WRIGHT THINKING: Match of the good old days

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There are odd moments in life when you can feel the clock ticking – especially when you feel that you were around at historical moments.

Sometimes, the advancing years can be exaggerated, as when my then young grandson miscalculated my age a bit.

We were looking at some pictures of German Zeppelin airships from the First World War and I told him the story of when they had bombed West Hartlepool, hitting the Pools football ground in a near miss for the nearby docks.

With a straight face he asked innocently: “Were you frightened, Granddad?”

That was before my time, but another Pools connection was the real thing.

When the draw was announced for this Friday’s televised FA Cup tie with Blyth Spartans, many memories were rekindled of the last time the two clubs met in cup action back on November 4th, 1961.

Unlike the Zeppelin attack, I really was there for that one!

As you may know, Pools won 5-1 that day with a hat trick from Bobby Folland and a goal each from Barry Parkes and the late, great Kenny Johnson.

I suspect it might be a closer game on Friday, but it should certainly be quite an atmosphere, with Blyth treating it as their Cup Final and, of course, the chance for both clubs to get into Round Three with the tantalising prospect of drawing a Premier League giant.

Thinking back to that day, it’s a big reminder of how the match day experience has changed – throughout all the leagues.

One big thing which has changed is that, back in 1961, not a single fan would have been wearing a replica football shirt. Turning up at a match in a football top would have been considered a sign of pending lunacy, unless you were playing.

Blue and white scarves for Pools would have been much in evidence, along with rosettes and those wonderfully noisy wooden football rattles which you rarely see today.

Pre and post match at all clubs these days, there is a huge range of catering and drinking outlets on the grounds which bring in much needed extra revenue, as well as making life more civilised for the fans.

Last time we played Blyth, you would have been lucky to get a hot cup of Bovril at the ground – and possibly a packet of crisps.

The idea of corporate boxes and the rest simply wasn’t around, and even the directors would have been in a cramped tea room under the old wooden stand instead of in their current swish lounge overlooking the pitch.

Just the mention of that old wooden stand brings back the memories too.

It’s now long gone, partly because of safer football grounds after fire tragedies of course. That stand continues the Zeppelin link though.

It was a “temporary” construction in 1919 to replace the one destroyed in the attack, but stood there for another half century or so before the new version came along.

The old away dressing rooms under that stand have also been lost to history, with comparative luxury in their place.

Friday should be quite a night, with night matches also having that flash of theatre, and a worldwide TV audience watching.

And it will be a reminder to me that, way back on November 4th 1961, I was 14 years old – the same age as my elder grandson is now.