Morecambe v Rochdale
Globe Arena / FA Cup / 3rd November 2013
Bring me sunshine in your smile. Bring me laughter all a while.
In this world where we live there should be more happiness,
So much joy you can give to each brand new bright tomorrow.
Make me happy through the year. Never bring me any tears.
Let your arms be as warm as the sun from up above.
Bring me fun, bring me sunshine and bring me love.
Not my words but the words to the song ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ made most famous by a legendary comedy double act. My latest football adventure would find me leaving Manchester at 10:16 and by 11:45 standing on steps adorned with the majority of these lyrics. If you haven’t worked it out yet (or you just haven’t been bothered to read the title) on this cold early November Saturday I was at Morecambe. Some may ask what the hell do those lyrics have to do with Morecambe? Well of course this song was made most famous by Morecambe and Wise and the former of the duo, originally named John Eric Bartholomew, was born in this small fishing town in the North-west of England. The town of Morecambe celebrate the fact that they were the birthplace of one of the greatest comedians this country has ever seen with their Wetherspoons pub which is neatly titled the Eric Bartholomew and with their statue dedicated to the deceased comedian. On arriving into Morecambe I’d made the statue my first port of call after so many people had said I had to see it. In all fairness, I don’t often rate statutes but it was a rather cool statue that reflected the appeal of Eric Morecambe perfectly and there were many people besides myself enjoying and laughing at the comic appearance of the statue with the words of the above song emblazoned across the steps. If I had to recommend a statue to you, it would be this one. Anyway, enough of this statue loving.
One of the things I miss most about my time living in Swansea is the sea. It’s safe to say that in our second year of Uni my housemates and I had a pretty crappy house, but the one thing I loved about my room was that it looked out onto the sea. I miss waking up to the sea and it was with this thought that I decided to go to the seaside and visit Morecambe FC to watch them take on Rochdale in the FA Cup first round. I began my day wandering down Morecambe seafront and indulging in one amusement arcade that was on the route (I didn’t win anything). It didn’t take long for it to become apparent that Morecambe love their seagulls, as there were statues of them everywhere, as well as the real deal squawking away in the background. To avoid the seagulls I made my first pit stop at The Station. The Station was your average Wetherspoons-y pub with very little character, but with a Wacky Warehouse attached to it for those bringing children (I bet it doesn’t touch the glory years of Charlie Chalk’sFactory in Pentrebach House from my childhood though). There was nothing really noteworthy going on there, so I decided to roll on.
After a 5 minute wander down the seafront, I found my eye being caught by a novel looking place called “The Ranch House”. Yes, from the outside it did have a slight Wild West exterior going on, but on entering the place hadn’t gone overboard with the gimmick and the place seemed like great place to enjoy the 12:45 kick off between Manchester United and Arsenal. On going to the bar and paying a reasonably priced £2.80 for a pint, I was requested to write my name on the “what minute will the first goal be scored” grid in relation to the big Manchester United v Arsenal game that was about to hit the pub’s big screen. I put my name down for the first goal being scored in the 23rd minute and then quizzed the barmaid on what the prize would be – “8 free pints” she replied. I was not sure how I was going to fit in all those pints if I was to win the prize with me planning to attend a game at 3 o’clock, but thankfully Robin Van Persie scored against his old club in the 3rd minute to appease those worries. The other thing that made this pub great was the fact they sold Nandos Piri Piri Crisps which, for those who know my love of Nandos and beer, is a perfect match for me. The Ranch House was a blast and at 13:30 I decided to make my way towards the ground, but not before calling in the brilliantly named Davey Jones’ Locker pub underneath a hotel, where the pub’s inhabitants gave me spot on directions to Morecambe’s Globe Arena.
A ten minute walk ensued, taking in a Co-op cash machine, a William Hill bookies and few distracting pubs en route, but then the Globe Arena was in sight, However, it was still early days so I scanned the horizon for a pub until I noticed a lot of dark blue Rochdale shirts heading into a nearby building. It was only on approaching the place properly that I realised where I was going for my next drink: a bar on a caravan park. Directly opposite the Globe Arena sits a huge caravan park and clearly the company running the park has exploited the the close proximity to the stadium by making themselves the designated away pub. I settled with a £3 pint and began chatting with Rochdale fans about my admiration for their centre midfielder Andrew Tutte who I’d witnessed play on a previous Lost Boyo adventure just under two weeks before in Dale’s 2-0 victory over Oxford. With my pints drunk in a pub on a caravan park, which is a first form me before a football match, and I decided to make the hop across the road to the Globe Arena.
The Globe Arena (named after the Globe construction company that built it) is still a very new stadium for Morecambe FC after they moved from their previous home of Christie Park in 2010. The stadium holds 6,476 fans with the unique feature of three sides of the ground being standing terraces – supposedly this is to replicate the feel of their former home. I was not exactly awestruck by the plush yet generic looking Globe Arena as I walked up towards it to purchase my ticket, but on further prodding about I soon discovered that the Globe Arena is certainly different to most new build stadiums. Having bought my ticket for the open terrace for £14, I headed towards the sign that said bar.
The bar inside the main stand (or the Chairman-inspired Peter McGuigan Stand to give it it’s proper name) appeared to be the main hub of the stadium and there was plenty of fans inside enjoying a prematch pint (priced £3). Moments after entering a girl approached me claiming she knew me; when my perplexed face displayed my uncertainty of this fact she actually began to think I was someone famous (I assured her I was not). After working through this puzzle we soon worked out that we were on the same PGCE course and she had recognised me from lectures. Small world. I then met Paul, a Morecambe fan with a crazy mohican haircut. When I explained my groundhopping exploits and that I would be writing about my day at Morecambe, Paul, as a member of the Shrimp’s supporters group, decided to look after me and make me an honorary shrimp fan for the day. I was even given a supporters club badge to confirm my fandom. It was now 15 minutes before kick off when Paul brought along someone to meet me: Jim Bentley, Morecambe’s manager. I’ve never been to a game where the manager has walked into the bar just before the kick off to go around telling the fans to be loud. Brilliant stuff! I departed the bar and made my way around to the open terrace opposite the main stand.
