Now that autumn is rolling in, the leaves are falling from the trees and me and Mrs Totts are engaged in our annual “Battle of the Boiler” as to when it’s appropriate to turn the heating on it seems only right that we should be entertaining a solid, meat, spuds, sticky pudding and woolly jumpers side like Stockport.
This would be the first meeting between our two sides and a quick delve through the colourful history of this proud club, who sank from a few points away from the play-offs to the Premier League to the robust bowels of the National League North within a generation, throws up an eclectic myriad of highs and lows from the footballing roller-coaster that is a gripping yarn for those of us who love this sort of shit.
|We’ve heard of them….|
The name itself throws me right back to being a kid in the sixties and cold January Saturday afternoons, in the days when we had real winters, David Coleman standing by the BBC Grandstand teleprinter in glorious mono and the old man hovering with a bookies pencil over his pools coupon waiting for the inevitable “Stockport County nil, Tranmere Rovers nil….”. Back then, Stockport flirted with the institutionalised corruption of the re-election system like a brass in a Soho clip joint. The moment the meritocracy of relegation from the fourth tier came in it was only a matter of time before they were fucked and now here they are at GGL getting a taste of the South London suburban badlands.
I don’t know why but I’m more than a touch obsessed with the murky spivery of the re-election system. Five times Stockport re-applied to retain their place in the old fourth division and five times they were successful. Think that sounds more than a little bit bent? Well, current Bastard League contemporaries York and Halifax got a pass on six occasions and Hartlepool faced the league AGM ELEVEN TIMES with their re-application letter in hand and eleven times the door was kept open. Nothing to see here kids. Gateshead, clearly not tuned in to the world of graft and corruption, got slung out on their first go in 1960 and Southport got black-balled in favour of Wigan at their sixth effort in 78. I’ve not even included the old Third Division North and South and the whole shebang goes back to the turn of the twentieth century.
|Summing up both side’s recent form beautifully….|
I would love to have been present at one of those league AGM’s when they hit the agenda item on re-election. Those meetings were entirely in black and white with a smoke-filled room in Lytham St Anne’s packed with old geezers in blazers stinking of Johnnie Walker and Senior Service. Brown envelopes slipped from hand to hand, conspiratorial whispers in the corridor, furtive glances across the room, nods, winks and say no more me old son. Apparently the top two divisions had a vote each and the lower leagues a much smaller block vote. Of course the big boys opposed meritocracy. It’s basic gangster principles. You never know when you might be holding the shitty end of the stick and need to call in a favour.
You could have set a brilliant film noir at one of these annual league gatherings. An honest club chairman, probably played by Jack Warner, shot down in the car park by a shadowy figure in a hat with a Webley service revolver for refusing to play the game. Jack lies dying on the gravel as a Jag speeds away into the fog. Two figures are watching from a safe distance. One turns to the other….”Aah well, that’s Stockport in for another fucking year, fancy a brown ale?”
|Busy old sun terrace.|
You get the picture. But it’s not only the dirty business of re-election that’s been occupying me this week. A circuitous route via the world of twitter started off with me promoting the works of post-punk band Serious Drinking and their glorious tribute to Phil Silvers “Countdown to Bilko” and ended up with the Ernie Bilko museum getting in touch with their own Stockport connection. This was only bettered by the news that the town/county boasts a world-renowned hat museum! Brilliant. I love a hat and I love to marshal important facts on the oppo and their locale and so there you go.
Where were we? Oh yes, football. I didn’t get to Harrogate last week for what sounded like a cracker, sending Dirty Barry and his close protection officer Tom The Beard as emissaries. Luckily they booked their tickets through COCS Tours rather than through Gandermonium courier Mr X and as a result they actually had train tickets back for the right day rather than the fucking Sunday. Honestly, I give up. Instead I went down Worcester Park with Tony Bacon, Weird Gary and Balti Steve with his roll-ups and eternal bad karma. Inevitably with the Singing Postman on board, Park lost on penalties but we had a grand old time. Love it down there.
Anyway, so I lost the Battle of the Boiler in a walkover but when your Old Dutch makes Jimmy Hoffa look like Mr Bean you are on a hiding to nothing. My fingernails are still embedded in the thermostat. But, granted, the official residence is nice and toasty as I wake on Saturday morning and contemplate the day that lies ahead. I’ve got a bit of totting business to take care of and the van won’t unload itself but I’m happy with the haul as I lug it through to the workshop. You like old Dansette record players? I’ve just acquired three of the fuckers and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into them but that’s for another day.
After a leisurely lunch I load up a Fidel Castro special, the Ronson Varaflame, my “allowance”, a hand full of warm pound notes Mrs Totts has pulled from her bra and I bowl out of the door and into the throbbing artery that carves straight through the middle of the Peoples Republic that is known globally as Gander Green Lane. I sniff the air. I smell tension, expectation and diesel. I’m immediately tuned in with senses working overtime. This is my manor, I’m going for a pint and I don’t give a fuck.
