Clive Hayward – @Byehorse
Clive talks about his away trip to Stockport
If you can’t beat ’em, join’ em.
Stockport have, like us, had their fair share of bad times but last night they took a big step to getting back where they belong, after 11 seasons in the no league wilderness which Torquay fans now call home.
It would have been fun to poop their party, but given that we have nowt to play for and that, without exception, we got a warm welcome it was equally enjoyable to join in with the pre and post match festivities.
I started my day in Dundee, at the end of a little jaunt up to the pointy end of Scotland and back. A lot of money has been spent renovating the waterfront there, although it’s a very breezy spot and St Tropez it ain’t.
I had an unexpectedly smooth journey down via Edinburgh and Crewe. There was room to spread out a bit on the train, and as the Cumbria countryside flashed past I kicked off my walking boots and day-dreamed of Reidy’s Edgeley Park hat-trick back when I were in my early 50’s.
My son @MattyHayward96 is doing his best to drum up some Yellow trade in his new Manchester home, and it was nice to meet his young flatmates Grace and Tom- making their Gulls debuts.
We celebrated my achievement of FINALLY GETTING OFF A TRAIN AT STOCKPORT with a couple of pints at The Armoury- a pub which is not much more than a shanked Ashley Bayes goal kick from the ground. On the age old maxim that “There’s no harm in asking”, the County-shirt-wearing barmaid sweetly agreed to store my rucksack for later collection and we set off for the ground.
We were confronted with what I would have to say was a fairly impressive organised “march” to the ground by several hundred flag-waving, drum beating, pyro-enhanced County fans. They had obviously taken inspiration from the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt and it was jolly good fun to watch. I’m not completely certain we could get a Bronshill Road version off the ground, but never say never!
We got into the ground by a fairly unusual route. Although away tickets had supposedly been sold for the Railway End (the small one, with no roof), what actually happened was that we were directed all the way along there to the far corner of the stand where we have normally sat in most seasons – there were perhaps 150 Torquay fans in attendance, and we went through a decent repertoire of songs, including the equine one 🐎
None of the Torquay players gave up at any stage. A slightly weakened line-up was depleted further when Player of the Year Shaun Mac succombed to a groin (?) injury at half time. We had been second best to a vibrant but wasteful Stockport and the second half omens were not good. To give him credit, Mark Halstead made a couple of decent saves but in front of a raucous home end he had no chance with the winner. We did hit the bar at the end but let’s not kid ourselves: County are getting their money’s worth for a big investment in good players and we are tailing off at the end of a season that was never meant to be. It could have been a hammering and a point would have made Dick Turpin chuckle.
Back at the Armoury, the County nearly-promotion party was getting into full swing and we joined in for half an hour. I don’t begrudge them their success and as Torquay fans we have a happy knack of not winding people up- so a good time was had by all.
One or two of them tried to tell me
Dagenham will make it hard for Wrexham on Sunday. I said I’m not so sure, that I reckon Stockport will need a point at home to Halifax but that that shouldn’t be a problem.
Happy with my predictions and the evening, it was back to Matty’s for a cup of tea and a natter.
Tom (Leeds) and Grace (Mansfield) are now happy to announce that Torquay is their second team. Given the Whites’ current struggles and that Grace’s stag allegiance seems quite weak, it’s not beyond the realms that we will see them again.
Up the Gulls.
PS- Although I couldn’t quite summon up the energy for Dundee v Hibs on Tuesday night, I did find my way to a rain- lashed John O’Groats FC on Monday and then the last knockings of MNF in Thurso, where the mighty Acks saw off the visiting Dirty Southern Bastards from Lybster!