Battered by side winds that make the car move under us, almost brought to a stand still on the motorway by biblical rain, that turned day into night, reducing visibility to zero, as cars went from seventy to thirty and we were surrounded by our fellow travellers blinking hazard lights and tennis ball sized hailstones, OK maybe not tennis ball sized, satsuma, OK not satsuma, hazelnut, oh OK, marrow fat pea sized, it did make me think what else had the day in store for us.
Only halfway into our four hour drive, which by the end of it will be the furthest we’ve ever been under our own steam and in combination with the early start I seriously consider Tom’s suggestion of calling it quits and stopping at the National Space Centre and spending the day there instead. However today’s game has a little bit more of an added interest, because we are off to see a player that we are sponsoring this season, that until about two months ago, we didn’t even know we were doing so.
To make my second Fast Show, Paul Whitehouse reference in as many blogs, isn’t non league football “great”.
Not that my radio is very reliable, my two station only radio, but today we don’t have to rely on it for entertainment, there is very little left to discuss about Tom’s wedding and as my car is a Brexit free zone, we’ll struggle to make conversation stretch to four hours and I need something to drown out the sound of Tom trying to subtley eat Jaffa Cakes. The Jaffa Cakes that he brought as car snacks for us both, until I reminded him I am now a vision of healthy eating, and don’t eat such refined sugar.
So it is a relief for all concerned that he has also brought a selection of “throw back CD’s” as he puts it, including some politically charged rap rock that makes me think of getting stoned in his room playing GTA, as well as the children’s party food. We both enjoy a nostalgic ride as we travel to our new “spiritual home” which is how Tom is referring to Yorkshire as we make our fourth visit of the season. First up in the player is the Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels soundtrack, which according to Tom is “the best soundtrack of all time”. Admittedly it’s not a bad one, but he’s clearly wrong, ever heard of a little 1980 film called the Blues Brothers?
Thankfully the weather only gets better the further up the M1 we go, dispelling for today at least the old stereotype that it’s grim up north. In fact it’s far from it, except for the person whose house has been blow off the back of a lorry, and now teeters on the edge of a bridge over the river Ouse, they are probably having a grim old day, but for us the improving conditions, only go to showcase the rolling Yorkshire countryside in the best possible light.
Although I won’t pretend to be any good at Geography, my brief period doing it at GCSE does mean I have a vague idea of what an oxbow lake is, but not much else, I’m pretty sure we are nowhere near Nottingham, so why we are seeing so many references to the bow and arrow toting one, who calls that part of the world home, did he holiday around here? It is causing Tom no end of consternation, that some here are as he puts it are “cashing in” on the good Mr Hood’s name, and are to “stop it”.
“The sea” announces Tom, the shimmering grey sea, beyond the tree lined fields, that look to go on forever. More picturesque churches, a Tom Hanks Castaway Wilson ball on one person’s front gate, and a miniature RNLI lifeboat on the middle of one roundabout, suggests we are a bit closer to the sea, than we actually are.
There is that distinct feeling of it being a seaside town, as we enter Bridlington, perched on the coast of the North Sea about two hundred and twenty miles from home, that any minute you could turn a corner and there may well be someone selling freshly made doughnuts. Sadly we are not here in search of candy floss or 2p machines, but football, and the small brown sign high up on a lamppost, below it also one pointing in the same direction to the Samaritans, makes sure we are on the right course.
Arriving in the car park of Queensgate, home of Bridlington Town A.F.C. (BTA), making sure not to park in the gaffas spot, which is defined by a yellow number plate on a wall with manager written on it, it is like so many grounds at this level, that are nestled between rows of houses and opposite a fish and chips shop. You could almost pass it without noticing, if it wasn’t for the sign protruding out of a hedge welcoming you, and even that is rather low key and could be missed if you weren’t paying attention.
