Thursday, 26 January 2012

It's Not Woking For Us

Four our evening game against Hayes and Yeading, I decided to take the afternoon off and have a few relaxing beers before kick-off.

Normally this wouldn't be possible as Hayes has a distinct lack of decent pubs - as we found out last season - but since Hayes and Yeading sold their ground and their new one isn't ready, we're making the trip to their temporary groundshare home, the Kingfield Stadium, home of Woking FC.

I'd invited Geoff Luke to join Liz and I and we all met on the concourse at Waterloo.  Just behind was Old Hairy Hands himself, Richard Keys, presumably toddling off home after doing his radio slot in the nearby Talkshite studios.

Geoff and Liz with the LM flag
It is only a 25 minute journey to Woking - real suburbia but a pleasant run when you avoid the rush hour - and on arrival we headed off to the Railway Athletic club.  We're not members of course but since it's in the Good Beer Guide, all CAMRA members are allowed in.

Not surprisingly it was not very busy - they had a couple of cask beers on, local beers but I forgot to make a note of what they were.

Both beers were fine but not worth hanging around for so we made the short walk to the designated DAFTS pub, the Sovereigns.

There was a much more expansive range of beers here - Elgoods Black Dog, Wooden Hand Pirate's Gold, Brentwood Blond, Itchen Valley Treacle Stout and Adnam's Gunhill.

We bumped into our new chum from Braintree, Michael, who'd met up with another exiled Darlo fan ne found on his travels.  Martin called me - he wanted directions to the pub so I passed him onto the barmaid.  Within minutes he was with us.

Of the beers the Pirate's Gold and Blond were good easy drinkers but the Treacle Stout was surprisingly good - quite dry and not at all sweet as you'd expect from the name.

Other DAFTS turned up - Neil, Paul and Iain - and finally John W just as we'd decided to walk down to the ground - only about fifteen minutes away (less if you find the proper entrance!).

Martin and Stocky
A strange stadium - very non-league on three sides but behind one goal there is a huge stand - closed tonight of course - which completely dominated.

The squad was warming up as I got pitchside - I noticed David Stockdale had arrived and was busy catching up with Thommo.  Liz and Geoff had put the London Millers flag - a bit of lower league solidarity - before joining us so she too could have a chat with Stockers (who'd spent time at Rotherham on-loan).

Doug Embleton and wife Ange were down - as was Shawn Campbell with former Chelsea player Paul Canonville - so I had a quick chat to see how they were coping with all the media attention.

There was a healthy contingent of Darlo fans in evidence tonight - plus quite a few from other clubs who had seen the drama earlier in the week and wanted to come along and give their support.  The crowd of 550 was significantly above the home average for the season as a result.

Unfortunately any thoughts amongst the travelling fans about us pulling off a positive result were dealt a mighty blow after we ended up two-nil down after just ten minutes.

The Quakers didn't look very confident right from kick-off - later I learn that Graeme Lee was injured in the warm-up and I suspect that didn't help as Scott Harrison had to then play in central defence.

The first goal came from a penalty when Jordan Pickford clattered into one of the Hayes' forward and was adjudged to have fouled him.  Pickford was given no chance from the spot.

Pickford was again heavily involved with the second goal - his throw out was not the best and went to the opposition.  The Quakers defence then let Wishart run through the defence more or less unhindered and he shot home from close range.

A disastrous start and the last thing that any of us had expected.  We may not be in the best of form but after a solid, albeit fruitless, performance against Fleetwood, we had expected a close contest tonight.

Earlier in the season, the Darlo fans would have turned on the players but they continued to get behind the team and encourage them.  And the players did finally make some headway as they put their stamp on the game and put pressure on the home side but without really troubling their keeper.

And despite that very shaky start, Pickford recovered and managed to make a couple of very decent saves.

Ange, Doug and Neil
In the second half Darlo came out looking very strong and almost pulled a goal back after Kris Taylor was denied by a clearance on the goal line.

But it wasn't long before the home side extended their lead as Collins scored a solo effort from his own half to seemingly put the game beyond Darlo's reach. And the lead could have been a lot worse but for some woeful finishing.

As the game started to run down for the last quarter I was hailed by Spencer Austin, better known as the Gloryhunter, who'd spent a couple of months following Darlo a couple of seasons ago. It was nice to see him again - he told me he'd been spending time on safari in Africa and had also taken up birdwatching. There's hope for the cockney boy yet!

