Monday, 18 December 2006

Saturday, 3.40pm

I stumbled across this post about the Valley Parade fire today, and suddenly realised that the TV pictures of the disaster on the Six O'Clock News must be among my earliest football memories - nothing much to speak of, just the bulging inferno etched somewhere on a childhood memory under the name Valley Parade.

The archive film remains absolutely shocking, though I'm not sure I've seen it since I was really young. Perhaps it's no wonder that I used to have nightmares about fires as a child. But it's particularly sobering when I consider how I love these old ramshackle football grounds nowadays; many of the most atmospheric grounds I visit with Darlo still have an old wooden stand or two - and Everton cram thousands into the thundering wood-floored Bullens Road balcony, which dates back to the 1920s, and gives Goodison Park a real sense of memory.

3.40pm - when the fire started - signifies a Saturday reverie for me. I'm generally people-watching, reflecting on how dull the match is, or just generally ignoring the game. In all likelihood my toes are freezing and I'm contemplating a half-time cup of tea.

Granted, things have changed since 1985, but it's sobering to watch the initially unremarkable footage - management and supporters sat or stood looking equally glum - and know that in four minutes' time over 50 of those people would be dead or fatally injured. Then Heysel happened just days or weeks later.

I'm sure that thought will cross my mind again, and I have found myself wondering what would have happened if that grandstand had been filled with plastic seats in the name of safety - and only the occasional stairway along which to flee, as is the case with the majority of grounds 'improved' since Hillsborough.

Nothing less than chilling.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Lull, lol.

My first post in over a month and FAR be it from me to debase this blog by lauding a multinational pharmaceuticals corp - but this product is officially worthy, and **oh!** such good value at something like ten quid per precious, soothing drop. Indeed its every appearance has in recent times been heralded in these parts by a choir of angels.

So now that wee Sammy is colic-free and chitter-chattery again by day (this boy quite literally has an appetite for his books, many of which are currently spread around the house drying off), it's about time I gave this radio station the TUTD endorsement, a little sleepy somewhere to stream to in the small hours. Almost as good as the Metasciences' Intergalactic Lullaby, which I keep plugging but gets greater with every play.

Thursday, 2 November 2006

"These things aren't real until you blog them"

And they're barely blinking real afterwards, either.

Born Stoke-on-Trent City General on 11 July 2006, at 05.16am, weight 8Ib 6oz.

Early signs of labour began with the final Italian penalty, Kate was in hospital from 2.30pm on Monday, and delivered the baby by Ventoose at 5.16am after too many brave, exhausting hours. She's the greatest, and he looks just like her.

His name is Samuel James (maybe after the dreamer Coleridge; Js. in memory of my brother), but we'll just call him Sam for now.

Off to see him again in a min :-)

Monday, 9 October 2006

The Enemy Within


"TWO Pendle men have appeared before Pennine magistrates accused of having "a master plan" after what is believed to be a record haul of chemicals used in making home-made bombs was found in Colne."

Sadly, we can't send this lot back.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Another Disaster, Nine!

Goalmouth action at Clough Hall

Kidsgrove Athletic 0-0 Leek Town

My all-time favourite description of Kidsgrove records that this place is "happy to never be where the action is." This was never truer than today, local rivalry or none, with a big crowd and a sense of occasion initially promising better.

Leek's following, home or away, invariably comes packaged with a boisterous soundtrack. A collection of foghorns bellows "WHAT AN EMBARRASSMENT, REFEREE" and "ANOTHER DISASTER, NINE," at intervals of about five seconds throughout the match.

There's rarely any foul language here, as offenders this far down the pyramid can so easily find themselves the subject of a glare and a tap on the shoulder with the thermos flask or walking stick.

Indeed, the Kidsgrove number 9 looked rather overtaken by anxiety as he was taken off, chewing his shirt all the way to the touchline, just as my wobbly-headed two-month old sucks the top of his dungarees.

