Blog In Play, Now!

Ok, this week’s entry is about football, but not in the way you might expect, and certainly not in a way that should discourage those who don’t like football from reading on.

Essentially, whilst wondering what this week’s blog could be about (I had a few ideas, but the kids haven’t provided any comedic material of late), I noticed something of potential online.

Then, when I’d finished watching that, I spotted a post on the Facebook group ‘The Football Conference North’ (the league my beloved Stockport County appear to now be trapped in for all eternity), and it really made me chuckle.

Essentially, this Facebook group is a vehicle for fans of teams in the Vanarama National League North (sounds prestigious, doesn’t it?) to rip the piss out of each other as much as is humanly possible. That may not have been the original intention of the group’s creators, but that’s certainly what everyone seems to use it for – often with hilarious consequences, but for all the wrong reasons.

This form of online abuse is widely referred to as ‘banter’ (or ‘bantz’ for the fully lobotomised), and generally involves some window-licker posting an inflammatory comment, with the sole intention of getting a rise from fans of opposing teams. Such behaviour is known as ‘fishing’, or, more commonly, ‘being a twat for the sake of it’, and there are usually dozens of people queuing up to take the bait.

Unfortunately, being as anally retentive about spelling and grammar as I am, reading posts in this group can sometimes be a struggle (there are actually people out there, who wouldn’t know an apostrophe if it came up and clamped itself firmly onto their ball’s – yes, that was deliberate), but the same can be said for most of the communities on Facebook, and this particular group’s one saving grace, is that it is just so damn entertaining at times.

Anyway, the post which made me chuckle earlier this week, was from a Tamworth fan (who, in fairness, seemed a decent enough chap), and was along the lines of ‘Watch out Brackley, the Lambs are coming to get you Tuesday night…’ – this being a reference to Tamworth (The Lambs) travelling to play Brackley on Tuesday evening.

Now, it wasn’t the prospect of Tamworth beating Brackley away from home which tickled me so much (although, invariably, whenever someone shares a pre-match boast like this, it almost always comes back to bite them firmly in the arse – and, sure enough, the game ended 0-0), but more the mental image of a lamb being used as an instrument of terror.

Of all the football club nicknames, surely ‘The Lambs’ is one of the least frightening? For the same reason, you tend to find that supporters of clubs like Norwich City (‘The Canaries’), Bournemouth (‘The Cherries’), and Morecambe (‘The Shrimps’), avoid using their nicknames to intimidate opposing fans of teams like Sheffield United (‘The Blades’), Hull City (‘The Tigers’), and Millwall (‘The Fucking Lunatics’).

Which got me thinking – if tomorrow afternoon’s fixtures in County’s league, were decided purely on the respective nicknames of each club, which teams would come out on top, and would it be worth sticking a few quid on? So, without further ado….



               AFC TELFORD             v           HARROGATE TOWN

Telford: Here come the Bucks!

Harrogate: Your nickname is ‘The Books’? Like in a library?

Telford: No, B-U-C-K-S. As in the male of certain species, like deer, and rabbits.

Harrogate: Hardly intimidating though, is it?

Telford: Well, deer have antlers, so they can do some damage. Why, what’s your nickname?

Harrogate: Town.

Telford: Town? Not very imaginative. Besides, there’s nothing scary about a town.

Harrogate: You never been to Blackpool then?

Telford: Fair point.



Alfreton: Hi, we’re the ‘Reds’.

Gainsborough: Boring. We’re the ‘Holy Blues’.

Alfreton: Ah, so a battle of the colours. Well, clearly red is more menacing than blue.

Gainsborough: Why? Blue can be scary too. It’s associated with cold things.

Alfreton: And Smurfs. Besides, red is associated with heat and danger, and look how menacing the bearded fella on our badge is. That’s some scary shit, right there. Plus, ‘Holy’ Blues? Where did you get that from – Robin?! ‘Holy Blues, Batman, it’s Gainsborough!’ 


          BLYTH SPARTANS          v            BOSTON UNITED

Blyth: Behold, the mighty Spartans! One of the most feared armies throughout the whole of history! 

Boston: Shit. 



BPA: Ok, before you say anything, we’re well-aware that our nickname isn’t very original.

Nuneaton: Why, what is it?

BPA: The Avenue. What’s yours?

Nuneaton: The Boro.

BPA: Oh. Equally unoriginal then. Hey, why does your club badge have a bear slow-dancing with a cactus?

Nuneaton: Piss off.



Curzon: No doubt about it, we win the most original nickname – ‘The Nash’ – beat that!