As time started to run out Darlo pulled a goal back when one of the youth team, Jamie Barton, shot (or crossed) from out wide on the wing and the ball looped over the keeper.  Did he mean it? 

The celebrations were muted on the pitch as the Quakers no doubt thought it was a case of too little, too late.

However another of the youth team, Danny Lambert, was having a very busy debut and he crossed to Ryan Bowman.  He shot but the keeper saved it only to see the ball hit defender Pele and trickle over the goal-line in slow motion.

Ultimately it was too little, too late but as the players got a tremendous ovation from the away fans, we did leave feeling that if only we'd not been so careless in the opening quarter of the game, we could have got something out of this game.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Back From The Dead - For Now...

So as we all know, there was a dramatic resurrection scene outside the Arena a few days ago - caught wonderfully by local and national media so that the whole of football could see some real drama for a change - as members of the DFC Rescue Group managed to stop administrator Harvey Madden from applying the coup de grĂ¢ce.

The upshot was that I still had my early morning routine and at Da Vincis, my breakfast was consumed with added vigour - today promised to be an exciting one and I can't do these on an empty stomach.

Martin and I arrived at Bank Top on time and I headed straight to the Quaker - no pies today, we'll buy those at the ground so they get more of our money - and found that Trev had beaten me.

Pete Ashmore and David Conn 

A fairly decent range of beers today: Maxim Anderson Best Scotch & Swedish Blonde, Mayfields Copper Fox, Vale Hopocalypse, Houston Borrochan, Cairngorm Ghillie, Banks Fine Fettle, Mordue Geordie Pride and Just A Minute Darkest Moment.  The Vale and Cairngorm beers being the pick of the offerings for me though Geordie Pride is always solid.

A good DAFTS turnout - Tony, John W, Trev, Brian, Neil and Colin - and for once we stayed in the Quaker rather than wander up to Number Twenty-2 since we'd decided we should turn up earlier than we usually do so couldn't be arsed to move.

The pub was pretty busy too as it seems plenty of fans from other clubs and perhaps some lapsed fans had decided to come out and see us - but not without a few decent beers inside themselves first though. Very sensible.

We wander down to the market and caught a taxi to the ground, arriving just before 2pm, and it was difficult to believe that we had an hour to go before kick-off as the Arena was swarming with people and cars were queuing up to get into the car park.

I wandered round and saw many familiar faces - I was chatting to my old chum Pete Ashmore when I was accosted by David Conn, one of the premier football journalists when it comes to looking at the real issues facing the game.  David had covered Darlington quite a bit since the Reynold's era and after seeing the dramatic events a few days earlier, he'd decided to come and see things for himself. See his article here.

Pickford flattens Brodie
As the game was getting plenty of media attention I headed off to the press desk earlier than usual - my Uncle Ray was there helping out as he has done in recent weeks.  Whilst there Doug Embleton introduced me to his partner-in-crime Shawn Campbell - they were the ones who rolled up with the money last week to keep us alive in such dramatic fashion - we proceeded to compare curly fringes.

As I left reception I bumped into Echo editor, Pete Barron, who has also been heavily involved in the work of the Rescue Group - and who has seen that the Echo has been fully behind the plans to keep DFC alive.  He told me that due to the queues outside the ground, the kick-off would be delayed by fifteen minutes.  Not really a surprise.

Down at the tunnel things were also busy - Cockerton Brass Band were doing their bit by pumping out lots of football anthems  and there were quite a few camera crews including BBC's Mark Tulip who was getting footage for Inside Out.

What was most impressive though was the sheer number of fans that were already in the stadium and when it got round to kick off it was quite astonishing - it was great to see so many parts of the ground with fans in.

The players got a great welcome from the crowd but they were going to have their work cut out for them as opponents Fleetwood Town are vying for promotion.  Up front for them was Richard Brodie -he is one of my most disliked players, a nasty snide player who managed to get Aaron Brown sent off in the home match against Crawley last season.  He'd eschewed his shaven head and was now fully hirsute except for a most amusing bald patch.  I'm sure that is down to karma.

It always struck me as odd that Mark Cooper held him in such high regard and I'm so pleased that he failed to sign him at the start of this season - I can support most players but I'd draw the line at him.

It was a pretty even first-half - plenty of possession from Darlington but Fleetwood were more cutting up front. Young on-loan keeper Jordan Pickford acquitted himself well and made my day when he flattened Brodie as he clattered into him whilst collecting a high ball. It allowed me an excellent view of the bald patch.

