Sunday, December 17, 2006

Brooding over Broddy

From 1966 to 1987 I taught politics and industrial relations to trade unionists on courses run by the Sheffield University Extramural Department. The backbone of the courses were classes run for South Yorkshire and Derbyshire Miners.

One of the South Yorshire pits we covered was Brodsworth Main near Doncaster, which was closed just three years after I left the Department to go to parliament. To the locals Brodworth is known as Broddy.

I came across the Broddy NUM banner earlier this year. It was prominently displayed at the funeral service for Kevin Hughes the former Labour M.P. for Doncaster (known as Donny) North who was a colleague of mine from 1992 to 2005. I had known Kevin from 1978 when he was a member of one of the above Miner's classes and he worked at Broddy. He was a fine person and died of a varient of Motor Neurone disease at only 53.

So when Broddy came to play at the ground of Sheffield FC (which is a fifteen minute walk from my home) it was a game I had to attend. It was my first visit to see my local team since 14 October. Sheffield FC's fortunes had changed dramatically since then with 5 wins and a draw out of 7 league games, taking them to the top of the Northern Counties East League.

Poor old Broddy had dropped in the opposite direction. They started the season with two home wins. One against Sheffield FC. But in 15 League games since then, they had failed to win at all and had only managed 3 draws. Without a point away from home, their average away score was a 5-1 defeat.

As a consequence of their poor run, one of their home crowds fell to 18. And I only spotted the odd Broddy fan at the Sheffield game, where the home team's run had done little to boost the crowd beyond its normal couple of a hundred.

To be fair to Broddy, they had a massive crowd by non-league step-five standards of 1,251 for an FA Vase game. But they were playing FC United of Manchester in an all ticket match and only held onto 69 of the tickets for home supporters!

Another sign of the imbalance between Broddy and Sheffield FC is that just before the game, the latter had handed over an undisclosed transfer fee for a striker from fellow league team Arnold Town. Handing over (rather then receiving) cash is practically unheard of at this level of football.

Given the disparities between the teams, Broddy held out well until just before half-time when the Sheffield full-back, Gavin Smith, moved up into the six yard box to slot home a cross.

In the second half the flood gates could have opened; but the Broddy keeper, their rattled woodwork and missed opportunnities kept the score to 1-0 up to the three-quarter stage. Then on came David Wilkins, the new signing from Arnold Town, as super-sub. Although he missed an early chance, he soon had a hat-trick. He seemed to be everywhere in attack, but Sheffield were now in full flight.

My fellow locals, however, claimed that his fellow striker was the man of the match. He is Gary Townsend. He scored from a stunning shot from outside of the penalty area. After another crasher from him hit the post, it eventually returned for Wilkins to prod it home. Then another of Townsend's shots was a sure goal until Wilkins pounched to make it his own.

So in the end Broddy kept their unwanted record with a 5-0 defeat. In 18 league games they now have a 39 goal deficit. All that can be said in mitigation is that they were still in the game until around the 70th minute and 5-0 wasn't as bad as a recent 8-1 drubbing at Retford Town.

But all isn't lost for Broddy. They aren't bottom of the league. That distinction goes to Shirebrook Town. I also used to teach Derbyshire Miners from their local pit,
which was closed in 1993. They are due to play here on December 23rd. So with the family at home for Xmas, it looks as if we can boost the attendance.

It is beginning to look as if Thatcher's destruction of the coal industry also had a knock-on effect to Miner's local football teams. Perhaps this accounts for Sunderland's recent poor run - until Keane arrived. For it was when the North East was pock marked with pits that Sunderland was at its peak in the eras of Charlie Buchan and then Raich Carter. Sunderland were the Manchester United of those times.

No wonder Sunderland, Donny, Shirebrook and Broddy never voted in Thatcherites. In fact I can imagine Kevin Hughes standing at the Pearly Gates (which he didn't believe in) welcoming the arrival of Thatcher with the immortal words "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie. Out, Out, Out." !

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