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04/05: Reports:

Football League Division Two, 06/11/04, 3.00pm
Derby County
The man next to me
By Richard Scrimshaw

Every now and then, the matchday programme includes a small item mentioning that Joe Soap, a supporter for seventy years, has just died and expressing sympathy. And probably, like me, you get as far as thinking, "Shame. Still a good age." And you move on to the more important stuff about the youth team or whatever.

There was just such a piece in this Saturday's programme about a guy called John Reynolds - you may even have noticed it. I certainly did, and never made it any further, because for the last ten years or so, John had been the man next to me.

Apparently, he collapsed on the way home from the Ipswich game and couldn't be revived. A chap a few seats away used to give him a lift home, so was there, but because he didn't have any contact details for us (who does?), we didn't know until we came to take our seats yesterday, by which time the funeral was long gone. I was first there, so had to tell Rupe and his dad (John had spent eight years as the barrier between Rupe and I), Murray who sits in front of us, and the two guys whose names I, shamefully, can never remember (one's called Maurice, I think, but I've no idea which one).

It's the little things you miss. His muttered to response to Richard Shout's "Enjooooooy the Gaaaaaammmme!" ("Bollocks!"). The match (there was a match on, by the way - this is a report) did nothing to help us, offering little to distract.

At some point, however, we conjured a sublime piece of trickery (no, I don't know which minute - you want that stuff, see the other reports) from Ardley, sucking in the full back before dragging the ball back to Ashley Young. He feinted to go inside, dragging the hapless full back with him, before darting outside him and laying up a magnificent cross into the six yard box. Heidar was in between defenders and just had to nod it back inside the near post. 1-0. Yippee. Would John have had him as the first scorer?

He used to smoke cigars. Very distinctive smell, that isn't here.

Half-time entertainment. Spurs girlies against Garston. John was from Garston. A Garston girl scuffed her shot terribly and looked devastated - I was almost pleased when the last girl also missed, so at least she wasn't the difference.

Second half and Heidar went mental for a bit, like he does. Resulting in an aggrieved, and booked, Derby midfielder, a stretchered off defender (accidentally injured), and a melee following a, er, robust challenge for which he was booked. Ian Taylor, however, had run twenty yards to push him over, for which he also got a yellow that could arguably have been red. In fact he was again treated leniently by the referee a few minutes later when, after a great parry by Richard Lee reached him at the edge of the area, he lashed it home for the equaliser and dashed off the pitch to the Derby fans. The ref simply stayed halfway inside our half watching and waiting and then, as Taylor made his way back, took him aside and gently pointed out to him that he could have had a second booking for his celebration.

We brought on Fitzgerald, they (more tellingly, you could argue) brought on Peskydildo (Rupe's spelling): so called because he's a substitute for the real thing (my humour, sorry).

Unfortunately, we got sucked across to the left hand side once to often, a great ball found the pesky person beyond the last man and the odious little wanker stuck it away. 1-2. Bugger. Bet John would have had that - he was always reassuringly pragmatic with his bets.

We now brought on Bouazza as well, and finally got the breakthrough with a bobbly, but who cares, goal from Boris. Truth be told, we spent the rest of the game hammering on the door but without getting in. So 2-2, which was okay.

John was a bowler, which was something we had in common. He had been president of the Owls club, up behind the leisure centre, and I had had the pleasure of taking a rink up there to play in his Charity day. Playing a sport like bowls, with its in-built demographic, death and loss are regular visitors, but you can never get used to it and sometimes....

I'm now going to have either an empty space or someone new next to me. It'll take some getting used to.