Balti Pies and Rochdale: A taste of the Lower Leagues

Football was once described as a game that touched the hearts of people who witnessed the fluttering of its silken wings. The ‘beautiful game’ is perceived as the most elegant, perfect sport known to man. In other words, God has goalposts in his back garden.

However, it was with a note of self pity that I approached a modest urban ground called ‘Spotland’, home of Rochdale FC, on a biting Saturday morning. This wooden sprawl is no Santiago Bernabeu, but I had decided to get a taste of what the lower leagues had to offer in order to broaden my football repertoire. What I experienced would savagely contradict Pele’s famous words, forcing them into a corner and beating them into submission.

As I took a seat, my backside was greeted by a material that, if you sat on it for 90 minutes, would make plastic feel as enticing as cashmere. The waft of balti pies was tempting my concentration away from the opening few minutes of Rochdale’s highly anticipated clash against Chester City, until I realized that proceedings took the form of no ordinary bleak encounter expected of a League Two tie. It was a bloodbath out there.

Who said that the players similar in style to the madmen of ‘The Crazy Gang’ have been removed from the game by the modern ‘Peak-fitness’ footballer? Today, tough tackles far outweighed technique and leg-breakers were attempted more than long-balls. The players retreated, some without limbs, through the tunnel/hole in the wall at full time- bringing to an end a gruelling goalless encounter that was about as unglamorous as they come.

It is fair to say that the Premiership is light-years ahead of League Two. This is a league still susceptible to abuse from neighbours of the stadiums who complain about the crowd noise on Saturday afternoons. Would you see that happening at Old Trafford? No, you wouldn’t — and this gives the lower-leagues a unique twist. They may not necessarily be attractive, or well equipped by the F.A, but they’re sure to brighten your mood if you are driven insane by dramatically ascending ticket prices and the melodramatic tendencies of foreign imports into the higher leagues.

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