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Barrowby (Saturday, December 21)

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21

Barrowby 4 Blidworth Welfare 0

Barrowby came into the Central Midlands League at the start of this season. It is a small village wedged between the A1 and Grantham, a mere thirty minutes from my house. This gives me time to do my Christmas shopping before setting off even though it is a 2.00pm kick off.

The village itself turns out to be very attractive: I have never been through it before, though use the A1 regularly. The turn off to Lowfields is along a well-hidden track to the south of the village. There is a large car park for spectators, where the railed off pitch and clubhouse can be seen in the distance.

Players can park closer to the pitch, accessed up a long track covered with rubber grit, much like a larger version of the crumb on 4G pitches: it’s like walking on a trampoline!

As I enter the new clubhouse, the secretary singles me out as a Hopper straight away (am I that obvious?) and I am soon furnished with today’s programme and also the club’s first programme in this league, a free bowl of peanuts and the home teamsheet all for the grand price of £3.

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When I have finished copying down the players’ names, they ask me if I have finished with the sheet: the secretary had given it to me before his lads knew who was playing!

Today is all about grassroots football, though even here unwelcome reminders of Pantomime Football spread their diseased tentacles. Examples of everything that is wrong with the modern game can be witnessed here: there is a live match on one channel, being shown when fans should be travelling to an actual game.

The match is between Liverpool, (fielding a serial biter, diver and mumbler of racist comments but he’s quite good at football so we won’t sack him) FC and Cardiff (owned by a billionaire control freak who has torn the heart out of a proud Welsh club) City.

Even the clubhouse here was opened by a representative of a TV company that seems to think the game is all about money and forces fans to travel hundreds of miles at inconvenient times without a care how they are going to get there. Sickening.

As kick off nears, more and more Hoppers arrive. I’m not quite sure what has attracted everyone to this particular match on this particular day but it is good to see so many familiar faces. I spend a pleasant afternoon watching the game hunkered in the small covered area with, amongst others, Steady Eddy and Avenue. We are all puzzled as to why everything is painted green but the team play in black and red!

We witness a determined Barrowby side take apart a pitifully poor Blidworth team whose only response to the onslaught is to kick seven shades of excrement out of their hosts. The referee doesn’t seem to want to spend Christmas writing out reams of reports, as he fails to take action against the worst assaults. Barrowby score four goals but it really should have been double figures.

I instantly felt at home at Barrowby. After two dreadful matches higher up the Pyramid, this feels more like what football should be about.

Ticket Value: 5, Welcome: 4, Programme: 3.5, Facilities: 3, Food: 1, Match: 4, Overall: 4.5

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