Enough of awards and retrospectives, back to the blog.
Tuesday 28th December, another day stuck at home, another Bank Holiday. Boxing Day (observed), as the Vistaprint calendar would have it, since 26 December fell on a Sunday.
Americans don’t have Boxing Day, of course, they’re all required to work 364 days a year to pay for health care and other luxuries. In the UK it’s traditionally the day blokes escape to football as I did to Hallam FC in the posh suburb of Crosspool, just below where we had our vaccinations.
I’d walked to Hallam FC before, a stiff 45 minutes stroll to the edge of the Peaks in a rare under-pubbed part of Sheffield.
It’s the oldest football ground in the world, you know (I didn’t). This is the sign in the Gents (colourised).
The oldest football club is Sheffield FC, with whom Hallam sparred in the 1860s but it didn’t count because it wasn’t the Prem and there was no VAR.
Will Hatter had told me it was worth going, they get crowds of about 500 in what is the 10th level of the football pyramid, a status shared with the galácticos of Cheadle Heath Nomad and Sticker (Cornwall).
But as I walked to the ground, resplendent under Sheffield skies, I was aware of a vast stream of men, women and children that would number well above 500.
Ah, it’s a 2nd v 3rd clash.
I bet Teversal v FC Humber is a cracker.
This was my first game of football in Sheffield since moving north, in fact since City at Hillsborough, and it was like going back to 1981 as Brigg dug out a catalogue of chants not fit for genteel Crosspool ears.
Within 2 minutes of kick-off I was treated to a 22 player brawl in front of the dugouts as Boxing Day was “observed” literally. 5 booked said someone. At the Eihad we’d have been seeing 8 v 9.
The football was “committed”, which is code for “kick it down the wing and chase it”, so I popped to the bar, which was the busiest bar I saw in December, anywhere.
A goal was scored, to no obvious reaction, and after 10 minutes I got a pint of Ringwood 49er from a lone handpump. A lone handpump was one more than you’ll ever get at the Etihad.
Plastic cup, real cask taste, NBSS 3.5 anywhere. If it gets in the next GBG (and nothing is impossible) I’m taking the tick.
The queue for the burgers and pasties never dropped below 30 all game, the last pie was sold just befor the final whistle of a thrilling 3-2 win that sent Hallam top. Astonishingly, NO-ONE left early, and five minutes after that whistle half the crowd were still on the terraces drinking beer.
A real family crowd, much banter about cheese (“cheddar is like eating plastic“) and how cold it was despite allegedly being 15 degrees earlier that day.
The exuberant announcer told us “The attendance today is a whopping……(pause)….one thousand (1,000)” *. We all congratulated each other on being that thousandth person.
The Sheffield Star reckons I was part of a record crowd.
Duncan will know. He knows EVERYTHING.
*He didn’t really say “(1,000)” of course.