How can we put this, in a way that doesn’t offend Leicester and fans of Leicester City? Er, we can’t. This was one pre-season friendly to be avoided, at least by Pete Sixsmith. Pete saw it as an occasion to head in the opposite direction. But then, he’s never relied on a strong aversion to one place to encourage him to visit another, especially when there’s some Annan Athletic and Partick Thistle to savour …
See also: another dig at Leicester (FC, not the fans)
Didn’t bother with Leicester . It’s not a place I like. Joe Orton couldn’t get out of it quickly enough and I don’t blame him. Never liked Filbert Street, don’t like the Walkers Bowl or whatever it’s called, don’t like the fans and don’t like that bloody stupid Post Horn Gallop they play before each home game.
I once spent a thoroughly miserable week in Leicester c.1970 on a college field trip. The year before, the trip had gone to Scotland and there had been a number of “incidents” involving McEwans 80/- and a party of females from another educational institution.
To avoid any more of “that kind of thing” we were consigned to Leicester College of Education at Scraptoft and were dragged around one of England’s dullest counties to look at Deserted Medieval Villages (lumps in the ground), Early English Churches (usually locked) and a pair of trousers belonging to England’s fattest man, Daniel Lambert – probably the most interesting thing we saw.
Since then, I have never enjoyed the place. I disliked going there in the last two promotion seasons, despite good results, and I couldn’t stir myself for this one. I know – part time supporter.
I had been to Annan on FA Cup Final day in 2000 when a draw with Whitehill Welfare had been sufficient for them to clinch the East of Scotland League title. It rained and rained and rained and my red baseball cap deposited its dye all around my cranium, giving me the appearance of a piece of beetroot, much to the delight of the Northern Echo columnist Mike Amos in whose august company I found myself.
Ten years on, the forecast wasn’t much better as I collected the first of the two football chicks who accompanied me on this journey, Joan and her 87-year-old Aunty Jenny, had decided that what they needed was a days shopping in a small Scottish border town.
A quick look at Annan and its array of ironmongers, fish and chip shops and newsagents led to a retreat along the A75 to drop them off in the olde worlde charms of the Gretna Green Outlet Mall, where they happily ate sandwiches, sipped tea and terrorised shop assistants in handbag stores.
For me, it was a return to Galabank Stadium to find a spick and span new stand, excellent floodlights and a proper pie shop. This was arguably Annan’s biggest day in senior football and they did themselves proud on and off the pitch.
I looked in vain for a Sunderland connection, but couldn’t find one. The Annan players were all SFL journeymen, while Thistle had a couple of former Darlington men and Simon Donnelly who played for Sheffield Wednesday as they slipped down the leagues in the late 90s. Their manager, Ian McCall, was from nearby Dumfries and his father had taught for many years at Annan Academy , educating the now middle aged scions of that community.
Like last week at Raith, it was part time against full time and, like last week, the part timers made the full timers work hard. Athletic missed a couple of half decent chances and it was only in the final quarter of the game that Partick really imposed themselves on it. Donnelly scored a very good goal with seven minutes left to send the travelling support into paroxysms of delight and left with a deserved but hard fought passage into the next round.
Annan had attracted a four figure crowd to their neat and tidy and perfectly adequate ground and the local constabulary dozed the game away as they looked in vain for any Partick HeadHunters. Thistle fans seemed a decent bunch and I assume are made up of atheists, Jews, Hindus Moslems and Buddhists, who can obviously find no common religious ground with the Old Firm – or The Ugly Sisters to use Mr Penman’s shrewd observations on the Scottish game again.
Thistle played in their traditional red and yellow hooped shirts much to the delight of one groundhopping friend I met there. They should have changed as there may have been a clash with Annan’s black and amber stripes, but their new away kit hadn’t arrived, so Annan very kindly agreed to wear blue.
The rain held off, the chicks were ready and waiting at The Olde Worlde Shoppinge Village and we returned on a glorious evening via the Military Road so we could see Hadrians Wall snaking over the Whin Sill, reminding me of WH Auden’s Roman Wall Blues;
Over the heather the wet wind blows
I’ve lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose
The rain comes pattering out of the sky
I’m a wall soldier and I don’t know why
Another grand day out in the pursuit of the beautiful game!
Next: a trip to Germany and Stephen Wilson remembered.