Guest blog 3: This end of the season

Gavin 1

I’m always on the lookout for new angles and different ways to keep everyone occupied while we battle through this difficult time and guest blogs is another way to see things from different situations. This is the first article sent to me by a friend on Twitter, and there are currently two to come over the next few weeks, so sit back, grab a cuppa and have a read:

Gavin Blackwell has been involved in the game for over 30 years as a physio for a handful of non-league clubs, most notably Halesowen Town but also Oldbury Utd, Tividale, Stourbridge and Hednesford Town. He has also assisted Wolverhampton Wanderers Academy and West Bromwich Albion Reserves.

The football season should have been very much in its latter stages by the Easter weekend. As we all know, that period can have a massive bearing on both the relegation and promotion outlook with twists and turns that can come with two games in three days in front of larger than usual crowds.

I can recall one such occasion when it did it’s very best to. My former club Halesowen Town had kept chipping away at big spenders Rushden and Diamonds unassailable lead in the race for the 1996 Southern League Premier Division title.

That Bank Holiday Monday opened up the race.

Rushden had a morning kick off at Sudbury and Town were away at Worcester City in the evening.

News broke that Sudbury had beaten Roger Ashby’s side and we had a chance to close the gap further . In the end we could only manage to draw but it helped to take it to the last game of the season.

With it getting warmer, evenings are getting lighter spring is in the air and another season would have been about to come to an end, soon so I thought I would look back on some moments that only football can through up.

In the 1989/90 season, Sheffield United gained promotion to the First Division led by manager Dave Bassett.

During that campaign they allowed the BBC cameras unprecedented access into all aspects of life in a football club and ran a series following that season.

Each of the six episodes featured a different aspect of the football club, from boardroom to supporters, the apprentices and the commercial department.

One of the most interesting and fascinating episodes of the series was that of the players wives/girlfriends and the ladies who work tirelessly behind the scenes at clubs.

This reminded me of the likes of Dot Wooldridge serving Wolves for many years or Sheila Horn of Arsenal.

The programme – known as ‘United’ showed an industry very different to today’s world, featuring players who were far removed from a game awash with cameras on the field. It filmed the players at home on a Friday evening and the wives at work on a Saturday – what would most of the WAGS be doing now on a Saturday?

I am talking days of just score updates on radio, Grandstand, World Of Sport, teletext and Ceefax to keep you up to date.

For non league followers it was difficult to have updates whilst a game was being played out sometimes the Saturday pink was the first port of call for those or teletext when you got home or possibly local radio at around 5.30pm. The programme showed the human element of football players wives worrying about new contracts for their husbands – will they have to move house, will they need to find the children a new school?

These are issues that still effect players families regularly and staff also, but of course at the top level you are dealing with much more money for players these days and possibly home schooling or private education comes in to it but you can imagine Friday night still now being the biggest and sometimes the most difficult for players as essential preparation, whether that be at home with the other half’s, or in a hotel with their team mates.

Two players that were featured in the programme were Paul Stancliffe and Wilf Rostron and particularly the relationship they had with their wives. The latter was feeling the strain as his contract was up end of the season and of course it affected his wife Jill as well. It showed though what a great spirit they had together and how Jill knew her husband and when to talk about the game or not to say anything.

When they played away, some of the wives would spend the evening in each other’s company. It can be a lonely existence and the friendship they endured and developed, be it through the crèche at Bramall Lane at home games or the odd club events helped create another aspect of how important team spirit is.

Paul’s wife Janet gave a fantastic insight of life married to a footballer and how this successful football team that her husband played in meant so much to her as well. Whilst Paul would spend Saturday afternoons playing, she would work at Marks and Spencers.

During the week and on Saturdays when United where playing away, like the supporters, Janet and Jill caught up in the emotion of the promotion race and like the fans, they wondered if it would last the season.

For Janet, although she was working Saturday afternoons, she made sure that she kept tabs in the shop on the score how the team and more importantly her husband was doing.

When there were eight games to go, United where second in division two and the next fixture was Portsmouth away.

The chance of promotion was a reality and for Janet she was feeling the drama and the possible sense of achievement.

She said: ‘ It is in their own hands , but so much can happen in the next four weeks the pressure is getting to me to be quite honest’.

Even her mum was caught up in ringing her at work to let her know how they were getting on.

The programme ended with Janet in front of the TV screens at work waiting for the results to come through.

It was not a good day for United, losing 3-2 and the other teams getting the results they want which made it a little bit tighter. You could sense her disappointment. But it did turn out to be a happy ending as they got promoted. This was passion for the game at its best!

You can follow Gavin on Twitter, @GavinBlackwel11

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