12/11/22 Marine V Liversedge, Northern Premier League, Premier Division. A Net Crosby in Ultra Marine.

With all the World Cup squads already announced and Blues now on a break, it was time for some proper ground hopping. (Train strikes permitting, of course.) At the start of the season, I sat down with a pad and pen, and worked out games I could go to. Those plans have been largely ignored due to the trains. Not just the strikes, but Avanti who run the West Coast line have been little short of an abomination. A company that has considerably and constantly cut back on staffing levels whilst continually putting prices up. They rely on overtime to run services. I can only imagine what kind of pressure the Avanti management team exert on staff to do overtime. Overtime that takes them away from their families. Overtime that disrupts and eats into their already valuable free time. And for what? So shareholders in a totally different country than ours, can keep filling their already overflowing bank accounts? Amazingly, instead of taking the franchise away from Avanti, the government have extended the period allowing the company to ‘get their house in order’. Never mind the customers, the leg weary passengers, keep those bank accounts overflowing. I do love a double game weekend, but the older I get, the more they take it out of me. The energy levels are just not what they were 30 years ago. Life scrambles you, wears you out, and leaves you a shrivelled empty husk. I’ve still 12 years until I can retire. That’s if the body even lasts that long, and to be honest, I can’t see it. The batteries will be dead well before I’m able to give up work. Still, I dragged myself out of bed and off into town to catch the train. I was glad I did though, because otherwise I’d have missed out on yet another interesting, enjoyable day out watching football in the way I do. Firstly, I’d have missed out on this.

“I don’t suppose this was run by Avanti”

It had been well over a decade since I’d visited Liverpool, and judging by the amount of ‘tourists’ in red with a yellow or white chicken emblem stuck to them, I’d picked the wrong day to visit this time too. Liverpool F.C. were at home. Any long-term reader of this garb, will know I have a deep deep disdain for the club and its horrible legion of followers. It would be a long day. After getting a ticket for the train I’d need later, I ventured out into the city and went to the one thing I really wanted to do. I went to an art gallery. No, your eyes haven’t deceived you. Your device did read art gallery. You’ll probably need to go and get it fixed after dropping it through shock mind, but at least your eyes still work. Firstly, don’t go thinking “That’s Liverpool for you, it was once ‘The City of Culture’.” It was purely luck. The exhibition I went to see, could’ve been anywhere at anytime. It just so happened it was being held at the Walker Art Gallery when I was going to be in Liverpool. So what was it then? ‘Art of the Terraces’. Well what else did you expect? I like art, but not that much. This was different, this was part of me, part of who I am. Based on the fashions and tribalism that entailed the matchday experience in the 70s, throughout the 80s and well into the 90s, as terracing gave way to the sterile environment of seats and family ‘Fun Zones’ where the missus gets the kid’s faces painted and their photos taken with an unidentifiable stranger in a padded mascot uniform, while you queue up for the one watered down pint you’re allowed, before ‘watching’ the game, and driving home in your replica club shirts, in time to eat ordered in, pizza and watch whatever reality TV programme is being shown to death that month. Bitter and twisted? Nope, just bored by it. I’m a trainer freak, and to quote the words of ‘Bex’, a character in Nick Love’s remake of the BBC film drama, ‘The Firm’, “There is only one trainer”

“Adidas”

Adidas Originals is a well loved branch of the brand these days. Especially for us dinosaurs who desperately cling on to the ‘Casual’ scene that sprang up. It wasn’t just about Adidas trainers of course, it was just the section I just had to get photos of. Fact is, I could easily have taken photos of everything, as I was transported back to a different age and way of watching football and following your team. Dawdling round, I never glanced at the time once. Remarkably, I’d only been in there half an hour, but it was possibly the best half an hour I’d spent in the last 10 years. I know that sounds particularly sad, but it truly was. In reality, it just goes to show how much of an impact going and watching football makes, and has made on me. Am I bothered about being judged by it? What do you think? It’s my life, my escape value, I’m not apologising for it, and I’m not going to vindicate it either, because quite frankly, I’m not going to stop until I’m in a box and heading for the furnace. Coming out of the Gallery, I was too early for the Ship and Mitre, and the Crown was just a little too far away, although I could see it in the distance. Instead I went in the North Western, Wetherspoons. Full of the ‘Tourist’ red brigade, I managed to grab some space on a table occupied by what turned out to be an Evertonian. We then engaged in a conversation that included how much we truly disliked the chicken emblazoned lot and their self-righteous following. We were overheard by a lad, who after admitting to being a Manchester United fan of some years, joined us in our condemnations. Amongst a blanket of mind numbing dross, it was an oasis of tranquility. Checking the time, I bid them both farewell to head to the now open, Ship and Mitre.

