Becoming a Spartan
By Stephen Noble on April 19, 2010 in Society
I have never seen a list of people barred from a pub. My spine was already a little tight when I read the details of this police driven scheme to block what must be 50-60 people from all establishments in Blyth. I felt a little easier knowing the brutes wouldn’t be in, but not enough to lift my dampened voice and blatant paranoia.
After we ease into the pub, Chopper walks in – or at least the Australian murderer’s number one fashion fan. He was a cheery sort though, happy to announce to his friends that the 3D Roy Orbison glasses we were wearing for the Premier League football in the pub could ‘help the darkies blend in better.’ ‘Jesus’ a voice said, and they look at me.
The paranoia was back with a kicking vengeance. I’m writing notes on this – who wouldn’t kick the rudeness out of me? At least after a few swift pints Chopper left to go to work. As a motorcycle instructor. The spine develops spasms of worry and the Damn rumours seem to be true, Blyth is the craziest of Hell holes.
A friend won a raffle and became Blyth Spartans’ match ball sponsor for the day, the local green and white striped football team. It was to be a directors box jaunt for us, and it was a day to look forward to.
The away fans were there, drinking with the rabble before the 3pm kick-off. A must win game for the away side apparently, if they wanted the title anyway. The chants were loud from the Spartans in the pub, but in the friendliest of ways. It’s passionate and didn’t seem vicious, although that’s all remembered with hindsight. The paranoia at the time stayed. I hummed in, ‘You’re just a small town in Yorkshire, small town in Yooorrrkshire’. We were just a small town in Northumberland, but the 100 or so Fleetwood town fans didn’t seem to care.
Blyth are in the Blue Square North league. I have no idea what that means, but the fan interaction is unlike any level I’ve been to. The loudest fans stand behind the opposing goalkeeper’s net to lambast and threaten, then swap at half time to carry on the insults. It’s an unwritten rule, and a bizarre spectacle. Bang on half time the flags at both ends come down and the fans switch ends and set-up again before the game continues.
And the players, oh the players, how they revel in the chants. The keepers especially, they play along with the fans. “Dootson takes it up the arse, Dootson takes it up the arse”. I didn’t feel right joining in, what with the three year old next to me, and when Dootson bent over to jiggle and shake said ass the crowds delighted.
When a Blyth player wanted a penalty in the dying minutes, he reenacted the handball that blocked his strike, and I may have imagined this, but after the hammy animated acting I’m sure the referee said ‘fuck off and take the corner.’ Brilliant.
The game wasn’t anything special, but with these fans and this type of football the thing that stood out most was the people here call it a game. Even just a game. None of these precious pricks who get all uppity at the notion football is only a sport and not a reason to live. It is just a laugh. The stewards were there, but there’s no reason other than mandatory officialdom. The home and away fans diffused throughout the game, shouting loudly and with pseudo-anger, sometimes isolated and surrounded by opposing colours, and completely fearless in their conviction of telling the other team just how shit they are. People are just here for the joy.
After the game we were presented with a signed ball and certificate, and some cod balls and chips. It’s just little bits of cod in batter from a chippy, a Blyth version of caviar I suppose.
As soon as the speeches were done and the thank-you’s were made, out came the vacuum cleaner. “Off anywhere after this eh lads?” It was time to leave.
I wish it had ended there. That’s the day surely? But we were high on the unexpected brilliance of a Blyth game and went for one last drink.
A booze hound found us instantly. She had the fixing stare of a painting, the dental structure of a werewolf and spouted rearranged jokes constantly, delivering the punch line at anytime she liked. “Why’s there a steering wheel between your legs? To keep your nuts warm”. There were lots of jokes that made little sense. She had a notebook filled with the blighters. I laughed, like an idiot.
We got to know her well, her opening gambit was to talk us through her birth certificate. Then tell us a snail has 25,000 teeth. It was funny until we were asked, as a group of three, to watch her ‘perform’ with her dildo. We ran as fast as an arctic wind.
The paranoia was never at normal levels, nor should it have been. Blyth is Hellishly scary if you get the Fear over rumours like me, it seems to fit comfortably with horror movie expectations.
When I finally stopped checking behind me for a 40-odd-year old drunk nut with a sex toy and a book filled with bastardised Tommy Cooper jokes, I found my car had been unlocked and unguarded all day, and was completely untouched.
I’m always wrong.
- OPINION: Football’s Finished – The Street’s Are Safe Again