A Bloody Shame

A friend has just e-mailed me the following:

“Club Statement

Droylsden FC have as of today resigned from the Northern Premier League and will also take no part in Cup Competitions this season
In a letter sent to the Northern Premier League Chairman Dave Pace described the decision as the  most difficult he has ever had to make.
However the disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis has left him with no alternative.
The closing of the social club and its function rooms  since the start of the pandemic, the main income source with no indication of any restart on viable trading terms along with a loss of income from the club’s main sponsor  has left the club with no visible alternative income stream during the crisis.
“The club may hopefully survive this crisis and continue into the future in less challenging circumstances than we find ourselves in during the present”

The club will be making no further statement at the present time.”

Well, that’s a facer. To be completely honest, part of me doesn’t feel a thing about it, and there’s a little bit of schadenfreude in there. I don’t have any time for Dave Pace who was responsible for separating me from the Bloods, and I swore never to go back whilst he was still there. There’s a bit of ‘serve the f****r right’ in hearing that news. It’s the fans I feel sorry for, who’ve gone through a lot. Some of them were mates, lots of them were acquaintances, and all of them are the undeserved sufferers.

I wonder how many other clubs up and down the country are going to have to do the same.

A Country of Crybabies

I still haven’t fully processed last month’s unbelievable Cricket World Cup Final success by England. There are so many emotions tangled up in those events, and not merely that last hour of play when absolutely every indication there could be was of the inexorable sliding of the trophy into New Zealand’s deserving but ever-so-frustrating hands.
And then something unbelievable upon any level except the least likely one, that it happened. Boult treading on the boundary, Stokes’ accidental deflection of the ball for four overthrows, two run outs, a super over, and the final decision going on the one factor that nobody in their right mind would ever have believed could be brought into play.
Nothing like that could ever happen again. Nothing weirder than that could ever happen at all. Or should we not be so sure about that?
So many different streams of thought run into that conclusive moment when Joss Butler ran out Martin Guptill. I’m old enough to have watched the first Cricket World Cup, in that long ago hot summer of 1975, the final between Australia and West Indies. I watched the end of that at my mate Alan’s. We went out on Saturday night to the Oaks, a big pub on the edge of Chorlton with a Saturday night disco, but we refused to leave until the final was over, that determined last wicket stand between Lillee and Thompson, the great fast bowling pair, crazily threatening to keep the Ozzies in contention and getting far closer than any sane man would have dreamed.
Forty-four years ago, and forty-four years of waiting to see if England could ever do that, through three finals of defeat that looked like becoming four. I’ve no vivid memories of 1979 or 1992, but in 1989, at my girlfriend’s, I remember coming downstairs on Sunday morning to see England doing well, looking good, until Gatting threw his wicket away to Alan Border and England died in that instant (and I don’t care what bloody excuses you keep coming up with to justify that god awful, stupid shot, Gatting, it was a colossal fuck-up and you carry that on your shoulders. Own up for once, will you?)
Forty-four years and Sunday. Hunting round for ages to find a workable livestream. Finally getting one. Having it, Cricinfo’s Live Score and the Guardian’s Over-by-Over (going to Ball-by-Ball) open simultaneously and flicking from one to another. The stream starting to go a bit shonky. Buffering delays, until the pictures were a delivery behind, until they gave way altogether, with two balls left. Knowing already that NZ had got one, and needed two off the last delivery to win, one was not enough. And the plain, flat entry: England have won the World Cup! Who? How? What? What happened? The crucial last ball and I missed it. Many of you may say it serves me right.
So already I had a personal pall on the moment, a distance from the instance, that I didn’t see it, didn’t feel it, didn’t experience it like everybody else, and had to be told about it.
But we had won the Cup. By the narrowest of all possible margins. We had tied the 50 over game. We had tied the Super Over. We had won because, over our respective 50 overs, England had scored more boundaries than New Zealand. I hadn’t known that about the conditions of the Super Over. I hadn’t known anything about the conditions of the Super Over until we had to play one, but I knew before it began that if that were tied (hah-hah, fat chance of that), England would win.