FCUM:  Might be original, but it’s not exactly intimidating, is it?

Curzon: Kate Nash was pretty scary. Why, what’s your nickname?

FCUM: ‘The Reds’.

Curzon: Like Man United?

FCUM: Not really. They’re the ‘Red Devils’. We dropped the devil part.

Curzon: At least devils are evil.

FCUM: Go on then, what’s a Nash?

Curzon: It harks back to a third team that used to play in our town.

FCUM: Your nickname relates to a different team?

Curzon: …..


               DARLINGTON              v              LEAMINGTON

Darlington: Darlo, Darlo, Darlo!

Leamington: Is that your nickname?

Darlington: Well, no. It’s ‘The Quakers’ really.

Leamington: Like the oats?

Darlington: Spelled the same, but the nickname actually comes from our original links to the ‘Religious Society of Friends’.

Leamington: Boring. We’re the ‘Brakes’ – named after the Lockheed brake manufacturing company. That’s more exciting.

Darlington: Does that not imply you’re slow, though? You should have paired up with the company that makes accelerator pedals. Or horns. Or spoilers. It’s hardly intimidating.

Leamington: What, and a religious organisation dedicated to equality and peace is?

Darlington: Touché. But why is there a windmill on your badge?

Leamington: It refers to the 17th Century Chesterton Windmill, which is actually a Grade I listed building on the outskirts of Leamington, just off the M40. Depending on whether you’re travelling Northbound or Southbound, you’ll want to come off at either junction 13 or 14…. 


    NORTH FERRIBY UNITED          v         CHORLEY

Chorley: Ha! The Villagers?! Really?!

North Ferriby: And what’s so intimidating about a fucking Magpie?

Chorley: They steal stuff – like three points.

North Ferriby: That’s just a myth.

Chorley: Plus, they bring good luck – like three points.

North Ferriby: Also a myth.

Chorley: Magpies! Magpies! Magpies!

North Ferriby: Oh, what’s the point….


              SALFORD CITY          v             BRACKLEY TOWN

Salford: Go on then, give us a laugh.

Brackley: The Saints.

Salford: Isn’t that Southampton’s nickname?

Brackley: Hang on, Chorley were here a minute ago, and they’re called the Magpies.

Salford: True, but we’re not playing Chorley. Anyway, our nickname is definitely unique: ‘The Ammies’.

Brackley: Surprised it’s not ‘The Beeb’, to be honest. What does ‘The Ammies’ even mean?

Salford: It comes from our old name of ‘Salford Amateurs’.

Brackley: Amateurs aren’t intimidating.

Salford: And Saints are?

Brackley: You should have gone with ‘The Lions’. At least then your badge would have made sense.



Kidderminster: Harriers are deadly birds of prey, or fighter jets. Either way, we win.

Southport: Thought you called yourselves ‘Kiddy’?

Kidderminster: Not for the purposes of this, we don’t. Remind us of your nickname again?

Southport: ‘The Sandgrounders’.

Kidderminster: Ooooh, we’re quaking!

Darlington: Huh? What?

Kidderminster: Never mind.


                TAMWORTH           v           SPENNYMOOR TOWN

Tamworth: Ok, let’s get this over with, shall we? Yes, we’re ‘The Lambs’, the least intimidating of all the nicknames in this league.

Spennymoor:  Hahahahahahahahaha! I mean, ours, ‘The Moors’, is pretty shit, but….. hahahahahaha!


                  YORK CITY           v            STOCKPORT COUNTY

York: They’ve saved the best until last – the battle of the giants!

Stockport: Only by Conference North standards. Our big crowds aren’t going to help either of us here.

York: Rubbish. We’ll piss this tinpot league.

Stockport: Yes, so your fans keep reminding us every few minutes. We used to say that, too, and we’ve been in this league a few years now.

York: Not us – we’ll be up by Easter! Anyway, this is all about nicknames, and ‘The Hatters’ is a rubbish one.

Stockport: Coming from ‘The Minstermen’?! Ok, which of the Minstermen are you – Mr Tickle? Mr Bump? Mr Might Realise How Tough This League Is By Christmas?  


So, there you have it – Eleven matches, eleven predictions. Normally, when I try to predict County games, I’m woefully inaccurate, so let’s see if this system is any better – might even stick a tenner on it, just in case…..

What do you think, Ray Winstone’s massive floating head?


Now, that’s intimidating.


Supporting The Underblog

I don’t always receive feedback for my blog, but in the first year of ‘Sandbach Chatter’ (oh, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten already), it quickly became clear that I should avoid two specific topics, particularly if I wanted to retain – and attract – followers: listing my favourite films or albums, and anything to do with football.

