2083 Part 1







As the heat of the previous summer had faded away and the autumn chill took its place a small group of people, probably no more than fifteen in number gathered at the small memorial site. All it was really was a plaque and a small quarter scale metal model of a footballer, it was to have been brass but the funds could not be found for such a luxury. The fallen leaves swirled around in a mini maelstrom at the feet of the group of people. Although not yet 6.30 in the evening the sun had all but set. In the faded light one of the adult members of the group used his coat cuff to make an attempt to clean the plaque and read its wording, although over 60 years old it had been spared the worst of natures eroding forces and thankfully vandalism had been a rare and not fateful visitor. “ This spot marks the centre circle of the football ground known as Edgeley Park the home of Stockport County 1902 - 2020” The adjacent metal statue of the footballer glinted in the lights cast by the surrounding industrial estate and smattering of houses. Even 60 odd years after it was cast the metal footballer was clearly recognisable as a black man and judging by his physique an extremely tall one.



The five or six children in the group were clearly a little bored with whatever proceedings were going on but none the less they appreciated the reverence of the occasion and for the most part remained quiet although one youngster pursued the swirl of windblown leaves around in circles, his rubber Wellington boots squelching on the wet paving. From within the small huddled group of adults an old man precariously clutching at a walking stick edged his way forward. He pulled his coat collar closer to his scrawny neck in a vein attempt to shut out the now biting wind.  He surveyed the scene around him through his pale watery, slightly bloodshot eyes. His gaze rested on the plaque and the footballer, a tear rolled down his right cheek, whether induced by the autumnal chill or something within it was hard to tell. Another elderly adult from within the group produced a canvas fold up chair that he unravelled and placed on the damp ground next to the memorial plaque, “ take the weight off Arthur” the old man slowly lowered himself into the seat with the help of two younger women. He found a vaguely comfortable position in the chair dropping his walking stick to the ground that was gleefully retrieved by a young girl who gingerly placed it across the seated old mans lap. He raspily cleared his throat and a quietness descended over the huddle, the leaf chasing child put his arm around his mother’s leg, pulling his hood up as a gentle drizzle of rain started.

“ When I was a young man” the huddle laughed good humouredly, the children stared incredulously, “When I was young I used to spend many a Saturday and for  a while some Tuesday nights not 50 yards from this spot watching a football team play”  “To be honest, they were not that great, they never played in the top division, never won an FA Cup or even what we used to call the League Cup although we got close once when I was about 10 years of age” The children stared even more. “We did though have our moments, we played at one time or other most of the then big clubs, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal although that was before I was born but I do remember playing Manchester City quite regularly and even beating them on more than one occasion” 



 


 Another tear streamed down his face and this time we knew that the cold wind was not responsible. “Are you alright dad?” a woman asked from the group. He raised his hand slightly and gave an almost imperceptible nod. “Its hard to imagine now 11,000 or more people surrounding the spot we stand at now cheering on our side, but they did” A young boy of about 5 years of age stared at the shuttered windows of the industrial unit and the surrounding houses trying to work out how thousands of people could have once occupied this spot. “Like everything good it ended” his voice now croaking with emotion. “ The club was taken over by one of the richest men in the country, we were ecstatic, we were fools” He only wanted us for the ground for his rugby club” Just after the turn of this century into the new millennium….”  “What’s a millyenum” a young girl loudly asked her mother, a low chuckle emitted from the group.  “ But that was only the start of it” “ Some supporters got together to buy the club and for a short while things looked good but we didn’t have any money, went bust and then fell out of the Football League after over a hundred years” “ If that was not bad enough we then soon fell out of the best none league division” “The people who owned the club did not appear to be able to reverse our fortunes and despite rumours of interest from foreign investors we eventually suffered further relegations” “ Our crowds dropped away to almost nothing, we were unable to buy our ground back from the owner and aside from losing my dear wife” another tear streamed down his left cheek and his voice strained with emotion, struggling to get the words out “I and several others lost our second love we were liquidated whilst playing at what was then the ninth level of English football” “ Come on dad its really starting to rain now”  “ No no just give me a minute”  “ The long economic recession of the early part of the 21st century did not help matters, we were all just clinging to our jobs if you had one and it did eventually kill more clubs than just ours” He stopped talking, gazing into the far distance, transported back more than 80 years, perhaps to an a open terrace at Chesterfield in 1997 as a ten year old or a packed away end at Maine Road a handful of years later. There was an audible chink of glasses; somebody had produced a bottle of what looked like champagne and a bottle of pop for the children. An impromptu tray was laid on the ground, everybody was handed a glass. Arthur cradled his drink and slowly and rather painfully raised it into the air, “here’s to what would have been our 200 year anniversary STOCKPORT COUNTY  STOCKPORT COUNTY” the group repeated.

The small gathering dispersed as the driving rain filled the dark night air. “wing yan chep, wing yan chep” a girl of about seven kept repeating to herself as she read the neon name sign off the large industrial unit occupying the area.

Supported by his two daughter’s the old man hobbled down the road, he knew he would not live long enough to be back at this place. He stopped and managed to turn his aching neck back in the direction of the footballer statue, gazing on it for all the world he thought it winked at him.



Adrian R Caville ©

October 2013

   

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