Almost immediately the game was over, it began, and it’s just got more persistent ever since. So far as I can tell, it’s come from Englanders mostly. The New Zealanders were as gracious and uncomplaining in their acceptance of defeat as their skipper, Kane Williamson, as admirable a man as is on this Earth now.
There was a welter of disagreement, of denigration, of denial that England have legitimately won the World Cup. Some point to the luck going England’s way: Trent Boult, a solid and reliable boundary fielder, catches Ben Stokes but makes the one mistake of his tournament, stepping back and standing on the rope. No catch, no new batsman in the final over, but six runs and a colossal step towards England maybe doing it.
The next ball, Stokes again, desperate to run two, hurls himself full-length towards his ground, no idea where the ball is, only that it’s hurtling in… and incredibly Guptill’s throw strikes Stokes’ out-stretched bat. How the hell could that happen, what possibility fraction had to be overcome that in Lords, two objects travelling in different directions, at different speeds, should for a fraction of a second occupy the same physical space? And the ball skids off and runs to the boundary. Four overthrows, six more, Stokes still on strike. Completely unintentional on the batsman’s part, or else it would be out, Obstructing the Field. These are the margins.
How can all this be happening? Then a Super Over that ends up tied, and England win on a technicality.
And people start demanding that it not be as it is. That the four overthrows shouldn’t be counted (they were completely legal). That the umpires cheated to help England. It should be a New Zealand win, or it should be a tie, or it should be replayed, or there should be an asterisk placed against it in the record books to permanently denote it wasn’t legitimate, it shouldn’t be recognised. The England team shouldn’t celebrate, their ‘win’ is dirty, they should hang their heads in shame.
A day later, TV footage confirms there was indeed an Umpire error over Stokes’ four overthrows. The Law stipulates that the overthrows should be added to the completed runs on the field. At the time Guptill launched his throw, Stokes and Rashid had not crossed. The score should have been 1 + 4 = 5, not 6, and it should have been Rashid facing the next delivery.
A mistake, an honest to goodness mistake. The Umpires assumed the batsmen had crossed. New Zealand assumed the batsmen had crossed. And if there had been an objection raised at the time, there was no provision for DRS to investigate something like that anyway.
But the naysayers eizsed on that. England didn’t win after all. The result should be overturned retrospectively, the Cup given to New Zealand, despite the fact that no Umpire’s decision has ever been retrospectively overturned.
This tide of negativity, this demand to tear down the result, depresses me. Like I say, it’s not the New Zealanders, who have every right to feel aggrieved, who are calling for this, it’s the English.
But that seems to be part of things today in this godawful country. I first saw this, in virulent force, ten years ago, and it seems only to have proliferated. Much of the attack on England’s win is an attack on the rules of the World Cup itself. For most of One-Day Cricket’s history, a tied game has been decided in favour of the team losing fewer wickets. On that basis, New Zealand would clearly have won, no Super Over necessary. They finished on 241 for 8, England were 241 all out. Simple, logical.
Except that those were not the rules of the competition. The Super Over rules were decided o before the tournament began, they were accepted by all the participating Countries, they were the same for everyone and no-one gave a damn, until they were needed. But since England won under a new system, the naysayers argued that the rule is stupid (maybe it is), unnecessary (possibly so) and introduces a new and unfair criterion for victory overthrowing longstanding and sensible methods (which it does). So the rule should be chucked out now and the Cup should be awarded to New Zealand.
To which the only possible answer is, Bollocks. This was the rule under which the tournament was played. You cannot go back and change it just because you don’t like the outcome.
I mentioned something ten years ago. I’m talking about the 2009 series of University Challenge. The final that year was contested between Corpus Christi, Oxford and the University of Manchester. Corpus Christi were the overwhelming favourites, having steamrollered all opposition, largely due to their captain, Gail Trimble, who seemed to know everything about everything. Trimble had become a social phenomenon.
But Manchester knocked Corpus Christi out of their stride, getting off to a flying start, running up 95 points without reply, until Trimble’s team-mate Sam Kay intervened to answer a tricky question, and get them off zero. You could see Corpus Christi visibly relax. The inevitable happened, Trimble got going, Corpus Christi ran out comfortable winners.