“If only that horrible accent didn’t damage my ears”

Even without Badger’s always reliable comments that the place was excellent, I would’ve done the pub, and I’m glad I did. A great range of well kept ales and an eclectic decor that was easy on the eye. I was to move on though. Much as I can’t stand the city, I still needed to get a better feel of the place to either enhance, confirm or dispell my views. Although a beautiful pub, the range of ales at the Crown was disappointing. I don’t suppose it helped that it was choccablock with the red bedecked ones. So much so, that I only took one photo as I didn’t want to be mistaken for one of them. I may have been ground hopping, but there was no way I was one of those ‘tourists’.

“Ceilings_nothing but ceilings.”

Now the next place was better, but then except for the historic decor, that wasn’t saying a lot. It still wasn’t as good as what I was expecting, but at least it did have the football on.

“The Dispensary”

Least Manchester City were winning. As it is at the moment, I still don’t believe Arsenal will manage to stay out in front, and that lot at Anfield will end up as the main challenge to City. When Sir Alex was at the helm at Old Trafford, and there was a conveyor belt of silverware heading that way, a lot of fans around the country would want ‘Anyone but United’to win. It’s how I feel about Liverpool. Anyone but them. (Or Vile, obviously.) The thing is, I do actually like the way Jurgen Klopp has his side playing, but it’s completely lost on the ‘tourists’, who simply don’t care how they win, just as long as they do. Also, the way commentators have always gushed over them, really induces feelings of nausea. Anyone who has followed their side all over the country for several decades, will agree that Liverpool fans are the worst. From the Dispensary, I headed back towards Central Station and to the Globe. Normally, the tiny pub might have been worth going in, but that lot were at home, and the place was rammed with them. With one more on my itinerary before needing to get the train, I quickly drank up. Thankfully, the Sanctuary was empty. The tourists obviously hadn’t discovered it yet. A small but well kept range of cask ale complimented the bigger range of craft keg. I wished I’d missed the Globe out, and just headed for The Sanctuary instead, as with time knocking on, reluctantly, I had to leave almost half my pint. Apologising to the barman, I quickly explained about the train, before swiftly heading to Central. Luckily, the train was slightly late, and I was still able to catch it to Crosby and Blundellsands, the nearest station to Marine’s ground. Consulting the directions I’d written down, I still made it to the main street that the ground is on fairly easily. Feeling peckish, I fancied some sort of KFC. Unable to see anything that even resembled coated fried chicken, I made do with a couple of hot sausage rolls. After biting into one, it was clear that they would taste better cold. The second one went in my coat pocket to cool down enough. Still being early, I went in the clubhouse and made do with half of Thatcher’s Gold.

So why Marine then? During the height of Telford United’s F.A.Cup giant killing escapades in the 80s, a lower league Marine came to the Bucks Head in the F.A.Trophy, and promptly beat Telford 1:0. From hence, they stuck in the mind. In fact, right up until they were drawn at home against Spurs in the F.A.Cup during the time when nobody was allowed to go to football because of Covid. The Beeb not only covered the game live, but as they do now, filmed ariel footage of the ground and the immediate surrounding area. Like I’ve admitted before, I am captivated by a football ground, and I do mean, any football ground, therefore a ground hop to Marine was added to the list. So to the obligatory photos then. I did contemplate asking someone if I could clamber on their shoulders, with the aim of taking ariel photos of the ground, but I didn’t think they’d have quite the desired effect as the BBC’s do, so I just took the usual sort of rubbish that people who read this, are used to. Apologies for the disappointment, but at least the thought was there.