However Fleetwood managed to take the lead before the break - a bit of sloppy defending led to Mangan shooting and hitting the post and the rebound was slotted home by Danny Rose.  Quite a blow as Darlo had looked good up until then.

Brodie needs hair restorer
In the second half, Fleetwood dominated and had quite a few opportunities to extend their lead.  However Pickford was in good form and there was some sold defending which kept us in with a chance.

Sub Harrision came on to bolster the forward line and both he and Adam Rundle were very busy around the box but ultimately failed to put the Fleetwood keeper under any great pressure and with the temperature dropping significantly - especially at pitch level - I was pleased to hear the final whistle.

We had lost against a much better team but today was not about a result - it was an affirmation that we're still alive and we wanted to be together to celebrate that fact.  Anyone with an ounce of sense knows there is a long-way to go before we find out whether Darlo will survive but we now have a chance.

The crowd that turned up today - with fans from many other clubs - showed that the wider football family wants clubs like Darlington to survive so hopefully there will be a way forward for us.

It was a pretty large crowd that wended it's way back along Neasham Road - my feet were frozen and I was pleased to get back to the relative warmth of Bank Top station - not that isn't something I thought I'd ever write!

Our train was a little late arriving but once we got settled we tucked into some food that Martin had got at the game.  By the time we'd got back to Kings Cross we were back on schedule and we headed for the Euston Tap.

For once we were joined for post-match beers by the London Millers - Liz and Jenny and then finally Tim. Plenty of great beers for me including some crackers from Redwlllow (Directionless and Chocolate Stout), Hardknott (Cool Fusion and Continuum), Thornbridge Brother Rabbit, Buxton Blonde and last but not least, One For the Road, the ETap collaboration beer brewed at Northcote to mark the impending departure of manager Tony.

A good day out despite the result - we still have a club to support but there is a long way to go before we can relax and start to dream about another season.
Gordon and Martin - still on duty

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

And Now We Wait...

We now await the most important decision in Darlington's 129-year history as tomorrow the deliberations will finally end and administrator Harvey Madden will put us out of our misery, one way or another.

If it proves to be the end I'm sure we will all be feeling pretty numb and the consequences of our demise will not sink in for quite a while.

I remain optimistic, based on no real reason whatsover, probably because I find it hard to accept that my matchday routine might disappear forever. I'm too old to change my habits.

Let's hope I don't have to...

Monday, 9 January 2012

Darlo's Last Stand?

The sense of expectancy as I woke was similar to that before our trip to Wembley for the FA Trophy final just a few months ago - an overwhelming sense of nervousness and unease - but for totally different reasons this time.  Not a good feeling either.

I was out of the house by 5:30am and had a nice stress-free journey to King's X - Da Vinci's was just opening as I got there.  I had a ravenous appetite though and the breakfast hit the spot.

I walked up to Euston with my train being called just as I walked onto the concourse.  I was originally travelling on my own and had plumped for first class as it wasn't much dearer than standard.
Arrival at Barrow

But with the advent of administration and the prospect of this being our last ever game, I was joined by Iain Swalwell and Paul Brown, who had also left home at a ridiculously early hour, and they paid the £15 upgrade so they could join me. I'm worth it!

A nice quiet journey and we arrived at Lancaster to find John Bell on the platform - by rights he should have been at Barrow already but his connections let him down.

Our connection to Barrow was on time and it was a very pleasant journey with some beautiful scenery as well as opportunities for me to do a bit of bird-watching as we travelled between Arnside and Grange-over-Sands. A shame the weather wasn't a bit brighter.
Brian up for the ball

We arrived on time at Barrow and it was only a couple of hundred yards walk to the pub, the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel.  This place is owned by Lancaster Brewery and as such four of their beers were on sale: Blonde, Amber, Red and Black.

There were also some guest ales - Beartown Santa's Claws, Oxfordshire Ales Triple B, Wincle Wassale and Woodlands Oak Beauty.

The hotel bar was a bit quiet when we got in but it slowly started to fill with Darlo fans, including Rich, John and Andy who'd been on the same train as us.

However we were surprised when they didn't follow us but I'd forgotten that they had to go to Wetherspoons for their breakfast first. They also had retired Northern Echo columnist and Northern League chairman, Mike Amos, in tow.

