Normal Service has been resumed
In the long tradition of English football, the first day of a pristine new season, as yet unwrapped, was sunny and warm. The stroll down to Gigg Lane was a jolly one in the company of brightly-attired, shiny happy people who were sure that this year, their team had a very good chance of not losing too many games. Such are the limited ambitions in the fourth tier of footy in this green and pleasant land.
The news was that Bury would be sporting new strip this season to mark the remarkable fact that they have been around for the last 125 years – “The Wilderness Years” as we supporters refer to them. The new shirts are “retro-look”, we are told, and turn out to be a mind-melting combination of brown (or “chocolate”, according to the programme) and blue (or “sky”). In the League Table, as yet untroubled by positive integers, every team could lay claim to be top. Plus, there are those exciting new players to look forward to, with unfamiliar and exotic names like Lowe, Carlton and Worrell.
Bury had missed out on promotion last year by a bumsqueak, and were therefore expected by the “experts” to be one of the fancied teams this time around. I wasn’t so sure, because after fifty years of supporting teams who stand in the kitchen at the English football party, I have come to understand the truth of the mantra “Its A Funny Old Game“. In footy, what you expect will rarely happen, which of course is why we watch.
In spite of this, my mate Martin and me were hopeful of a less-than-disastrous season as we took our seats. Just look at the thrilling glow of pre-season optimism in our innocent faces:After the players had come out, and we’d all gone “Oooh!” or “Yech!” at the new shirts, we all stood about and applauded like crazy for a minute. This was, of course, in remembrance of the newly-dead ex-England manager and footy hero, Sir Bobby Robson. Pleasingly, the tribute was immaculately observed, and rounded off by both sets of supporters singing in unison “Oh Bobby Bobby! Bobby Bobby Bobby Ro-obson”. I was impressed by the mental agility of a couple of thousand people managing spontaneously to spread a two-syllable word over three notes.
And the game was underway! Bury were on top in the opening minutes, inspired by my favourite Efe Sodje:I like Efe because he is uncompromising (opposing fans definition: “dirty”), hard (“dirty”) and wears a cool bandana (“dirty nancyboy”). After seven minutes, new boy Lowe curls a beautiful shot into the far corner of the net at the Manchester Road end – “GOAL” we all yelled. Perhaps this season WOULD be one to remember after all. Then, we slowly all noticed that the linesman had flagged for offside, so we did the footy equivalent of an embarrassed cough, and swore at the obviously biassed official. The game continued. Here’s a shot of the action, with Efe on the left looking loike he’s about to go poo-poo, and the empty family stand (unused on police orders because the ‘M’ in ‘Family’ had fallen off the night before, leaving it prophetically pronouncing “Faily Stand”)It was all downhill after that. Bury played like me and Martin would, and were taken apart by Bournemouth who won the game 3-0, scoring some excellent goals. The optimism was shattered, and we left feeling the months of struggle ahead weighing on us like a big albatrossy thing. The two octogenarian ladies who sit behind us had two comments – “Why did I buy a Season Ticket? Not only is this bloody rubbish, I might be dead by Christmas at my age”, and the more accurate “Its them bloody shirts, you can’t see ’em aginst t’bloody crowd in them shit-coloured tops”. The afternoon was rescued a little when I heard that my other loves, Rotherham, had won with a goal in the final minute from ageing hero Paul Warne. I finally have to accept that I’m never going to score a cup final winner for my team, given that a player twenty years my junior is described as “ageing”. Ah well, the optimism may be diminished, but I’ll still be there on rain-soaked Tuesday nights in freezing December to watch The Shakers lose at home to some no-hopers from Down South, cos that’s what its all about – and hey, they might win!
And finally, I thought you might enjoy a photo of Ben having a read of the match programme when I got home. Ben’s favourite player is Steve Dawson.