Friday, 21 November 2008

Wigan Robins, Ghandi, Blancmange and Darwen

The one on the left is from Darwen. I can't tell if he has six fingers on each hand but you'd guess he has...

The following is a simple cut and paste from the Darwen website.

Done simply to show the magnitude of the opponents (and the history therein) that the Robins come up against tomorrow

Founded in 1875, when Association Rules were adopted, Darwen F.C. can trace its history back to 1870 when the rugby code was played at Lynwood. Having set up headquarters at Barley Bank in 1878 Darwen signed Fergus Suter and James Love from Partick Thistle, these two being the first of an influx of Scottish players into English Football and the first “paid professionals” in the game.

During this same year experiments with floodlights were being carried out. Darwen were the first northern club to achieve prominence in the F.A. Cup, reaching the quarter-finals in 1878-79 and the semi-finals in 1880-81. On the way to this semi-final they defeated Romford 15-0 in the Quarter-final. In 1880 they defeated Blackburn Rovers 3-0 to win the Lancashire Cup.

The club competed in the Football Alliance until they were elected to the Football League in 1891. On the 4th March 1892 they entered the History books for suffering the heaviest defeat in the Football League when they lost 12-0 to West Bromwich Albion. This still remains the record defeat for a club in Division 1. Needless to say they finished bottom with just 11 points, and became one of the founder members of the second division. Having finished in third place in the 1892-93 season promotion back to Division 1 came after defeating Notts County 3-2 in a test match. (These test matches were the equivalent of the modern day play-offs).

This promotion lasted only one season and they were relegated back to Division Two. In season 1896/97 they achieved their highest league win, beating Walsall 12-0, and also set a record of going the whole season without registering a single draw. This feat has never been repeated in the history of the Football League.

In the early days, Darwen played in several combinations of black and white stripes or hoops with dark blue or white shirts, but during their first two seasons in the Football League they played in salmon and pink shirts, which gave them their alternate nickname of “The Salmoners”.

Darwen remained in the Second Division until 1899 when they were not re-elected. During this season they again entered the history books - for the most goals scored against during a season (141 goals in 34 games), and losing 18 consecutive league matches.

In the summer of 1899 the club moved to it’s present home at the Anchor Ground. They joined the Lancashire League in 1899, winning the title in 1901/02 after going unbeaten all season; they then switched to the Lancashire Combination.

The early 1930s saw the next “golden age” of Darwen Football Club. Wearing a striking new strip of red and white striped shirts, the club won 5 trophies in the three years from 1930 to 1933, including the Lancashire Combination title twice in a row in 1931 and 1932. In the 1931/32 season FA Cup, they beat Football League side Chester in front of a 10,000 crowd at the Anchor Ground and were rewarded with an away draw at reigning league champions Arsenal in the 3rd round.

Darwen’s part-timers lost the game 11-1 but their share of the gate receipts from a crowd of over 35,000 helped to pay for a new stand behind the Darwen End goal which has only fairly recently been demolished. After this match, Arsenal were so impressed with Lancashire sportsmanship that they presented their visitors with a set of their own red strip, which Darwen have worn more or less ever since.

The golden 1930s team gradually broke up and Darwen FC began to struggle financially. Throughout the 1950s and 60s they battled on in the Combination achieving little success. The committee structure of player selection, allied with the lack of discernable tactics adding to Darwen's usual financial woes.

Then in 1972, the club merged with a Manchester League side called Clarence Athletic. This brought the turnaround of Darwen’s fortunes and they won the Combination title again in 1973 and 1975. This success was followed by an uninspiring period in the higher standing Cheshire County League from 1975-82 before Darwen became one of the founder of the North West Counties League in 1982.

And they've been there ever since and tomorrow WRP travel to the Anchor Ground to take on 11th placed Darwen. Again they look like a team that lets in the odd goal or 36 so it could be a good one.

After a couple of frustrating weeks after the fine 3-3 draw with Bacup the Robins and their fans have been sat on their backsides after that disease of waterlogged pitch caught up with them at home to AFC Blackpool and in the replay at Bacup. Not sure how waterlogged the WRP arena was, mind. It didn't look too bad on Sunday morning when I walked past but that bloody River Duggie don't half get in the way. There didn't seem to be a very Olympian effort (insert winky thing) by the staff down there to get pitch sorted - ask me in the pub...

Anyroad it seems ages since Ryan Small got a hat trick - and after the dross served up on the adjacent JJB earlier he proved without that he was the best midfielder in Wigan that day - so it will be good to get back there.

I've been to Darwen ages back watching Latics and I can't remember a thing about it. One game there saw Tony Mac come back from a ban (for playing Sunday football) and bagged SEVEN goals in an 11-2 win (or summat like that. And if that was the game I was at and I've forgotten that then more beers past my lips since then than I thought had.

And I'm sure there might be a few more beers consumed on Saturday as there appears to be at least 21 pubs less than a mile from the station (inc. seven within 400 yards or so from the station).

We'll never get to the ground! But if we do there appears to be a decent little clubhouse there and according to the good old Non-League Club Directory room for 4,000, 250 seats and cover for 2,000. Other than that I've not a clue but good old google tells me that Gandhi once visited a mill there back in 1931 and the lead singer of 80s band Blancmange, Neil Arthur is from there.

So all together now:

"You keep me running round and round
Well, that's alright with me
Nothing, nothing, nothing's going to step in my way
Living on the ceiling, no more room down there
Things fall into place, you get the joke, fall into place..."

"We're on the march with Neafcy's Army,
We're all going down t'mill.."