Beyond though the rather tatty looking red brick turnstile is a ground overflowing with all the quirks and eccentricity that makes places like Queensgate so memorable and a club run by people so devoted and affectionate, I almost wish I had the ability to jump in my Delorean, to travel back in time to prepare my past self, for the afternoon ahead.
Coming through a flimsy black corrugated gate, is where I first see the smiling face of our BTA guide for the day, the reason we are here, the man who put us forward to sponsor a player, the caretaker of the clubs programme, club photographer, and all round non league legend, Dom. Beaming from under his blue cap, he sets an early precedence for friendliness, that will continue throughout the day, and I’m saying it now, will be hard to be surpassed, possibly ever.
Keen to get us out of the stiff wind, the sun is out, but there is still in a nip in the air, the BTA St George’s cross above the way in is being kept to a constant attention, he leads us to a room overlooking the halfway line, a room that is described as “sacred” by its custodian, where we soon have a hot drink in our hands and Tom is showered with biscuits
There is not an inch to spare on the walls of the tiny room, every millimetre is covered by aging team photos, pennants from visiting clubs, rosettes with the Wembley twin towers on, framed FA Vase Final programmes and cuttings from the local paper “Bridlington Town’s Wembley heros”. Warren, who can not be much taller than my twelve year old son, is BTA through and through in his scarlet club jacket, pin covered hat and scarf done up snuggly around his neck. The only thing to give away his other footballing allegiance are his immaculate white Leeds United trainers, the clubs badge on the end of each shoe and on closer inspection each of the badges that decorate his black beanie hat, are Leeds too.
Although more than forthcoming with the confectionery contained within their metal tin, he is also fiercely protective of them too. Once Tom has accepted the kind offer of one, they are retrieved from
their hiding place in a nearby padlocked cupboard, “you never know who’s coming and going” explains Warren. Tom takes one, being the polite boy he is it, plus there are about four pairs of eyes on him, but is encouraged to take more.
In a second room, drinks still in hand, having left the two people at the small desk trying to do the team sheets, how there were more than three people in that room at once including me was a miracle, the other side of the narrow cage sided tunnel at the base of the main stand, is another room covered with more memorabilia. A large framed collage of 1990 FA Vase Final momentous dominates one wall, next to it a framed David Batty shirt, who Warren tells us is a friend of is, having played with his father in the same team at School. Warren on “the wing”, Mr Batty senior “in goal”.
Out on the pitch below us, BTA’s opponents are doing the customary wander about that teams do, having arrived not that long ago. Yorkshire Amateur A.F.C. (AM) Dom confirms lost “7 – 0 last time out” however they have in their ranks a player who is considered the “best striker in the league” who Warren describes as “small” but who has “got some meat on him”.
Queensgate certainly falls into the ‘I bloody love it here’ category of grounds, so much more than just a pitch with a railing around it. It just oozes football, proper football, there is not a cheese room in sight. It has an abundance of character, colour, admittedly though that is red and white or red or white, and already feels like somewhere I could spend my Saturday afternoons on a regular basis.
Everything is very low mind, nothing above a single storey which is not unusual, and there are plenty of seats to choose from in one half of the main stand or if you fancy a day on the terraces it’s got that as well, all under cover too, you couldn’t really ask for more
Behind one goal a long red sign spells out the teams name and behind that over the wall, is the hulking great steel remnants of a gas works. Industry and football forever hand in hand. Considering it’s proximity, I’m surprised the team isn’t known as the Gas Men, the Gas Boys, the Gas Lads, instead they take their name from the nearby coast, The Seasiders.
The ding, ding, ding of the flags halyard can only distract me for so long, because striding past us, turning me all a bit fanboy, I find myself somewhere between a thirteen year old girl at the front of a Beatles concert and someone who breaks into celebrities houses to watch them sleep, is the reason we are here today, Matt Broadley, who we catch a glimpse of for the first time. His man bun looking as resplendent in real life as it had in the pictures I had seen. Unmoved by the wind, if anything it’s more sturdy than the aforementioned Victorian steel structure over yonder.