Well, I was going for a pint en route but I forgot that the Gander closed was closed. When I first noticed that it was locked up I feared that it was going the same way as the Plough which now sits as a rotting hulk reminding us of everything that’s shit in the world. I know that the Gander ain’t everyone’s cup of splosh and will never get the thumbs up from the weird beard craft ale mob and the anti-Brexit liberals but I like it and it’s reopening next weekend. Which is a good thing. In the meantime fuck knows what Wreckit Beckett and his B Team desperados are going to do. Probably a bag of cans on a bench in the Kimpton. Reasonable.
Anyhow, enough of this old tosh. Let’s get on to the game shall we? I’d been invited to the pre lunch knife and fork by The Cocs but I declined. I just can’t sit there and watch those lad chomping through three courses. Chessington isn’t that far from here and their animals are much more interesting and certainly a fuck sight cuter. So I head off to the ground in reasonable time for a couple of scoops and a catch up with all the old faces.
|Right in the wall|
Talking of the Gander being closed, this news hadn’t filtered through to either the Stockport lot or whoever was on the gate diverting them away from the clubhouse and back down towards the by-pass. Poor planning, compounded later by the news that one of our friends from the north had some sort of pub app showing that the the dear old Steak and Kidney, the Sydney Arms, was still a viable option despite the fact that it closed at least twelve years ago. Oh well. Of such stuff are away-day tales made, as we should well know.
DB and TTB, fully done up in his security garb and clearly taking the job of minding the dirty one very seriously, are drinking fruity ciders in the car park/beer terrace and enjoying the mild autumn weather and I grab a pint and join them after a quick meet and greet around the premises and a catch up with Geoff and Gaz Fear and Paul The Mod. The Wing Commander is one of the few who has followed the instruction to honour our guests and their hat museum and is wearing a white trilby that I’m reasonably certain had been half-inched off some bloke on the deli counter at Tesco’s. I ain’t got a problem with that. Might get one myself as it goes.
|Done and dusted|
What else? Not a lot really. I don’t bother crashing the VP’s lounge pre match as Silver Fox has got me under heavy manners at the moment and anyway the clock is marching on and it’s time to swing round to the turnstiles and join the gang on a well-subscribed Shoebox. No DILF Bingo. It’s a long story that involves a cast including Frakey, Crooked Ces and the Nevada State Gambling Commission. It’s also intensely fucking boring now to be honest.
Butler, Eastmond, Collins, Goodliffe, Milsom, Ajiboye, Barden, Beautyman, Randall, Jarvis, Wright SUBS: Bolawinra, Davis, Dundas, Matsuzaka, Reid
Still running out to the Apprentice theme. Somebody’s in joke that would be better off outed if I’m honest. I’m pleased though that there’s a tribute to the great Barrie Masters from Eddie and the Hot Rods who headed off to the great gig in the sky this week and maybe Do Anything You Wanna Do would be a decent tune to hit the pitch to. I shall have a word on that one. With “hard segregation” enforced (ooh er missus) we have the dubious pleasure of the company of the entire Gandermonium crew for the whole of the game and I mark Greeks card about the cigars he’s picking up for me when he flys out to Havana in a few weeks time. Cheers fella. I will drop the diplomatic bag off in the week.
Football. Yes, there is some. Stockport are what you might describe as “solid” with a few of their players looking like they have made the recent switch from rugby league but after five defeats on the bounce you get the feeling they would be happy with a clean sheet and a point. And that is what they get. Other than JB being subbed off earlyish in the first half rather than risk a red this game is predictably lacking in either incident or quality. A blog writers nightmare if you are here to write about the on pitch activity. I’m not thank fuck. We look short of confidence, short of goals and short of that little bit of luck that might just give us a bit of a leg up. Chances are few and far between at both ends. H and Tommy both blast over when there may have been an opening and Tommy also shanks one wide right at the death which would have been the last kick of the game. That goes in and it’s a different story. A draw was fair enough and one point is better than no points but we are hovering dangerously close to the death zone and we all now that La Bastarda is an unforgiving mistress. I will leave it at that.
|“Here’s what you could have won….”|
Back in the bar me and Bal head for the VP’s and it nice to catch up with Bobby Bollocks, The Cocs, AB, Chairman Bruce, Kiddo and the gaffer. A quick public service announcement. This is going to be a long hard season. No one is under any illusions. We are a football club not a cult and we are all entitled to have a moan up and we do. But we need to retain some perspective. We are competing with teams on EFL budgets and that’s just brutal reality. It’s a mighty long road between here and the end of the season and we will need to stick together, this is no time for lightweights. You know what I mean.
Time for a few more scoops and a trip back out to the pitch to catch a bit of the Tache Trophy and Chancellor Oakesy going full Chopper Harris in the full back berth. If I never see them legs again it will be too soon. And that’s me done really. I bid farewell and make by way back down the Lane as the chill of the early autumn evening envelopes the PROWS. FA Cup draw Monday. That’s something to look forward to and get the blood pumping and a sign that winter really is on its way.