I’ve not mentioned it yet but there was one other factor that had brought me to Morecambe: the pie. Everyone raves about Morecambe’s pies and they are regularly dubbed as the finest in the land; they’re so renowned that a batch of Morecambe’s pies are sent down to Harrods. Safe to say, there was a lot riding on this pie. I played it safe with a meat and potato pie at a reasonably priced £2.50. It was absolutely perfect in every way. Absolute faultless pastry, chewy and melt in your mouth innards and it was a sizable portion. The best of the season so far? Certainly, but it shares that honour with the amazing beef and chilli pie I had at Llanelli.
Thankfully, despite some ominous grey skies throughout the afternoon, the sky was clear blue, something I was very thankful for considering I was standing on a terrace without a roof. The open terrace runs down the far side of the pitch with the main stand, which has just over 2000 seats plus the usual array of executive boxes, running down the other side of the pitch. Behind each goal stood another roofed standing terraces with Morecambe’s loudest fans behind the goal on my right and the away fans behind the goal on my left. As I pervaded the four stands I thought that despite a bit of blandness and a lot of grey concrete, the ground had some character unlike most new build grounds.
As far as the game was concerned, it was an absolute shocker. There was very little to get excited about at all and perhaps the most entertaining thing throughout the first half was the comical cat mascot wandering the ground. Morecambe had started the better team and they scored with one of the few moments of quality in the first half as Andy Fleming slowly approached the Rochdale goal before launching a 20 yard shot into the bottom corner.
Anyone that read about my trip to Rochdale two weeks ago will be aware that I sang the praises of Dale’s centre midfielder Andrew Tutte; once again, he was brilliant and I reiterate again that I think he should be playing at a higher level. Him and his midfield partner Jason Kennedy were linking up well and playing some nice stuff, but there was very little threat from Rochdale. Morecambe began to let Rochdale have most of the ball, but the Dale were not getting anywhere. 1-0 to Morecambe at half-time.
It was during half-time that I realised how flipping cold it had become and that I was freezing, something that probably wasn’t helped by standing on an open, non-sheltered standing terrace. I was hoping the game would liven up to take my mind off the cold. The game restarted and once again it was a dull, scrappy FA Cup tie. Rochdale were much the better team and their striker Bobby Grant was looking lively; Grant had a couple of chances only to be denied brilliantly on a couple of occasions by Barry Roche in the Morecambe goal. Eventually Rochdale’s persistence paid dividends as another save from Roche lead to the ball going across goal for Kennedy to score into an empty net and make it 1-1 with just under twenty minutes to play. Rochdale’s play tailed off and with minutes left Morecambe almost stole the win only to be thwarted by a brilliant save from Josh Lillis to deny Nicholas Fenton header.
Final score: Morecambe 1-1 Rochdale.
My feet and hands were now utterly numb so I tried to have a little jog back to the bar inside the ground. Once back inside the warmth of the bar, Paul approached me to apologise for witnessing such a dire game, but I informed him that I had a great afternoon at the club despite the game. I had planned on leaving after one post match pint, but the company I was with persuaded me to stay for further drinks. Paul then invited me to come see the rest of the stadium and he gave me a tour of the executive boxes and the players’ lounge, as well as attempting to take me into the board room, but the board were actually having a meeting. I was introduced to a few of the players and I even got to tell club legend Stuart Drummond about how I’d scored a goal with him on FIFA 13 the night before, a goal which had cued a load of drum-related puns. He seemed quite pleased with his virtual personas efforts! I was getting VIP treatment indeed. I was also told I had to talk to one of Morecambe’s most famous fans; a man only introduced to me as “Two Scarves” (he had one on his head and at least one around his leg). I was then deeply quizzed by “Two Scarves” into what possesses football fans to go around the country following a team or visiting all the different grounds up and down the country. It really was a deep philosophical discussion as he reflected on the idea of ‘what is a football fan?’. I must add though, what a nice guy! I had originally planned to depart Morecambe on the 18:55 train but the alcohol had clearly made me lose track of time and instead I would have to catch the train an hour later.
My day was capped off with another visit to The Ranch House to watch the closing moments of Manchester City v West Ham. The bar was very busy and there was very much a pre-night out atmosphere to the place. Two lads at the bar, who questioned me following them hearing my ‘strange accent’, were even determined that I joined them and their mates for a proper night out in Morecambe (even promising me accommodation), but I politely declined despite them telling me it would add some great stories to my blog.
Morecambe is a funny little town – a bit like a poor man’s Blackpool – but I really liked it’s understated way. Morecambe is a great away day with plenty to keep you busy before the game. I’d recommend The Ranch House as a great prematch drinking hole and it is definitely worth popping into the club’s bar in the stadium – you might even get a prep talk from the manager. A big thank you as well to all the Morecambe fans who I spoke to – you were all very welcoming and friendly and special thank you to Paul for showing me the club; my Morecambe badge is still pinned to my coat.
Highlights: the pie, not your traditional new ground, standing terraces, The Ranch House, the bar in the stadium, being shown around the club, meeting FIFA 13 hero Stuart Drummond, very welcoming fans, tour of the stadium.
Low Points: Not the best atmosphere, awful game, very cold on the open terrace.