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Lost at Sea
Lost at Sea

Ruminations on Rotherham

By: Chris Smith
Date: 26/01/2010

WELL, the fun had to end sometime and it was time to return to watching Town away from home having missed Shrewsbury away and following two games falling to the weather. I have to confess that the bad weather was viewed with some ambivalence by me as it meant that I didn’t have to watch yet another game where Town struggled to carve out openings.

Having watched Sheffield United beat Crystal Palace on the day of the Shrewsbury away game, Wednesday play Swansea the following week and an unplanned visit to Lincoln with the Notts County abandonment, I had become quite used to watching games as a neutral. The two post Christmas home games were followed by Sheffield United v QPR in the FA Cup when the young lad I take along decided he wanted to watch a Grimsby away game. Mindful of Town’s game at Rotherham later in the month, I suggested this as a possible fixture whilst warning him about how poor we were. The thing is, Sheffield United fans are quite critical of the football under Blackwell’s management, but it is Brazil at their best compared to our efforts.

Matthew wouldn’t be dissuaded so Goolemariner, Glynn and I arranged to pick him up at Meadowhall an hour or so before yesterday’s game.

If there is one thing I like about South Yorkshire games, it is that I have a season ticket for the county which means it didn’t cost me anything to get there yesterday. Just as well, because £18 is more than a bit stiff for the fare on offer. Glynn met me in Thorne before we got the boggler boggler stopper as far as Donny. It was evident that a few older chavlings at the front were on their first outing away from their village (Crowle or Althorpe, but Scunny environs in any case) and playing that execrable "music", unique to the terminally inbred, prior to being informed in no uncertain terms that it might be an idea to turn it down. NOW!!!!

Goolemariner had selfishly already started drinking in Donny at the Gate House and by his vantage point facing the entrance, was able to effortlessly drain his glass and benefit from the unsatisfied thirst of the newcomers, who, already standing, would be in prime position to get the next one in. I’m guessing that was his motivation as I’ve pulled the same stunt more than a few times. Glynn was drinking the Weston’s Much Markle cider which bought back blurred memories of the mad apples for yours truly although it was a little lightweight at 5.5%. Acceptable, but lightweight all the same, as I remind anyone who makes a dig at my conversion to Diet Coke.

There wasn’t a Town fan in sight in Donny which surprised me given the internet exchanges about the lack of pubs for later near the "ground". A further lightweight concession to solids was made in the excellent Tuck Inn café just a few minutes away from the station. Then, it couldn’t be put off any more, time to catch the train to Meadowhell, as it is unfondly known, and a step nearer another Saturday afternoon of gloom.

There were a few Town fans on the train which had originated at Cleethorpes although it was a bit muted. I was left wondering how many (or how few) we would be taking over there. Our group grew to four at Meadowhell before making the short tram journey to Don Valley.

I think I’ve had the most surreal journeys to games in this division, having taken in the Hockey Stadium for franchise scum, 22,000 empty seats at Darlo, and a ground outside of a village for Rushden and Diamonds. It was a bit of a comedown after going to the Manchester derby last Wednesday, certainly from one extreme to the other. Bemused locals were then asked where there was a decent pub by Glynn. Er, nowhere, seemed to be the long and short of it. The one we found had undrinkable beer as evidenced by the traumatic sight to me (even after 9 years of sobriety) of unfinished pints. I didn’t tell them that I thought that served you right.

Having walked the long way around the bowl, we were confronted by turnstiles, although no ticket office as expected. The bar area was fairly full but it was otherwise a strange sight as I walked outside to look at Rotherham’s new home. Whilst I accept that our team deserve to be in the position they are based on ability so far, it still strikes me as manifestly unfair that sides such as Rotherham are competing at this level withy their record of administrations and this apology for a football venue. Don’t get me going about the cost either. £18 is bad enough at this level, but here? How on earth did the spineless Football League allow this state of affairs to happen?

The surreal surroundings added to the despondency I was already feeling and the stands don’t make for much of an atmosphere. It was nonetheless a decent following from Town given our lacklustre run. The young Blade pointed out the amateur set up where announcements to the "crowd" were made via speakers along the side of the running track, connected via extension leads. And that mascot banging the drum in front of the supine crowd in a manner similar to some high priest thousands of years ago! I half expected a sacrifice to be dragged to the front of the "stand". I knew Rotherham was backward, but puhleeze!