This far from home, it is of course not outside the realms of possibility to bump into a fellow Londoner, it’s not the Dark Ages after all, but the fact the club shop, a portacabin rammed with all the kinds of beautiful tat, that every club shop should have. Old programmes, books, it wouldn’t be a trip to Yorkshire without a mention of Dickie Bird, his autobiography sits on the counter along with pens and keyrings, there is even a selection of Disney videos for those out there still keeping it analogue, is run by Richard a Wimbledon fan, is at least mildly amusing.
From behind the counter he sells Tom a pin from an old sweet jar and tells us rather cryptically that “if we play well, we play well” we being BTA and not the Dons, but “the wind will spoil a lot”. Considering the shop was only opened this season they have done a fine job in filling it up, I help one man who is looking to purchase a club shirt by taking a picture of him in it, because of the lack of a mirror. It is the kind of place I could spend all day in, sod the football, I can’t keep my eye off the Sheffield Wednesday pennant with the gold braid.
Standing in front of the flag adorned terrace at one end of the main stand, “you’ll never walk alone” reads one, which the BTA Chairman, Peter, tells us is where the “second half singers” will stand. The larger than life character, with a shock of silver hair, recounts us with a few of Queensgates secrets.
Pointing to a blue traffic cone, the likes Spurs used to have in their car park, they couldn’t be having red ones could they, on the opposite side of the pitch, he tells us beneath it is the final resting place of who was at one time the “oldest ball boy in the league”, who at his wife’s “request” had his ashes inturned under the pitch. The ceremony of which did not go off without a hitch, because in his words the managers assistant is “not the brightest cookie” and he was rather vigorously “stamping on the mound of earth” formed by the burial, to flatten it out, not quite realising the implications of what he was doing.
Bringing our attention next to one side of the home dugout, he tells us that’s where the “old physio” is, his ceremony a lot more “straightforward”.
Seemingly the only other option other than 90’s dance music at non league football clubs, is “Dad rock” as Tom always calls it, that starts to play around the ground. Blowing a gale away from the shelter of the main stand, I’m loathe to move too far away from it, but the red door of the snack bar is open, its sparse menu scrawled on the blackboard on the side of it in chalk, has Tom intrigued.
Peering out from behind the pinned back hatch of a grey shed, we find another southern castaway, who perhaps washed up on the nearby beach. Paul, a Spurs fan, in a flat cap and fingerless gloves who according to his almost Dick Van Dyke barrowboy call is selling, “official programmes”, that bare the face of Matt Broadley, grinning away on the front cover. With a fag in one hand, he exudes an air of North London swagger about him. He would not look out of place in the film the soundtracks we were listening to on the way here.
It’s next to the turnstile that a man responds to Paul’s cry of “official programmes” claiming to be selling “unofficial” ones. It is from a young man beside the snide programme seller that I secure two strips of light blue raffle tickets, where if one of mine is the first out of the hat, I have the chance of bagging myself a bottle of vodka. Nearby some BTA fans applaud the players warming up, one starts a song and the supporters respond, “everywhere we go”.
Cramped might be an understatement when describing the squat narrow tunnel the players are gathered in before being led out onto the pitch. To the side of them, Warren is on the steps of the main stand, methodically reading out the teams, shuffling between sheets of paper in one hand, like a 70’s news reader. The players only have the applause of the supporters and the odd shout of “come on Brid Town” to contest with as they walk out, until someone turns on a Casio keyboard version of the Match of the Day theme.
In a early warning shot, the game in it’s relative infancy, AM’s number 9 who everyone won’t stop talking about, including Darren, of North Ferriby United fame, in his blue and white Mundial hat, that describes him as “shit hot”, has just blasted a shot just over the bar from the edge of the box.