A brace of excellent saves by Kidsgrove keeper Matthew Conkie followed by the withdrawal of Leek's best players Adrian Littlejohn (what, THE Adrian Littlejohn?) and Alan Naginton, and that really *was* it. Oh, and a corner sometime in the first half, which you can see in the picture.

The two sides will replay on Tuesday night for the honour of taking on, oooh I don't know, could be Glossop North End or New Mills (if they're lucky.)

And so England's best cultural and sporting tradition fizzes on; as does a busy footballing fortnight for me, with Darlington travelling to the Gay Meadow new weekend. Plus some serious evenings of payback when Sammy's on to the bottle, I sense... ;-)

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Crass Observation

Parenthood combined with the taking of annual leave heightens life's excitement in ways you could never imagine. And so descended the realisation that we'd two or three hours to waste before Sammy was due in Bradeley for his injections at ten to two.

So what could we do that we'd never done before? Inexplicably, to you and us, we plumped for a whizz round Congleton. Well, y'know, anywhere with pushchair-friendly surfaces will do nowadays - and they say this place has the best quality of life in the region (cue activation of the previously dormant "ooh, there's a nice school" chip.)

Until now I had only ever thought of Cheshire as the pancake-flat motorway county where you keep two chevrons apart (presumably under pain of being sent down to spend the rest of eternity in Alderley Edge, taunted by 10,000 wispish apparitions of Rio Ferdinand with Usher ringtones.)

I once met an otherwise stoical Congleton-dweller at Harrison Park who expressed his heartfelt sympathy that I'd ever consider living in Stoke-on-Trent, almost as if ST6 were the nailsest place on earth.

And to be honest, I've never been able to conjure up any grounds to disagree, chiefly because I've barely ever stopped an hour in Cheshire (Moss Rose excepted), despite now living six miles from it. Having been a Nowhere Midlander all my life (an unholy identity), I naturally look down on Birmingham, barely bothering with the North Wet, simple as.

Anyway, I present my findings below; some clearly authoritative observations about Cheshire (well, a representative square mile or so of it, I'm sure) that emerged once I had finished wiping the liquid culture shock from my brow.

1. It's mostly flat and wealthy-looking like my native Warwickshire; indeed, Congleton is a lot like Kenilworth without the castle and the Walter Scott novel, but with more of an economy. Still feels like a dormitory town though.

2. All of the parents out walking are at least twenty years older than you'd meet in Burslem, and don't seem to feel so compelled to pimp up their pushchairs. That said, I'm sure Cheshire's less-visible teen parents are all the more marginalised for being in the minority.

3. Contrary to received wisdom, there are only as many 4x4s as there are in the Potteries (Burslem surely has more if you count the huge Jeep pushchairs), but unlike in Stoke, they do not dwarf their owners' terraced houses.

4. Congleton's war memorial is far less solemn than in most towns. If anyone can tell me what the conscript perched on top of it is actually doing, then great. For my money, he's trying to stagger through the door of the half-timbered pub opposite, but has grossly misjudged the necessary distance of his forward lunge.

5. You can tell it's a Tory constituency and must have a Tory-led council because the parking's free (biggest issue they can think of in affluent small towns), and the town's cafes are all athrong with would-be electors whingeing loudly about the crime rate and asylum seekers, despite the fact that there's next to none of either in Congleton.

And that, I surmise, dear reader, is really all there is to Cheshire, apart from a nice boat lift up the road. Is the famed "quality of life" in this prestigious county palatine really worth the extra £150,000 you haven't got?

Say "bollocks!" to Sarah Beeney and co, stick with North Staffs.

Wednesday, 9 August 2006


Accrington Stanley 0-2 Darlington

After weeks of high-level diplomacy, Kofi Annan announced yesterday that twouptwodown had secured the official nod for its first night off.

It was time to flee the metropolis and follow the hoards north toward the small-but-spreadeagled Lancashire (former) mill town of Accrington. There, in the alma mater of the Monkees' Davy Jones, the local first eleven were about to play host to the mighty Quakers in their second game of the season.


