Excitement was at an all time high on this Saturday morning as football was
well and truly sort of back. While it had been nice to attend a couple of local friendlies during the week, breaking the monotony of flicking through Sky Sports, this first Saturday afternoon of April marked the return of competitive football.
Following the abrupt end to the league campaign, those in charge of the York League had moved swiftly to arrange cup competitions with these two legged ties kicking off just days after restrictions had been lifted. In truth, we were spoilt for choice when it came to selecting our entertainment for the afternoon but after extensive negotiations we settled on heading along to Dringhouses FC, Ben’s local club. This was purely for the reason that – quite selfishly – he wanted to be back home in time to watch York City Knights take on Toulouse at 16:30, a match they duly lost.
Dringhouses is a mainly residential area to the south of the city centre close to the Knavesmire, where the cities famous racecourse can be found. My three mile walk to the game took me from the north of the city, starting by the Nestlé factory and took me to St Helen’s Road where the match was taking place. With the sun shining, my route took me in and out of the heart of the city in just under an hour, with a vague feeling of normality trying it’s best to filter through the ancient streets and passageways.
The previous night had seen me drink some untested yet drinkable home-brew in a friends back garden, eventually leading to me also being persuaded into investing in some similar brewing equipment, in the faint hope that in the coming months I too will be able to start producing rocket fuel fit for away days. While the investment in equipment may be an initial hit to the bank balance, it will hopefully soon prove to be a cheap way of keeping hydrated as sessions once again allowed to be racked up. So, despite it being quite warm, I threw on a jacket in the hope I could briskly walk and sweat out what home-brew was left in my system, before topping myself up at the match.
In all honesty, I wasn’t really in the mood to be attacked by the geese which had gathered around me as I made my way down Huntington Road towards Monk Bar. While there has never been a scientific study conducted into the behaviours of different geese families within the city, I almost certainly support various claims (mainly made by myself) that the ones which live on this stretch of the River Foss are the narkiest and most vicious. Then again, I too would be at least a little bit grumpy if I lived on a grass banking by a roundabout.
Having been hissed at and chased down the road, I made it to Monk Bar, where as always I ensured I walked through the arch on the right hand side. I’m not superstitious but years ago when I was teaching in Selby – and walked this route on my way to the train station every morning – I would find that passing through the bar on the left hand side would almost certainly result in me having a really bad day. All these years on, even if I emerge out of Keystones (the pub next to the bar) and want to head into the city centre, I still have to cross the road before turning left. Safe to say, my mates think I’m a bit odd. Fortunately, in one of the few positives in life at the moment, I didn’t have to explain myself to anybody this morning as I was meeting both Ben and Corker at the ground.
Artisan bakeries, coffee shops and gelato parlours were all doing their best to serve the masses of families who had strolled into the centre for some form of day out. Which reminds me; I’m still awaiting my commission from the ice cream shops after studying Venice with my class last term. My educational lessons* resulted in a number of the children in my class heading out for a gelato of their choice, providing a welcome boost to the local economy. It’s a far cry from the rare strawberry mivi I was allowed growing up.
Just as I was beginning to imagine I could be back in Venice or at least somewhere else on the continent, I heard some whistling and commotion emanating from further up the road. On Parliament Street, there was a police presence as a large group of protestors chanted nasty, yet agreeable things about Primark enthusiast and eyebrow connoisseur Priti Patel. I swerved the gathering completely, not wanting to feature on the front page of the York Press the following morning, and instead headed around the back of it all before crossing the River Ouse and up Micklegate.
The route out of the city centre took me up over the Mount and past the Knavesmire, where I passed an inconspicuous seating area on the left hand side of the main road. Quiet as it is, it holds a lot of hidden history. The Tyburn, which these days is marked by an underwhelming memorial plinth and a couple of benches, was once the main location of executions within the City of York. I chuckled to myself as I saw an older couple sitting with their arms embracing one another in a spot which was once scene to an unimaginable amount of blood, gore, torture and death.
The Tyburn actually took it’s name from another execution site in London and this location was strategically chosen as it stood on the main road in and out of the city. The ‘Three Legged Mare’ of which there is a pub named after in the city centre, was the wooden contraption from which the prisoners were dropped from and it was operated by the crown. Rather than being constructed at the castle, they chose this spot as it was designed to intimidate visitors to the city, with the heads of victims often then displayed above the bars.
For 400 years, executions took place at this very spot and the public were encouraged to attend to make it a true spectacle. In fact, the August race meetings, which still take place to this day at the racecourse opposite were originally scheduled to coincide with mass executions. It meant you could watch someone be hung drawn and quartered at 12:00 before having a few pints with the lads and losing £100 with Tote just half an hour later. A fun day out for all the family.