And were then disqualified and the trophy awarded to a much-embarrassed Manchester, who didn’t want it in those circumstances.
Corpus Christi were disqualified for fielding an ineligible team member, as it happened the same Sam Kay who had changed the course of the final. University Challenge rules require every participant to be a student of their University or College at all times up to and including the final. Kay had graduated and left Corpus Christi between the second and third rounds.
There was no two ways about it: Corpus Christi had cheated. Whether they had deliberately set out to pull the wool over the BBC’s eyes, or whether it was an innocent mistake was irrelevant.
I had quite recent experience of that, when it came to Droylsden FC. This was in the infamous FA Cup Second Round tie with Chesterfield in 2008 that took four games, two of them abandoned incomplete, to settle.
The sequence was an away tie abandoned at half-time due to fog, a new game drawn 2-2, during which Droylsden defender Sean Newton got a yellow card, a home replay abandoned after 70 minutes due to floodlight failure after 70 minutes and a final game won by Droylsden, 2-1, both goals scored by Newton.
The problem was that Newton was ineligible to play in the winning game. His yellow card at Chesterfield took him to five, invoking a one-game suspension. Droylsden received notification of the same on the day of the replay, consulted their fixture list and confirmed that the suspension – for the first game played after seven days from the FA notice, would be the Boxing Day notice.
That night’s game was abandoned and the next match rescheduled for the following Tuesday. As such, that game became the one to which Newton’s suspension must apply. By an understandable but devastating oversight, no-one realised this. Newton played, scored both goals and Droylsden were expelled.
There were protests, heartfelt pleas, an unsuccessful appeal to the FA but, as I had known from the moment the news broke, nothing to be done. However innocent the mistake, Droylsden had played an ineligible player and there was only one punishment: expulsion. That this was the first (and only) time Droylsden qualified for the Third Round only made it more painful.
But the Rules are the Rules, as my lawyer background insists. Whatever you think of them, they must be applied. As with Droylsden, so too with Corpus Christi. The outrage was instant. Gail Trimble had become a media darling and everyone was insistent that her story end according to the pre-determined script. Some way had to be demanded to let her win.
That Corpus Christi had broken the rules was undeniable. What therefore had to be denied was the validity of the rule. It was stupid. It was idiotic. It was nonsense. The rule should be stricken out. Or if it stood, it shouldn’t mean Corpus Christi should actually be punished for breaking it. Or not punished that way. Over and over again, until I watched open-mouthed in astonishment. Everything had to be undone so that Trimble should win.
What was so astonishing to me was that not one person seemed to consider the situation more than molecule deep. The rule was that a competition for University students should only be open to those who were students throughout: that seemed to me to be not merely fair, nor reasonable, but the whole bloody point to begin with.
And what of the other Colleges and Universities who had entered? All had agreed to abide by the rules, on pain of expulsion and, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, every one of them had observed the rule, except Corpus Christi. What is that a textbook description of if not cheating?
By keeping to the rules, Manchester University had crippled themselves. Everybody had crippled themselves. How many Trimble-like candidates had been turned away because they did not qualify? How many more didn’t even apply because they knew they didn’t qualify? But these considerations were irrelevant to those who had had their expectations overturned.
Put in its least polite form, it was a mass exercise in stamping ones feet, holding ones breath and screaming, “Waaah! It’s not fair!”
Exercises of that nature accompany almost every decisive moment. England’s win at Lords is just the latest. “It’s not fair!” Tear it down, don’t allow it, I don’t like it, and if the rules say so, then the rules are an ass and should be thrown out the window so I can have my way.
It’s just one more way in which my once-beloved country is turning into a joke, a mess, an embarrassment. And it’s throwing a shadow over that astomishing game to see so many people whining about it, asking for any other outcome than an England win, anything but that. Forty four years of waiting, from an extended sunny Saturday evening to an extended sunny Sunday evening, and the sound of babies crying.

