March 01, 2013

It's Football Jim, But Not as We Know It


BILLY'S CONTRACT on Spenny and Darlo


In the last edition of Monkey Business I wrote about taking in the recent Premiership game between Sunderland and the Happy Hammers. For my troubles our august editor labelled me as 'Traitorous.' So it is therefore with some trepidation that I pen this next piece and fully expect the ire of our editor once more branding me a quisling or at best a ne’er-do-well.

I must admit to of late taking an interest in league division seventy three, keeping an eye on the title race between Spennymoor and our former rivals Darlington village. In short Darlo are top of the league by a substantial margin, but if Spenny win all their two dozen games in hand they will pip Darlo to claim the league title.

"I must admit to of late taking an interest in league division seventy three, keeping an eye on the title race between Spennymoor and our former rivals Darlington village."Many Darlo supporters are under the illusion that all the other teams in this division should roll over and die whenever they play them so that they can gain automatic promotion. Darlo could even have a safety cushion in that if they finished as runners up to The Moors they would still be promoted - in the past couple of years Spenny who have won the league twice on the bounce but have not bothered to take promotion for financial reasons. This allows the runners up to take their promotion place should they wish to do so.

Two flies in the ointment though, One: Darlo have lost 4 games in this league. Spenny unbeaten. Two; Whether they have just done this out of badness, Spenny have applied for promotion should they win the title. Believe me when I tell you that Darlo fans are worried. Very worried.

With that I decided to take in the Spenny v Darlo fixture (quisling...ne’er do well! Editor) mainly in the hope of seeing their recent acquisition, namely one Mr Adam Boyd, cracking home the winner well into time added on. Disappointingly he did not even make the bench on the night.

I met up with my Spenny supporting mate a tad later than expected due to the sat nav taking me to Kirk Merrington, wherever that is. It was just as well that I went with him as on the two other occasions that I have been to The Brewery ground I haven't a clue how I found the place nor how I got home.

Spenny’s ground is a tidy affair and reminds me in part of a smaller version of Scarborough’s now defunct McCain stadium, apart from the fact that Spenny only have two stands and are a good way off the coast.

The one thing that instantly strikes you about the field of play is the extreme slope/incline/ski jump/ramp of the pitch. In fact it was very reminiscent of the same downward slant the ill fated Titanic had two hours after it had struck the iceberg.

We elected to stand in the popular end which was like being back in the Rink End in the seventies. People smoking, plus many of the locals supping pints of beer on the terraces, but best of all was the craic and some of the chants, by far and away a lot more original and funnier that what we hear in league football. 'You stole my caravan' being my favourite along with 'you're just a small town in Bishop' and the sarcastic ‘You can stick your Yorkshire puddings up your arse’, alluding to the fact that Darlington is not really in Durham. Darlo countered with highly original ‘C'mon Darlo, C'mon Darlo’ and some other chant in which Pools got a mention.

The crowd itself numbered 2,600, which was a record for this league. Ironically the 4 lads who were stood adjacent to me were all from Hartlepool, and I recognised another Victoria Park regular further down the terrace. Another first on the night was the debut of Spenny’s new floodlights. A record crowd, new floodlights, fellow Poolies in attendance, I was living the dream!

Spenny, unbeaten in the league all season began the game kicking down the slope in the first half playing some lovely fast attacking football, with their wingers absolutely shredding Darlo’s two static full backs. I’m Unsure how Boydie would cope with the speed at this level being honest. In truth Spenny should have been four or five up after half an hour, but only had a converted penalty to show for their efforts.

Typically as is always the case the team that is under the cosh gets a piece of luck and with their first attempt on goal after thirty minutes or so the Quackers levelled with what has to be said was a stunning 35 yard effort (yes, I did applaud). At last the Darlo fans found their voices to which the Spenny faithful chanted back 'We forgot that you where here'.

In the second half Spenny seemed to struggle kicking uphill, and alarmingly seemed to run out of steam. Darlo's main tactic was to boot the ball down hill wide for their wing men to run onto and put a cross in, which in fairness though not pleasing to the eye proved to be effective as they scored twice more.

Whilst all this was going on some 50 year old Darlo fans in the side paddock made their way over to the Spenny end next to the corner flag and began chanting 'You're going to get you f------ heads kicked in.' to a young cluster of Spenny fans who looked like they had just finished their paper rounds.

There was no way back for Spennymoor, two down was a bridge too far or perhaps a hill too steep for them to conquer and in fairness to their fans in the 90th minute they were chanting 'We'll sing to the end we'll sing to the end.' which is what indeed they did do.

You can laugh at this level of football. Yes, the goals looked like they were constructed of scaffold poles and the incline of the pitch looked like the north side of the Eiger, but I enjoyed every minute of it apart from the result because even though they are several tiers below us in terms of league status it is still good to see Darlo get beat at any level.

I have to say my feelings about Darlo on the night were ambivalent. They looked like a non-league side playing in washed out looking red shirts and a team that the current Pools squad prior to our recent revival would probably give a good thumping to.

Darlo now have a psychological advantage over Spenny having beaten them in their own backyard, but if nothing else to reword the old cliché, Spenny can now concentrate on the two cups they are in. One gets the feeling that a Wembley appearance is more of a priority to them than winning the league at this juncture.

Message to the editor; I know that this is a Hartlepool fanzine but in the next edition of Monkey Business I promise that you can expect a match report from me from The Vic...on Gatesheed.