Monday, 30 April 2007

Death of a football ground

Nuneaton Borough vs Vauxhall Motors

I'd hazard a guess Manor Park is just the place William Carlos Williams had in mind when he took such delight in the 'anarchy of poverty.' It's exactly the sort of creation you'd expect to find down the local allotments, and today we were witness to the final competitive game ever to be played here, prior to the Brewers' move across town to Liberty Way.

Nuneaton's sun-soaked town centre was brimming with riot police when we arrived; presumably Warwickshire's finest were expecting some spin-off from Coventry's game with West Brom, as there wasn't a great deal of tension surrounding the main event. The ever-clandestine Holty had considered covering his face with a Greggs' cheese and onion pasty, but somehow slipped by unprotected and undetected.

After walking round the ringway and down Queens Road for probably the last ever time, we arrived to find the Cock and Bear End - a fine vantage point - bedecked with countless flags, and playing host to most of the 2,000-plus souls who eventually turned up to enjoy the sunshine.

Vauxhall Motors' coach had suffered a breakdown on the way from the Wirral, and it wasn't until around 3.30 that their squad gingerly entered the arena, red-faced and besuited and to a derisive chorus from the home crowd. Sufficient time, then, to visit a urinal so deep that Skippy is kept on standby in case of lost children.

A lively enough game ensued after some prolonged parading of 'legends,' and an extended encore from the Scotch pipers, whose repertoire was dragged to wedgie point with a wailing rendition of Auld Lang Syne, deep into what should have been first half injury time. On the pitch, Gez Murphy scored for the Boro' before Motors' excellent number ten equalised. Some tidy play followed, but neither team was incisive enough to particularly deserve the victory.

Two male streakers (and no police) later and the match was over. Both teams gathered for a squeeze of Lucozade and a rendition of The Last Post before a netful of perhaps fifty ballons was manhandled onto the pitch by some enthusiastic young 'uns.

Three neckless specimens in hi-vis jackets tried manfully to free the contents, and after five minutes managed to liberate a lone balloon. This in turn quivered back and forth on a breeze of indecision, briefly motioning towards the sanctuary of a corrugated stand roof, before bravely mounting a noble cross-wind (and doubtless popping on a TV aerial somewhere quixotic like Bedworth).

Then the customary pitch invasion, and that was that. "We'll be coming back next year," raged a small quorum of die-hards, as the curious onlookers (myself included) dissipated towards our rail replacement buses.

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