Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A Man Called Tom

Harworth Colliery  5  Thorne Colliery  4

Central Midlands League – North Division

Tom Brogan was not a gentleman to mince his words, as you would expect from a man steeped in the mining communities of Harworth and Bircotes.

Tom was Secretary of Harworth Colliery Institute FC, and in 1988 Belper Town drew them away in the FA Cup.  Harworth were a Central Midlands League side at the time, and had just won the Supreme Division the previous season. Belper were in the Northern Counties East League and although technically a league above, the boundaries were not quite as defined as they are now.

My Dad was Secretary of Belper at the time and as was normal we rolled into the ground ridiculously early to sort out the paperwork, to be met by Tom. The conversation was quite polite and very straightforward, but then my Dad did the normal thing when it came to FA Cup games, he broached the subject of the possible plans in the event of a replay being required.

“A replay? We won’t be needing one of them lad!” said Tom, before departing the scene.

The Old Shelter
Mr Hatt Senior had been Secretary at Belper for three seasons at this point in time, and it’s perhaps fair to say that as a mid-thirty something, he’d not encountered many Tom Brogan’s in his time, of course, as we know now, there was only one Tom!

Bizarrely though, and I’m not sure how this quite happened, a replay was required because by hook or by crook, Belper managed to hang on for a 0-0 draw, despite being under a constant barrage of pressure. The replay was the following Tuesday, and at that stage you could perhaps forgive Mr H for feeling a little smug.

It went wrong though, badly wrong, and after Belper got absolutely obliterated 5-1 on their own turf, I can remember seeing Tom in the old boardroom at Christchurch Meadow after the game. He didn’t say a lot, when you’ve won 5-1 you don’t need to, he just did has paperwork, wished us well and headed North.

Tom's Tea Bar
Strangely enough though, probably ten years or so later I’d gone to Mickleover Sports, along with Dad, to watch them play Harworth in an end of season game. We were minding our own business when I saw a burly bloke who initially I didn’t recognise, slap Dad on the back and exclaim loudly.

“Now then lad, how are you?”

It was Tom , he’d remembered him.

Tom is no longer with us, but he’s fondly remembered both within the village and at the football club. The tea bar at the ground has been named after him and the club hosts a memorial game for him which they try and play on an annual basis.

I’d not set foot in the Scrooby Road ground since the day of the 0-0 draw, so to suggest a visit was long overdue was something of an understatement. Had it changed any when I finally arrived? Absolutely no idea because I can’t remember a single thing about it, other than Tom!

What I can say though is that the ground is very tidy. The car park is huge with the clubhouse situated to the end of it, while a short walk away is the dressing room complex. The turnstiles are somewhat unusual in the sense that you walk into a small building to pay admission, and then exit via what look like patio doors into the ground itself.

The Lush Surface
The tea bar sits to the left, and then further down on the left hand side is a small area of cover with a low roof and a metal floor, it looks like it’s been at the ground sometime, and once I saw it, it did jog a couple of memories.

Opposite is a small seated stand for around 50, with another older area of cover up towards the corner flag but set back from the pitch. The pitch was in superb condition, while the perimeter fence looked to have been recently installed. The ground achieved the required grading recently for the NCEL, and with the team sat top of the league, promotion to the next step is without doubt the clubs aim.

Ok, the game, Harworth top, Thorne below half way, a home banker maybe? Not quite….

Harworth took the lead but then after 25 minutes it was 1-1, then an outstanding effort from inside the centre circle caught the Harworth goalkeeper off his line and found the back of the net, it was a sublime goal!

At 2-1 Thorne had Harworth on the ropes, but the hosts dug deep and found an equaliser, only for Thorne to retake the lead just before half time.

At 2-3, you begin to wonder which way the game is going to go, and when Thorne got a fourth in the second period you suspected the game was over.

Harworth had other ideas, they pulled it back to 3-4, then got an equaliser, before controversy took over, as it often does.

The New Meets The Old
A Thorne defender played the ball back towards his own goal, but the ball was intercepted by a Harworth player who was standing in an offside position. The flag went up, but the referee allowed the game to go on, Thorne were confused and in a split second a challenge went in and down went a Harworth player, it was a penalty, or was it?

The officials conferred and ultimately the penalty was given, which Harworth converted, it was 5-4 and they were in the lead for the first time in the game. Thorne went apoplectic, which to be fair I can understand, but given the nature of some of the decisions made by all three officials during the evening, the rule of thumb was surely not to let anything surprise you?

Harworth hung on for the win, it had been a fantastic game, a great advert for the CML and hugely enjoyable, but you had to feel for Thorne. They played really well, belied league positions, but ultimately at 4-2, they arguably should have seen the game out.

As the officials, the less said the better. I’m all for being consistent, but consistently wrong, for both sides I might add? Not a night to remember for the men in black.

Bringing it back round full circle, I wonder what Tom would have thought of it all? He’d probably have taken it in his stride, shaken hands with all concerned, handed over the fee and expenses to the officials and said…

“All the best for the rest of the season lads, as long as you don’t come here again!”

He won't be forgotten, and nor should he be.

Scrooby Road

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