“You can change your wife, change your politics, change your religion. But never, never can you change your favourite football team!” This memorable line, taken from Ken Loach’s comedy-drama film ‘Looking for Eric’, during which the central character idolises French legend Eric Cantona, is an appropriate summary of the relationship that every supporter enjoys with his chosen side.
I remember quoting this statement, with some confusion, when the Young Ashton decided that he needed a Borer Season card – as well as his HUFC season ticket! I simply couldn’t understand how anyone could have two teams. Mind, on the positive side it meant that I no longer carried the responsibility for a teenager on away days….
My mind also went back to this quote when, after a typically miserable run in the league, Pools were facing relegation and the then Mrs Ashton piped up with, “No problems, you and the young’un could start supporting York City or Darlington if Hartlepool go bust”.
As the young’un agreed, no jury would have found me guilty of anything. I started lifting the patio flags and, well, that’s another story……
Fast forward to today and we’re in the process of relocating to Northumberland and I sort of feel like I’m about to start an affair. Sure I’m still married to Pools but I’m thinking of taking on a mistress – Morpeth Town AFC.
Morpeth Town are currently Morpeth Town are members of the Northern Premier League Division One East.
The club was established in 1909. They joined the Northern Alliance in 1936 and were runners-up in 1937–38, before winning the league’s Challenge Cup in 1938–39. During the 1939–40 season, which saw the league reorganised into a wartime competition, the club were runners-up in the North Division and then finished third in the combined competition. After the league resumed following the war, Morpeth finished bottom of the Northern Alliance in 1949–50, 1951–52 and 1953–54. They were subsequently runners-up in 1965–66, 1973–74 and 1981–82, as well as winning the Northumberland Benevolent Bowl in 1978–79.
In 1983–84 Morpeth were Northern Alliance champions. They were runners-up the following season and then won both the Challenge Cup and the Northumberland Benevolent Bowl in 1985–86. After winning the league’s Subsidiary Cup in 1986–87, the club were champions again in 1993–94, earning promotion to Division Two of the Northern League. They won the division in their second season in the league and were promoted to Division One. The club won the Northumberland Senior Cup in 2006–07, beating Blyth Spartans 3–2 in the final. They finished second from bottom of Division One in 2009–10 and were relegated to Division Two. The following season saw them finish bottom of Division Two, although the club avoided being relegated back to the Northern Alliance. In 2012–13 they finished third in Division Two and were promoted back to Division One.
The 2015–16 season saw Morpeth reach the final of the FA Vase at Wembley Stadium, where they defeated Hereford 4–1 to win the competition. The club went on to finish as runners-up in Division One of the Northern League the following season, also winning the Cleator Cup. After finishing as runners-up again in 2017–18, they were promoted to Division One East of the Northern Premier League.
The club initially played at Stobhill Cricket Field, before moving to Storey Park in 1954. In 1994 they relocated to Craik Park, named for W and R Craik, who had been the club’s secretaries between 1920 and 1985. Craik Park had been built in 1972 as an athletics venue with a 6-lane cinder track, which was used for training by Morpeth Harriers & AC. After the football club moved to the ground, they built a 100-seat stand and a new clubhouses, as well as erecting floodlights. And I’m going to be living six miles away from Craik Park – and its bar and lower (proper) league football. I’m sure that you can imagine the pull…….
Pools links? Kevin Henderson was one of the stars (in my humble opinion) of the 2003 promotion season and of the three play-off seasons that preceded it. Kevin started off playing ‘pub football’ in Morpeth before progressing to Amble Town and, via a circuitous route which involved a knee injury during a trial at Leicester City, on to Morpeth Town – and from there to Pools. Kevin played 172 times, scoring 46, before Neale Cooper allowed him to join Carlisle United on loan. He subsequently returned to Morpeth Town.
I’ll obviously let you know how the affair goes.
Now, going back to the Cantona quote; does this refer to you? Test yourself against these very worrying signs that you might love football more than your own missus/ mister (with apologies to Paul Moore, Guinness drinker, pop-culture fiend and Barry Davies enthusiast):
Men will always forget the dates that certain birthdays and anniversaries fall on which isn’t an ideal situation when you’re dating someone. Or worse, married to someone.
Why is it though that I can still remember the exact date of that afternoon when Pools put 3 past Northampton to clinch promotion? Or the Friday night eight against Grimsby Town? I take comfort in knowing that all good Poolies are the same.
Every. Single. One.
2. Passion for fashion.
Your partner might ask you ‘how does this dress look on me?’ or ‘does this waistcoat suit my belly?’ I’d bet that your reply is usually along the lines of ‘you look gorgeous darling’ or ‘absolutely not John’ and nothing else is said.
Compare this with the moment when you see the new kit that your club will be wearing for the upcoming season.
“Not BLK again! Remember the Nike kits? The red Cardiff strip was special. Although the Tesco Bag was a grower.”
3. What’s your happiest memory?
When asked this question, if your answer is 11 May 1991 aka the 3-1 demolition of Northampton Town and not your own wedding day, then you’re fecked. Absolutely and totally.
4. Commitment issues.
You’re more than happy to admit your undying love for Brian Honour to a bunch of strangers, or for Wayne Goldthorpe to your mates in The Corner Flag, but you still drag your heels when it comes to telling your partner that you love them.
5. What gets you angry?
If the news that Scott Harrison was starting for Pools made you angrier than any petty squabble with your missus; it’s equal parts a healthy and terrifying sign.
6. Arguing over money.
Money is always a majorly divisive issue between couples but when you’re arguing over the sums that Pools have paid for our numerous managerial staff during recent years as opposed to the more relevant domestic financial issues, you’ve got a problem.
7. Romantic trips away.
“I’ve heard that Southampton is a great place to visit in late March and Pools just happen to be at Eastleigh on the 30th”
8. Avoid making plans on match days.
I’m all in favour of people spending some quality time with their significant other but there’s the right time and place. If your favourite team are playing an important match then this takes precedence. This is just obvious; isn’t it?
9. Can’t remember names.
Your significant other has repeatedly told you what her cousins names are and yet you still manage to draw a complete blank when you’re introduced to them at weddings and funerals . “It’s not my fault that your Mother and her sisters decided to give you all names beginning with M! What chance have I got with Marcia, Mary, Margaret, Melissa, Mandy and the other two, eh Morticia?”
Yet, without pausing to draw breath you can name the 11 May 1991 team against Northampton.
Or if someone said, “Groves og, Paul Robinson, Marco Gabbiadini, Richie Humphries, Gavin Strachan”, you’d immediately reply, “12 September 2003, Grimsby Town, and you’ve got them in the wrong order and Robbo got three.”
10. Baby names
Yes, I did suggest ‘Brian (as in Honour) Robert (as in Newton)’ for the young’un. I was over-ruled.
“You can change your wife, your politics, your religion, but never, never can you change your favourite football team.” FACT.
Now, does the fact that Pools ‘matters more’ to we punters, than it might do to the professionals on and off the pitch, actually lie at the root of much of the proverbial angst between club and support? I don’t know: I ask the question.
I’m tiring of this constant noise that Pools fans are negative; I don’t hear too much negativity – perhaps I stand in the wrong place – and hasn’t every club got its share of ‘loud mouth know nothings’? Surely all clubs have similar challenges?
And I’d not feel comfortable about MM stitching a badge onto his suit for a bit of kissing.