Thursday, December 6, 2012

I've played football out Sharlston way and that's a real comedy.  You'd come off with stud marks on your calves, a boiled egg under your eye after the elbows had been flying and someone else's DNA in your hair where you'd failed to wipe all the spit out.  
Then there's the rugby crowd.  
We'd no game one Saturday, so Rico from work, who follows Sharlston, talks me into going to watch this match they've got against some outfit from east Leeds.  Tells me it's a BARLA cup game and it'll be a laugh.  The east Leeds lot aren't mining stock, but first glance at them tells you they won't be interested in coming second. 
It's one of those days I'm convinced you only get in northern England.  Steel grey November, and it never gets light.  There's no wind and it's not bitter but the cloud doesn't break and the dank cold eventually seeps into you and stays there.  Dour as it is, there's 300 plus round the pitch, including a fair few visitors.  
Neither side have any hulks, but there's some big rangy lads on view.  The match kicks off and straightaway Rico says to me "Watch this," and the first two occasions the east Leeds centre gets the ball, he punches holes in the Sharlston defence.  Under the sticks himself for a try, then offloading for a team mate to go in.  He looks about 19, raw boned and probably isn't slick enough with his hands to make it as a pro, but Sharlston finally learn and lay on a reception committee next time he gets the ball.  The game tightens up, low scoring, and the players steam in the cold.
By half time Sharlston are still within range, but they've read the script and it's only going to end one way.  Ten minutes into the second half, they opt for plan B.  Just after a play-the-ball there's a flurry of fists and World War III breaks out.  A couple of spectators get involved, but the ref and the liners, who've seen it coming, are on top of it quick and it calms down.  The away team's coach has been on the pitch and walks off, shaking his head.  He looks like an ex-player.  Crafty scrum half type.  Knows what he's doing.  Knows the local comedians won't be able to resist.  And don't.  
"What are you shaking your fucking head for, twat?"  Draws a few laughs from the crowd.  
The coach looks up.  "You're bloody animals round here.  Thatcher had the right idea about you lot, only she should have filled all the shafts with you lot, before she shut the pits."  
There's a gaggle of women to my left, who so far haven't said much.  Just been making small talk amongst themselves; potential nights out and the new Lidl in Featherstone.  One of their number, who can't have been more than 22, is displaying the classic 1-1-1 formation.  She's got a three year old by her side; a baby dozing in a pushchair, and a bellyful of arms and legs.  As the barrage of abuse towards the coach subsides, she leans forward on the pushchair and sinks its clogged up wheels even deeper into the cloying mud.  Then she shouts, 
"What the fuck would you know about it you fucking dwarf, you wouldn't last two minutes down a coalmine you fucking prick."  Laughter breaks out amongst the spectators and a middle aged woman behind her, taps her on the arm and says, 
"Well said Diane."  
"Thanks mum."

Martin C

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