A game between two sides whose safety in the division is confirmed. It’s not going to be a cracker, is it?
For the first time in a good few months, I’m experiencing the build-up to a game with a crippling hangover. It was a colleague’s 50th birthday party on Friday night and Janet came to Bury for it. After showing our faces at the do, I promised my girlfriend I’d show her a Friday night in Bury town centre in all its glory. We first hit the Automatic Bar, where I used to work in its incarnation as the Met and where I was clearing tables on the day Jimmy Glass performed his heroics for Carlisle, before heading to the Blind Tiger. The latter was empty when we arrived so we thought we’d ask the DJ for a couple of tunes; he’d oblige, he said, but not until at least 2am. So there was nothing else for it but to chuck all manner of booze down our neck until he had the good grace to play Waterfall by the Stone Roses.
Friday nights in Bury always make me think of Bitten By the Tailfly off the first Elbow album, not least because the ambient noise on the fade-out was recorded on the walk from Sol/Viva to the taxi rank by the bus station. As the hangover really hit home at about 11.30 on Saturday morning, it was worth keeping in mind advice from Guy Garvey and co that also appeared on their debut – Don’t Mix Your Drinks.
But in my defence, who knew that Guinness, lager, a bellini and vodka and coke would make you feel ill? It was clearly the chicken rollo from Dixy’s that caused the problem.
Bury’s paranoia about trouble between the two sets of local fans manifests itself in the social club in the form of plastic pint glasses. I take a few quivering sips at my Guinness before almost spilling it by squeezing the rim too hard. The shakes step up their urgency a bit.
I’m waiting for my friend Craig in the club, so I can give him back the copies of Bury’s fanzine Where Were You At The Shay (that he used to edit) which he lent me.
Craig arrives, but it’s not the one I was looking for; it’s the estimable Mr Morley instead. I’m as grateful to this Craig as I am to the other after all the nice things he’s said about the blog so we have a drink and I thank him. Other Craig arrives soon after and swaps the fanzines for a book which he says is very similar in tone to this blog which I’ll love.
Craig and I have a chat about The Book. He was there in 84/85 and he’ll be a key source, especially as he says he can get all the programmes from that season to me. There have been flashes of doubt about this idea ever since the first microbe of it ever surfaced, but Craig believes in it and as we say goodbye in the car park I feel on a high for it.
I’ve arranged to see one of the directors about the same subject this afternoon and after asking him when he’s free, he replies “straight away” and leads me into the secretary’s office. I realise that I’m going to have to self-publish the book but, in a display of balls-out cheekiness, I ask if the club might consider making a donation to the cost, what with it being a historical document about the club. Mark once again displays the transparency and acumen that have seen his arrival at the club come as nothing short of a revelation, and advises that I write to the board as a whole with the proposition.
There’s a peculiar atmosphere in the bar under the stand today. It’s not because it’s more crowded than usual, but because one very important person is missing. Pat, the lady who sold the Golden Gamble tickets in Legends and who had been a permanent fixture at Gigg Lane for more than 40 years, died the previous Sunday. Given the time I’ve been going to watch Bury and the time she spent there, it’s inevitable that she was one of the people I viewed *as* the club. Her crackling laughter isn’t there and there’s someone else serving the food. It’s palpable, but regrettably clichéd to say it too, that the bar won’t be the same.
Pat’s name is the last to be read out of the club’s supporters and former employees who died during the last season and for whom we have a commemorative minute’s applause. There are a few names I recognise in the list so take a moment to think of them – Adrian, Pat and Frank – whilst being a bit miffed that Bury aren’t wearing black armbands for Pat.
The game offers little in terms of entertainment. My Oldham-supporting mate Chris said on Twitter that the game is likely to be 22 men dreaming of a summer on the golf course and he’s quite right. The Oldham fans who’ve come in fancy dress must be considering it a bit of a waste of money to see Shaun Harrad fail to score from close range within the first minute while the rest of us who have season tickets to guarantee our attendance often fall into conversations amongst ourselves. David Worrall is, once again, Bury’s leading light.
There’s a moment of worry in the second half, though, when an Oldham player goes down apparently without any contact from a Bury counterpart. It’s undoubtedly worry that’s arisen in the weeks following the Fabrice Muamba case, but seeing a player lying prone on the damp turf makes my stomach churn. The game is halted for seven minutes but there is no collective worry that gripped White Hart Lane as Muamba’s heart stopped; fans goad each other in the Cemetery End-South Stand corner and the St John Ambulance crew take a startlingly casual approach to reaching the injured man, looking as they do likey’re on a Sunday stroll through the park. The club doctor takes to the pitch and the neck brace is sent for and Yousseff M’Changama is applauded as he leaves the field. He will go on to be released from hospital later that night.
Having settled on the turgid, Bury introduce Max Harrop for the injured Giles Coke. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by the Sheffield Wednesday loanee but Harrop looks dreadful, as does Phil Picken who’s returned to the side because of Andrai Jones’s suspension. A draw is pretty much the fair result, as both teams were as bad as each other, though Bury remain in the top half of the table.
I’ve to get the 135 to Manchester after the game as the trams aren’t running. The hangover’s clearing but I’m definitely in need of a pint after the stop-start through Whitefield, Prestwich and Cheetham Hill. In a break with tradition, I try the Millstone rather than the Hare and Hounds but soon come to regret my decision. It’s packed, I can barely squeeze to the bar and when I do I have an septuagenarian ex-landlady from Higher Blackley fondling my arse. I leave the pint two-thirds full and go to the Crown and Cushion instead. It may be that most vile of things, a “boutique pub,” but at least I can read the paper in peace there, despite almost setting fire to it with the table-top candles. I must never mess with my post-match routine is clearly the message from the football gods.
So that’s my last Saturday travelling back to Janet’s after the game. From hereon in she’s got me to herself for Saturdays for the next three months, stuff about The Book not permitting. I can start to relax on Saturday mornings now that A Season With Bury has almost come to a close.