A piece of cake

Cod Almighty | Article

by Tony Barker

29 March 2017

The atmosphere for a 1979 promotion clash at Barnsley was electric. The upshot of an attempted short cut was priceless. 

Football is a piece of cake, innit? I mean, you see the cake, but that is only the sum of its parts. In the football cake are a lot of ingredients: players, kit people, sponsors, commercial staff, directors, cardboard cut-out ball boys, cleaners, journalists, groundsmen, stewards, chairman (sometimes), and the fans. We all play a part. But are any parts greater than the others?

Well, speaking as a fan, all I can do is interpret what I have taken part in, what I have observed – and usually, the best parts are funny and emotional, right? Take the play-off final against Forest Green. To this day, if I view it I end up blubbering all over again. The emotion that day was touchable.

Or take the time when Uncle Les, my brother Kev and I travelled to Oakwell to see Town play Barnsley in a Tuesday night Division Four match in 1979. I think we had secured promotion, but Barnsley needed a win to keep their hopes of going up alive. A massive crowd of over 21,000 turned up – including over 7,000 from Grimsby – to witness a stunning, electrified game, which Barnsley won 2-1. If you could have plugged the crowd in, I reckon they could have run the floodlights off us.

We had arrived to congestion, so we parked the car on top of a very large hill and we could actually look down on the floodlit ground. Excited, we left the car and began to follow the hordes to the game.

Then Kev suddenly stopped and pointed to the grassy, walled embankment below us.
"Sod this," he said. "It's daft going all the way round. Let's go down the hill – it looks a good short cut."

Uncle Les made a point about why nobody else seemed to be taking the easy way down, but Kev won the day. We climbed the wall and started down the grassy slope.

Everything was going fine, until about halfway down when the hill began to turn into something more sinister in the form of a much more severe gradient, where our jaunty short cut turned into a steady trot, leading on to an almost uncontrollable breakneck sprint. Kev and I were thanking our lucky stars that we were wearing training shoes, when we became aware of someone behind us in great distress. It was Uncle Les.

"Kevin, Kevin, Kevin!" he pleaded in quick, desperate words. "I can't stop, Kevin! I'm going too fast!" he bawled as he came hurtling towards us at the speed of light. Uncle Les had started off behind us, but the thing was that he always wore shoes.

As he neared us, Kev made a desperate grab for our uncle, but it was useless, he was simply going at warp speed. It was at this point that the laughing began as Kev and I – along with a few thousand others – witnessed our dear uncle, with his wispy balding pate, disappearing into the distance, legs going round like that bird being chased by the coyote in the Road Runner cartoons on the telly, hurtling towards the wall at the bottom of the hill.

"Arghhhh! Ooooh! Ouch. Ooh yah. Fuck. Shit!" came from somewhere behind the wall that Kev and I did well to stop at; we were laughing so hard that we nearly had the same outcome. And then, right in front of us, two sets of fingers appeared on the wall, followed by a bald head, a set of eyes, then our Uncle Les's unmistakable bulbous nose, to peep over at us and declare: "So I suppose you think that's fucking funny, do yah?"

Well actually, Uncle Les, yes it was.

Cake, anyone?

The home page image (cropped) of Oakwell is by Martin Thirkettle, and is made available under this Creative Commons Licence

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