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Clough’s first Christmas

December 17, 2015

“What we are looking for is solid performances. People keep telling me that the Atherstone’s and Boston’s of this world are “nothing special”.

But they work their socks off, they get results and they are in the top half of the table, so they must be getting something right.”

Strong words from Cloughie in the Rothwell Town match programme, a week after a 4-0 hammering away at Boston which confirmed the honeymoon period was well and truly over.

The frustration continued vs Rothwell in front of a newly covered Gordon Bray Terrace, Albion dropping into the relegation area after a 0-0 draw in front of 576 bewildered Brewers.

Ah Rothwell, a team with probably my favourite nickname, ‘The Bones’, and my favourite ground name, ‘Cecil Street’…

Anyway.

I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to things like dates, and one thing I’ve noticed is how our festive fixtures this year match the festive fixtures in Clough’s first year, 1998, New Years day aside.

It was to be a vital period, the 4 upcoming local derbies could literally make or break the season.

Saturday 19th December 1998 – Tamworth away

Centre FM went across to the Lamb for some important team news… “Nigel Clough will make his first league start for the Brewers today…”

Get in!! Given recent form (just 1 goal in 6 league games) this was just the boost everyone needed.

This was one of my early train days so I was full of the excitement that a good train away day brings, no need for lager-based assistance for my enthusiasm back then though – 2 weeks school holidays, 6 sleeps from a PlayStation, and Tamworth away, what more could a lad want?!

These were the days before they segregated us at the Lamb, we’d just started playing eachother in league games again the season before and the rivalry wasn’t as intense as us and Gresley, which the attendance of just 717 proved.

Sporting our sky blue away strip and attacking the end they now segregate us in, an early corner from the right was headed in by Tony Marsden to give us the lead – only our 2nd league goal in 7 games.

As the December darkness creeped in, Albion held out in the 2nd half and should’ve added a 2nd when David Holmes hit the post from close range.

There was a decent atmosphere from the travelling Brewers, relieved to finally see us grab a win.

At the time there was a bunch of lads who started coming Albion, they wore all the proper gear and weren’t afraid of the odd scrape if you know what I mean. Anyway, my Mum had given us a bag of food to take along with us, I flat refused to hold it not wanting to damage any terrace-cred.

So 2nd half, where’s Craig gone? We look over to them lads, and who is going around them offering them Penguin’s out of our food bag? Craig! We were in stitches as lads in Burberry and Stone Island thanked Craig for the refreshments, I doubt the Millwall boys are looked after so well.

Back on the pitch and Albion held out for the win, the festive season getting off to a promising start…

Position after match: 18th/22

Line-up: Goodwin; Allsopp, Blount, Grocutt, Spooner; Lyons (Francis), Marsden, Clough, Sutton (C Smith), Hackett; Holmes

Saturday 26th December 1998 – Gresley home

The annual boxing day shindig with the Whippets Moatmen.

2,103 were in attendance and there was the usual derby-day atmosphere at Eton Park, we still owed Gresley for them coming back to beat us 3-2 in 96/97, even if we had beat them the season before, we still owed them!

Albion attacked the Gordon Bray end in the first half. I remember after a rendition of “Gary Birtles is a w*****…”, a particular favourite terrace ditty at the time, a female Gresley fan muttering “yeah well look where you lot are in the league.”

I remembered that on the final day of the season as we celebrated them getting relegated.

2nd half, and we’re attacking the Brook End. I remember the ball coming in… it looked like Darren Grocutt was literally stood on the goal-line, as he headed the ball downwards and it bounced up right into the back of that yellow and black net… the Brook End erupted, sheer elation, you know when it feels like you are bouncing 10 foot into the air? Mental scenes, everyone loves a local-derby winner, the Albion managing to keep their nerve and hold out again for the 3 points, Merry Christmas indeed!

Position after match: 17th/22

Line-up: Goodwin; Allsopp, Blount, Grocutt, Spooner; Lyons, Marsden, Clough, Sutton (C Smith), Hackett; Holmes

 

Monday 28th December 1998 – Ilkeston Town away

Dad, Stu and me got the coach over for the Bank Holiday clash at the New Manor Ground, home to the late Keith Alexander’s Ilkeston.

Whilst Dad got some pre-match supping in, Stu and me got Clough and Crosby’s autographs as they discussed the state of the pitch.

There was plenty of Albion fans in attendance boosting the crowd to 1,155, with most of us just settling onto the terrace as Pat Lyons smashed us ahead in the 2nd minute.

David Holmes doubled the lead right on half-time, but the 2nd half was a different story as Ilkeston pulled a goal back and piled on heavy pressure.

It was the first time I remember the Tom Hark song being sung by Albion fans, it was being used on the Guinness advert at the time. (Honestly, how do I remember shit like this??!!)

But once again the almighty Albion held out for another festive victory, 3 wins on the spin, confidence was high before the return trip to the Moat…

Position after match: 15th/22

Line-up: Goodwin; Allsopp, Blount, Grocutt, Spooner; Lyons, Marsden, Clough, C Smith, Hackett (Webster); Holmes

Friday 1st January 1998 – Gresley away

Having spent New Year at my Granny’s, we tuned into this one on Radio Derby.

If I remember right it was Craig Smith who headed us in front in the first half, before Aaron Webster scored his first ever Albion goal late on?

Granny’s living room hadn’t seen scenes like it since the last night at the proms as we celebrated a 2-0 win in South Derbyshire!

So a double over the Moatmen, and 4 wins out of 4.

If Carlsberg made festive fixtures.

Position after match: 11th/22

Line-up: Goodwin; Allsopp, Blount, Grocutt, Spooner; Stride, Marsden (Francis), Clough, C Smith, Webster; Holmes

2 days later and the run was finally ended in a 2-0 home defeat by Boston Utd. Cloughie was far from disheartened though, getting a round in for the squad post-match, and praising their efforts after 5 games in 2 weeks returned 12 points.

An inconsistent 2nd half of the season saw Albion eventually finish 13th, but better times weren’t far away, were they?

IMG_4643

League table before the Tamworth game, Albion occupying one of the four relegation spots.

 

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From → The Albion.

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