Friday, 8 December 2017

The Maltby Kop

Maltby Main  8  Grimethorpe Sports  0

Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior Cup

It was Tuesday the 21st of February 1989, and after a hard fought draw the previous Saturday at our place, Belper Town faced a trip to Muglet Lane to take on Maltby Miners Welfare in a League Cup Third Round Replay.

This was uncharted territory for the Nailers, we’d never been to Maltby before and didn’t quite know what to expect. Now my memory is pretty good, and I can remember two things that specifically stand out from a game we lost 2-0.

Firstly, they had a lad upfront called Ian Hutchinson who absolutely destroyed us. He was a big centre forward and we just had no answer to his power and presence, in fact, at the time I remember thinking to myself that we seemed terrified of him. He scored one of the goals, he may have got them both, but either way, he was a massive difference between the two side.

The other abiding memory was the fact that this was a big game as far as Maltby were concerned, what with Belper being from the division above and recent champions. A big crowd had pitched up, and a large number of them congregated on the covered terrace that sat on the Miners Welfare side of the ground. Talk about hostility, they didn’t like us, not one bit, and the stick our players took was merciless, and to be fair the match officials didn’t get away lightly either!

The Kop
The ‘Maltby Kop’ has, over the years, been stuff of legends, you could write a book about it, in fact esteemed fellow blogger Rob Waite who writes THE66POW, has probably already done so, and he has far more experience of it than I have. Tonight though, I decided it was time to join them, but we’ll come to that later…

Any trip to Muglet Lane is not the same without a wander round the corner to the Miners Welfare, and every time I go in this place, I seem to make the same mistake, I sit in someone’s seat, and it was the same again tonight when all around they were setting up for some kind of meeting. They are very polite, and never ask you to move, but it’s that look, the way you feel encircled and trapped, that makes you head for another part of the room.

There’s a picture on the wall that strikes a chord with me, it’s effectively a list of all the closed South Yorkshire pits complete with their respective emblems, under the banner of ‘Closed By The Tories’. It’s very evocative and is a timely reminder that it may have been 1985 when the pits went to war, but it will never be forgotten in these parts. Coal mining is part of the fabric in villages like Maltby, and arguably over thirty years later they are still trying to recover from the devastating effects.

The Kop From Within
The Welfare is a very nice place, warm and welcoming, and they do serve a good pint at excellent prices. If you go to Maltby, make sure you pay a visit, but be careful where you sit.

Back at Muglet Lane, I needed some fodder so I got myself a burger from the chaps in the tea bar. Maltby’s burgers are great, so I jokingly suggested that they should give themselves some publicity, only to be met with..

“Bloody hell, we don’t want it being made public we do burgers, health and safety will come along and shut us down!”

Muglet Lane is a proper little ground, with the infamous Kop sat next to a seated stand, while the dressing rooms sit inside a two storey building by the corner flag, otherwise, nothing else of note apart from the floodlight pylons which are pylons from the old pit yard. These used to be commonplace years back in South Yorkshire but as floodlighting systems have been upgraded, they are now as rare as hens teeth, so long may they stay at Muglet Lane.

The Lush Surface
The pitch was in perfect nick, and to be honest I was expecting a relatively close game against table topping County Senior League side Grimethorpe, who themselves come from another famous pit village (see a previous blog article from last April).

It wasn’t to be though, Maltby scored three times in almost as many minutes in a first half spell, and then added two more to go into half time with a 5-0 lead. Clearly it was game over and I guess it was almost inevitable that they would add to that tally in the second period, which they did, three time to leave the score 8-0.

Were Grimethorpe bad? No, not at all, they worked hard and tried to play football, but on the night they came up against a Maltby side that were simply on fire and playing some fantastic football. Was it harsh, maybe if you take into account the effort the visitors put in, but in terms of the chances the hosts created, it was difficult to argue with.

Even At The Keepers Distance - You Still Aren't Safe!
So, the Kop.

We are talking the old boys here, and tonight what with it being a cup tie on a cold night it probably wasn’t as populated as it normally is, but the banter was still fantastic. The away team got away with it to a large degree, but when you are 5-0 up at half time, you don’t really need to be getting under their skin. However, in the past when a foolish opposition player has decided to respond to the taunts and bite back, its game over, he’s finished, his football career is effectively ruined because psychologically the damage will be beyond repair.  

The linesman did cop for it though, albeit good natured on this occasion. And as Rob once eloquently put, many a linesman has metaphorically finished with his head on a stake after incurring the wrath of the locals. I’m not saying they’ve managed to sway any decisions, but the temptation to swing a particular way on a 50/50 call must be high! 

It’s the conversation and banter though that makes it though. I recall a game against Scarborough once where the topical and learned subject was the North Sea cod wars, whereas tonight, the subject for debate was same sex marriages. Now, this is working class Maltby, a pit village where men are men and the women are not to be messed with. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to how the conversation developed, but suffice to say, I don’t want my blog closing down so I won't be repeating it!

So that was Maltby, it doesn’t change, in fact it seemed no different to how it was thirty years ago, and like many, I hope it never does change, it just wouldn’t be quite the same would it?

Where Burgers Are Flipped

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