I tried a good few of the beers on offer and they were OK without being brilliant - usually served with heads that were a bit too frothy and large for my liking so I decided to have a few bottles as well seeing as they had a decent foreign selection - I opted for Duvel and Brooklyn Brown Ale.

Trev joined us - as did old chum Neil Raper whose son Lewis famously gave Gazza a hard time when he (Lewis) ran the line - at the grand age of 11 - at the fundraising game several years ago.  It was good to hear from Neil that Lewis is making his way up the refereeing ladder.

MB-W goes down at the edge of the box
Just as we were about to depart for the Holker Street, Brian turns up - thankfully he was driving and is only allowed a quick half pint before we hustle back out of the door and onto the game.

We stopped for a few photos at the statue of Emlyn Hughes opposite the hotel - he is a celebrated son of Barrow even though his home town club weren't interested in him, Hughes having to join Blackpool instead as he started his career.

It took about ten minutes to walk to the ground and there was a huge queue at the away turnstiles when we arrived.  I left the others to join the queue while I circumnavigated the ground in order to collect my press pass.

Once inside there was already a healthy number of Darlo fans on the uncovered away terrace plus quite a few TV cameras ready to catch all the emotion that the occasion promised.

I set about getting a few fans' pictures - a lot of friendly faces, especially given the sad circumstances and it was especially good to see that Steve Harland had managed to swap his shift and get here.  Steve is doing a grand job hiring bands for gigs in Stockton these days and keeping the old punks of Teesside entertained.

As I was snapping the news came over the tannoy that the game was going to be delayed by 15 mins due to the queues at the away end.

Dancing with poles?
As the teams took the pitch there was a great roar from the away end but also a lot of applause from the home fans who were generous with their support for Darlo and their fans throughout.

The masses of Darlo fans were obviously hoping for a fairy-tale ending - if that what it turns out to be - for this last game. Sadly it was not to be but it wasn't the result that mattered.

The Darlo team for this historic occasion was Russell, Arnison, Hatch, Taylor, Brown; McReady, Chandler, Bridge-Wilkinson, Rundle; Hopson; Bowman with subs being Nixon (gk), P Gray, Harrison, Ramshaw and J Gray.

For a decent proportion of the first half Darlington gave as good as they got and pressed forward, attacking the Barrow goal in front of the Darlo fans and went close on a couple of occasions.

Unfortunately Darlo never really got into the flowing style that has become a trademark of their play under caretaker Craig Liddle and Barrow always looked that little bit sharper - no doubt the lack of training together in recent weeks can't have helped.

Spike Lee was injured and joined Liddle on the away bench - Liam Hatch was therefore drafted in with Kris Taylor to make up the centre-back pairing which meant Ryan Bowman was leading the Darlo line.

Unfortunately he got very little joy out of former Darlo loanee Danny Hone who was first to virtually all of the high balls during the game and was probably the pick of the Barrow defence.

Adam Rundle - note the sponsor
logo has been taped over
Adam Rundle, John McReady and Dale Hopson were all very busy and created some decent movement but failed to really attack the goal.

Barrow took the lead quite early on as Adam Boyes shot speculatively at goal - normally Sam Russell would have easily dealt with this sort of shot.  Perhaps his mind wasn't totally there as the ball proceeded to slip through his hands and into the net.

The home team then doubled their lead after Cook headed home from a cross.  Aaron Brown looked to have been fouled in the build-up but referee Amy Fearn didn't agree.

There was then a loud shout for a Darlo penalty as Mark Bridge-Wilkinson was fouled on the edge of the box.  The ref wasn't fooled and just gave a free-kick.  Paul Arnison came over to the linesman stood in front of me and tried to persuade him it was inside the box. Do they ever change their minds?

At the break I had a wander round and had a chat with a few old faces - former neighbour Geoff Thompson was wearing a replica shirt that was a bit tighter than it used to be.  I also saw the various members of the Darlington FC Rescue Group and had a chat with Doug Embleton who was busy taking his own shots of the occasion.

The game was also notable for the fact that it was the first time a female official has taken charge of a game at Holker Street and it wasn't exactly an impressive debut.  She seemed inconsistent, especially with regards to free-kicks, and made some odd decisions but to be fair, I've seen worse at this level.

She is quite a wee thing though and sometimes she seemed to take far too long sorting out the players when there was a freekick as the players towered over her and tended to ignore her.  Maybe an assertiveness course would be useful.

