Or: You can’t trust an old teacher not to teach.
We were split in to three parties. Geoff had the worse end on the supporters club bus that had an unplanned M5 hard shoulder stop en route. The Lord, via Megabus the day before, came via Leeds. He would get home on Tuesday. He really will. Three of us set off at 9 from Bristol in my car.
Pre match Pubs
Justin has done a right proper job on this pub. We first met after it had re-opened and he enthusiastically talked me through his plans. Now I have heard many a landlord talk of plans but rarely do they exceed expectations. Grants now has a shiny brewery in one room. The bar has eight hand pulls delivering their own Big Clock brews. The other rooms have been de stuffed and improved as comfortable drinking rooms. It was a great place to meet and deserved the game to be called off so we might spend an afternoon doing an Andy and going through the list. All the above is fine and dandy but I was driving. I cuddled a token half of Honey Stout in true student style before finding that they do an excellent pineapple juice. Andy did the line half by half.
Peter de Meteor had gone for his pre match stroll and café search in the town centre. The assembled team included the following; – Coventry Bob, Roger Right Hand, The Leeds Paul Davis, Lord Powell, The Malton Beard and his mates but curiously not Northern Craig. The universal feeling was that this was a good pub, but in true Football and Real Ale style we all moved on. The team discussed BRFC catch up stuff. Broken Legs and Half and Half scarves appeared as rum topics of conversation. Paul and The Lord blagged a seat in my car. The others taxied it to the near ground pubs.
I tried to get into the Crown at the ground for a warming tomato juice. The door men were operating a get in if you can policy” This involves saying “after you” and holding the door open and smiling as you take one step towards the threshold, realise that it would take another half an hour to actually cross that said door jamb and smile as you leave, thwarted.
So it came to pass that at five past two, on the coldest day of the season so far, I was on the open terrace behind the goal freezing cold and grumpy. Yes Roger, this was me grumpy. I had dropped Bob and the boys at the Grey Horse along the road. This was the warm option. By 2.15 the hail had started. By 2.30 the snow was forcing us to turn and observe the goal less game on the pitch next door. By goal less, I mean goal less. No game as there were no goals on the pitch.
By 2.40 I was a block of ice wanting some thawing. The side of the ground has an arrangement of seating, three rows deep under a tin roof. Gloriously, the far end was opened up to the we now Iceheads to spread into. Decision time was at hand. Wait for the others to arrive and continue watching the game through intermittent hail showers or seek relative warmth in the company of the lightweight southerners cramped in the bike shed? Bike shed it was.
Accrington Stanley 1 Bristol Rovers 0 Attendance: 2027 (543 Gasheads)
150 or so on the terrace the other 400 in the bike shed.
My companions in the shed were a Norwegian family of Gasheads and a row of Fancy dressed chaps condemning a mate to celebrate his retirement in drag, red cravats and country gent attire. Why this game and why the attire I couldn’t bring myself to ask. Then, Lord oh Lordy, the Accrington friendship found a new level of generosity.
A Linesman was stood within touching distance. Right in front of me. Birthday, Christmas and Retirement celebrations had arrived, all rolled in to one.
The programme at the Rovers tells you the name alongside the design of flag the assistant would be carrying. Unfortunately that was not the case here. He was either Mr Miller or Mr Mulraine. So Mr M, welcome to an afternoon of in-service training. As an ex-teacher I feel it is my duty to educate wherever possible. No rudeness, no swearing, just positive constructive comment that would I hope be taken in the spirit in which it is intended. So I began my freely given tutorial. My going rate was never less than £100 a session you know. His replies are included here but in reality they were thought bubbles rather than actual comments.
Stedders: “Welcome Mr M. Some basics to help you through the afternoon. Keep up with play, Assist the referee whenever you can. A reminder. Offside is when there is less than two players between the player concerned and the goal line, WHEN THE BALL IS PLAYED. Not when you catch up with play. Similarly, the last player to touch the ball when it goes out does not get the consequent throw in. Thirdly. Should you not be able to keep up to play, don’t worry because we will let you know it there is an offside.”
Mr M: “Well that was helpful as a reminder. I’ve heard about this Stedders bloke before. What a great chap to be stood behind me. This will be fun.”
It soon became apparent that Mr M had a wicked sense of humour. At the first opportunity he saw an Accrington player deflect a pass into touch, gave them the throw and he smiled to himself.
Mr M: “That will teach him. I’m in charge here. To reinforce this I will do a sprightly star jump and side step along the line in front of him.”
Stedders: “Mr M. Were you not paying attention Mr M? Try harder next time. Don’t worry about that early mistake, we can all do better if we try just that little bit harder.”
Stedders, after some thought: “Mr M, Just a thought. I’ve noticed that the cheat Billy Kee is playing. He is Number 29. That’s Kee. Billy Kee. I will repeat, Number 29, Billy Kee is a cheat and will dive at any opportunity. He did so at Torquay and Burton and will do so at Accrington. You might like to keep an eye out for that one.”
We parted company at half time wishing each other well and wanting the fifteen minute break to pass well without any in-service chicken korma sandwiches. It was just too cold for that sort of thing.
Mr M. “I must remember to tell the referee about Kee. Number 29 wasn’t it? That will be of assistance to him.”
Sure enough Mr Kee, at the start of the second half, backed into Lockyer, fell theatrically to the ground and the referee waved play on.
Stedders: (in his own thought bubble) “Good Boy, Good Boy”
Mr M continued to improve until he committed the silly student error of NOT KEEPING UP WITH PLAY. He flagged a clearly onside Gaffney and then completed the catch up sashay and turned to raise his arm right in front of me.
Stedders: “Now clearly MR M, there is an element of complacency creeping in to your play. Please don’t guess decisions. Keep up with play and it all becomes so much easier”
My Norwegian friends were less accommodating.
Stedders: “Please ignore the comments of my Norwegian pals. They are part Viking and will not tear you limb from limb if you do it again, honestly. My farmer friends, however….”
Five minutes later our job was complete and we felt the training should end. Gaffney strayed several yards offside. We all shouted offside. Mr M raised his flag, caught up with play and stood, proud as punch, in front of us. The round of applause was well earned and earnest. We clapped long and hard.
Stedders: Well done Mr M. See, it wasn’t that hard now was it?”
Mr M: I feel so good I must do another skip and jump. This in-service lark works well. On the job training pays off and these Bristolian chaps certainly know a good linesman when they see one.”
Accrington Scored. We lost. We trudged off around the ground into the hail and snow. Mr M turned once more to us as we left.
Mr M: “We will surely meet again sometime soon. The sooner the better.”
Entertainment Value 2
Man of the Match: Stuart Sinclair
I drove directly home with a couple of refreshment stops. In teacher mode it was of course my duty to continue the musical education of Peter and Bob. After the Liverpool West Ham bore draw 606 was jettisoned, to be replaced by 19 minutes of Max.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davis’s Carolisima Serenade was the piece of my choice as we approached Coalpit Heath. One of his lighter and deservedly more popular pieces we just listened while Bob tried to predict the arrival of triangle pings. Differentiated mixed ability teaching is still in my heart.
Best Pub: Grants
Best Beer: Big Clock Honey Stout
Next up: Wimbledon Home 6th February
Meeting at the Eldon House at 12 we are joining with our Wimbledon supporting friends. A crawl down the hill sampling the beer festival choices followed by an evening on the Gloucester Road might well work as a plan? What do you reckon Ian?