Monday, February 28, 2011

Pink Gloves OK

Exiled Bull finds the Kassam cures superstitions:

Back in December, there was a glove crisis at chez Exile. While visiting the Reebok Stadium, I purchased a new pair in the mall next door. The gloves were a distinctive colour, hard for me to resist as I like “proper” colours. I wore the gloves during the game which the Yo-Yo’s lost. When I wore the gloves to their next match and they lost again, it was clearly the fault of the hand warmers. Thus despite being the most expensive pair I’d ever bought, they couldn’t be trusted at games. They were confined to the drawer ...until I visited the Kassam.

This perfectly logical behaviour is nothing new for me. Back in the mid-1970’s, United were in the Third Division. I’d admired a satin silk scarf in the club shop for a long time. After several weeks of saving my pocket money, I’d amassed enough to buy the scarf before a home match with Plymouth. Very pleased with my new purchase, I immediately put it around my neck for the game. Argyle was in rampart form and sunk Hereford 5-1. I was young then and such a heavy defeat was hard to take. The next week, I wore the scarf again in tacit support of the team playing a game about 150 miles distant. The resultant heavy defeat was clearly the fault of the scarf. From then on I treated it like nuclear waste. It was locked in my bedroom and never allowed out.

Now I’m in my sixth decade of active support for the Bulls, I’m older and arguably wiser now. The gloves were expensive and therefore had to be worth a second chance. Besides hadn’t Er Indoors assured me the gloves would be fine for United matches? Thus out they came.

I’ve been to the Kassam before but even so the three sided stadium still looks so odd. From certain angles one can imagine that the car park is the fourth side. Like Carlsberg, Oxford doesn’t do ordinary grounds. Their previous ground, the Manor was not easy to forget.

I was startled to read that the Bulls last visit to Oxford was in 1977-78. By strange coincidence, that was the first time I’d ever travelled to see Hereford in an away League match. Quite a challenge then in those pre sat nav, internet and ground guide book days. I was 18 and drove myself. The subsequent feeling of dislocation and challenge is one of the few memories I retain from that trip along with a fairly comprehensive defeat.

Again by coincidence I was researching the O’s old ground recently for an e-book project. Here’s an extract:

“The terraces were fronted by a Stalag Luft style fence which only permitted a view of some of the goalmouth action. These prison camp type restrictions in a highly affluent Oxford suburb looked out of place but then the Manor Ground WAS out of place. Each stand was constructed piecemeal without any regard to its neighbours. The overall impression lacked only “For Sale” signs to complete the image of a used football stand wholesaler.

Away supporters had Hobson’s choice of either overpriced seats in a low stand by the corner flag or a crazily shaped small-stepped fenced open terrace. Access to both was along a narrow, ill-lit alleyway, separating the ground from the Sir John Radcliffe hospital. There was no hint of the nearby charms. Following the same alleyway away from the ground took you past a series of splendid back gardens and eventually out into a small Oxfordshire village complete with two delightful pubs. It was only years later when these delights became widely known ... and then the U’s moved house. “

So a spectacular contrast. The missing end apart, the Kassam is a routine new generation ground. It is comfortable, safe but lacks real football history. A little bit of history was created on Saturday – presumably Oxford’s first ever home defeat by the Bulls? The gloves “came through” though there were large passages of play when I feared defeat. Admired Hereford’s resilience and team spirit but oh my they would benefit from more composure and contact lenses for the otherwise admirable Harry Pell. Keep the ball guys!

The pink gloves and I will be back again soon though ironically the warmer spring days are almost upon us

This one is for Jean who pointed out I haven’t contributed to Bulls News for ages. Cheers Jean.