As the season stutters to an end I thought I’d continue with memories of the past rather than causing grief by commenting on recent history, or even the coming year.
We were recently treated to a visit from the youngest – sure he argued that he’d been missing his parents but the visit resembled a cross between a Democratic Party fund raiser and stress testing for appliances such as washing machines, dryers and irons.
“Steve Jones, Ryan Cross, Paul Cross, Phil Gilchrist, John MacPhail, Dean Emerson, Lennie Johnrose, Keith Nobbs, Andy Saville, Brian Honour, Nicky Southall, 2 January 1993, 6,721 in the Vic and we won with an Andy Saville penalty!”
“Alright Dad”, says the young’un, “You’re right, that was the team which beat Crystal Palace, but you’re getting more and more like Gordon Ottershaw.”
Well, I didn’t know what sort of slapping was deserved. One for rudeness or one out of shock and praise at the mention of an icon such as Golden Gordon.
Now, if you’re too young to have heard of Ripping Yarns (a series written by Michael Palin and Terry Jones of Monty Python fame) – or you haven’t watched it in many years – look it up on Youtube.
For those too young in 1979 – or not even around then – episode two of the second series of Ripping Yarns is ‘Golden Gordon’, a loving parody of a non-league football fan and Yorkshire football in general, filmed around Barnoldswick and Keighley. The parallels to my early memories of Pools are stunning and the parallels which can be drawn from the ownership and potential sale of Barnstoneworth United and what has been going on at clubs such as Bolton, Oxford, Gateshead, Darlington and, dare I say, Hartlepool are interesting. Particularly if you remember its vintage. Our 1979/80 season is best remembered for the rain, the wind, the cold, the signing of Frank Pimblett (after his release by, and before his return to, Brisbane City!); the 5-1 first match thumping at Chesterfield, and Wayne Goldthorpe!
Back to Ripping Yarns. It is 1935. On a stereotypically cold, wet, windswept and bleak West Yorkshire hillside sits the Sewage Works ground, home to Barnstoneworth United. Once a mighty team in the Yorkshire Premier League, they have now fallen on hard times.
Barnstoneworth United haven’t won a match in six years. After losing 8-1 to Brighouse, depressed United superfan Gordon Ottershaw comes home and smashes the furniture in his house in fury. His wife Eileen quietly accepts this. She keeps trying to tell him that she’s having a baby, but he seems not to notice.
“Eight One – Eight bloody One! – And even that were an own goal!”
“Eight bloody One and their centre-forward wears glasses during the match”
Ottershaw has been teaching his son (whose first name is Barnstoneworth, middle name United) every detail of the club’s results, players and statistics (don’t we all remember these statistics for certain periods in our lives?). Over dinner, having memorised the 1922 side perfectly, his father chimes in at the end, sighing as he speaks:
”Won none. Drawn none. One cancelled owing to bereavement. Lost 18.”
A die-hard supporter, Ottershaw laments the clubs latest troubles over his custard pudding: ”Centre forward’s off with boils, two half back’s are going to a wedding and the goal-keepers got a cold. Chairman’ll sort it out.”
After the Eight bloody One, the Clubhouse barman, utterly calmly, polishing a glass: “I know how you feel, Gordon”. That could have been Ronnie in The Corner Flag! “Don’t worry John, we’ll get an away goal before the turn of the year. Strongarm?”
The club is so impoverished that pairs of the players have to “share a peg” in the changing room.
The Chairman in question will definitely sort it out. He plans to sell the club to a scrap merchant and walk away from it all with some brass in his back pocket. His only opinion of Gordon Ottershaw is that -”It’s a form of madness you know, wearing your scarf in bed.”
Barnstoneworth are in dire trouble. On the training ground you’re more likely to hear, ” He’s got my shorts on” and ” Can I go at half past six?” than you are any sounds of encouragement, controlled aggression or tactical nous.
“I didn’t come here on a free transfer from Walsall to stand and watch a bunch of morons arguing about football shorts!”
But Gordon has a brain wave. He will round-up all the best surviving ex-Barnstoneworth players for the coming Saturday’s cup tie against Denley Moor Academicals. One being in a wheelchair! That will save the club!
