Saturday, 9 September 2017

Eating Apples Through A Tennis Racket


Swinton Athletic Reserves  3  Wombwell Main Development  4

Sheffield County Senior League – Division Two

As the nights begin to draw in, the early evening kick off’s disappear from the fixture lists, and tonight was to be the last time until early April that we were to spend an evening wondering if there will be just enough light left to complete the game.

Thankfully in the very reliable Sheffield County Senior League, they endeavour to kick off at 6pm to avoid such issues, but often that doesn’t happen, for example a couple of years ago we went to watch Silkstone play AFC Dronfield and due to traffic issue the game kicked off nearer half past and as a result it was pretty dark by the time we finished. Not only that it completely spannered the plans of our pal Ken who was hoping to make another game at Penistone Church straight afterwards!

Steve and I chose to meet in a pub on the edges of Swinton, a boozer he had not frequented since he was a ‘nip’ as he likes to call it, during the time when he was living in nearby Rawmarsh. Clearly the visit to Swinton was bringing back happy memories for Steve and subsequently we spent the evening talking about the various scrapes he got into in the areas of Mexborough, Parkgate, Denaby, Dalton and indeed Goldthorpe. 

That then in an inadvertent way lead on to a discussion about the Bash Street Kids and an incident at a Gentleman’s Evening, but more on than later.

When Banksie Came To Swinton
When we finally found the Park Road base of Swinton Athletic I was pleasantly surprised. I think I was more surprised in the sense that the first team of Swinton don’t play at their home ground, they play at the old Hampden Road ground of Mexborough Town at Step 7, and I had put that all down to ground grading and the like. So I suppose in my mind I’d got Park Road down as a field, and not much else.

I was wrong, banked on two sides giving great views of not only the game but also of the Dearne Valley, the pitch was fully railed. On top of the bank was a changing room building that had been tastefully decorated with murals, including one signifying the home of the football club. Next door was a pub / restaurant that also doubled up as the clubhouse. So, why don’t Swinton’s first team play here, I really don’t know the answer to that question? But perhaps they should?

The game was a cracker, Wombwell took the lead almost straight from the kick off via a penalty, but by half time the hosts had turned the scoreline around and were leading 2-1. It then went to 2-2, 2-3, 2-4, and finally 3-4 with a young Wombwell side hanging on for a victory. It had been a great advert for County Senior League football, and, it kicked off bang on six o’clock.

A Healthy Turn Out
I was also pleasantly surprised by the size of the crowd, because I’d expected a game between a reserve side and a development side to at best attract us two, a man, and possibly his dog if he had one. I was very wrong, over 50 turned up to watch it, so imagine how many might turn out if the first team used the ground? I can think of some Step 5 clubs that would have been happy with that turn out, and this was Step 9!

As we were chatting during the second half, the conversation moved towards Rotherham nightclubs, I happened to mention one that I was familiar with, and this set Steve off..

Apparently, during his younger days he was invited along with his mates to a Gentleman’s Evening. Now to put this into context we are talking late Seventies, back then the aforementioned function was not like it is today. Today it would be potentially black tie, you would have a compere, a comedian (who would be a bit blue), a game of stand up bingo, or is it sit down? I can’t remember, anyway, you might have a charity auction and the highlight of the night would be the quest speaker who would typically be an ex-footballer talking about the good old days of Bestie, Mooro, Bobby, Chopper, Norman, Uncle Tom Cobley, the lot. I’ve been to a few of these, it’s the same stories, but different names. And of course, despite the fact it’s titled a Gentleman’s Evening, you do get women in attendance.

In the Seventies you also had women in attendance, but these were not guests, these were the entertainment. Anyway, said dodgy comedian had done his turn and on came the ‘entertainment’ and indeed according to Steve they were very good. But just prior to them finishing their exotic (I think that’s the word) performance, a bucket collection was made to pay the girls a little bit extra for a grand finale.

A male volunteer was asked for, and that was when Steve said the room almost erupted as one, the chant of “Plug, Plug, Plug….” rose like a crescendo around Rotherham’s finest emporium, and up to the stage looking somewhat nervous was a young gentleman who had earned the said nickname due to the fact he bore an uncanny resemblance to the Bash Street Kids character from the Beano, and could almost certainly eat an apple through a tennis racket!

Plug stuck to his guns and gave the crowd a show, back at work he would have earned legendary status, and his Mother would have been very proud I’m sure!

The Dearne Valley Skyline
And to think, in the late Seventies my Grandma used to bring me home the Beano from her shopping trips to Belper on a Thursday afternoon, and then on a Thursday night my Mum would always read three stories from the comic before I went to sleep. Typically they would be Dennis The Menace, Mini The Minx, and of course saving the best until last, the Bash Street Kids.

I’m glad our kids are beyond the Beano stage now, I could never read about Cuthbert Cringeworthy, Herbert, Spotty and indeed Plug again without thinking about that stage in Rotherham. Having said that, I might try and eat an apple through a tennis racket, could be one for a Saturday night, healthier than a kebab at I guess?

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