SATURDAY DECEMBER 29
Athersley Recreation 1 Shirebrook Town 2
I PREDICT a match-less day today but early news that Athersley Recreation’s match in the Northern Counties East League is definitely on proves me wrong. North it is, then!
As I peel off the motorway, Barnsley police are lurking on the slip road. I fear they have been tipped off about my visit but in fact they are waiting to escort Blackburn Rovers fans to Oakwell.
I follow the detailed directions to Sheerien Park (‘access is between houses 123 & 125’). After paying £4 to get in and £1.50 for the photocopied programme (massively overpriced), I follow signs for the tea bar.
I am directed past the clubhouse behind one goal to what looks like a backstage village at a rock festival. The teabar, hospitality lounge, TV room and tuck shop are all nestled in here.
‘No dealing in drugs’ notices are plastered all over the place! Everyone I encounter is extremely friendly.
The friendliness does not extend to the pitch. One expects a top-of-the-table versus fourth-placed fixture to be feisty but what the crowd has to endure is more akin to a riot. Football plays a bit part throughout this war.
Every decision is aggressively argued against and the weak officials quickly lose control. In total, only three players are sent off but it should be many more: so many as to have the match abandoned, in fact.
If these events had unfolded inside a pub rather than on a football pitch, there would have been several arrests.
Peace on Earth and goodwill to all men there was not!
Athersley is very much a community club. I have already stated that fans and club officials are very welcoming but until the players and management team are made to behave like civilised human beings then all the hard work behind the
scenes will be wasted.
In short, what I witnessed today was a disgrace. My visit completes this League for me again, apart from the peripatetic Worksop Parramore & Grimsby Borough and the filthy groundsharers of Albion Sports & Cleethorpes Town, which are not high on my priority list.