As ever I had consciously opted to limit my chances of a timely arrival by assuming that the ground would be either signposted, blindingly obvious, or that four halogen stars would make themselves manifest on the eastern horizon.

As usual I was very much mistaken. After acting the tourist in one of those places you'd never go otherwise (Oswaldtwistle is part of the Accrington connurbation - a town unto itself in theory, but a sweetly serpentine kebabfest, basically), I chose the process-of-elimination method from a town centre crossroads, once the "follow the crowd" method failed miserably due to the lack of any obvious crowd. For those in the know, it wasn't quite as desperate as trying to locate the "big game" after alighting at BR Wellington, Salop ("Change Here for Hades").

This revelatory plan clicked into place after I belatedly detected a limp fragment of brown aluminium. This was draped artfully around a lamp post with the aid of a rusty screw. Detailed analysis by experts at the University of Massachussets have since suggested that this may once have been a directional sign to a relevant local attraction, perhaps back in the days when Accy last hosted a football league game, some 40 years ago.

After an hour of pinball-about-town, a piece of Escort-ensconced shiny polyester glimmered keenly in the rear view mirror, offering imminent hope. Lo and behold, there in front of me were the fluorescent jackets, the traffic cones, and a gaggle of ground-bounds. Still almost an hour to kick-off and all.


Only six cocktail-stick floodlights betrayed the existence of a football stadium, squatting wearily behind some rather low-rise local authority housing. Behind the crouching colloseum, a new-build housing development stood disdainful and pretentious, like the rearguard pieces in a plastic chess-set (note to self: when you've got forty smackers handy, get down to Webberley's and buy a proper one).

A single turnstile offered refuge from the imminent downpour. But the surprising presence of a queue (and coppers on motorcycles... and closed-off streets... at a Darlo away game!?) signalled the fact that Stanley, used to a visiting complement of 10 from the like of Gravesend & Northfleet, had run out of coins by 7pm.

A shaven official in a black bomber jacket stalled the crowd in clearly the only way he knew how - by starting an argument with the next guy in the queue over how he couldn't take his bike helmet and keys into the ground ("Err, thing is mate, I'm not being funny, laark, but you could knacker someone with that, couldn't you.")

Inside, I was joined by increasingly enthusiastic Darlo fan Willo and a couple of Liverpudlian hangers-on, who had reached the front of the queue for *cough* the "Main St. Diner" prior to my arrival. We all made our way cheerily to the open terrace, standing immediately behind the goal. The heavens promptly deposited their contents on Lancashire, and the hangers-on began to look regretful.


It seemed like the travelling Quakers had filled almost half of the ground, though that only required some 760 of them, probably the largest complement I've ever witnessed. The overall attendance was just over 2,600, Quakers gave us many reasons to be cheerful (both Vale defectors turned in good performances), and The Bald Messiah looked like he'd never been away, falling over and getting himself off-side a lot.

Sadly, Stanley struggled with their big occasion, despite the enthusiasm of the "Accy Ultras" (trouble is, there aren't many of you), and will struggle on, especially if they lack resources. It also seems likely that they might see a sub-thousand crowd at some point, maybe scraping their first win around Christmas. It's sad, really.

Other limited highlights included a chat with some ver pleasant Forest supporters at Charnock-something-or-other services, but that's about it, really...

Tuesday, 4 July 2006

Passion is the fashion

Down came the flags of St. George, who was a Palestinian, wasn't he ... and brimming with passion?

Faster than Venables could grope for the old excuses ("penalties are nothing but a lottery"). Faster even than vultures Lineker, Hush Puppy and Wrighty could muster their claw-tongued lynch mob to take down the foreign coach they'd been circling for the last fortnight. And OK, tactically he was pissier than a bottle of Bud, but he was also no less than the equal of his predecessors.

England were true to their glorious heritage, contriving to miss more penalties in five minutes than Germany have missed in their entire World Cup history. And Portugal beat our millionaire egos brave boys again, clearly because they, like most other countries, are simply better at kicking and catching footballs than we are. "We deserve it," Beckham had claimed a few days earlier, clearly believing his own hype.