The game was realistically over when our nemesis, Le Fondre, broke free early on in to put the Millers 1 0 up. I say game over, as we needed two to win as draws are paradoxically pointless at the moment. I don’t think Town were putting too much together but it was difficult to see the far end of the pitch even given my seat towards the front of the stand. I was in a good position to see the inevitable second go in, however, and from then on, it was a matter of hoping no more goals went in as I had us down to lose 2 0 on the correct score pool at work, where I cleaned up just last week (despite the optimistic 2 0 forecast-sorry, I swore-against Cheltenham).

Half time saw the bar busy again and I heard the tale of woe of a Huddersfield based fan that spent three hours getting to Sheffield after the rail replacement bus broke down. What a waste of VDT, or valuable drinking time as we used to call it. Rob Moss had made his way up from London on Mega Bus for £2.50 return whereas another London Mariner cried off, presumably due to hangover. It seems a long time ago since we came up to Tuesday games at Millmoor. Actually, it was. The general mood was of resignation although Rob put a philosophical slant on our predicament saying the BSP would just be another chapter in our history.

Ironic cheering greeted the odd passing moves and possession by Town in the second half although I would have to go along with Saturday’s Green ‘Un which took the view that Town were held off with a degree of comfort. We tried to amuse ourselves with a few chants at the Rotherham fans to our left although they turned out to be Matthew’s schoolmates who were probably wondering what he was doing in our end. As he pointed out, it is a bit sad trying to score points off chavlings (my word). When Goolemariner tells me "I’d rather not be here", times are bad. He’s missed one game this season and it’s all becoming too much. I’m detaching myself but it would be nice to get really enthused by a game. Hard work though.

To add insult to injury and to interrupt our conversation, loanee Fletcher scored in the last minute and I went into victimisation mode-has this cost me a few quid? Turns out it had. The extra two points would have meant a share of the correct score pool which was won by Clive, a Leeds fan in our office who, to be fair, has adopted us as a second team (which he reminded me of when I cursed my luck). Clive is a really nice genuine bloke but I must confess to a short lived embitterment at his good fortune. Mind you, if H*ll had just got a goal, I could have stolen it. The one time I wanted Tahgers to get one and they let me down.

It feels like this watching Town at the moment. We have played poorly most of this season but it does seem as though everything is stacked against us at the moment. I’ve always been a believer in making your own luck but all the previous good karma we have enjoyed is being redressed in one fell swoop.

The Town turnout of 580 is the third best in the league at Don Valley this year, behind Notts County and Chesterfield. Oddly enough, despite Town’s less than threatening performance, the young Blade wants to come and watch a game at Blundell Park. At least he enjoyed it, and probably the same way that I like watching neutral games. He didn't learn any new words, but knows a few new contexts with nouns becoming adjectives etc. I’ve tried to remind him that whilst Blackwell’s sides might not be too aesthetically pleasing, they are an improvement on our fare over the last decade.

Conversation after the game turned to possible new venues next season. I’ve seen quite a bit of BSP standard football. If I thought we could make a go of it there, I could accept might be happening. However, I can’t think of a worse ground there than the one I left on Saturday. There is a good magazine out called Non League 24 which reminds me it needn’t be the end of the world and looking at the crowds in the BSP, there are big games there. Luton are averaging nearly 7,000 with Oxford getting over 6,000. I’ve been a regular at Kingsmeadow (home to AFC Wimbledon) and at Hayes and Yeading plus the ex league sides currently marooned there. I can almost live with that if I don’t have to be reminded of the League’s inability to deal with the terminally insolvent as I was at Don Valley and will be at Bratfuh. At least we’ve had a bit of class around the way we’ve handled finances. If anyone here thinks administration is a good idea, how would you feel if you weren’t paid money owed to you?

Still, there’s always hope...I’ll be taking my mind off it by watching the Blades play Reading tonight for a tenner, a realistic price for Division 4. If you don’t see me at the likes of Rochdale later on this season, it won’t be a lack of faith, but a refusal to pay inflated and unrealistic prices.

What will the next chapter reveal?

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