The number 9 who Darren jokingly says is the “most unlikely looking football footballer” has a day job that is so lucrative, Darren seems to think he is an “insurance underwriter”, which means he “won’t take the step up” to the leagues above where by all accounts he could be quite prolific.
Darren who describes himself as a “Brid lad” having grown up opposite the ground, his Dad still living there today, points to the gas works behind the goal AM are attacking, and tells us it used to be “three times as big as that” and his Dad, who he’s brought along today, along with some of his fellow
North Ferriby fans, has “had dinner on the top of” it “watching football”.
“What’s the flag for?” barks one BTA fan behind us, after AM’s number 9 who was clearly offside when he set off to reach a long ball over the top, but it’s not given, the linesman running the line in front of us is struggling to keep up. Checking my phone, I can’t quite believe fifteen minutes have already elapsed, after our last two games had been such raucous affairs, today is very sedate in comparison. Everything happening at a far more leisurely pace.
A few seagulls are hovering about above the pitch and although the game may be a tad lethargic, that’s not to say its subdued here by any stretch of the imagination, there is a good buzz around the ground. The Bus Shelter terrace between the two dugouts is well occupied and the two gents behind us are not shy in coming forward. When someone shouts “come on Matty” our man getting one of his first touches, we both feel like proud parents on sports day.
However I thinks it’s fair to say the game hasn’t really caught alight. Neither keeper has been tested as of yet, least of all AM’s all in yellow wearing a black baseball cap, but that is about to change.
“You won’t see a worse goal that that” says Darren, passing us as he makes his way back round the pitch. AM’s keeper, having rushed to the edge of his box to meet the ball, and I’m not sure if its a case of, it’s yours, no it’s yours between him and and a defender or he simply misses it completely, however he is left stranded. His goal gaping and its 1 – 0 to BTA.
The excitement in Warrens voice is infectious as he confirms the scorers name, Tom thinks that it “might have been an assist from our man” and in the best possible footballing tradition of rubbing salt in the wounds, a man behind us is hopping from foot to foot singing, “7 – 0, 7 – 0”. As the players come towards the end of their celebrations, what I’m guessing is the celebration music comes on, which is not another DIY job, but a genuine pop song, by a proper band, well I say proper, a band, The Fratellis.
Only minutes after going behind and AM are looking to get back into the game straight away, it’s only a case of two players getting in each others way, that they both end up missing the cut back into the box. If only one of them had been a bit more shrewd, they would have been presented with a decent pop at goal. “Come on” shouts a BTA supporter behind us, as AM ramp up the pressure.
“Questionable that” says Tom, looking a bit like the thinking emoji with his hand on his chin. With VAR not yet filtering down to this level, expected I’m told sometime in 2047 we will have to take the breathy linos word for it that the ball caught by the BTA keeper, did not cross the line when he hurriedly tried to stop himself, doing his best to keep the ball far out in front of him at the end of his fully extended arms.
The same gasping lino is soon in for some more grief, “get your flag up” one person yells. After another AM ball over the top for their number 9, but again it looks like he has gone too soon, playing to the whistle or lack of it, the BTA keeper rushes off his line to ensure its cleared all the same.
“Fucking wind” scowls Tom, as the latest gust lifts the roof above our heads. Standing in front of us, the lady who was marshaling the mascots pre kick off, has another job on her hands, dealing with a couple of youngsters, trying to watch the game for free. “If you wanna come in, come in, don’t stand there it will collapse” she bellows. “Go on Mary” laughs one man, as the kids heads turn on a swivel in the direction of the shouting. Her parental tone sending a shiver down my spine, for a second turning me into a teenager again.
The two young boys stood on brick walls behind the goal are not quick to respond, the way Mary yelled at them, would be enough to motivate the toughest of scallywags, but there is warm heart under her black jacket, as she quickly softens, “you wanna come in?” she asks them.
“Charge them” insists one supporter, “27 each”. “For this shit?” questions another. From scalding them to taking them under her wing takes a matter of seconds and she is soon accompanying the two new marks of the attendance record, asking them as she does, “want a drink lads?”.