A Then and Now Wierdness

As I post this, Manchester City are entertaining Burton Albion in the semi-final, first leg of the League Cup. There is something truly weird about this for me. Just over a decade ago, when Burton carpet-bagged themselves into the Northern Premier League in order to win it at the first attempt and progress into the Football Conference, I saw them play at Droylsden.

They won 7-0. In my match report, I gave our goalkeeper 10 out of 10 (you have to imagine the score without him) and refused to rate anybody else because it would have been meaningless.

Now they’re playing Manchester City. At the Etihad Stadium. In a serious Cup semi-final. It feels seriously weird to imagine that. It also gives me a problem. I don’t which of the two bastards I most want to see tonked!

Two Cheers for Accrington Stanley

This is now a League One ground

The fact – the idea! – of Accrington Stanley achieving their first ever League promotion, in the fiftieth year since they reformed, would normally be cause for joy and celebration. The only club to ever fold during a league season, to have their results and records expunged, the club that started again from the utmost bottom, in the days before the Pyramid and an organised route to rise again, the club that became a national byword for failure and ignominy thanks to a callous reference in an Eighties Milk commercial, the club that operates on the lowest of budgets in the entire League, will play next season in League One: the third tier.

It’s the epitome of what we oldies still recognise as the romance of football, as heart-warming a triumph as Leicester’s 2016 Premiership title. It’s got to be good. But I have mixed feelings.

Though there’s no connection between Stanley and the Accrington FC who were founder members of the Football League in 1887, this club is effectively on its third life. Accrington FC lasted five years, enough time for the League to add a Second Division, and resign rather than accept relegation to it. Three years later, it folded mid-season.

What had been Stanley Villa, from playing on Stanley Street, adopted the town name. They were brought into the Football league in 1921, as one of twenty clubs from various regional leagues across the North of England, to provide geographic balance after the League created a Third Division by absorbing entire the Southern League First Division. The new Division became Third Division North.

Accrington Stanley were a nothing team, achieving nothing but existing. In 1958, they finished in the top half of Third Division North, which meant that, when the two Regional Divisions were merged to create a Third and Fourth, Stanley landed/stayed in the Third Division. But after their second season, they were relegated to the Fourth Division and, in 1962, the Club’s financial difficulties forced it to resign from the League, with a quarter of their fixtures unmet.

In 1966, after four seasons in the Lancashire Combination, including the Club’s only ever promotion, into Division One, they disbanded.

The present club, officially Accrington Stanley 1968, was formed in 1968, at its current ground. They started at the very bottom, (re-)entering the Lancashire Combination in 1970. They progressed to the newly-formed Cheshire League Division 2, the North West Counties League and the Northern Premier League, before winning the Premier Division title and joining the Football Conference.

The club’s current success is usually credited to a massive financial windfall: the club sold a player to Blackpool with a sell-on clause of 25% of any subsequent fee: when he was signed by Blackburn for £2,000,000, Stanley netted a cool half million.

They completed their return to the Football League in 2006 by winning the Conference.

Already, this is a massive vindication for all such clubs who reform. Whatever the circumstances, however remote the possibilities, everybody dreams, no, longs, for the moment when that once important status is attained. And now Stanley have won their first ever League promotion.

It’s everything the story could be. The Club that came back, the minnows who are punching massively above their weight, and a Lancashire team to boot. What’s not to like. Unfortunately, my feelings a re mixed. You see, I’ve been to Accrington Stanley.

All told, I made, I think, four visits during my Droylsden years. On my first visit, I was fed a completely specious line of bullshit by our manager’s father, about forthcoming scientific disaster, arriving within the next eighteen months (this was 1996).

That’s not Stanley’s fault, but the treatment I received on my last visit was.

There’s a strike against the Cub in that their management team, then and now, is the combination of John Coleman and Jimmy Bell, who I first encountered as player/manager/coach at Ashton United. Let’s just say there was more than a mere local rivalry there.

But by the time of that last visit, I was a long-established match reporter for, first, the freesheet Tameside Advertiser and then the paid-press Tameside Reporter. And I occasionally supplied match reports to the Manchester Evening News when their non-League staffer, Tony Glennon, was elsewhere.

As a match reporter, I got a Press Card, entitling me to free access to the ground. The first time I had presented it, away to Barrow, I’d been a bit nervous about it being accepted and having to explain myself, but there and everywhere I was just waved through. Until Accrington.

I wasn’t expecting any trouble. I’d been using my card for about five years by now, without the slightest murmur, and suddenly I was being confronted, with an undertone of anger, at the turnstile. Where had I got this from? Taken aback, I explained my ‘status’, including that I happened to be doing the Evening News that day. This was also denied: I couldn’t be, I wasn’t Tony Glennon.

This was rapidly getting serious. I was being treated as a criminal, trying to scam my way in, and I wasn’t getting my Card back. Instead, I got taken to the Secretary’s Office, where I went through the whole thing again.

Eventually, Barney Quinn off our Committee was called through, and vouched for me on the spot. With very bad grace, I had my Card returned to me, and was allowed to go in, but I also got told that if I wanted a Press Card I should have got one from them. Why, when mine had been good enough for years, everywhere? Because they were Accrington Stanley.

It left a very bad taste. Later that season, the word went round that Stanley had refused the Burscough kitman access to the ground, even though he had all the Burscough team’s kit!

One of the joys of non-League football is how friendly it is. We support our terms but we’re all in this together, and we recognise each other as the enthusiasts we are. Some places are less pleasant than others: the worst I ever went to was Farsley Celtic, in North Leeds, where the whole afternoon had a nasty atmosphere I never encountered elsewhere, though Bradford PA’s crowd could be a bit hostile. But we accepted each other as equals.