But I'm not trying to suggest she was in any culpable for the result as Darlington were not at their best and in the second half, chances were few and far between as the Quakers were on the back foot for the most part.

For the second half I'd positioned myself close to the Darlo dugout - Craig Liddle was constantly animated as he tried to get us back into the game but looked an increasingly frustrated figure as we failed to a significant impact.

Hatch was throwing himself into his defensive duties and in the end he paid the price as he had to go off with an injury, being replaced by one of the youth team, Scott Harrison, who made a good impression.

McReady was replaced by James Gray in an effort to put some more energy into our attack and then Rundle was replaced by another youth team player, Rob Ramshaw who made a ten-minute senior debut.

Darlo legend Craig Liddle
Unfortunately Martin and I had booked our rail tickets before the significance of this game was known and we had to depart Barrow station at 5:21pm. 

This meant missing the three minutes of added time and the subsequent emotional scenes as the players and fans applauded each other. Perhaps this was just as well as it probably would have been too emotional for us.

Our train was on time and we headed back to Preston accompanied by Trev, Pete, Karl and Mike and a few younger Darlo fans who lived in the north-west.  The journey was spent musing over some of the grounds we might end up visiting if we find ourselves lower down the pyramid in some form or another.

We left Trev, Karl and Mike at Preston - our connection at Preston there was also on-time - a cup of tea, a read of the programme (spotting the typo on the front page - the game was in 2011 apparently!) and then a snooze before we pulled in Euston on time twenty minutes earlier than planned.

Martin, Pete and I headed to the Euston Tap for some consolatory beers - it was pretty hectic for a Saturday night and the staff were only just coping. 

As ever though, some excellent beers on offer - I tried the Red Willow Ageless, Thornbridge Sequoia (which Martin got a taste for too) and the Northcote Brewery/Euston Tap Collaboration One for the Road.

The latter is the last brew to be made at Northcote as they have now decided to pack in brewing - which is a shame because One For The Road is very drinkable given it has about ten different hops in it (including some wild hops from Hackney).

And then time was called and it was time for bed.  The Euston Tap will be open for my business next week but will Darlo?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Here We Go Again....Again

It doesn't seem that long ago since Darlo last went into administration - and what do you know, it wasn't - less than two years ago.  That's three times in nine years.

It is hard to believe that we've come to this so soon after the highs of the Wembley victory just seven months ago. In fact if is wasn't for the fact that this is Darlington, it would be unthinkable.

There was a feeling in pre-season that the club weren't doing enough to push the club and build on the momentum of the FA Trophy win.

However on the playing side it looked as if Mark Cooper was bringing in some decent players for the new campaign and most bookmakers felt the same, making us one of the main contenders for a play-off spot at the least.

So it was with a fairly unusual sense of optimism that we started the season but after a narrow opening victory over newly-promoted Braintree, in which we were never totally convincing, we started to drop too many points against teams that we felt we should be beating.

Raj Singh - happer times after FA Trophy win at Gateshead
Defeats at the hands of supposedly weaker sides such as Tamworth, Bath City and Braintree led to manager Mark Cooper publicly criticising his players.  This tactic may work in the short term but it became a constant barrage with few players avoiding the wrath of his tongue.

At first most fans probably agreed with him as the players were severely underachieving but in the end it was self-defeating and he seemed to have lost the confidence of the squad.

The spineless performance and subsequent defeat at Braintree at the end of October was the final straw for the chairman and despite earlier support for his manager, Cooper was sacked.

Things came further to a head after we failed to beat Hinckley United at home in the FA Cup before things hit rock bottom after losing 3-0 in the replay.  Was Cooper really the the problem or was it the players?

On the team coach home after that defeat an unnamed player shouted out "Mr Chairman, please pay me off".  That was it - the blue touch paper was lit and Raj went on the rampage, insisting that players renegotiate their contracts or the club dies.

In the chaos that ensured, some players refused and left the club whilst others, to their credit, did accept cuts.

The saddest thing is that our form under the reins of caretaker Craig Liddle began to look very encouraging - the players looked fitter, we started to play decent football, some players made the step up from the youth and morale amongst players seemed to be on the up despite not being paid in recent weeks.

Singh now claimed that he was losing £80,000 a month which is hard for most of us to understand.  What exactly has changed in Raj's budget since the start of the season?

We know Raj is not with us for the love of the club - he's a Boro fan - but more the development potential of the land around the stadium.