The lists, I understand. Even though I enjoyed writing them, I can see how they became tedious, and it’s safe to say they wouldn’t feature on my ‘best of’ compilation (not that I’m planning one, don’t worry).

In contrast, the general indifference towards any entries about my beloved Stockport County, was harder to accept. This was primarily because it was the enjoyment I got from writing about County for another (football) blog, which got me into this in the first place, and even though I knew it would be hard to maintain interest in a sixth-tier team, many of my initial audience stemmed from those articles.

However, as I amassed new followers (predominantly women), it became clear that I would rapidly lose them again, if I continued to discuss football. This is not because women don’t like football, you understand (bullet firmly dodged), but more that they have very short attention spans (bullet well and truly back on course – calm down ladies, it was a joke).

I soon realised that entries about my boys were considerably more popular, especially the hilarious shit they often come out with (not literally). From this, I have hopefully settled into a style of writing that appeals to people, and whilst I would not want to pigeon-hole myself (it sounds painful), if I was to focus on one particular genre of blogging, it would be parenthood. Well, it’s such a bottomless pit of comedic material, isn’t it?

So, if writing about my sons is generally well-received, yet writing about the other love of my life (County) is not, I am inclined to wonder how an entry combining the two will fare. There’s only one way to find out, I guess… (oh, and before anyone gets on their high horse about me not mentioning my wife as the other ‘love of my life’, not only has she expressly forbid me from ever writing about her, but she knows County was – and still is – my first true love, and she cannot possibly compare).

Now, before those of you who don’t like football lose interest and bugger off, I would like to explain that this entry is more about me sharing my passion for County with my sons, rather than football itself, so you might still enjoy it. Besides, if you stop reading now, how can you be sure I won’t slag you off later?

To provide some background to what follows, I will give those of you who are not familiar with the recent history of Stockport County (which I assume is the vast majority), a brief timeline of the major events leading up to our eldest son, Ollie, being born:

2008 – County win the League Two Play-Off Final at Wembley, in front of more than 35,000 spectators, and are promoted to League One (the third tier of English Football).

2009 – County are placed into administration, following a failure to repay a loan of £300,000 (a sum roughly equivalent to the weekly wages of many Premier League footballers).

2010 – Relegated back to League Two. Takeover by new consortium. Ollie born (all within a couple of months).

In the first season of Ollie’s existence (2010-11), County’s off field problems worsened, and as the campaign drew to a close, it was becoming increasingly apparent that we would be facing another relegation – only this time, from the Football League. Our 106-year stay, in the top four divisions of English football, was about to end.

When it became clear that we would not survive the drop into non-league football, I made the decision to take Ollie to his first ever match before the end of the season. I was desperate for him to be a County fan, like me (it was my main reason for procreating in the first place), and I was adamant that his first visit to Edgeley Park should be a league game. At the time, I had no idea how long it would be before we returned to the league, if ever, and I definitely didn’t anticipate our situation getting even worse.

25th April 2011

Ollie was just under three weeks away from his first birthday, when I took him to County’s game against Northampton Town, knowing that anything other than a win would effectively seal our fate (even though it was not mathematically confirmed until the following weekend, when we lost to, of all fucking teams, Crewe).

It was, and still remains, one of the proudest, yet saddest days of my life. Ollie was too young to understand what was happening, and got a bit upset when I overly celebrated a goal, but even though I don’t mind admitting I left Edgeley Park in tears, I had taken my son to see our football team, and I will never forget that.

My only hope, was that he would one day watch County back in the league – assuming he chose to follow the same team as his old man. Oh boy, did he.

20th April 2013

Fast forward two years, and County’s fortunes had taken an even greater nosedive, as we suffered yet another relegation, this time to the Conference North.

To put this into perspective for non-football fans (and I include in that category those who support a Premier League side), the Conference North (and South) is where clubs go to die. It is the scrapyard of football, full of teams that, in my ignorance, I had never previously heard of. This is not because they have obscure names, but because they are from places so remote and tiny, only the people who live there have heard of them. I was going to use North Ferriby and Guiseley as examples here, but they’ve since been promoted, and it’s too painful to think we’re now a league lower than what are essentially village pub sides.

As a general rule, if you have to Google the team you have just lost to, to work out where they are in the country (I initially thought Brackley sounded like it was in Yorkshire), it’s time to question your support – but County fans didn’t. We have such a fantastically loyal fan base, that even though some supporters admittedly disappeared (and I’ll be waiting to give them a slap, when they crawl back following our return to the league), we continued to attract crowds well over 2,000, several times what the teams around us were getting.