As always when I ground hop at a Non-League ground, I look at the potential for expansion. There simply isn’t any room at Marine. Any expansion whatsoever, would be minimal without a great deal of help in terms of granting planning permission, and a great deal of financial inducement needed for the inhabitants of the housing that backs onto the ground too. It’s a shame, as I do think that with the right financial backing and vision, the club could climb a lot higher, and even make it into the EFL. As it is at the moment, relocation is the only option. Something that will take away from the uniqueness and sense of community. So to the game itself then. Going into the game Liversedge were struggling at the wrong end of the table, whilst Marine were doing well at the right end of the table. Even so, the initial skirmishes didn’t give an indication of how the game would pan out. Having taken up a position on the terracing behind the goal, I couldn’t help noticing that to the side of the pitch, a gagle of 12 to 13 year old boys sang and danced for the entire goaless first half. It was like a whole class had been dismissed and were letting off steam. It was also an exclusive little mob, as there were no girls in the firm. The sexuality hormones hadn’t kicked in. They had an innocence to them that has been lost in society. I will say though, after they’d migrated to near where I was standing for the second half, I moved to where they’d been standing, but only because they truly were irritating. Although they never stopped singing and dancing, it was all generic and unoriginal. If the first half had been a tight affair, the second was far from it. Marine were determined to vindicate their league position. They showed a more aggressive attacking intent, and were almost immediately rewarded with a nailed on penalty. Dispatched, 1:0, the home side was up and running. The lead was soon to be doubled with a header from a cross. It took the wind out of Liversedge, any thoughts they’d had of getting at least a point from the game, evaporated. The third for Marine was a scrappy goal, but by that time, their dominance was such, that they wouldn’t have cared. If the pre-pubescent ultras hadn’t got anything to feed off in the first half, they had now, and they were happily ploughing through the generic song book. A few seasons ago, both the Touré brothers signed for Manchester City. It gave rise to a chant with actions. Neither brother plays for City now, but the chant has bizarrely found a home amongst darts fans. (No, I’ve no idea why either.) I don’t know if it’s a regular thing at Marine, or it was actually purely spontaneous, but a small group of middle aged men standing near the mob of kids, started with the Kolo Kolo bit, cue kids exploding with the Yaya bit. It was actually quite amusing and didn’t lose any of it’s comedic value as it carried on for a good five minutes. Eventually the blokes got bored and stopped, but I suspect the kids could’ve carried on until the teacher called for silence as they took the register on the following Monday morning. Liversedge were ragged now, and they conceded a second penalty. A penalty that was despatched as easily as the first. The stuffing really had been ripped out of the away team in the second half, and it was no surprise that the penalty wasn’t the last of the scoring. The fifth for Marine had the away side praying for the final whistle, and when it arrived, the relief was visible. So I can’t really say it was a good game. Entertaining definitely, but although the first half had been keenly fought, the second was just poor defence versus clinical attack. Had it been a Boxing match, the referee would’ve brought the second half to an end a lot earlier to save Liversedge from any more punishment. It was a result that would consign Liversedge to bottom of the league, and strengthened Marine’s assault on the playoffs.

Coming away from the ground, I was in danger of getting lost until I spotted a fellow ground hopper. Proper ground hoppers have a look about them. Always in possession of an unremarkable, nondescript image, you have to look for the subtleties. The give away, tell tale signs for me, are the almost obligatory white plastic shopping bag, and the speed and purpose of their stride. It’s like they have practiced and committed to memory, the exact route from the ground to the station, always timing it just perfectly for the next train. I never ever catch up with them or engage them in conversation, because fundamentally, proper ground hoppers are loners by nature. Any social interaction just makes them uncomfortable. The biggest thing though, the amount I’ve managed to do, will always be pitiful compared to how many they’ve done, and in all honesty, the conversation will then just peeter out. Could I ground hop permanently? No, I’d miss the social aspect of watching Blues. I’ve a balance between both. I’m just as happy doing my own thing ground hopping, as I am watching Blues with the ale trailers and regulars. Getting the train back to Central, there really was only ever going to be one place I was heading to. Ship and Mitre. A lot busier than it had been earlier on in the day, I managed to get a seat on a table with a couple who I then got talking to. They’d been to watch a rugby match, but were really just sports fans who’d fancied something different. After telling them where I’d been and what I do, the conversation flowed. Turned out they were Evertonians. We were joined by two Liverpool fans who had been to Anfield. At least they had Scouse accents, even if it did feel like my ears were having a cheese grater taken to them. It was a group conversation that confirmed my opinion on the two different sets of fans. Accents aside, Evertonians like football. They’ve known heartache, know that you can’t win every game, and appreciate skill and loyalty. Liverpool fans, don’t care about the more wholesome things that go with football, it’s all about winning and trophies. Case in point, on the eve of the World Cup, we discussed Harry Kane. The Liverpool fans were of the opinion that unless Kane was to move to a club that could and would win trophies, he was a failure. Me and the Everton fans argued that he would still be seen as a legend after he retires, and that was much more satisfying. Medals are all well and good, but memories are more important in my eyes. As it is, Kane is well on the way to becoming England’s highest ever goalscorer. That for me, and the Evertonians, was success enough. Not according to the Liverpool fans. For me, it just enhanced my view that Liverpool fans are superficial. I enjoyed chatting to the Everton fans. Strangely, not so much the Liverpool fans. Seriously, C’mon City. You can’t let this lot win the League again, never mind how good the football is under Klopp. Getting the train back to Brum and civilisation, it had been for the greater part, a good day, but next time I visit the city, I’ll consult the fixture list better first. There’s no way I’m putting up with that lot again.

Footnote:- By the way Sis, if you’re wondering about the second sausage roll, I ate it at halftime. As expected, it was nice cold.

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