Its Been Emotional
by Scott Thornberry - 7th January 2012
Alarm cloack set for 7:30am. had the kids to wake up, feed, dress and then for an appointment with the bank at 9am to collect the £8000 which football fans had donated for the players.
I arrived in the car park behind the bank at 8:45am, slightly early but I couldn't settle until I had my hands on the money. Leaving the bank with my man bag full of twenties and tens I have to admit I was a little bit scared of being mugged, so actually ran back to the car. Safe and sound we headed to the arena to meet up with Craig Liddle.
Once again my timing was slightly out of sync and I was at the arena slightly too early but I am a person who likes to be too early than too late. Anyway thought it was again too dodgy to wait in the car park as some people would know I had a bit of cash on me, so went and parked up in a sidestreet until just before 10am. When I arrived at the Arena there were around a dozen fans applauding every Darlo player getting onto the bus. Chandler and Rundle arrived blasting out some hillbilly music and raving out of the car windows! I went inside the and met up with Lidds and a few members of staff. I have to say I never envisaged that fans would be handing over thousands of pounds in brown envelopes to pay footballers but needs must. Craig Liddle and the players were so appreciative of the fans efforts and donations. I didn't want to hang around so headed back outside to applaud the players and on leaving Lidds just looked at me and said "I don't know what to say" to which the reply was "you don't have to say anything". It was like a scene from a romantic movie god dam it, both of us filling up.
Anyway, it was off to the match and after taking over the team coach just before Kirkby Stephen we arrived early at Barrow and headed to the Wetherspoons for some food and drink. Everything was going well, some old faces popping in, then low and behold Darlo Pete and his sidekick Darlo Cock enter the premises. I couldn't miss the opportunity for one last fans photo of Pete, with no paperbag app on my phone we improvised!
Heading up to the ground I was stopped by the local policeman, oh dear was I getting pulled for have thousands of pounds in the boot of my car, because that has happened before you know with Darlo related people. No, he wanted to know if anybody had been found who was interested in buying Darlington. Yep that was his sole question! Arrived at the ground and found our spot on the open terrace right behind the right post of the goal. Just where I used to stand in the Tin Shed at Feethams. I was approached by quite a few people and have taken a few more donations so many thanks to all that chipped in. Also spoke briefly to an elderly fan and we had to stop the conversation because he started crying. This is just awful!
I am not even going to comment on the match apart from the fact that I was disappointed that we didn't get a goal to celebrate.
Just before kick off yet another fantastic gesture by the Barrow fans that had the emotions going once again, I am hard me like so I obviously didn't cry, but seriously I welled up fully and a little droplet of water came out of my eye. I blame that though on the strong cold bloody wind blasting at my face! The Barrow fans unveiled a massive banner which strecthed across the front of their stand. It simple read "A football club is for life, not just for business". A lot of effort put in by somebody and alot of effort that willl never be forgotten by every darlington fan there this afternoon. In lower league football more than anywhere you realise that we are proper "football fans", in the words of the grand master himself David Cameron, 'we are all in this together' and today proved just that.
Singing was constant throughout the game, even when we went three goals down. At the final whistle everybody in the ground applauded, Darlo fans, Barrow Fans, even the stewards. It was very fair to say that this really looked like the footballing community saying goodbye to one of its clubs. I really hope not but the occasion was surreal. The Darlington players finally left the pitch, Chandler throwing his shirt into the crowd revealing a top underneath with the phrase "thanks for the memories" wrote on the front.
If it does all go tits up then at least I have the memory of listening to the wise words of Nick Woodward beside me for the ninety minutes. I have to say his opinions on certain issues are rather extreme! One of his greatest insult towards the the pitch today was, after rattling his brain for 15 seconds he blurted out "pissflaps". Such banter is rarerly witnessed these days!
Another thing to note about Barrow was the setup of the club. The ground was very tinpot yes, but obviously manageable with the size of gates they get. Their attendances hover around 1000 fans yet they can fund a team in the blue square premier. We get double that but allegedly lose £80k a month. The news of the size of some of the contracts agreed with the players, the lack of sponsors etc has obviously taken its toll. Their PA man spent alot of time going through the sponsors names, they seemed to have a sponsor for everything. When I do the PA at Darlo we more often than not did not have a sponsor for anything. The Man Of The Match was chosen by Colin and myself normally whilst a Matchday Sponsor must have only occured about 3 or 4 times. Going forward the club must look into their commercial activities as a matter of urgency. We couldn't even find a sponsor for our shirts for gods sake. All of this after the cllub won the FA Trophy in May!
With the players back in the changing rooms the Darlo fans refused to leave. "we shall not be moved" blasted out from the terrace. "Bring on the darlo" was next. a couple of minutes later the players returned to more singing and applause. They only got to the halfway line before the pitch was partially invaded but hey ho. They retreated for the second time and the fans started to depart. There was a Barrow steward at the front of the terrace shaking the hands of every Darlington fan that was leaving. "you'll never walk alone" , requested by DFC1883, was kind of blasting out of the pa system and that was it, all over.
Once again heading to the car you got the kindness from the football family. An elderly gentleman, probably in his 80's, just said to us as we passed "safe journey". If this was the last time to follow my football club on a matchday then I will miss the football family, opposition supporters and the Darlo supporters. Football brings people together from all backgrounds. You will speak to people who you just wouldn't dream of talking to in normal circumstances. Yet with our club we all have one common interest. It is not over yet so lets put up a fight.