Friday, October 09, 2009

Derby day looms

There's an air of giddy excitement over Lancashire in anticipation of the Rovers v Burnley derby match next weekend. My first was in 1977 at Turf Moor when Rovers won 3-2 after leading 3-0 at half time. I was only 11 and had never experienced anything like it. I can only imagine how my Dad was feeling with me at his side penned in the away bit of the Longside.

I haven't missed a derby since. I've seen us win six, lose three and draw one. The worst feeling was when they did the double over us in 1978-79, when we eventually got relegated. At Ewood in 1979 I'll never forget the feeling of seeing 5000 of them singing and dancing around in delight, compounding our slow and painful demise and inevitable relegation. That feeling of utter deflated sickness when you lose to your closest rivals is just horrible.

At our school, Lancaster Royal Grammar, a lot of the boarders were Clarets fans - Chris Harper, Chris Marriott, Paul Lucas, Graham Ashworth, Ian McFarlane - and I got dog's abuse back at school. I just knew it was coming too which made the remainder of the Easter holidays unbearable.

In 1982 I hitched there. On Boxing Day. But it was worth it. The game in 1983 at Ewood was when the Burnley fans rioted. Simon Garner scored twice.

The recent meetings (2-0, 5-0) in the 2000-2001 season and the FA Cup games (0-0, 2-1) in 2005 were all pretty spicy affairs.

After the 2000 game some lads I know placed a sign in the window of the Burnley club shop that read "2-0 in your Dingledome". That same slogan was left on the answerphone of Alastair Campbell, details here. For the record I published the photo in North West Business Insider and will dig it out for posterity.

The tension in this house hasn't started yet, but I can feel it bubbling. Right now Rachel's at a High School reunion with the likes of Tony Livesey whipping themselves into a similar state of frenzy. Back in 2005 at Turf Moor I was trying to see where she was in the Bob Lord stand and texted her asking if she was sat anywhere near a nutter in a white coat and black hat who seemed to be getting overexcited - "that's me" came the reply.

That day I went with a few pals to the Fence Gate, a Burnley pub in a village outside the town. We had a driver take us to the ground in a people carrier. One of our number jumped out on Yorkshire Street, and joined the throng. We couldn't leave him on his own, so we bounced out as well, a good few hundred yards up the road and just as the pubs were spilling out. We were right in the middle of a big mob of Burnley's finest. So with our collars up we were the only lads not shouting "we hate Bastards". Out of the crowd a voice shouted - "Alec, Alec, do you know where you're going?" (it was John Townsend, brother of Man United PR man Phil, and who Alec worked with). Helpfully JT added - "the away end is just there". It was like a wild west film where everything stops. Suddenly they were looking for whoever was being helpfully directed. Another voice shouted: "there's bastards here, it's gone quiet and it fucking smells".
We stuck together and fronted it out unscathed. The game was rubbish.

What bodes well for us is that our best player at the moment is the only man who will take the field on Sunday who understands the rivalry. David Dunn is a Rovers fan, he has mates in Great Harwood who support Burnley. It really matters to him. When he played in the 2000 game at Turf Moor Kevin Ball attempted to disembowel him (and was sent off).

Come on Roverrrrrrs!!!


Anonymous said...

What a cracking blog Michael!
Wasn't it weird just how many LRGS lads were Burnley fans. The guys you mention must have just been from your year. But I can recall 3 Nelson brothers, a couple of Hamers, some guy who was nicknamed Clash (for obvious reasons) and numerous others.
I now regularly lock up an old chap called Norman Jones who, apparently, is something of a 'Burnley legend', whatever that might be. In his defence I'll say that Norman is an absolute gentleman when he's 'inside', so that's how I'll think of him!

Anonymous said...

Hello Mick,

It's Rocky - Rocky Mills. I was very active in Lancaster around the mid, to late 80s...if you get my drift? And I'm not being funny son, I think me & you should go for a DNA test - you Northern Monkey!

Up the Dingles, Rocky

Michael Taylor said...

Cheers Nick. There were Blackburn lads in my year as well. Most boarders seemed to sons of Thatcherite small businessmen. Often the reason given was they'd failed the entrance to QEGS and didn't want their sons going to school with Asians. Obviously they used the P word to make that point.

Norman Jones eh? I know all about him. Sing Sing prison, or so he reckons. On the pitch at Ewood in 1983. Robbed the meat for Luke Smith's wake.

As for the message from Rocky Mills. There are no bells ringing I'm afraid and I've got a good memory.

Northern Monkey, great phrase.

Michael Taylor said...

Rocky Mills - as I live and breath. Fantastic.