Thursday, September 13, 2007

Voices Of Home Park 2 (Reject)

I wrote this for inclusion in John Lloyd's book. It got rejected. "Insufficient space" or "bit of a dull game" or some such. John is so nice with it that it's hard to take offence. He's so damned polite. I'm sure he meant "I'm not putting that piece of crap in my book - I mean who would want to read it anyway?"

And he'd probably be right in his judgement too.

Still it's mine and I wrote it so I may as well stick it here. At least it'll be something for the odd visitor to read and it's new (to everybody bar John)...

Lincoln City 0 Argyle 0

16 December 1995, Sincil Bank, Division Three

Argyle: Blackwell, Leadbitter, Williams, Patterson, Baird, Hill, Heathcote, Logan, Littlejohn, Evans, Clayton

Attendance: 2,801

VOHP2 book is filled with the euphoric tales of recent and bygone years and rueful accounts of the worst of our humiliations and spectacular defeats, but surely there must be room for the stoically mundane?

The visit of Warnock’s Argyle to Beck's Lincoln at Sincil Bank is one such occasion that, bizarrely, sticks in my mind and sheds more light on the sado-masochism involved in following a team like Argyle for so many years than many tales of lust, greed or glory ever could.

I dropped my family off at the in-laws in Bedfordshire the night before and continued up to Lincoln on Saturday morning. Nothing eventful, humorous or vaguely interesting happened either going there or coming back.

What stays with me are recollections of endlessly driving around Lincoln city centre, looking for floodlights. None were visible. In the end, I stopped in a garage and asked for directions. “Over there, across the road” they said. The building across the road looked absolutely nothing like a football ground. An out-of-town commercial outlet on a business park, perhaps. B&Q. That sort of thing. The floodlights lined the stands and were invisible from outside the ground.

Anyway, I parked up and went in. I was pleasantly surprised. Sincil Bank was an excellently redeveloped little stadium and virtually all-seater to boot. Very impressive for a club with financial problems and, until recently, non-league status.

The game? Totally forgettable. Beck and Warnock had obviously briefed their teams to “play in the opposition half” which is a euphemism for “two touches is one too many. Just get it forward”.

The ninety minutes consisted of two committed teams kicking the living daylights out of the spherical white thing, to no obvious beneficial effect to either. No passing. No clever runs off the ball. Just Hoof! Whack! Boot! Ninety unrelenting minutes of it. None of that is particularly noteworthy. What really stays with me is the wind that day. It came howling across the flatness of Eastern England and felt like it had been unhindered since leaving the Arctic. Absolutely bitterly cold. A "lazy wind" by which I mean one that goes stright through, rather than around, you.

That's it. It cost a small fortune. It was miles away. Boring is not strong enough a word. Freezing cold. “A good away point” opined Warnock afterwards. And they call it the “Beautiful Game!”

As I left there was a fanzine seller peddling his wares. "Deranged Ferret!!" he shouted. Indeed.