My home team is Man City, but in the early 80’s I found myself living and a working a bit further up the coast in the North West. Because I’m a great believer in supporting your local team, who ever they are, I then followed Barrow AFC around for a couple of years. It was perfect timing because not long after Barrow stormed the league that they were in and were promoted to the Alliance Premier.
Whilst this was great for the team and the club I was slightly annoyed because it meant that it was going to cost more and travelling further. I liked bodding the lower division because in the NPL(Northern Premier League), the away matches were rarely more than a couple of hours away. Also with that division there was a higher concentration of teams in the North West and East, better for us in regards to petrol money.
I remember fondly going to places like Witton, Marine, Horwich and Droylsden as well as over in the wilds of the North East in towns such as South Bank, Billingham, Spennymoor and Whitley Bay. There was Gateshead too, who play in an athletics stadium – and why West Ham want to play somewhere with a running track is stupid. Take it from somebody who’s experienced it first hand, the pitch is too far away and there’s zero atmosphere.
As for the football ? Yeah, there was some of that. But after all these years my memories of the actual games has faded, but the remembrance of the travelling, of seeing other grounds and then finding a chippy open on the way home is still as strong as ever. As well as the pies, of course.
There was a midweek Bob Lord Trophy game away to Runcorn that I will never forget. It was pissing down with rain, torrential. We were soaked within five minutes and of course it was all open terrace. Nowhere to shelter.We knew that Barrow were playing for a draw. Get them back to our place, get a few quid from the replay. That’s right, a minor minor trophy and going for the pittance of cash from another match. After half time in this dour match in the pouring, relentless rain we couldn’t get any wetter so were jumping in the puddles soaking each other even more. Then we heard somebody the snack bar behind us. He called us over and gave us the unsold pies. Free pies ! Ah, heaven…
Years later I moved down south and still did the support your local team thing. I went to watch Reading, Oxford and Abingdon United, but for some reason somehow it wasn’t the same any more. Can’t quite put my finger on why but there is a difference. Maybe it’s because I am biased and still think that proper football is something played by proper northern folk.