another 2 years. In the there and then Jack did make sure that I bought a raffle ticket…

There was one other issue, and that was a very wet looking pitch, and a referee stuck in traffic. He arrived just about early enough to get the game kicked off on schedule, but his pitch inspection was a cursory glance and the comment,

“I’m not bloody postponing it, the Mrs will be watching Eastenders, and I hate Eastenders”

I’m with him all the way on the soap opera and given the evening I was having, I really didn’t want it to end prematurely. His non-decision set up my entire evening, and just about everyone else’s unless of course you were involved with Shepshed. Of course I ended up travelling home following most of their fans!

Yes, I do mean following. I’d been delayed slightly in leaving, remember that raffle ticket? It turned out I’d won the raffle and I’d won half a pig. I must admit I thought of the animal sliced from snout to tail so was more than happy to see it butchered, and all neatly vacuum bagged! There was of course the real problem to come though…

It took roughly two hours to drive back to Banbury, and I spent much of it trying to dream up a sensible reason to give my VEGETARIAN ex-wife as to how on earth I’d come by half a pig whilst stuck in a traffic jam on a Tuesday evening? I’ll leave what happened when I got home to your imagination, but one saving grace was that her Dad greatly enjoyed the trotters!”

Every cloud and all that…

Dedicated to Jack Newton 1923-2017. A gentleman and a genuine football man. R.I.P.