Matty Orton shares a blog written last year about Bury FC:
Matty Orton – @MattyOrton1
So at 9 o’clock yesterday morning, me and my Huddersfield Town mate sacked off our original plan for the morning and found ourselves at Gigg Lane holding a bucket and a sponge wearing our club’s colours…
Bury Forever had put out a rallying cry for supporters of all clubs to come and help clean the stadium and to wear their club’s colours to show support.
As we pulled into the car park we could see a gathered group of supporters, including fans from clubs all over, armed with buckets and sponges about to wipe down the seats and sweep out the stands – all anticipating their first EFL fixture of the season, against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.
We joined the back of the group, and after a small address and round of applause the group made it’s way towards the The Manchester Road End (West Stand) and entered the stadium. A lorry with water for the buckets was allegedly on the way, so in the meantime some of the empties had to be filled from the gents toilet taps.
So there we were, queuing up next to the urinals as the u-bends under the sinks were being unscrewed to fill the buckets quicker, and I get the first peer at the badge on my chest, “I watched you lot on telly on Saturday, you’re doing alright aren’t you?”, naturally a conversation started…
“You’ve had some tough times recently as well haven’t you”, I nodded, and tried not to sound like things had got worse than standing in the gents toilet waiting to fill a bucket so we could clean the seats in the stands, game-less, and minus 12 points.
“Didn’t you have that woman for a while?”, “What was her name?”, “She’d won some money or something?”, “Thea”, I said.
We exchanged a few more words by which time the buckets we were waiting for had been filled. “Thanks for coming down anyway fellas, it’s appreciated, hopefully it will be worth it.”
The mood at this point was positive and you could feel there was a ping about the place, as there was some renewed hope. I then made my way to the back of the South Stand and you could start to sense an atmosphere. The renewed optimism made it feel like there wasn’t an outside at that point. At that moment it was all about being inside the stadium and getting it ready and clean for a football match that was going to take place on Saturday. Tickets had been printed and even sold at that point, although I think they halted sales not long after releasing them.
As we got stuck in I was surprised at how dirty the seats were, and how quickly they had become so filthy. The cobwebs were already starting to form and there was plenty of dirt and grime built up on the backs and bottoms of the seats.
“I hope you haven’t come all that way to help this morning”, said an old boy in front of me as I worked along the row, his wife and grandchildren helping on the row in front of him.
I explained why I was there and his wife behind, said “did he say Newport?”, “Torquay!”, snapped her husband, “ohhh yes!” she said smiling, “Plainmoor!”. You could tell they hadn’t been to Plainmoor just the once.
She then started talking about what would happen if the worst came to worst and that a new club would have to start outside of the Football League, her husband then said “I’d never see it happen again, not in my lifetime anyway”.
I carried on for a bit and then went to fill more water, met with more handshakes and appreciation on the way. It was hard to spot a row to start work on at this point so we walked round to the Neville Neville stand, found a block where no-one had started and got to work. As I went to put some wet paper towel in a bin liner at the end of my row, I had another older fan peering at my badge.
“Torquay United” he said with a smile as he managed to focus in on it with a slight delay. “I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been there”. “Do you know the café on Berry Head?” he said, “there was a family that took that over years ago, they were from Bury. They went to live down there. I might be wrong” he said, “but I’m sure they lived in Abbotskerswell. They were a big cricketing family too.”
He looked out onto the pitch and then started to reminisce about Bury playing Torquay, I could see he was starting to well up. He was so happy that we were there, “you wonder whether other clubs are thinking about you” he said, “it’s a lonely place you know. Thanks for being here lads it’s appreciated.”
Over 60 years he’d supported Bury, and yet, still looked out for our score in the Sunday paper because a family he’d known had moved down to Torbay.
At that moment his mate came over with his wife armed with a bucket and rucksack. Both regulars. He didn’t even acknowledge my shirt and just started talking about the situation. Mid-conversation he then randomly said, “2-2 yesterday away at Barnet. Not a bad start”. He already knew that result because he wanted to know that result. “Let’s hope this is worth it” and off he went with a “cheers lads.”
By this time we had moved round most of the stadium and there were pockets of volunteers starting to sit and have a rest as it was getting warmer.