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Wigan, Bacup, Stoke and the Britannia Coco-Nut Dancers

One for those that like their football badges all medieval

Two games on Saturday for the Wigan football cognoscenti (no I don't know what that word means either but hey sod it this is not The Sun so lets add a bit of class). Any road I digress and I'm only on the first sentence.

Yeah two games of football all within a hundred yards of each other. Admittedly one will be big boot, long throws and a little above Sunday League standard whilst the other will be Wigan Robin Park FC against Bacup Borough.

But first let's get the Latics v Stoke game out of the way. Bruce has said he wants the Latics players to "be men" which sounds all a bit too homoerotic for me but I sought of get his drift... Then again this is football and as Danny Baker said in his excellent (and without doubt the only phone-in worth listening to) 606 on Tuesday: "As my mate at Millwall says when Millwall players start rolling around, feigning injury, waving imaginary cards - stop whinging and get stuck into them..."

And that is right - it's football not bloody rounders - get stuck in. And lest we forget OUR main attacking tactic this season has been Maynor Figueroa's er... long throw-in. So pot, kettle and all that.

Anyroad it won't be pretty, but what is in that awful league. Steeevvvvvviiiiie Geee diving, Ronaldo crying, Fat Frank kissing his badge, Harry bleeding Rednapp or Rooney trying to decapitate somebody?

So after all that blood, sweat and tears it'll be a change to sit back and watch some goals fly in. Bacup can't stop scoring and letting goals in while at the Robins it's been pretty much the same. What may count in this game is that it is a Vodkat cup tie and Bacup Borough play in the Premier League - one above WRP. It'll be a tough ask and a good way for the Robins to test themselves personally (as players) and as a team against the higher outfit. I also have an inkling that some of th'athletics stadium regulars might be hoping for a replay and a chance to visit the wonderfully-named West View ground that is situated on COWTOOT LANE with views over the Lancashire countryside!!

A club steeped in history (founded in 1875) who count David May (ex Manchester Uniited & Blackburn) and David Felgate (ex everybody including Latics) as ex-players. Their current star is Tommy Turner - who with 15 goals is the Vodkat Premier League's top scorer.

It will undoubtedly be a tough day at the office for our cherry and white-hooped heroes so all support will be needed and even moreso appreciated.

One of the Bacup WAGS (maybe...)

£3(ish) to get in, hot snacks and drinks at Robin's Nest, banter with the Wigan Robin Bastards, a decent pitch, The Bear, the chance that Agyness Deyn might turn up (she's from Rawtenstall next to Bacup), Bacup's Nutters dance troupe - Britannia Coco-Nut Dancers with the 'nuts' being wooden discs, which are worn on the dancers' hands, knees and belts and are struck in time to the music and the chance to continue your football fix, let the traffic disappear, the pubs thin out and hopefully see two home victories in four hours.

And of course it will give everybody a chance to see if Ryan Small really is Wigan's best midfielder...

Better than Palacios?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Wigan, Aldershot 1982, beards and a tale for Remembrance Day

“Sorry lads, you can’t come in.”

“Er how come?

“It’s eleven, your door's open.”

“No beards.”

“Yer wot.”

“You heard.

“Your mate’s got a beard.

“He can’t come in.”

We look at the Big One and indeed he does have a beard. But we aren’t going in. And we’re laughing and Tone says: “Just run this by me again Mr Landlord.

“You’re not letting us in because our mate has a beard?”

“Yeah sorry lads but I can’t let you.

“It’s an army pub and they’ll know you’re not army as he has a beard.

“End of story.”

And Tone says: “But Robert E Lee had a beard and he was army.”

“Che Guevara,” shouts Guzzling.

“Fidel Castro,” I say.

“Karl Marx”

“David Bellamy”

“Kenny Everett”

Kenny fucking Everett, ha, ha, ha.

“Jim Morrison,” says Az

And we are all laughing at the thought of Jim Morrison being refused entry at a shithole of a pub.

The Big One is doubled up. Dribbling down his beard and Tone shouts again: “Jennifer Miller”

“Jennifer Miller, who the fuck is Jennifer Miller?”

“A bearded lady.”

So Guzzling says: “Would you let Jennifer Miller in?”

“Not if she’s got a beard!”

And it’s getting dafter and dafter and we are laughing and laughing. And it’s the first time I’ve laughed since I heard that Alan had gone down with the Sheffield. Laughing my head off in this army town of Aldershot on a sunny Spring day.

“Rolf Harris”

We all turn around and there are two Wigan kids in their Braemer golf jumpers, jumbo cords and adidas pumps. Right little Ronnie Corbetts. They have seen what’s going on and they’re loving it.

I’m rolling around, the Big One is stroking his beard like a mad fucking professor and Tone is trying his hardest to think of somebody else with a beard and I shout: “Captain Birdseye, he was military.”

Still he stands there and we turn into the bright morning sunshine. And I say to Tone: “How the fuck did you know about Jennifer Miller?”

“God knows…”

We shuffle on by and the brandy in my hipflask sinks into my soul as we turn the corner to see a gang of happy Wigan fans outside a pub.

“Alright lads, do they serve people with beards in here?” says the Big One.

And they look at this daft big cockney with a beard and one of them says: “Yer wot?”

So I reply: “Yer wot, yer wot, yer wot.”

And everybody joins in and they know that I’m Wigan and these cockneys with me today are Wigan and as we go to the bar Guzzling orders five Guinnesses as we hear the cry of “What shall we do with the Argentinians?” from the growing number of Wigan fans outside.

Guzzling’s still laughing when he says: “Rich, I’m going to grow a beard next week.

“Grow it for your Alan…"

This article originally appeared in The Mudhutter November 2008