April 10 2012
Many of you will have read ‘KarlMarx’ excellent opening article for his new Plankwalker’s Blog . . . . Here for those who haven’t read it is the tale in full. . . . . PLUS in the coming weeks we’ll be publishing regular extracts from the blog, so look out for them
All supporters of sporting clubs of all forms are different. Some go to the odd game here and there, some buy their season tickets, but not travel away, some never miss a game home or away, even births, deaths and marriages take second place.
Some are curtailed to a degree by money, family commitments, work, etc, and then some are either exiles or supporters for reasons other than the traditional loyalty to their hometown club and get to what games they can.
As those who have read ‘From hell to happiness’ will know, I am of the latter category.
Even going back to my football days, I loved away trips more so than home games, as it was always a chance to combine my love of travelling and taking in different towns, grounds and clubs, with following my team.
My Mum and Dad just used to roll their eyes and smile, when they asked me what my plans were for the day on Saturday mornings over breakfast, and I would say, ‘I’m off to watch to Brentford at……….’, and this would normally mean a round trip of at least 200 miles.
Cue twenty years later, and I’m still doing the same thing, but instead following the fortunes of the Pirates anywhere between Penzance (when I can get down to Cornwall) and Yorkshire.
Whilst I would rather be living in the Duchy, one of the advantages of living near London, and the various transport connections that the capital offers, is that I am usually no more than three to four hours travel time away from other clubs in the Championship.
Whilst like other ‘exiles’, I may do a fair amount of travelling, it is nothing compared to those Pirates supporters who make the long journeys from Cornwall to the likes of London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Yorkshire every other week. They are the true heroes of this tale.
Fast forward to last Saturday and the Pirates visit to Clifton Lane, the home of Rotherham RUFC, or the Titans in new money.
Along with a number of other Pirates supporters, this is one of my favourite trips. Take a look at the town, and it is sadly familiar to many others in South Yorkshire in that still to this day, struggle after the demise of the once mighty coal and steel industries some twenty to thirty years prior.
Of course many towns and villages in Cornwall will no doubt sympathise and understand their plight having suffered themselves similarly with the disappearance of the tin mines and the fishing industry constantly plundered by the bureaucrats in Brussels, but at least some in the Duchy have been able to re-invent themselves as tourist hubs and thus carve out a living.
However, landlocked towns like Rotherham have found the going much tougher, and at first glance the town centre may give an impression that there is little going for it, however, I was always brought up to never judge a book by its cover. Scratch the surface and you see true beauty in the warmth, friendliness and spirit of the people, and there is no truer example of this than at its senior rugby club.
A fifteen to twenty minute walk ‘up hill and down dale’ (well, this is Yorkshire) from the recently smartly rebuilt railway station brings me to the ground and with it one of the best greetings I have received when entering a rugby club. ‘Good afternoon, we hope you have a wonderful stay with us, a safe journey home, and that you will be truly p***ed off come the final whistle – Fourteen pound me duck’ said the ageing steward in finest local tounge and humour.
Walking away chuckling to myself, my now ravenous stomach was calling me to the finest of local dishes – Steak pie and mushy peas – Plenty of it in a fine polystyrene tray, and plastic cutlery, and at £3.50, good value too – Northern fine dining at its best!
Whilst we all gather from far-flung parts of Cornwall and England to hopefully witness a much needed Pirates victory in the Play Offs, the main draw for me, and I’m sure for many other supporters, is the chance to meet up again with fellow Pirates of which many have become friends, and although we may see one another every two or three weeks, everyone is greeted with a cheery smile and very often a handshake.
For someone like myself who suffers from social anxieties and finds it difficult to engage in conversation with people and make friends, I cannot express how much this means to me to see friendly faces and feel genuinely welcomed by people.
Pirates matches are one of the few places that I can relax at and not feel as though I have anything to prove. I feel at home just as I would with my own family, as for me supporting the Cornish Pirates feels like being part of an extended family, and that for me is why I support the club, because I want it to succeed, not just for me, but for everyone involved.
The game itself was like every match seems to be at ‘Roth’ – A tight, intense affair, where the Titans’ physical, almost intimidating, forward oriented brand of rugby plays to its strengths on a very narrow pitch.
They are games where you can never relax, and that you are relieved, whatever the result, when that final whistle blows. In the past , the Pirates have often had the flair almost strangulated out of them, but these days, Cornwall’s finest have a pretty powerful pack of their own, and ensured that opportunities, however scarce, were taken, and with the score at 0-11 after 40 minutes after a try from Phil Burgess and two penalties from Rob Cook, it seemed that the bullies were being given a taste of their own medicine, and within a minute of the re-start, Cook’s trusty squat stance and boot from the penalty kick made it fourteen points to the good.
However, you can never say never with Rotherham, and they came back with a try, before Cook again struck a penalty with aplomb to make it 7-17.
The Pirates were pretty much in control throughout the game, and withstood many forays against their defensive line.
Titans did make a late rally with a try, but ‘Sir’ blew up straight after the conversion. A 14-17 scoreline didn’t really do the Pirates performance the justice it deserved, but any victory is a success at Clifton Lane and thus it proved to be.
The atmosphere at this particular venue is always good. The Pirate’s supporters were in great voice as ever to shout the team to victory, but faced competition from a bunch of confident youngsters, all around eleven years of age, who proceeded to out shout the old dogs.
However, these experienced campaigners were not going to let the young pups win this battle anymore than the players on the field, but in all fairness the kids put up a good fight and a draw was a fair result, although it took a few days for my voice to recover.
It was great to see kids at the game, enjoying themselves and getting involved, as they are the future of the sport.
So, is Britain as broken as it really looks? Scratch the surface and you will see otherwise. If you want proof of that, make a trip to Rotherham next season.
From Plankwalker’s Blog
The musings of a Cornish Pirate that is erm, not Cornish