The goal has certainly livened the game up somewhat, although it’s AM who are all fired up, BTA despite the lead are still a little bit sluggish. “Well done” applauds one of the fans behind us, a fierce curling shot from an acute angle was well palmed wide by the “big” BTA keeper as Tom has dubbed him. Big upwards, not sideways.
“Come on, we’re second to every ball” grumbles someone over my right shoulder. AM are turning the screw and it’s all getting a bit last ditch around the BTA penalty area, snuffing out AM’s attacks at the very last. When Matt is bundled over, yes it does give BTA a moment’s respite, but it’s also stirred within us both a carnal paternal instinct, like wolves on the tundra and we both feel very protective.
The flag pole looks close to doubling over, but that is the least of Tom’s concerns, he’s just had a scan of how long the queue for the snack bar is, as we get closer to halftime, and from his facial expression you would think there was some kind of mad rush on, there is the sum total of one person waiting for food. “What am I gonna have?” he ruminates, “might have a hot dog, not had a hot dog in a while”.
Into the last ten minutes of the half and AM look more than capable of scoring, they have more than got it in them, and look far more dangerous than the home team, the players know it too and are getting frustrated. “Who fell over, who fell over” sings one BTA fan, when a foul is awarded against them. The AM player who “fell over” having been clothes line WWE style by a BTA midfielder.
“Come on Brid” appeals one fan, AM’s goal machine has just had a shot narrowly deflected wide. It’s not quite getting desperate, however I can only remember one attempt on goal from BTA, and that was their goal, which was a bit of a gift. Other than that, they have looked dare I say, a little bit toothless.
“Go on” murmurs a BTA fan on tenterhooks. Two shots, two goals, BTA have doubled their lead. The Fratellis are back on again, and Warren sounds delighted. In an exact replica of his celebration following the first goal, the same man, does the same dance, while singing “7 – 0, 7 – 0”. I would be amazed to see that many goals based on their display so far, however BTA look likely to be going into the break with a comfortable lead, and AM whose kit Tom is growing quite fond of, white with red shoulders, that he says has a very “80s 90s feel about it”, have every right to feel a bit hard done by.
It might be tempting fate somewhat, but I think its fuelled by boisterous energy, but singing “who are ya, who are ya” towards the AM number 9, who Tom said scored something like “sixty goals” last season, and has already racked up about “thirty” this, could be like prodding a very dangerous animal with a very short stick. He’s getting closer, although his shot to goal ratio is nowhere near as clinical as BTA’s, two for two. His latest effort leaves him with his head in hands, its wasn’t far off.
Tinged with a slight sense of relief, the BTA fans sarcastically “weyyyyy” as the AM free kick sails over. There is a distinct feeling of ‘please can we just make it to the break with our two goal lead intact’, among them, but the chances of that happening are being well and truly tested by the AM attack and as Richard attested to, the wind has started to play its part, curling a punt down field by the BTA keeper, back on itself.
“Same old Amateurs” tuts one man, when they win a free kick in the last moments of the half. It’s lofted in and the ball falls neatly to the feet of probably the last man you would want it to, the AM number 9. He drops a shoulder, wriggles free of his marker, turns and let’s go a powerful low shot, but as it has been so far this half a BTA body is in the way, blocking the goal bound attempt. The ball trickling out to safety, to shouts of “well done, well done” from the fans. There is no time for the AM throw in, the referee lifts his whistle to his lip and brings the half to an end, which is followed by a chorus of relieved sighs.
“It’s time for the raffle” announces one person mockingly, “the excitement is too much” replies his neighbour, who is clearly taking the piss. It really boils my blood when people don’t give the raffle or 50/50 the proper respect it deserves, it is a genuine way for clubs to increase match day revenue and contributes to the running of them.
