The Football Neutral: Match Forty One – Crawley Town vs Barnsley

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…There were a lot of kids on the terrace with us, presumably a day out watching Crawley is cheaper than heading to watch Brighton or Crystal Palace.  Like my trip last season to Dagenham and Redbridge though, there is a strange atmosphere.  I’ve no doubt that some people love Crawley dearly, but without a long legacy of league football many of the crowd seem to treat the club as their second team.  A few fans wore red scarves or shirts, but it wasn’t the norm.

As the teams came out and the line-ups were announced, I listened out for familiar names.  A striker for either side caught my ear:  For Barnsley they had diminutive, pacey frontman Leroy Lita – a player that I thought was headed for the very top when I saw him play for Bristol City years ago.  Now 30, his career hasn’t fired as he would have liked and he signed for Barnsley in August after Swansea released him.

Up top for Crawley was Izale McLeod, a player that Leicester were linked with a lot during his time at MK Dons.  He’s never reached the heights that Lita played (briefly) at, yo-yoing up and down the league ladder.  After a poor spell with Charlton he rebuilt his career at Barnet and Portsmouth before a second spell at MK Dons that led to him being released and snapped up by Crawley.  Also 30 years old, he’d be the player we’d be talking about at the end of the game.

We kicked off and the Barnsley fans made some noise.  One flag in their end read “Hove Tykes”.  If I’d have known, I could have asked for a list with them and left that bloody car in North Wales.  Barnsley started on top – as a team shorn of their manager often do, some players to prove a point, some to impress who is coming in – and the fans around me started to vocalise their worries.

I couldn’t help noticing that Crawley employ the tiniest ballboys that I have ever seen.  One behind the goal at the opposite end looked to be all of 3 feet tall and 4 years old, although still did a half-decent job as Barnsley chances peppered the goal of Crawley keeper Lewis Price.

Assisting McLeod on his initially thankless task up front for Crawley was Mathias Pogba.  Sound familar?  He should, as he’s the brother of Juventus star Paul Pogba, a player currently touted as being worth tens of millions of pounds.  Mathias isn’t worth quite as much, although he works hard enough and puts himself about.  He does have a ridiculous haircut though, looking like someone has applied tipp-ex in a line around his head…

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The Football Neutral: Match Twenty Four – Barnsley vs Brighton and Hove Albion

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This is now an edited version of the original blog… you can read the full one by downloading my Football Neutral 2013/14 season review on Kindle.  Well over 300 pages of daftness. Less than £2! Thanks!

So I chose Barnsley. I have been to Oakwell a couple of times before, and have performed in the town just the once. Here are my assorted memories.

1: I must have been about 15 or 16 and we played up there on a Tuesday night. I recall it raining and the old, uncovered away end being the bleakest place in football (it has since been replaced by the away end at Ebbsfleet). My friend got food poisoning from a pie.

2: My second visit I must have been about 20. I went with my Dad. I recall the atmosphere being a little, shall we say, naughty. Leicester fans through things at the innocent and inoffensive Barnsley mascot Toby the Tyke, and after the game many City fans were chased throughout South Yorkshire. Me and my Dad were not. We went back to the car and went to Meadowhall, if I remember correctly.

3: My last visit was for a gig on a Saturday night in a rugby club on the outskirts of town. To get there I drive through the hilariously named Penistone, which I know is pronounced PENNISTONE but I am a child. At the gig was a baby. Everyone noticed the baby. Nobody referenced it. As I went on last, I did the first 15 minutes of my set whilst holding the baby. At the time, I’d not been with my wife for that long and I think this was the point where she realised that I am a little bit odd. The baby only cried when handed back to his Dad. I remember nothing else of the gig.

I also remember the season when Barnsley got promoted and how much I wanted them to do it. Back then they really were a cracking side, with their most impressive player a certain Clint Marcelle. A quick check reveals that he went on to do nothing else with his career, but at the time he was scoring some tremendous goals throughout their promotion push and was akin to a Caribbean Georgi Kinkladze…

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