The early morning privacy had gone and a small entourage of cameras had started to build. It started to feel like the early togetherness had been intruded a little. It did feel a bit like it needed a ‘where were you at 9 o’clock?’ chant but nonetheless they were there to help the club.
We had been there coming up to three hours at this point and most of the seats in the stadium had been cleaned, although there were still plenty of supporters in the stands cleaning and sweeping. As we stopped for a brief rest we were approached and asked by a guy “what teams are those guys?”, a camera-man was following him round looking for a good angle for his tripod.
We then had to walk along the edge of the pitch to get back to the West Stand where the main supplies and congregation of people were based. Another Bury fan stopped us, he was talking to the older guy I had spoken to earlier about the family that had moved to Torbay and we re-acquainted ourselves.
Another handshake. He saw our shirts and started, with great enthusiasm, to remember the times when Bury had played Torquay. The groundsman walked past him at this point, first name terms, and joked about standing on the pitch.
So there we were stood on the side of the pitch at this point being careful not to step over the white line. The pitch looked pristine. I recalled with him our match in 2014, where I had been at Gigg Lane. Some may remember the ball starting to pull up on the grass as it absolutely pissed it down. We were 3-1 one up and needed the points so we were all hoping the referee didn’t call it, not that it mattered, as we ended being relegated from the Football League that season anyway.
The guy said he remembered Chris Hargreaves as one of our players for some reason (although I’m not sure he ever played for us against Bury…I could be wrong) and one Torquay game in particular, where Bury weren’t getting any decisions. He’d left the ground early and had somehow found out what car in the car park belonged to the referee. He let all his tyres down.
All of a sudden the older supporter next to us who had been listening to our conversation fell to his knees, only the two brushes he had in each hand keeping him knelt up. We rushed across and got him some water out his carrier bag that was in his bucket and asked if he was alright. After a minute or so he was ok and we helped him back up.
“I’m ok” he said, “I’m on chemo, I’ve got cancer you see and I’m not allowed in the sun really”. He wanted to stand and listen to us exchange football stories, rather than find some shade from the sun because he was having chemotherapy. Says it all doesn’t it.
Not long after we walked back outside the ground for a bit. As I walked adjacent to the Neville Neville stand at the front of the club a guy standing next to his car saw my shirt and pointed (I must have been a good 20 feet away), “I’ve got a bet on your lot to win the league this season”, “I hope you don’t let me down. Double promotion”. The guy next to him mentioned Helen Chamberlain as you’d expect at least once in a day. I’d let that go this time though.
We went back into the ground and sat at the front off the West Stand to have a drink and something to eat. By this time the word had spread what was happening and the cameras inevitably had arrived. BBC, Examiner, Granada, JOE football, a German football magazine you name it.
Sitting and minding our own business at that point we were asked if they could record a few words. My mate agreed to speak to them. Casually in the moment it seemed like the right thing to do. Next thing I knew it’s plastered all over the internet. All of sudden two videos, posted across Facebook and Twitter has 500k views and hundreds of comments.
As a result of unexpected exposure to the masses, despite the whole situation of Bury and Bolton being on the brink of extinction, there were 5 negative comments. 2 people said (a Grimsby and a Derby fan might I add), the only reason fans were there wearing their own strips was because they wanted ‘attention’. What they didn’t realise, was that we had been asked by Bury Forever to help clean at Gigg Lane and wear our club colours to show support and unity.
Accrington, Q.P.R, Sheffield United, Portsmouth, Blackpool, Leeds, even a little lad in a Bolton shirt no older than 10 was wiping seats clean. They were all there. It was, however, all in vain. Names will be named and fingers pointed, but feel for those Bury fans right now.
They were almost in tears to see us there yesterday. They appreciated the show of support that much they just wanted to shake our hands. If one supporter took a shred of comfort from the fact I was wearing my TUFC shirt yesterday then I did the little bit I could.
As the news came in at 11:04pm last night Torquay United lost an old friend in Bury FC.
If anything it made me once again think about how lucky we are to have a club to support at 3pm on a Saturday. How fragile, prestigious and fucking glorious our grand old little club really is. It needs looking after. Appreciate it, appreciate every minute of it and be very, very proud of Torquay United wherever you go.TWITTER – @TORQUAYTALK – @torquaytalkpod