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Barrow fans' odyssey

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TheRonRaffertyFanClub
February 6, 2020, 11:04am Report to Moderator
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From today's Times, Taylor Nelson, a Barrow fan's story of Barrow's away trip to Dover.

Worth a read and might bring back a few memories for the Mariners' away supporters.


Seven-hundred-and-sixty-eight miles. That’s how far me and 24 other Barrow fans travelled last night to watch our beloved side face Dover Athletic at the Crabble Ground. We knew it would be a long journey — what we didn’t know is that we’d end up giving the players a lift home.

As regular faces met once again at the usual pick-up stop of Ramsden Square at 10am, we were optimistic. Our side are top of the National League after a superb run of 15 games without defeat, a run which stretches back to October and a 4-2 defeat by Torquay United.

We were delighted to hear of the manager Ian Evatt’s generosity, as he had purchased bacon and sausage buns for the travelling fans. Evatt has been in charge since June 2018 following a short-spell as interim Chesterfield manager before their relegation to the National League.

The supporters’ bus contained a wide-range of personalities and ages, from people like myself, 18 and approaching the final year of their college studies, to an 82-year-old woman who continues to be the life and soul at the very front of the bus.

She and many others on the bus remember the days of Barrow last occupying a place in the Football League back in 1972 before they were cruelly elected out in favour of Hereford United purely due to geographical reasons (many clubs were reluctant to travel to remote locations such as Barrow-in-Furness in the northwest).

A victory against Dover would have taken us ten points clear of our nearest rivals, Harrogate Town, and moved us closer to a return to the Football League following a long absence.

As usual with our southern away trips, we took the opportunity to stop at Norton Canes services to get a bite to eat, with many fleeing to McDonalds. Norton Canes has become a ritual of sorts. We always stop there, where football fans of various teams are often seen — it can lead to some good laughs.

We eventually arrived at 6.30pm and supporters split from this point, with some heading to a nearby pub whereas myself and a handful of others made our way to the ground and settled in the clubhouse, watching the Ligue 1 fixture between Lille and Stade Rennais. We had been met by a decent contingent of southern exiles, who can always be counted upon to further increase the away support at matches in this part of the world.

And finally the match. After a long journey we witnessed a rather subdued performance. It looked like being a good point when John Rooney slotted the ball down the middle from the penalty spot to make it 1-1 in the 81st minute.

A trio of attacking changes to get ourselves back into the game — we had five recognised strikers on the pitch at once — allowed them to take advantage of our exposed back-line and Michael Woods scored a winner in the 88th minute. It did little to dampen the mood of the travelling fans though, who applauded the players off at the end of the game, gleefully chanting songs about our promotion hopes.

We made our way back to the bus, ready for the return home. Except, that didn’t happen.

Instead, we waited for around 20 minutes as we rescued our players and staff, whose bus had unfortunately broke down. For several hours we were a club united in more than one sense. Laughter was shared as staff and around 16 players trudged onto the coach. Fortunately, we had hired a bigger bus than we needed, giving those on the bus more room to roam — at least on the way there — as players mingled with the supporters on the way back.

Conversations began between fans, players and staff, with the exception of Evatt and a couple of his entourage, who swapped the bus for their own transport. He didn’t exit quietly though, thanking us for our support.

Discussions ranged from Love Island to debating arrangements for the stop on the way home. When we arrived there, players rushed to make their individual KFC orders. One of the club’s employees, Ryan, kindly bought a range of sandwiches and sausage rolls for the supporters. Eventually, fans and players took the opportunity to take a well-deserved sleep.

One thing was highlighted once again though during the journey: the coach in which was occupied by familiar faces to one-another remained, in many ways, a family.

Following numerous disruptions — including a diversion signwould have continued to divert us around the same roundabout all night until we realised it was pointing the wrong way — we finally arrived back in Barrow at 6:45am, nearly 21 hours after we left.

There have been plenty of lows through the years and the loyalty shown during this trip and many others is being rewarded this season — even if that does include losing after such a long journey.


"Ah but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” Bob Dylan, My Back Pages
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Abdul19
February 6, 2020, 11:27am Report to Moderator

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Great read, thanks Ron. And to shoehorn a tenuous GTFC link in, the winning goal was scored by Neil Woods' nephew!


“I hit the ball as though it owed me money.”
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Posh Harry
February 6, 2020, 1:18pm Report to Moderator
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5 strikers on the pitch when you are drawing takes some balls!