“White ticket, first prize vodka” says Warren over the PA. Mine are blue. Fucking raffle. Waste of time.
A calmness descends over Queensgate for the break, it’s very agreeable. There is the odd child sized cheer from the penalty shoot out taking place among the mascots, a highlight having
to be the panenka one expertly executed. One man is halfway to horizontal with a beer in his hand as he checks his betting slips, but things take an upturn, when someone checking the half time scores reads out, “Worksop are 2 – 0 down”. “Weeeee” replies one person, before breaking out into song, “we are going up, we are going up”.
I’m half ear wigging a chat between two BTA fans who are discussing the teams first half performance, “we’ve defended well” says one, and he’s bang on they have, but I’m unable to listen any further because of the return of Tom and the food.
Food not just for him, but me too. Which he thinks is some kind of historic event, “first time eating at a football match” he states. Which is not true, how can he forget the faggots at Stourbridge and if I did eat the amount of crap he did at the games we go to, I will end up on a Jerry Springer special, being taken out of my house on a forklift.
What flavour is it I ask him, as he hands me my pie. “I thinks it’s meat, they only had one flavour”. The pie is nice, if not a little salty, but it fills a sizable hole, having not eaten since breakfast. Tom says his chips are “really good”, however being up North, I’m surprised he didn’t go for something smothered in gravy. Which we all know is the only reason he agrees to these trips beyond the M25.
“Come on Brid Town, come on Brid Town” sing the fans, the fans that as Peter predicted would make the move down for the restart, the “second half singers” have arrived, which include Paul and Richard. The wind tries its best to remove the roof, but it does not put them off belting out a few more chants in the first few minutes of the new half, “sea, sea, sea siders” and “come on you reds”.
It’s a big ball over the top by BTA this time, that their number 9 is unable to meet, that gets the second half underway, but in keeping with the first, it’s hardly at any kind of break neck speed. A deflected AM shot wins them a corner much to the pleasure of one player, “good fucking start” he shouts. It might be good, but its a slow one, the game playing out at a snails pace, its verging on sleep inducing. Such is the early lack of entertainment, many of the fans around us are discussing how well the scorer of their second did to score it.
A shout of “come on Brid” goes up from those supporters who have not moved, instead choosing to bask in the last of the sun, their backs to a sandy coloured brick wall, almost blinded by it straight in their faces, like lizards on a rock. It casts long thin shadows behind them.
The AM bench are livid that the tackle on their man, right in front of them has gone unpunished, and all on their feet, one of the newly arrived “singing section” tells them to “sit down”. Moments later the same man, with the flag of a certain Portuguese speaking South American nation behind him, suggests, “its like watching Brazil” after a particularly flamboyant bit of skill and clearly caught up in it all, when one person answers his phone, he forgets himself, shouting, “who are ya, who are ya”.
AM have pretty much picked up where they left off, looking the far more threatening of the two sides. Tom is still scratching his head trying to work out if the BTA manager is a “tactical genius” playing a bit of a rope a dope game, they are two goals ahead after all, but other than those two goals, they still looked completely devoid of any spark up front.
“Come on town keep concentrating” insists one supporter, “good block” comments another after the latest AM shot is kept out. The “second half singers” give up a few more lines of “come on Brid Town, come on Brid Town” that reverberates around the old metal stand.
A glorious welcome, force fed biscuits, well Tom was at least, super ground, perfect weather, and now a silver haired man behind us has just sung “oh I do like to be beside the seaside” I think today can now officially go down as a good one. His rendition of the promenade favourite is then followed by a slightly more boisterous chant from the two guys right at the back of the stand “sea, sea, sea seasiders”, and the final cherry on the top is that BTA go close, ish.
“Well done, great stuff” says one supporter, not at the sight of another BTA close’ish attempt, God forbid, but another AM attack snuffed out just in time. AM’s number 9 is being well and truly marshaled, the home fans putting it down to one centre back in particular “Jack” who they quite right point out is “having a cracking game”. If this was a Premier League match, I’m sure by now somewhere on Twitter there would be a picture of him with AM number 9 in or around his pocket area.
