A fitting tribute
Four seasons in one day was a 1992 hit for Australian Band Crowded House and described Melbourne’s notoriously unpredictable weather. Teesside and Melbourne are perhaps not natural bedfellows, but as the game today began with torrential rain before light clouds and drizzle gave way to dazzling sunshine in the second half, it was almost a case of four seasons in one game.
I was more than a little curious to see how Thornaby’s Teesdale Park had taken shape since my last visit in the spring. After years of problems with vandalism, Thornaby finally appear to be making some headway with their ground which was in urgent need of renovation, repair and renewal. At the top of many football club’s summer shopping lists would be a star striker to boost the goals for column or a new creative midfielder to open up sides and conjure opportunities from nothing. At the top of Thornaby’s wish list was a new perimeter fence. Situated at the end of a long track which is well away from the main road, Teesdale Park has been the victim of repeated acts of violence. Almost as soon as their hard working committee put something new into place, local yobs would be attracted to it like moths to a flame. They would then create their own flames with several fires and acts of graffiti and destruction. One evening (several years ago), Guisborough arrived to find that the pitch had been marked out not only with the regulation white markings but also by the rutted marks of car tyres as some mindless idiots had driven across every square inch of the pitch the previous day, creating the rather curious impression that we were playing on top of a zebra. Perhaps with this context, it is clear to see why the club are determined to push on with ground repairs, more secure in the knowledge that their good work is less likely to be undone now that the problems can be kept out.
As Guisborough arrived for our pre-season friendly, the work that has been done was clear to see. There is now a club house on site, a hospitality room and most significant of all on this occasion, a newly renovated stand which is fittingly dedicated to the memory of Club Secretary Peter Morris, who recently died whilst refereeing a local football match. The opening of the new stand also heralded the start of the first Peter Morris Memorial match between the two sides (and hopefully the first of many).
It is seventy-seven days since I last saw a game between two Northern League sides – Guisborough’s Promotion Party trip to Gilford Park in Carlisle. But like a conversation with a long absent friend, within minutes it felt as though I had never been away. Thornaby’s pitch looked as good as it has for many years and both teams tried to keep the ball on the deck. In a relatively even first half, Guisborough’s possession finally told as Shane Henry carried on from where he left off last year as he poked the ball into the far corner to give us a half-time lead. The second half was more one-sided. Luke Bythway thundered a shot into the bottom corner and Chris I’Anson – after four goals in a half against Washington at the end of last season – added two more here to secure a comfortable 4-0 victory.
David Onions was as threatening and enthusiastic as ever and the muscular Tommy Marron impressed at centre half. The game ended as all pre-season games should do – in bright sunshine. Both teams had reason to feel satisfied. For Guisborough, this was a good work out as we build towards the start of the season and some tough challenges. For Thornaby, the opening of the new stand was a fitting tribute to a man who had done so much for his club.
With the ongoing ground improvements, Thornaby are moving in the right direction and it is no less than their excellent and very welcoming committee deserve. After years of uncertainty, there are hopefully brighter skies ahead.