I seem to remember Bignot getting slaughtered at Stevenage for having 4 on the pitch, but we were 2 or 3 down at the time!
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The Yard Dog
February 7, 2020, 2:11pm Report to Moderator
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You have the Premiership and everything that comes with it.  This story is what football is all about at the lower level.
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mariner91
February 7, 2020, 2:15pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Posh Harry
5 strikers on the pitch when you are drawing takes some balls!

I seem to remember Bignot getting slaughtered at Stevenage for having 4 on the pitch, but we were 2 or 3 down at the time!


He was slaughtered because he literally just chucked them on with no plan. And it resulted in our best striker by a country mile basically playing in midfield for the last 20 minutes and I don’t think we mustered a single shot on goal.


Grimsby till I die.
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TheRonRaffertyFanClub
February 11, 2020, 10:54am Report to Moderator
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A follow up from The Times about the experiences of other non-league fans.

Perhaps they should include some L2 adventures as well?

Another round of midweek fixtures brings further tests of even the hardiest supporters’ dedication: days off work, travelling through the night or scouring for cheap accommodation, all in the knowledge that the risk remains of a drab defeat, or even a postponement, at the opposite end of the country.

Tomorrow night is no different, with Yeovil Town’s followers facing a 560-mile round trip to Harrogate Town in the National League, while Plymouth supporters will travel 590 miles up to Salford and back to watch their side’s League Two encounter.

Last week, 25 hardy Barrow fans travelled 768 miles on a Tuesday night to see their side play Dover Athletic, only to be rewarded with a first defeat since October. The long journey back was made more eventful by the Barrow team bus breaking down, prompting players and staff to join the supporters on their coach, which arrived home at 6:45am.

We spoke to fans of other National League clubs about their eventful away-day experiences when trekking the length and breadth of Britain.

Mark Carroll, Hartlepool fan
I’ve only missed two games since 2006, and they were both while I was organising my wedding and getting married. It’s like a drug that keeps pulling you back. The travelling is huge for Hartlepool fans. It’s a very southern-based league, so three hours is almost a local game for us.

Yeovil is a 650-mile round-trip, so when we drew them away in the FA Cup earlier this season, like we do for all long away days, we stayed overnight before the game.

We arrived at the ground the day of the game at 12:30, only to be told there would be a pitch inspection an hour later. The match was then called off 90 minutes before kick-off.

We’d travelled all that way, with all that expense, and the game was rearranged for the Tuesday night three days later. An away game like that can easily cost over £100, and by the time we got back to Hartlepool it was almost time to head back to Yeovil again. There was about 30 seconds of doubt in my mind about going, but I knew I had to be there.

I went into work on the Monday and told them I needed the next two days off to go to Yeovil again. I’ve been to Yeovil three times this season – in the nicest possible way I’ll be pleased not to see them again for a while. At least we won the rearranged match 4-1.

We then drew Exeter away in the next round, so off we went on the Friday night again. I’ve been to Exeter before for an away game and only arrived at half-time due to traffic, and we had to bang on the gates like idiots to get the stewards’ attention to let us in. We’d travelled 350 miles for 45 minutes of football, but we won the game and all our goals came in the second half — it was definitely worth it.

Jordan Ford, Harrogate fan
We played Havant & Waterlooville last year, nearly five hours away, and on the way down our coach got taken out on a roundabout by a lorry carrying a packed-up fairground ride.

It put the door through on our coach and broke the glass, and we weren’t sure if we could continue. The coach driver rang his company, I was on the phone to our club secretary, but in the end we were able to continue for the last hour of the journey. The club offered to send the players’ coach to collect us, which shows the close bond we have.

At the game itself we were behind the goal and when we scored we rushed forward. The gates flew open and we all ended up on the pitch on top of each other, so it was a trip to remember. We won 2-1.

We’ve come a long way in a few years. My very first away match following Harrogate was at Barrow, and I booked on to the supporters’ coach. I got told shortly after that the bus had been cancelled because only four other people had booked on.

Now we have bigger numbers and close relationships with other clubs, particularly AFC Fylde. We’ve had a couple of games of football on Lytham St Annes beach against them before games in the past — it’s what non-League is all about.

Lee Bowman, Dover fan
Ebbsfleet is our nearest away day, 55 miles away, but the National League should be national, and we wouldn’t want it any other way with regionalisation.

For a lot of away days we often plan train times and book tickets three of four months before the fixture. We also make sure our pub crawls are all mapped out beforehand too, which is especially exciting for new trips.

I’ve made the 250-mile trip to Macclesfield twice and I’ve seen 60 minutes of football in total— we had one game postponed and then one abandoned.

