Sunday, August 19, 2007

Seeing Off Maggie's Boys

New Grantham Experiences

Until yesterday, the only people I have knowingly met from Grantham are Maggie Thatcher, Douglas Hogg its Conservative MP until the Constituency of that name was abolished in 1997 and Quentin Davies who is the current MP for "Grantham and Spalding" and recently defected to the Labour Party. Not my bunch of favourite people.

I made up for my limited experience of Grantham (which I have only ever travelled past in the train) by going to watch their football team play Sheffield FC at my local ground on the opening game of the season's Unibond League (Division One South).

My first encounter with Grantham fans was to direct them to the Coach and Horses, Sheffield FC's local pub. They rewarded me by telling me about Grantham's away record. The team had not won an away League game for 15 months. Then once I was in the ground, I shouted across the field at some of their less friendly fans who were making a nuisance of themselves behind one of the goals.

Settling In

I was let into the ground free on the promise that I would purchase a season ticket at the club shop. Luckily I purchased my programme first, for they ran out of these. When I made it to the shop, the duty salesman had no experience of selling season tickets so he asked me to call back at half time when he had worked out this mystery.

Being an honest fellow (and needing the season ticket for coming games), I duly turned up at half-time and completed the purchase in good time to hobble off to the Coach and Horses for another pint. Heaven knows how I will manage this if we ever get promoted to the Football League with a much bigger rush of would-be drunks.

As it rained persistently,I huddled in with a large section of the crowd under the limited covered shelter amongst the comradeship of the regulars and with a well behaved section of the visitors for Grantham.

I discovered that Tom had not seen this "You Tube" piece on the Sheffield United/West Ham saga, which I have placed here for his entertainment. As it is based on a film about Hitler, I need to remind others that Sheffield FC are not to be confused with the Blades - for we go well back even before the German Empire was established in 1871 under the Kaiser. We predate that little event by 24 years. So there.

Despite the weather, the pitch looked to be in good condition. The man with the best view was standing with an umbrella in a field which overlooks the ground. His job was to act as ball-boy when the ball was kicked out of his side of the ground. Luckily this seldom occurred, now that we are playing in a higher class of football.

Getting Set Up

Sheffield FC are newly promoted to this particular Division of the Unbibond and Grantham are newly relegated to it. So no-one knew what to expect.

Sheffield FC had only signed three new players in the pre-season. One came with a prior suspension to serve. But their new left-back Paul Smith (who has two hundred League games with Hartlepool and the Owls under his belt) had a fine first half. He was probably as good in the second half, but from where I was huddled I couldn't see him all that well.

The other new face was Karl Colley from last season's League winning rivals, Retford United. He all but scored from a powerful free kick.

Game On

The first half fell into three fairly equal spells. The first 15 minutes were dominated by Sheffield FC, then Grantham started to take over the game, but finally matters evened out with two goals arriving in the last 5 minutes. First Grantham scored, then the skilled and determined Chris Dolby equalised. 1-1 was a fair half time score.

Half way into the second half, Sheffield FC's Right-back (another Smith, called Gavin who is an established crowd favourite) hit a great long range shot into the Grantham net. From then on we always seemed to have sufficient control of the game to hold onto our 2-1 lead - which we did.

At least we played well enough for me not to loose my head and shout in frustration "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Out, Out, Out." Which is just as well, as I don't want to get the reputation for being a pensioner yob and have my name scrubbed from the members' roll of honour when I am alongside the honourable names shown here. Of course, all 450 members of the club are given the same privilege - including Eric Cantona, Ian Rush, Matt Le Tissier, Richard Caborn, David Blunkett and, above all, the one and only Bob Piper.

P.S. Here is the Sheffield FC's report of the game. Crowd 357.


Bob Piper said...

Harry, to be included on such a list, plus Michael Vaughan, Banksy (the keeper, that is) and Harry Barnes, is indeed a great honour.

Harry Barnes said...

I was very impressed to discover you were a member.

Bob Piper said...

All down to your blog, Harry.