Bring me sunshine, as a certain Lancashire comic said as he waved goodbye to the coastal resort which provided his stage name. And after a few years in Lancashire I think I realise what Eric was driving at.
We may only be in October, but sheer persistence in the rain department earlier this month left us regular match-goers already wondering whether we were wasting our time heading to games – in fear of early-season postponements. It wasn’t just in the precipitous North-West either.
In some cases, council pitches playing host to amateur and junior sport were designated no-go zones, and in another week of heavy showers we saw several games lost to water-logging.
While the more optimistic of us hoped to be part-way through an Indian summer, it turned out more monsoon-like, that glorious summer of Euro 2012 and the London Olympics ever more distant.
I hate to be a pessimist (although it goes with the territory, I guess) but winter’s already on the mind, and I recall a fellow press box reporter at Victory Park, Chorley, one freezing cold, miserable afternoon a few years back (no doubt during a turgid UniBond League lower-division non-spectacle) announce, “I’ll be glad when this bloody global warming everyone’s pratting on about finally kicks in.”
Something that never seemed to go away during my years covering matches all over the North – from Gretna to Willenhall Town and from Workington to Spalding – were those weather stories.
It’s not as if we had a balmy summer this year. It wasn’t without reason that I upgraded from tent to family caravan late doors on a late-August break to Dumfries and Galloway, after a site owner enquired how I expected to get my car on to his camping field.
And now, with one of Britain’s wettest summers on record behind us, we’re left with the legacy, the pitches already knackered and a downpour of postponements surely on the horizon.
That got me thinking just how many wasted journeys we’ve all experienced over the years. And I don’t just mean because your team has come away empty-handed.
I’m talking about bizarre reasons for call-offs, and I’ll start the ball rolling (so to speak) with mention of a Conference match a few years back being abandoned after legendary Woking defender Kevan Brown fell down a hole that suddenly appeared in his own half, later put down to underground improvements works. A club official worked heroically with a bucket of sand, but to no avail. The sight of his fellow players looking down into the abyss still haunts several fans.
Then there’s those nights where you travel more than 150 miles only to be told by some goon of a club official that the ref’s just called it off, because of a little frost on one side of the pitch. That happened to me at Coventry City one midweek in the ’90s, after an early dart from work from Leyland for an FA Cup clash. Gutting. And I’m sure you’ve got similar tales of woe.
The season’s barely started of course, and most of us still have seven miserable months ahead before we are relegated, reach a point of mid-table mediocre safety, or blow the play-offs.
But I wonder just how many of you will find yourself walking away in despair this year after a deluge at Stormy Corner, Skelmersdale, freak conditions leave you on the rocks at Seel Park, Mossley, near-marooned at Marine FC, victim to a tidal wave at Seamer Road, Scarborough, or when a sudden squall collapses the drawbridge at the Moat Ground, Gresley.
It doesn’t matter how far up the tree your team are. I recall shards of ice hanging from the terraces ruling out a game at The Stadium of Light, and at the same ground Reading fans had to turn back barely an hour before kick-off because of a late postponement for a waterlogged pitch … this August!
But whatever you encounter this season, remember it’s all good character-building, and ultimately what makes you British and a true sports fan.
“A little bit or rain/snow/ice/tornado? Hah! Didn’t stop us when we did that topless conga the day we were beat 5-0 at Brunton Park, Carlisle. Get your coat on, lad, or we’ll never find a parking spot.”
A version of this Malcolm Wyatt article first appeared on the http://www.sportnw.co.uk website on October 2nd, 2012.