The first Macclesfield match was postponed the morning of the match. We had only got as far as nearby Folkestone, about 20 minutes from Dover, when we found out the news. But we all had non-refundable train tickets, so we decided to travel up anyway and off we went, spending the afternoon going round the pubs in Macclesfield.

Our second visit was a bitterly cold and foggy day and the referee decided to abandon the match midway through the second half. As they called it off the fog cleared and we had the best view of the pitch we’d had all afternoon. We were a bit frustrated but we were losing 1-0 and when in the warmth of the pub we just looked back and accepted that away days in Macclesfield are obviously cursed.

Steve Rossall, AFC Fylde fan
You need to have a good boss or plenty of leave to be a non-League fan — you have to plan any holidays and days off around away days, especially the midweek ones.

We had one away game at Whitley Bay where the coach picked us up at our usual pick-up point, and we got halfway down the motorway before it started huffing and puffing and packed in. We all had to bail on to the hard shoulder and wait for a replacement.

A week later the same coach came to pick us up for another away game, we all jumped in and it broke down again. Two weeks in a row we were let down by the same coach.

Fylde fans often face long trips south from their Lancashire home. It’s not just traffic that can let you down. Last season for Torquay away, we booked hotels and coaches well in advance. A couple of days before there was a lot of snow around so we called the hotel to check what would happen if the game was called off. They said: “You don’t need to worry about that, it hasn’t snowed in Torquay for ten years”.

The following day it hammered down with snow and the match was called off. It was rearranged for a Tuesday night - 38 of us managed to make the 300-mile trip to see us win 3-1.

Rob Brown, Halifax fan
This year we went to Bromley in October, it was pouring down with rain and we were put in the only uncovered part of the ground.

Bizarrely they had police in the ground and they were standing in the covered section watching us. We could easily have fitted in a covered part of the ground, but there we were, wet through. We went on to have a man sent off and lose 5-0, so it wasn’t the best of days.

But on the away trips the result is not necessarily the important thing — a win is just a bonus. You don’t set off at 6am thinking about winning, it’s about the day out with everyone.

A few years ago, at Aldershot away on a Tuesday night, there were 40 of us but the tannoy announced the away attendance as 27. It didn’t take long for us to count ourselves up and quickly correct them. For away games like that you get to the ground and look around and you immediately know who’s not there; we’re that close.

Long midweek away days are part of the fun; it’s a badge of honour to make it. The league knows arranging them won’t massively impact attendances — those who go will attend regardless.


"Ah but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” Bob Dylan, My Back Pages
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Mallyner
February 11, 2020, 11:32am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from The Yard Dog
You have the Premiership and everything that comes with it.  This story is what football is all about at the lower level.


Exactly.

These stories are ones that interest me, not ones from some of my plastic Premier League following mates, who spit out names of foreign players, as if they know them personally.  


Supporting Town for 64 years.  
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TownSNAFU5
February 11, 2020, 1:11pm Report to Moderator
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It is heart-warming to read these stories. Maintains your faith in true supporters.

Bromley could have let the Halifax fans into a covered area.  Very mean.

Didn’t a club let Town fans Into a covered area once when it was chucking it down?
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Les Brechin
February 11, 2020, 1:30pm Report to Moderator

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Quoted from TownSNAFU5
It is heart-warming to read these stories. Maintains your faith in true supporters.

Bromley could have let the Halifax fans into a covered area.  Very mean.

Didn’t a club let Town fans Into a covered area once when it was chucking it down?


Boxing Day 1990, Reading almost did.

For some stupid reason the game was an 11am kick off so we had to leave at stupid o'clock to make sure we got there in time. It was at their old ground Elm Park which had an open away terrace. It started pissing down on the way there and never let up.

At half-time to 300 or so Town fans on the open terrace were already drenched when a steward said that they were going to put us in the covered end of the side stand near to the away end. The first few began moving until some old boy sat there already complained that he paid x amount extra to sit under cover and didn't want a load of away fans in with him so they changed their mind and we stayed on the open terrace for the 2nd half too.  We played crap and lost 2-0 so it was a day to forget all round really.



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Garth
February 11, 2020, 1:52pm Report to Moderator

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Quoted from mariner91


He was slaughtered because he literally just chucked them on with no plan. And it resulted in our best striker by a country mile basically playing in midfield for the last 20 minutes and I don’t think we mustered a single shot on goal.


Wasn't that the match where we had a dodgy keeper in goal, let me think, plays for one of the Sheffield clubs now I believe
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