Unrecognisable

Posted: March 7, 2010 in Assorted Match Reports, Tranmere Rovers FC

Saturday 6th March 2010

A nostalgic day in Birkenhead.  Or it would be if there was much left to recognise:  gone are the Spillers flour mills where my mum used to work, gone are the ships from the docks where my dad sometimes worked, like his granddad before him.  Cammell  Lairds is still there , but its business isn’t;  all gone are the shop where I used to lust after subbuteo teams,  the favourite little bookshop, and of course that great little shop Skeleton Records, which moved between different premises around the town centre so many times, but has now gone to sell tickets for the great gig in the sky.

At least Prenton Park is still there; but because I only get there about once a season these days it’s still weird to me that it’s an all-seater stadium , it’s still weird to me that the away end is where the home end used to be, and it’s still weird to me that the only dog ever seen on the pitch these days is a dodgy character is a “Rover the mascot” suit.

Yes, things feel different these days at Prenton Park. Rovers even take an unaccustomed early lead when Gareth Edds meets Paul McLaren’s free-kick and Marlon Broomes nods home from close range. But Southampton soon restore my natural old-school pessimism, when Lee Barnard follows up to find the bottom corner, after Lallana’s shot is parried.

But, as I say, at least the place is still here, kept going, just about, by attendances of four to five thousand.  That must be about double what they were when I was coming regularly, every other Friday night, about a third of a century ago. Of course, a substantial number of this crowd are exactly the kind of people who the shiny all-seater  stadium and its “family atmosphere” were meant to attract – the middle class couples with the two young boys. The people in the seats right behind me in fact.

“Mmm, this green tea is delicious,” comments the bloke as he enjoys a sip from the family flask.  I hope the kids got to drink something nicer at half-time. And I assume those slices of organic vegetable quiche didn’t come from the kiosk downstairs.

Later on, as the match stays a tense 1-1 for an hour and a half, and a classic “handbags” scene erupts on the touchline in front of us, the youngest boy asks “Daddy, why are the men fighting?” The reply is a classic West Wirral middle-class interpretation:  “Because they want to win so much that they’ve forgotten to be nice to each other.”

‘What are they chanting, daddy?’  asks the older brother, trying to interpret the home crowd’s droning chant of ‘Superwhite Army!’

‘I’m not sure,’ replies the dad.  ‘Blue and white army, I think.’

Sniggers from our row. ‘Superwhite barm cakes,’ mutters a mischief-maker alongside me, audibly. More sniggers.

‘Is that it daddy, are they singing “super white barm cakes”?’  The kid actually seems to be helping us take the piss.

But before daddy has a chance to answer, the crowd roars as Ian Thomas-Moore falls theatrically in the box in front of us. The hotly-disputed late penalty seals a 2-1 victory and the crowd gleefully sings “staying up, staying up, staying up”. Some things haven’t changed.

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