Not so Accrington Stanley. They weren’t the only former League club I visited: I’ve already mentioned Barrow, and I also went to Workington Town, and they weren’t up themselves the way Accrington were. We are Accrington Stanley, and the unspoken part was that they didn’t see why they should have to put up with the likes of us.

I haven’t been back in a decade, and it may be that they’re not like that any more, but then again they are now and for the last decade have been where they believe they belong so there’s no grounds for the attitude.

But it prejudiced me against Stanley. So with one hand I can congratulate them, and admire their success, but I can’t celebrate it because my lasting impression of them is as… well, let’s not use the word, but you can choose your own.

Is This The Year?

Last year, I wrote a series of posts about my interests in non-League football, in the twin forms of FC United of Manchester (who I support) and Droylsden FC (who I used to support).

This time last year, Droylsden (aka the Bloods) were in horrendous freefall: a goal difference of more than minus 100 before New Year, confirmed relegation in February. It looked so bad, coming off the back of a similar freefall season in the Conference North the year before, that I seriously feared that they would continue to fall disastrously.

Well, that hasn’t happened. The Bloods have rallied in the Northern Premier League First Division North (I don’t do sponsors unless they sponsor me), and there’s no risk of the plummet continuing. Indeed, for much of the season, Droylsden have been in or about the play-off places and contenders for an immediate return. They are comfortably the highest scorers in the whole Northern Premier League and they are the kings of results, with only one draw in 32 League games.

Promotion looks unlikely, however. Droylsden lie 7th, two places and two points out of the play-offs, but the biggest factor weighted against them is that their 32 games is the highest number played among the promotion contenders. All six teams above them have one to three games in hand (and the next two teams below them have even more games in hand). The odds that at least half of these eight rivals will jointly collapse and let the Bloods overtake them are highly unlikely.

It’s a totally different story for FC United. Last year was the fourth in succession that FC had challenged for the Premier Division title and promotion to Conference North. It was the fourth season in succession that FC got into the play-offs, this time with home advantage in both semi-final and final guaranteed by virtue of finishing second.

It was also the fourth year in succession that they blew it, although disappointment this time came not in the Final but the semi-final: beaten 2-1 by Ashton United with literally the last kick of extra-time: I know, ‘cos I was there.

This season, FC’s progress has been held up by an extraordinarily successful run in the FA Trophy. The club got through to the quarter-finals, the last eight, the only non-Conference team left in the competition, before going out 1-0 at Torquay United, who, last season, were still Football League (I listened to radio commentary from BBC Devon, who were good enough to say that FC didn’t look out of place at Torquay’s level).

The consequence of that run has been that FC now has games in hand over practically everybody else in the Premier Division, and especially over all the viable promotion candidates.

It’s an old saying, but still true, that it’s better to have the points in the bank than games in hand. But as of Tuesday night this week, FC United of Manchester have both. As of Tuesday, we are top of the Northern Premier League Premier Division, for the first time this season, borne there on the stength of ten successive League wins.

FC are top on goal difference (plus 29) from long-term leaders Skelmersdale United (plus 13), but FC have SIX games in hand. They are four points clear of third place Ilkeston, with two games in hand, five points above Workington Town with one game in hand and six points clear of Ashton United, again with one game in hand. And that’s just the current play-off zone.

It’s in our hands, people, in our hands and nobody else’s. They can win all their games from now to the end of the season, but if we win, we are Champions and there’ll be none of this play-offs nonsense.

Promotion would be doubly appropriate, not only to celebrate FC United’s tenth year since formation, but also the long-anticipated move into our own ground. From 2005 to 2014, FC rented Bury’s Gigg Lane as their home ground, whilst this season home matches have been divided between Stalybridge Celtic’s Bower Fold and Curzon Ashton’s Manchester Park. But Broadhurst Park in New Moston, taking the club back to Manchester United’s roots, holds its inaugural game in May, hosting none other than Benfica. How better than to start our new home’s life in a new division!

So you can expect a few more posts between now and May, as the season progresses and the title race gets more and more… what?

Never Do Anything, Unless It’s To Extremes

It seems only fair to record that, after last season’s series of posts on the ill-fortunes and preposterously bad form of Droylsden FC in the Evo-Stik League Premier Division, the Bloods have completely reversed things so far this season.

