The Thundercliffe Files: how to fill the Townhole

Cod Almighty | Article

by Paul Thundercliffe

20 March 2020

Suddenly we all have a Townhole, but there are ways to fill it

Thundercliffe Files

So here we are. Somewhere I never thought we would be, but I did warn you about. We now all have a Townhole.

To recap, when Bury were divorced from the League, I lamented how hard their fans would find it without the fun and frivolity of regular football and all of its trimmings. I then tried to imagine what it would be like for us Town fans to have that same hole in our lives. A Townhole.

What first comes banging you square in the head is that this hole isn’t just a 90 minute Saturday cavity that can be filled with some gardening, some DIY. There’s the pre-match, the post-match, the Thursday interview, the match report, the thoughts of their manager, the goals, the highlights, the chat, the discussion, the highs and the lows. As my wife remarked, it’s my other full-time job.

There are of course more important things than football. Shankly was wrong. But in these strange, uncertain, incomprehensible times, the structure and rigour and pleasure of 11 stripey players sometimes passing to each other, occasionally scoring goals is insurmountable.

It’s the contact with others. Familiar sights, sounds, smells. A sense of belonging, pride and community. A chance for me to spend time with my son and my dad with his. Human contact, human endeavour and even human error. I’m sure we would all love to be lambasting ineptitude at the Lower linesman (to be fair, we are brilliant at it) rather than literally watching paint dry.

Football – sport – is ingrained in this society. Glues us together like chips to fish. Fresh air, fruity language and the frisson of anticipation, if not excitement, week after week.

Every Townhole is different. Shapes and sizes meander and throb like Vernam against Colchester. We will all fill them in our different ways. Me? I’ll read some books and watch some stuff. Mostly football-related, some Town nostalgia.

OnthisGTFC day is compulsory viewing obviously and Twitter has had some fun and games with emojis and the like. There’s plenty of old Town stuff on YouTube. It’s easy to lose an hour just searching through the different angles of Arnold at Wembley. Also on there are some great old programming: Leyton Orient – yours for a fiver is sensational and prescient. All the old Fantasy Football can be unearthed, as well as loads of old Goal of the Season compilations.

Other documentaries worth a watch: 89, the story of the last-minute winning Arsenal campaign (Fever pitch is the book companion that’s recommended); I believe in miracles, the stunning documentary abut Forest’s takeover of Europe at the end of the 1970s (some early Birtles in there); and Gazza, although that may bring a tear to the eye as you witness his fall from grace.

If reading’s your thing, One night in Turin tells the story of England’s 1990 World Cup campaign eloquently and fervently. Hillsborough – the truth by Phil Scratton is a tough but necessary read, especially the updated version that ends with relief not castigation. My favourite book is David Peace’s Damned United, an imagined autobiographical-styled thriller about Brian Clough’s 44 days in charge at Leeds. You will not be able to put it down.

However you fill your Townhole, be bold and brave, be nostalgic and strong. Fill your mind with memories and cherish what you have right here, right now. See you on the other side.

Any book or video recommendations to add?