Sven was a calm and collected, if lewd sort of a fellow who - so sniggered Wrighty and Hush Puppy - lacked the 'passion' to manage the England team. The same passion, indeed, that had led Taylor, Venables, Hoddle, Keegan, and indeed the great David Hodgson to such invigorating successes.

Holed up waiting for the birth as I have been, this World Cup has been marked out by the wild variations in the BBC's quality assurance of punditry, which has been either very poor (lynch mobs - I might as well have watched it at the Jolly Carter) or very good. Indeed, the Leonardo / O'Neill combination has been the best, least cliche-ridden half-time discussion in years - more of this, please, Beeb.

Who gives a toss once the underdogs are out anyway? It's time to look forward to the return of proper footeh, i.e. footeh that's actually aware of its own absurdist futility (which - FYI, unbelievers - is precisely what makes football compelling).

As luck would have it, the mighty, mighty Quakers are away to lowly Stoke City in the Littlewoods Cup (or whatever vessel it is now). This will be only my second trip to the Britannia Satdium. The tickets are cheap, the seats largely empty, and the away crowd scattering stoical and humorous in inevitably heavy defeat. This, dear readers, easily beats the hysterical part-time England mob.

A typical lynch mob at our games inevitably peters as follows:

Fan A (singing): "This is shite, Hodgy, get ooouuuutttt!"
Fan B (disbelieving): "We've been shite since 1883!"
Fan A: "What pies have they got?"

Better than the dawn chorus on a summer's day, that. Well, childbirth imminent (I hope), so I'm off directly to ply the bump bearer with bolognese ("Go directly to the kitchen, do not pass go - or any inviting-looking books of poems.").

Then I shall be delighting (equally directly) in this assortment of lullabies, including an infant bedtime cert by a band called Fuck Buddies & Tutu Clash.

Real tenterhooks affair, this.

Dai, Azzurri d'Italia!

Saturday, 17 June 2006


[The blog formerly known as] Two up, two down has spent one white-knuckled, vein-pulsing, eyeball-popping week, nervously pottering, drifting off into reverie, and looking forward to the impending birth of TUTD Jnr, as today Mrs. TUTD is officially "term," although that depends on which midwife you listen to. I hope this doesn't last five more weeks.

The only appropriate analogy I can summon is a footeh one I'm afraid; it's like being 1-0 up in a crucial encounter, excited, nervous, mostly gibbering (this post is just one instance, I'm afraid) and just hoping that nothing goes tits up. 90% of any cerebral substance not destroyed by career activity has turned to mush. I feel just like a SMASH robot, actually.

Now although Mrs. TUTD has been masterplanning and strategising her own regeneration for some nine years, I felt rather ambivalent for a long time, so It's A Good, Good Feeling, that mixture of high positivity and healthy apprehension.

Those dynamic, breezy, enviable folk at work keep asking why I'm so nervous and fidgety, but it's a trait that's innate in my case and, hey, it's just the way I'm built. Ta for that, ma. Anyway, this sorta state o'mind precludes coherent blogging of any sort.

Indeed, a certain lecturer at a certain north-eastern university once took the piss out of an essay I had written; "you seem to enjoy a dialectical relationship with clarity," he scrawled (leaving remnants of his satsuma stuck to the paper). "Bollocks" would have been more economical.

How perceptive. Readers will confirm that you were probably correct in your analysis, Dr. ~. Blogs are good for petty retribution, though, aren't they...? Actually, this isn't working, and so I promise to call time on this futile, self-indulgent pap as soon as this post is over.

I'll soon snap out of it by necessity. Meanwhile, is nothing sacred, I ask you? Patents and trademarks can bugger off, "I am what I am because of who we all are," etc. And that's the first time any operating system has every furnished me with The Moral of The Story.

I'll take a deep breath before my next tangent kicks in.