Just think – put Dean Emerson and Willie Boland into our current midfield…….
The idea comes to him when he’s visiting (nay pleading) with the scrap dealer not to buy Barnstoneworth United and sell his beloved club down the river. The subject of when Barnstoneworth last won a game comes up… Quick as a flash superfan Gordon has the answer:“October 7th, 1931. 2-0 against Pudsey.“ “Haggerty F, Ferris, Noble, Codren, Crapper, Davis, Sullivan, O’Grady, Kembell, Hacker and Davitt. Davitt scored twice, once in 21st minute, once in 28th minute…”
”Davitt, he were hell of a player.” says the scrap merchant. ”He were bald weren’t he? Head like stainless steel.”
“That’s right. He once scored with the back of his head from 28 yards against Barnsley reserves in 1922.”
Saturday comes, and the Cup tie against Denley Moor Academicals kicks off. United only have four players (and three pairs of shorts), whereas the captain of the Denley Moor team is the famous Eric Olthwaite. Things look bad, but Gordon arrives with the old team who take to the field. Davitt opens the scoring with his bald head, and, shock of shocks, Barnstoneworth eventually win 8 – 1.
“Eight BLOODY One!”
‘Golden Gordon’ ends with Gordon smashing up his own home in celebration this time. Clock, photos, radio go flying out through the window as the Match of the Day theme plays. And it still hasn’t registered with him that his wife has been trying to tell him she is pregnant throughout the entire episode.
And this all gets me back to 12 September 2003 and the night that Pools beat Grimsby Eight Bloody One! And there was an own goal!
The Pools goals that night came from Paul Groves (own goal) 19, Paul D Robinson (penalty) 20, Gavin Strachan 28, Richie Humphreys 31, Paul D Robinson 56, Marco Gabbiadini 60, Eifion Williams 66 and Paul D Robinson 80. And I remember being annoyed that we didn’t get nine…
And the Pools team that evening was this magnificent group:
Jim Provett, Michael Barron, Michael Nelson, Chris Westwood, Matty Robson, Richie Humphreys, Gavin Strachan, Mark Tinkler, Marco Gabbiadini, Paul D Robinson, Eifion Williams
Darrell Clarke for Gavin Strachan
Ryan McCann for Marco Gabbiadini
Jermaine Easter for Paul D Robinson
And the manager was, of course, the great Neale Cooper.
Happy Days. Happy Nights. Happy times.
Will we ever back to a situation where we get to enjoy Friday nights like that? Let’s hope.
And now to my quick fire final points:
1. The Wirral based band Half Man Half Biscuit (as famous for their support of Tranmere Rovers as any of their songs) named their third album ‘McIntyre, Treadmore and Davittin’ in tribute to the Golden Gordon Ripping Yarns’ episode, and the front cover is a still from the programme. The opening track on this great album is ‘Outbreak of Vitas Gerulatis’. I’m really showing my age now, aren’t I?
2. Steve Jones, Ryan Cross, Paul Cross, Phil Gilchrist, John MacPhail, Dean Emerson, Lennie Johnrose, Keith Nobbs, Andy Saville, Brian Honour, Nicky Southall – what a great team – even if young Steve Jones was only playing due to injury to Martin Hodge (Or was he injured? There was a story at the time that he’d fallen out with management over unpaid wages!) (And we were awaiting the arrival of goalie Frank Talia from Blackburn).
3. And yes, I gave the young’un a good slapping – to reflect both his abusive behaviour and the depth of his knowledge on matters such as Barnstoneworth United; funnily enough the young’un still thanks his Mother for me not being allowed to have him christened Brian (as in Honour) Robert (as in Newton) Ashton……
4. John’s football website of the week – Cod Almighty, the Grimsby Town Fanzine – particularly for a great piece on the Hartlepool 8 Grimsby 1 match – http://www.codalmighty.com/site/ca.php?article=321
Eight bloody One! Now that would be a good way to end the season – and Halifax, Barrow and Salford need to start worrying.