Touching the void

AS a kid I’d be asked by my mum, every year or so, to have a clear-out of toys I didn’t play with any more.

Diligently, I’d root around under my bed and at the back of the cupboard to find once-prized playthings that had found themselves usurped by more recent birthday or Christmas gifts.
I’d gather them together, bag them up ready to be taken away by the organisers of the local jumble sale and bid them a fond farewell.
Then, on the day of the jumble sale, I’d rake together some pocket money, head off to the local community centre and buy them all back again.
It just goes to show, you see – you don’t miss something until it’s gone. Or within a hair’s breadth of being gone.
Take Darlington Football Club.
It looked for all the world like 129 years of Quakers history was destined to go the same way as the dodo, the Austin Allegro and decent chart music this week.
But in a tale with more twists and turns than Mick McCarthy’s nose, the club lives to fight another day. Several more days in fact.
It looked as though, for whatever reason, there was to be no sword-waving saviour riding to the rescue of the stricken club astride his trusty charger.
But in a deal so late that the 10-minute freeview was almost up, all of that changed.
At Gazette Towers we were glued to Twitter as the drama unfolded, with the Boro fans old enough to remember the great escape of 1986 nodding along in misty-eyed recognition of what they’d been through all those years ago.
And as speedway fans we can fully appreciate what it’s like to have our club prised away from us.
Remember 1996 and the bombshell that Cleveland Park was to close? One minute we had a team to support, the next we didn’t.
It was an eerie feeling knowing that we’d just witnessed the last ever race at one of the first venues ever to stage speedway.
Somewhere I’ve still got a letter from my then boss in praise of the emotive colourpiece I’d penned as the death knell for speedway sounded on Teesside.
Ten long years it took us to have a team to call our own again which is why, whoever we support and whichever sport we follow, we should spare a thought for fans of the Quakers and hope that they don’t have to endure the agony of seeing their beloved club thrown onto the sporting scrapheap.


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