June 20, 2024

Ball boys

Why am I wincing? Because I can still taste that salty rainwater trickling across my cracking, chapped lips to the tip of my reluctant tongue.

I wasn’t actually at the Owlerton Regatta in December 2013, when referee Chris Stroud called a halt to that infamous doggy paddle-off between Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan Athletic after 60 minutes.

But the 106 gallons of water shovelled and brushed from the pitch that evening caused Sheffield Town Centre’s drainage system to completely explode. And that wascally water escaped as far as Argleton, Fulchester and… you guessed it, my (very damp) house in Wigan.

Why do I recall that evening so vividly, though?

Perhaps it’s the perceived injustice of having three potential points snatched from one’s oily grasp – Latics held a tempting 1-0 lead at the time of abandonment. Although granted, they did take the rearranged fixture by three snowballs to none – yeah, it never rained but it snowed.

Or perhaps I enjoy the apocryphal story that Uwe Rosler ordered half a cola from the concourse, but by the time it arrived it had become a bubbling cauldron of pale yellow rainwater flavoured salt drink. And that other tale about how Mr Whelan had to buy a new diary as his existing one had been filled with phantom Sheffield United v Wigan Athletic matches.

But maybe, just maybe it’s the fact I was splashed by that genuine Sheffield rainwater as I strolled past the Yorkshire embassy in Orrell. “Tekk that, yer Lanky twit,” yelled a man in a pristine white tuxedo and greased back hair, possibly John Cleese.

Actually, forget it – I think the weird taste in my mouth might actually be the last remnants of that particularly briny tuna sandwich I had for lunch.

So, I hear they’re forecasting rain for Sheffield tomorrow…

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