It’s quite a long journey uphill from where the castle once stood to the Tyburn. Prisoners were dragged through the very same streets which I had walked along in front of baying crowds. The most famous criminal to meet their death here was highwayman Dick Turpin, who was killed in 1739 for stealing three horses. After his public execution, he was dragged back through the streets and buried at St. George’s Church, opposite where the Postern Gate Wetherspoons now stands. It’s what he would have wanted. “Mr. Turpin. You are hereby sentenced to death for stealing three horses and will be forced to lie next to a Wetherspoons for the rest of eternity. Take him down to the Tyburn lads!”
Once past the Tyburn, the remainder of my walk to the match was downhill. I felt some more of the home-brew leaving my system but still felt a sense of discomfort when I arrived at the Cross Keys pub which sits on the corner of St Helen’s Road and Tadcaster Road, for it was here that I actually enjoyed my last pint at a pub back in December. It would have been a brilliant place to enjoy a few pre-match drinks before this clash between Dringhouses and F1 Racing but instead, we had to make do with cans by the touchline.
The football pitch at Dringhouses Sports and Social Club is found at the end of the sports pitch, with the area closest to the changing rooms and clubhouse reserved for the cricket club with who the facilities are shared. Over the road, the local primary school, which Ben once went to when he was a lot smaller and younger than he is now, also occasionally make use of the field which is great for the local community. Strangely enough, despite this being the nearest pitch to Ben’s house, he had never actually watched a game here.
Dringhouses FC, founded in 1908, are the most successful side to have competed in the York League. They have won the top division on 12 occasions but haven’t managed to taste any league success in the past decade. Despite leading the way last season, a 13th league title was snatched away from ‘Dringy’ when the league was null and voided halfway through the campaign.
In their ranks last season, they had forward Jordan Outerbridge, who it is fair to say has had a stranger period of lockdown to most of us. In July, he flew out to Bermuda for a ten day trip to pay respects to his late grandmother. While out there, he decided rather than returning to Britain immediately, he would stay and discover more about his family’s roots. He was then asked by a cousin if he wanted to train with Bermudan First Division side Hamilton Parish, to which he agreed.
After a few matches, the former York City academy player was the top goalscorer in the Bermudan second division and received a call up to the national side. Fast forward to the end of March and as the Dringhouses squad were preparing for this cup game against F1 Racing, Outerbridge was playing for his ancestral island nation in a World Cup Qualifier against a Canada side which featured highly rated Bayern Munich youngster Alphonso Davies.
Away from crystal blue oceans and the golden sands of Bermuda, back in lockdown Britain, we were stood waiting for the first leg of this York Senior Cup Second Round tie to kick-off. “Get your kit in our changing room… and make sure you lock the door!” were the last minute orders from the Dringhouses manager. F1 Racing had neatly dumped their kits by the cricket scoreboard. Yards behind us, train services rattled by and the arrival of another LNER Azuma careering past en route to London was enough for referee Vladimir Mollov to get us underway.
This was a well contested encounter. On paper, Dringhouses were the favourites, having occupied fourth place before the season was cancelled. F1 Racing on the other hand found themselves in tenth place, having also played four matches more than their hosts. That didn’t matter though, as Max Tweddle found the net twice in the space of a minute to gift F1 a 2-0 lead which they took into the half time break.
In the second half, the referee was tasked with having to keep a lid on things as Dringhouses were in danger of allowing their frustrations to take over at times. A highlight, which made me spit my drink out, was when an F1 player went down in the area, accusing the Dringhouses player of punching him. “I grabbed your shirt. If you want to know what a punch feels like I’ll meet you in the car park,” came a surprising retort from the accused.
Dringhouses were playing some good football and were unlucky to fall 3-0 behind when the referee awarded a penalty for a foul, which to all of us appeared to have taken place outside the area. A large scorch mark left in the turf (outside the area) and a chuckle from F1 captain Adam Tiffany certainly suggested the referee had got it wrong. Having said that, the skill shown by young substitute Milan Manandhar was so intricate and fast paced, the official possibly didn’t know where to look.
We entered the last ten minutes. Our conversations on the touchline turned to which game we should head along to next weekend. As we explored various possibilities, two quickfire goals from Dringhouses through Liam Robertson and Daniel Snaith not only excited the 19 spectators (and four lads who were playing cricket in the nets) but also made us concede that we would have to watch the second leg at New Earswick next weekend. It had been a well battled, fast paced and exciting match to watch and it was all to play for.
We went our separate ways and I headed back into the city centre. I was still in possession of a couple of cans of beer which were buried deep at the bottom of my rucksack, which like me, was enjoying a couple of weeks off from carrying school exercise books back and forth. The sunshine had a couple more hours of life left until it was due to disappear for the day. As boats moored up, I perched myself down by the River Ouse outside The Kings Arms and pretended, just for an hour or so that the world was completely back to normal. It certainly felt like it, at least for a bit. Thank goodness for football, friends and beer.