The Birthday Effect- Part 2 by A Man in a Hat.
Ok, so where were we? Oh yes, the legend of the Birthday Effect. A chronicle of an intrepid band of County Supporters, not only determined to get to every away match during the 1996 / 1997 season, but also attempting to get a phantom birthday announced at each ground, adding a year to the age each time.
If you want any further detail on the origin, you’ll just have to re-read Part 1.
Saturday 21st September 1996 - York City, one of the Blue Army’s favourite outings. The group were there in good numbers. The 66th birthday was duly announced. County won 2-1 to record their first away win in the League, building on a 3-1 home victory against Plymouth the week before.
Tuesday 24th September 1996 - League Cup 2nd Round, 2nd Leg away at Bramhall Lane. 67th birthday proclaimed. County trounced fancied Sheffield United 5-2 on their own patch to win the tie 7-3 on aggregate.
Wednesday 2nd October 1996 - Few made it to Millwall, but those who did, including Matty Bound with his leg in plaster, will never forget the night County triumphed 4-3 to make it 6 wins on the bounce in all competitions.
Not only was the 68th birthday broadcast, it was also printed in the programme. No foolin’. Go on then, check it if you must. In fact, as the season progressed, the group would come to realise that the more effort the host club made in respect of the Birthday, the better County did on the pitch. How unfair is that?
The Birthday Effect was up & running. Played 3, won 3!
Saturday 5th October 1996 - Burnley away! Disaster! The 69th birthday wasn’t announced & County crashed to a 2-5 reverse. Even to this day, given County’s form prior to that game & for months thereafter, the result was inexplicable.
But our merry troop knew the reason. No birthday, no County win. This simple truth was very reassuring to them & meant they could accept the result for what it was, safe in the knowledge that the birthday would be back to restore order in due course. No depression for them.
Saturday 19th October 1996 - Wycombe away. For the first time, volunteer drivers had to be utilised to get everyone who wanted to go, to the game. The birthday celebrated its 70th, is read out & County cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win.
Tuesday 22nd October 1996 - back to League Cup action away at Premiership Champions Blackburn Rovers. Now remember, if the home club pushed the boat out for the birthday, County always did better.
Away to Blackburn was tough. It would take something very special, even just to get a draw. Well, the Ewood Park people did the Birthday proud, not only announcing the 71st birthday before the game & again at half-time, but actually putting it up on their giant scoreboard!
Again, a simple check of a video of this game, will verify that this is the case.
County defeated Rovers 1-0 during one of the most memorable nights of the season (& that’s saying something!).
Anyway, let’s finish off 1996.
Saturday 26th October 1996 - Walsall away. 72nd birthday proclaimed. County earn a 1-1 draw.
Saturday 9th November 1996 - Griffin Park - 73rd birthday announced at half-time, with County trailing 2-0 to Brentford. Naturally, County dominated the second half & secured a 2-2 draw. A people carrier had to be hired to get the gang to the game!
Saturday 23rd November 1996 - Shrewsbury - another popular away trip. But as County doggedly trudged onto the pitch for the second half, they knew to a man that the 74th birthday hadn’t been read out. This confidence-sapping reality led to an inevitable 2-3 defeat at Gay Meadow.
By now, the process of requesting the Birthday announcement was a well-oiled machine. A standard letter had been set up, with the address & age the only changes required each time.
Cup runs & postponements would complicate matters over the winter, but more of that in Part 3.
Wednesday 27th November 1996 - the 75th birthday marked an incredible 1-1 draw away at West Ham in the League Cup. However, the instigators nearly miss the proclamation after arriving very late, following an incident on the coach involving the Police - a tale for another day……….
Saturday 3rd December 1996 - 76th birthday away at Rotherham. A 1-0 win in the wind & snow.
Saturday 23rd November 1996 - FA Cup 2nd Round, the 77th birthday secures a 3-0 win in the fog away at Mansfield.
Tuesday 10th December 1996 - 78th birthday proclaimed, ensuring County win 2-1 away at Doncaster in the Football League Trophy. The Birthday had now clocked up wins in all 4 of the competitions County were involved in.
Saturday 21st December 1996 - a creditable 0-0 draw away at high-flying Bury marked the declaration of the 79th birthday.
Thurs 26th December 1996 - much to the relief of the travelling faithful, the 80th birthday was announced at half-time away at Wrexham, with County trailing 2-0. You know the rest, i.e. County staged a mighty comeback to win 3-2.
The Birthday Effect was actually documented within the report of this game, published in County’s home programme for their game against Millwall 18th January 1997. Check it!
Eagerly anticipated by the Blue Army, the Birthday had by now attained cult status. Fans would furrow their brows wondering if the letter had been safely posted & then listen out for it, cheering when they heard it.
If it was announced, supporters were lifted & instilled with belief. If not, collective depression set in!
Not surprising really, when you consider the stats for the Birthday Effect up to & including the 80th birthday:
When the birthday was proclaimed, County had played 13, won 9, drawn 4 & lost none.
When the birthday wasn’t broadcast, County had played 2 & lost 2!
Just incredible, particularly when you consider that all of these games were played away from Edgeley Park.
But as stated in Part 1, this is all true. Non-believers can check for themselves.
That’s all for now, but in Part 3, it all gets very complicated. So, see you away at Stoke City for the 3rd Round of the FA Cup.
A Man in a Hat.