Saturday, October 3, 1981

Other side

Carol made me a cup of tea at quarter-past eight and we set off in the car, Carol and Lynne getting out in Dearnelow while Robert and I headed to Swinscoe for Robert’s 3rd year rugby team's match against Girton.

Copley Comprehensive is a real dump and makes Egley look plush in comparison. The school has a typical modern design that looks dated already and seems to sprawl everywhere, with battered, vandalised, and peeling paintwork. It's an eyesore. There were a lot of Robert's kids around and it seemed strange to hear them calling him ‘sir.’ For once I was on the other side, in the staff room, watching events I’ve experienced so often before from a different angle.

We went to see Athletic's match straight afterwards, down the motorway to Hydebeck, getting there at twelve and wandering down to a pub’ where we were told to take off our scarves. After a revolting pint of John Smith’s beer we went back to the car for our sandwiches. Danum Lane is a superb ground, covered on two sides and with a huge pitch. All the Athletic fans were at one end and although they were mostly real thugs, I must admit I felt a bit of pride standing there amid the reverberating chants of “Athletic!”

When the team came out the roar from our end was deafening. Both sides started fairly equally balanced, and Hudson had to pull off a fine save after just a few minutes. Hydebeck were fast and sharp in attack but Athletic had a few good chances too, hitting the side netting, but things seemed at a dead end until right on halftime, a loose ball in the Hydebeck penalty area was poked in by Wild. Pandemonium up our end, everyone jumping up and down, in each other's arms, clapping and screaming.

A pathetic, aimless second half. Whenever Littlewood or Goldman got the ball groans ran through the crowd and there were shouts of “you useless cunts” and the like, but mainly just a frustrated silence. But on the hour, under no pressure whatsoever, the Hydebeck keeper jumped to meet a harmless Athletic cross, tried to punch it clear, but looped it instead straight back into his own net. Amazed silence and then we all cheered again.

This revitalized the game, and now it was all Hydebeck, total pressure and horrible moments, crosses flashing across the Athletic goalmouth, missing onrushing Hydebeck boots by inches. It was hard to watch. We were whistling for full time when, up the far end, the ball was crossed from the left and McArdle shot it home. I just couldn’t believe it. Hydebeck was the better side yet we were winning 3-0! At the whistle, the players ran over and clapped us and waved and as we flooded for the exit, I overheard an aggrieved Hydebeck fan muttering, “I don’t mind losing to a football team but I do to a set of useless bastards!” It was true and I couldn’t deny it. The surge of chanting, jeering Athletic fans broke through the police cordon and we poured out. Our third successive win and we're still second, behind Cross End.

It didn’t take us long to get home. Robert dropped me at the ‘bus station in Dearnelow. It was another cold night. I got home at nine.

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