The home fans are not happy, “we’re giving the ball away far too much” complains one, “we’ve always done it, can’t see the game out” replies another. Even with the advantage they have and with about twenty five minutes to go, they are far from content. A sentiment I’m sure most if not all football fans can relate to and although it’s not a case of them giving the ball away that leads to many of them having a minor existential crisis, such a moment is just over the horizon.
“For crying out loud” wails one supporter, sinking into his jacket. AM have been awarded a penalty which prompts one man to angrily ask, “what for?” it did look very soft. “It will go over the top” predicts one person, “not if Flynn is taking it” suggests another.
It is of course the AM number 9 who is readying himself to take it.
“Come on Brid Town, come on Brid Town” sing the fans around us, probably the loudest they have all day, Flynn didn’t put it over, but he’s not scored all the same. Putting his kick from six yards as the TV commentators would say ‘at a good height’ for the BTA keeper to save, who got one of his shovel sized hands solidly behind the ball, keeping it out. “Whara save” says one man, in an almost impenetrable Yorkshire accent.
Leaping to his feet the man mountain BTA keeper dives towards the loose ball, half getting hold of it before the AM number 9 looks to get a foot on it, poking it clear of his grasp. Pouncing again, covering quite the distance in one superhuman bound, he gets both hands around it at the second time of asking. The BTA players and least of all the towering keeper are far from happy with the AM number 9’s Kung Fu esq attempt to get something on the ball and squaring off against each other, the disparity between the forward and the man in goal is quite striking.
The blow of the referee’s whistle causes some confusion, no one is quite sure why he’s done it, “he’s not given another penalty has he?” wonders one man. Walking away from the melee the BTA keeper raises his foot to suggest a kick or even a stamp, the whistle cutting short the post save celebrations, until it’s clear it is to book AM’s number 9, whose day is going from bad to worse, which is received with much relieved cheering, more shouts of “sea sea sea seasiders” and one fan who sees it as a bit of an omen, “we are going up”.
Half in shade, half in sun, the ground is split right down the middle. Getting a bit chilly, I think I know where Tom would rather be. The home bench tries to impress on the team that the penalty miss is the perfect opportunity to reset, “we go again”. The supporters around us are concerned about the shift in tactics, it’s not exactly a monumental one, but as one person points out, “we’re playing differently, sitting right back”.
Someone Tom points out has been “sent off” from the AM bench, hopping over the barrier beside the dugout, he is now making his way towards the dressing rooms, with a face like thunder.
From somewhere within the stand, someone has produced a small transistor radio, which crackles away in the way that they do. They will have to be holding it fairly tightly to their ear, as the noise level slowly creeps upwards, “come on Brid Town, Come on Brid Town”. When a long ball bounces over the AM keeper, there is a sizeable “ohhhhhhh” but the man in goal for the visitors, doesn’t notch up his second howler of the match and the ball ends up going wide.
Edging towards the final quarter, and perhaps it was all some “great masterplan” as Tom put it, but BTA are finally starting to show a lot more attacking intent. Their number 2 is having a lot of joy on the right wing, knocking the ball around his marker, he races on to it the other side of the statuesque AM player, whipping in a good cross which is punched away.
With the team on the field going up through the gears, the fans off it are doing the same, it’s got very rowdy all of a sudden. The latest contribution to the rising decibel level are shouts of “off, off, off” aimed at an AM player after a rather hefty foul, but he only gets a talking to.
“I don’t like this, I don’t like this” says one man nervously, AM are on the counter, but once again it’s stopped in its tracks. “What a fucking tackle” hollers Tom, and if he wasn’t already standing, he would have leapt to his feet in appreciation. It was as good as any goal, the BTA player picking the pocket of the AM forward, on the edge of the box, from behind no less and Tom’s praise doesn’t stop there. “Save” he exclaims, when the BTA keeper pulls off a diving stop not long after. I’ve not seen him this animated in a long time.
