This was a superb game, honestly it was. I know on the face of it its a 2-0 win. At home. Against Wigan. But honestly it was. Perhaps some context would help..
It was during a period where Ken Richardson’s destructive hands were tightening around the throat of the club. It was widely rumoured that manager Kerry Dixon didn’t get to pick the team, we looking very likely to exit the football league and were on a run which had seen us pick up 2 points from the last 7 games. We were going one way.
In contrast, Wigan were going up and up. They were on their way to claim the Division 3 title and commence their rise to the Premier League. Graeme Jones was returning to Belle Vue for the first time since his summer move to Wigan and was on fire. He would go on to finish as the league’s top scorer and among the highest in Europe as he would find the net 31 times for Wigan during 96/97. Put all that together then and the inevitable outcome was another heavy defeat.
Something happened however, Dixon must have wrestled back some sway in terms of team selection as Paul Birch was reinstalled to midfield (tragically Paul Birch would lose a battle with illness a few years later) and his quality shone through above everything else on show. Well past his best with us, Birch totally ran this game and allied with a couple of pieces of genuine quality from Colin Cramb (not least the first goal, including the typical celebration) along with good performances from Darren Moore and Ian Gore, (who shackled Jones throughout) John Schofield and Martin McDonald, Rovers produced a shock result. This was the start of a run of 4 wins in 5 which granted a stay of execution until the following year and was a rare highlight during 1997.
(If you are interested in Retro shirts check out the link at the bottom of this page)
Over the past few years the world of ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’ (or in the words of my wife ‘Scruffy and old’) Rovers shirts has been one which I have become increasingly immersed in.
The hours I have spent wading through eBay online number far too many for me to justify. I suppose part of it relates to an association of a time of my life when things were easier or more simple. I had those shirts myself and wore them proudly to school during a period of my life where there was no work stresses to cut short a nights sleep, no anxiety around money or whether the kids were safe. The only concern I had then was whether it was chips for tea and if there were any Kit Kats; life was safe and easy and so a glimpse back into that time is always welcome.
More than that though, it’s something about my relationship with football and with our club and on such trips down memory lane, I am always struck by just how much we forget. Memories which are always present, fondly cradled and held dear are sometimes unknowingly smudged around the edges just enough so that the fact remains but the feeling is forgotten. Fortunately, usually not much is required to put sound to the picture or warmth to the fire.
When I stare at those shirts somehow I am almost bowled over by the surprises, and the details that I previously couldn’t see despite their being in the front of my mind’s eye.
For a spell I was back on the Railway sleeper which was once home in Belle Vue’s Mainstand, the feeling of climbing up its bouncy, creaking wooden steps and out onto the stand to catch that first glimpse of the always immaculate greenery, before taking my seat, like three generations of my family had done previously. All feelings that raced into my head, with a million more of thrilling victories and glorious defeat. . The ‘jagged hoops’ of the early 1990’s took me back to Mike Jeffrey’s virtuoso second half display at home to Bury where we still managed to lose 3-2 and the remarkable 4-3 win later that year at home to Scarborough (Trust me, Steve Prindiville’s free kick that day was the finest you will ever see) and the hours drift by as the memories flood through.
The facts were always present, but the feelings had been forgotten and these little pieces of history are the time capsules which for me, prove to be the catalyst for reliving times gone by and I would urge everyone who has a piece of yesterday, be it a shirt or a programme, scarf or ticket stub , to take a visit down memory lane, to find that little something, nudge or prompt that kicks the feelings back into the memories and enables you, just as I did, to remember. Petrol was cheap, footballers were normal blokes, and footy shirts were proper . Enjoy it for a couple of minutes then get on with things, todays not bad either – We’re top of the league after all.
** I wont bore you with the details of how I came to make them, but if you need help to re visit the early 1990’s, check out these Prints £5.99 with free postage – Proper football shirt from the 1990’s – Click Here and view **