With wins of 7-1 and 6-1 already (admittedly with a one-goal home defeat between), Droyslden are the joint highest scorers in the whole of the Evo-Stik League and have the best goal difference of any of its 72 clubs, being in double figures at +10 after only three games.

Does this mean a complete role-reversal for last year? Too soon to tell, but if it does, fairness demands that I record it.

A Bloody Embarrassment: the lowest ebb?

I’d rather have had something more positive as my regularly-celebrated Nelson post (this blog’s 555th post: we celebrate anniversaries this way), but the news has just filtered through from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division that the game of top v bottom has gone according to league placings.

But it’s gone Chorley 13 Droylsden 1. And that’s not my crappy typing, it is indeed thirteen goals. To one.

FC United of Manchester have won 1-0 up at Blyth Spartans to keep up the pressure at the top, and are indeed home to Chorley on Tuesday night, needing to win that game and their game in hand to go back on top, but this isn’t about FC, it’s about Droylsden, and about how much worse this can possibly get, because this is an archaic score, it’s a between-the-wars result, it’s 167 League goals conceded and a goal difference of -137, and still five more games left.

What’s it going to be? -150 goal difference can’t be ruled out, but surely 200 conceded isn’t possible? And how can a team that’s been so comprehensively destroyed as this hope to rally next year, even in a lower division? It’s level eight next year, the lowest Droylsden have ever been in the Pyramid, the lowest they have ever been. I’m asking what it’s going to be like a year fron now?

A Bloody Embarrassment: credit where credit’s due

On another day, this might have been a post to record yet another landmark in Droylsden’s season from hell: three goals conceded at home today to Witton Albion take the Bloods’ Goals Against column in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division to exactly 150.

But for once the Goals Against column can go ignored for the statistic of the day is that Droylsden scored 4: yes, the country’s first-to-be-relegated team has won its first match of the season, has doubled its points tally to six, has in fact won its first game in 48 matches and 11 months 13 days.

Apparently, Droylsden tried their best to throw it away, allowing Witton to draw level after taking a 3-0 half-time lead, but not this time. A win at last: I’m dead chuffed for Colin and the rest of my former mates.

A Bloody Embarrassment: Don’t Wait until Saturday

As anticipated, Droylsden were tonight beat at home, 2-1 by King’s Lynn Town. But the unexpected 1-0 victory by Barwell over play-off place chasers Ashton United has ended any significance for Saturday’s game at FC United of Manchester: withh eleven games remaining, Droylsden are now 35 points behind 20th place Barwell. As at Tuesday 25 February, Droylsden are officially relegated from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division.

I haven’t actually checked, but I’m assuming that that’s the first official, confirmed relegation of the 2013/2014 seaso, and the first settled outcome in English football this season – hell’s bells, it isn’t even the League Cup Final until Sunday!

There’s nothing to actually say. Tonight’s crowd was apparently 118, presumably all Droylsden fans and my sympathy goes out to them, especially old friends. I’ve said all I intend to say about Dave Pace.

This is a ridiculous time to start planning for next season.

A Bloody Embarrassment (updated)

Since writing about Droylsden’s predicament four weeks ago, things have got better, and worse, for the Bloods.

On the good side,a week ago today, the club scored its third point of the season, and its first away from home, with a 2-2 draw at Barwell, bringing to an end a run of 27 straight defeats in all competitions. And it could have been better, but for conceding a 94th minute equaliser after being 2-0 up with less than ten minutes to go.

However, the Bloods were back to this season’s norm with a 4-0 home thrashing by Marine this afternoon which leads them trembling on the official brink.

Droylsden entertain Kings Lynn Town on Tuesday night (a hell of a drive for their fans). If they were to lose that game, that will remove any margin for error. Lose to Kings Lynn on Tuesday, and lose again next Saturday, and Droylsden will be relegated – mathematically and officially – on 1 March 2014. They will probably be the first team in the country, at any level, to be relegated this season.

And, by an odd coincidence, I plan to be there, because Droylsden will be away to FC United of Manchester, and i booked that day as leave months ago, never expecting that it would have this kind of significance.

It might not be significant at all. Droylsden might beat Kings Lynn. They might beat FC. And Frickley Athletic might beat Barwell at home next Saturday afternoon, in which case not all the wins in the world can save Droylsden.

The first year I went back to Droylsden, the Bloods were relegated from this very Division: that was the other season of conceding 100 League goals. Though I’m going to support FC United – the very last team under the sun that most Bloods’ fans would want to be sending them down – the coincidence of the occasion will leave me with very mixed feelings indeed.