One AM player has a bad case of verbal diarrhoea, “you’ve been booked 7 shut up” he is reminded kindly by one supporter, a further sign of the away teams growing exasperation. The referees assistant also gets another earful, “this lino is a load of shit” says the kindly old man who not so long ago was singing, “oh I do like to be beside the seaside” who then after blurting it out, has a bit of a crisis of confidence “am I allowed to say that?”
With ten minutes left, you would imagine BTA have now secured the three points, the fans are dancing in the aisles, one has started singing “we’re gonna win the league and now you’re gonna believe us”. Away from the defence, the scorer of BTA’s second, gets his second, coolly side footing it past the still cap wearing keeper. The “tactical genius” as Tom is convinced it is now, and not a “stroke of luck”, three shots on target, three goals, is efficiency personified
“What’s all this going up business” asks the passing Chairman, “whos going to pay for it?”. Getting a song for his troubles, “there’s only one Peter Smurthwaite” he turns and graciously bows, he’s quite the showman. Put him in tails and a top hat, and he could be East Riding’s very own P. T. Barnum.
There are few things more awkward at a football match, then someone starting a song and no one joining in. There really is no reason for it to be awkward, good on them for trying to get it going, but it is, whatever you say. “Oh we do like to be beside the seaside” sings the same man as before, but this time there is nothing in return, the metaphorical tumble weeds start to roll though, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
“Oh for God’s sake” he blusters, trying to regain a bit of dignity, but makes a rather strange comment instead about knowing how they all take it “for granted” living this close to the sea and asks them to “give it some welly” but only gets blank stares.
BTA go close’ish again, a header just over, but it’s not on target so it doesn’t ruin their immaculate conversion rate. One supporter, a glutton for punishment, is trying to imagine a world where AM “had got the next goal” at 2 – 0, and how they would “have been in for nasty last ten minutes”.
Saving what is maybe there best move of the match until the end, BTA’s two goal man shows good strength shrugging off the attention of one AM player, and then passing the ball out wide to the marauding number 2, who with a deft flick, leaves his marker for dead, he cuts the ball back to the edge of the box. “Hit it” shouts the man next to me, as a player shapes up for a side footed shot, that is touched just wide by the AM keeper. The ground erupting into rapturous applause.
Standing in the mouth of the tunnel, with his camera on a mono pod, that is so large it would give any aspiring photographer an inferiority complex. I think in a former life it was on the back of a train firing shells at Passchendaele, Dom is jittery , asking anyone who will listen, “are we nearly there yet, how longs he playing?”
“Get in” cries one person, punching the air and if my day couldn’t get any better, they actually play “oh I do like to be beside the seaside” over the PA following the final whistle. The spaces either side of the tunnel are crammed with expectant supporters, the BTA team all in red from top to bottom, skip out of sight towards their changing room, breaking into song as they do.
I really don’t know where to start with today, we’ve had some welcomes in the past, we’ve been made to feel like part of the furniture at other clubs before, but today was a different level, today might just go down as the best of all time.
I could go on and on, listing all the amazing things from the generosity of the players and staff, the fact they asked us to award their player of the month award, to a very confused looking player, the same one who got himself a brace, so maybe a little bit of us rubbed off on him. The fact one ball boy had aviators on and looked so effortlessly cool and that the Latin translation on the clubs badge is onwards and upwards. How Mary, Warren and Dom might go down as the kindest sweetest people we have ever encountered. How Matthew, who assured us he got the assists for the first goal, had all the time in the world to chat to us egits.
The best way for me to summarise our time at Bridlington A.F.C. is to use the Delorean analogy again, in that I wish I had one, so I could relive this day, over and over and over again. If I didn’t enjoy doing it so much, dare I say, the search may be over……..