May 13 2018: fen and games

Not least because the nearest railway station to Wisbech is ten miles away, it’s unlikely that Marske United and Morpeth will be letting the train take the strain next season. We did in 2012.

The month was January, the nearest station March. Dunston UTS, unbeaten all season on their travels, were one of six Northern League teams in the last 32 of the FA Vase.

A few days earlier, we’d learned of the death of the wonderful Jackie Weatherall of Billingham Synthonia, a man whose dedication to grass roots sport was matched only by his determination never to be recognised for it.

Wisbech is across the Fens – flat, fertile and featureless save for the occasional distant glimpse of men hard at work, picking if not choosing.  It is England’s market garden, if not its vegetable plot.

A Sky News survey for some reason named Wisbech the seventh “most English” town in Britain, Niklaus Pevsner much admired its Georgian architecture.

Most of the toilers will have been eastern European. Wisbech and other towns thereabouts have a great many immigrant workers. “We call it Wisbekistan,” said a taxi driver, though he insisted he had nothing against them.

“They’re my best customers, especially the Latvians and Lithuanians when they’re drunk on a Saturday night.”

Such an influx inevitably brings pressures. “Death of a country idyll,” an Express headline had said and the Mail, never to be outdone, had “How the Baltic mafia is terrorising an English market town.”

The football team then played in the Ridgeons League, that of Wroxham, Wivenhoe and Walsham-le-Willows. Probably they could never have imagined that a single promotion would send them to the land of Whickham, Willington and Whitley Bay.

The match ended 2-2, the ineluctable Bulford scoring one of Dunston’s and claiming the other. Five other NL teams, including West Auckland, were in the draw for the last 16. The rest is history.

*Yesterday’s blog noted Ebac Northern League president George Courtney’s problem with getting into finals day at Consett, prompting Crook and District League official Maurice Galley to point out that at their Colin Waites Cup final at Willington this Saturday their president will himself be on the gate.

Maurice adds both that George will be very welcome – “concessions only £1” – and that kick-off has been brought forward to 1pm, so as not to clash with the FA Cup final. Definitely not the royal wedding, he adds.

*Thanks to all those readers – Don Clarke, anyway – who sought details of the “netty” joke mentioned in Friday’s blog. Alas, it’s not really one which translates into writing, though Don’s header is worth repeating. “Shaggy bog story,” it says.