Perhaps this was simply a way of him getting out for good, especially after the local council refused to lift planning covenants (quite rightly) on the land which he doesn't even own (and given the stance of the ground owners in respect to selling the the land to Singh, he wasn't likely to).

As suspected for some weeks, the administrator finally stepped in yesterday and announced that "Without any financial support from outside the club or anyone willing to acquire the club, I will, unfortunately, have little alternative but to cease to trade in a very short time".

Too little time I fear for the Darlington FC Rescue Group led by Mark Meynell to get realistically involved - they needed Singh to keep the club going until the summer - but that option would appear to have gone.

What happens next is anyone's guess...

There Goes The Neighbourhood...

The start to the new year saw the departure of one of the oldest businesses in my part of the East End as Duncan’s Pie and Mash shop on Green Street closed for good.

Joan Holt seving the masses
Although I was a relatively late convert to the pleasure of green liquor and pies done London-stylee, I have now tried a wide variety of this fare in different parts of London and can say, hand on heart with no hint of local bias, that Duncan’s was the best I’d come across.

And that was no mean feat given that there was some stiff competition in the area from Robin’s in nearby East Ham and also from Nathan’s just the other side of the Boleyn Ground.

The only thing I've never got to grips with is jellied eels.  I tried them back in the late 1980s and they were horrible - never again!

The local pie and mash shops are full to the gunnels on match-days as exiled Hammers fans poured into the area but trade at other times is patchy as the older residents of the borough die off or move out of the area.

Unfortunately the pleasures of pie and mash have failed to catch the imagination of the more recent influx of residents. Presumably no one has yet produced halal pie and mash?

Just recently Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain TV series visited Robin’s shop - Oliver tried to persuade viewers that pies originated in Egypt but I suspect that they were a pale imitation of what we know and love today.

Nevertheless it was still nice to see the footage of the shop. In an interview, the owners hinted they would be closing and sure enough the shop was long gone by the time the programme was transmitted – a shame after almost ninety years in business.

David Holt - keep the spuds boiling
 I’d popped into Duncan’s last week for a couple of takeaway pies and proprietor Joan said she was  pleased I'd dropped in – would I let the Pie and Mash club know that they were closing up in case anyone wanted to make a final visit?

Joan had been very impressed with the appetites of some members of the club when making their last visit back in 2010.

Joan added that they’d been going for forty years and that now was probably the time to call it a day.

And so the big day came and it was time for one last visit for a 2 and 2 – double pie and double mash. I made my way there before noon to beat the rush and managed to bag a seat. Whilst there I took a few final shots of the place, including some behind the scenes.

I had a quick chat with John – busy backstage in charge of the pies and mash – who although looking forward to taking thngs a bit easier said that he would miss his customers, especially on match days.

And then a farewell to Joan, busy serving at the front, before I left taking with me a few final pies for the freezer.

The queue was almost out of the door by then and I heard that later on that the queue stretched almost to the tube station and many fans failed to get in for a last taste.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A Dying Breed

I'm sure most readers will be aware of the sad death of our friend and fellow fan, Lance Ireland, in the early hours of New Year's Eve.

Lance had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year but was determined not to make a fuss and get on with life as best he could in whatever time he had remaining.

As much as he was often the centre of attention when out on the road with DAFTS, it wasn't a role he courted and overt attention unsettled him - ever the soldier it was a case of no fuss, no pack drill.

We all have our own memories of Lance - unsettling fellow travellers with his repetoire of songs, the variety of headwear,  his views on football today (how long do you have?), turning up far too early at an away meet, his Morris dancing at the Spring Thing festival, the Darlo shrine in the Sportsman, being sent to his own table in the pub when he simply got too daft and many more.

Lance was one of the first to donate to any cause - the youth development and the prediction league both benefitted on a regular basis.  At the start of each season, he always give me £10 to give to Liz for the London Millers annual raffle (and even when he won he'd decline the prize).
 Lance Ireland, Sheik of Harborne

It was heartening to see that he was finally able to meet his Hollywood sweetheart Rhonda Fleming at her home in LA a week or so after Darlo's victory at Wembley.  The welcome he was given spoke volumes for the friendship he developed with her over previous years.

It is fair to say that he will be missed by all that knew him - they don't make them like that anymore.

Thanks for the memories Lance - I'm sure St Peter knows all the words to Me and My Pussycat by now...