Hand on heart though, if it hadn’t been for Ollie, and the fact that he was slowly starting to enjoy the football (rather than his half-time hotdog), I can’t promise I wouldn’t have taken a break from County myself.

8th August 2015

As it was, by the time we got to our opening fixture of the 2015/16 season, a home match against Boston United, Ollie now wanted his own shirt, beginning an expensive tradition of buying him the kit of his choice each season, with his name and age on the back:

Not only that, but I forked out for season tickets – an expense I was only too happy to incur.

9th January 2016

If Ollie’s inaugural visit to Edgeley Park was depressing, then there are no words to describe how I felt after Isaac’s first match – a loss to Telford United, in the Conference North, in temperatures so cold you could have cut glass with my nipples.

You can tell from the number of empty seats (these photos were taken shortly before kick-off), precisely how keen people were to attend Edgeley Park that day. It was, however, another memorable moment as a father.

I have taken Isaac to a handful of games since, but it was not until last Saturday, against FC United, that he saw his first ever win. Of course, he’s two, so he is still very much in the ‘what food has Daddy brought?’ stage of football spectating (closely followed by the ‘I’ve eaten everything now, so I’m going to run around like an escaped chimp, and kick the shit out of some seats’ stage), but I’m persevering, in the hope that one day he will match Ollie’s enthusiasm.

10th September 2016

Having marked the dates I took Ollie and Isaac to their first matches, it seems only right to acknowledge the third occasion in the trilogy – the first game they attended together: Boston United (again) at home, earlier this season.

It’s safe to say that, whilst Ollie is now very well behaved at County, and focusses intently on the match, the combination of both boys together, on my own, was a fucking nightmare. Admittedly, I would apportion blame somewhere in the region of 85:15 in Isaac’s favour, but I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the time we got home. Still, look at their faces:

These photographs somehow numb every painful memory, of what was a hellish ninety minutes of frantic parenting.

18th February 2017

Last Saturday, as I have already mentioned, I once again braved taking both boys to Edgeley Park, for our ‘derby’ (although it pains me to say it) against FC United.

Although Isaac was once more a handful (read: utter dick), at least he got to see his first win, and enjoyed the very finest in pre-match cuisine: a Gregg’s sausage roll in a bag:


I only hope that, when he reaches Ollie’s age in  a few years, Isaac will have the same love of our team, because Ollie is nothing short of obsessed.

He goes to his weekly football club, proudly wearing his shirt, and, when it’s his turn to be a team captain, he insists on playing as County (against the likes of Unit*d, C*ty and Barcelona, because some kids just don’t know any better).

However, for the finest example of Ollie’s obsession, I shall leave you with the following:

On Wednesday, he went to a half-term sports club, and soon after arrival, the kids were introduced to their guest coach for the day – an Altrincham player. Presumably, the poor lad thought he could hide the fact his team are currently rock-bottom of the Conference North, and wasn’t expecting any fans of that league to be there, so imagine his horror when, not only does Ollie announce to the rest of the group that Altrincham are rubbish, but he then insists on singing a song…

“Staly’s bad, Alty’s worse, we always put the County first….”

That, right there, is why I had kids.


The Blog Trip

I have mentioned previously that I am part of an online forum of Stockport County fans, and that my involvement with that group is partly responsible for the name of this very blog.

Let me explain. For those who are unaware, my beloved County are known as ‘The Hatters’ (due to Stockport’s proud hat-making history), so my pseudonym/moniker on the forum is ‘Sandbach Hatter’ (it’s not very clever, granted, but it tells you everything you need to know about me really).

It also doesn’t take a genius to work out how I later developed that alter-ego into the name of this blog. In fact, there is nothing genius about the name whatsoever, bearing in mind I rarely talk about the town where I now live, so readers might be forgiven for feeling somewhat misled. In fairness though, did you really think I would be able to write over seventy blog entries about a sleepy market town in South Cheshire? Or have you continued to stick with me until now, in the hope that I might soon discuss the roadworks on Middlewich Road, the desperate need for a crossing person outside Offley Primary School, or the fact that The Wheatsheaf appears to have changed hands yet again? Sorry to disappoint.

As it happens, I have thought about re-naming this blog for that very reason, so that it better reflects the utter (non-Sandbach related) bollocks that I come up with each week, but three things have held me back:

  1. All the clever names that I have since come up with, have already been taken;
  2. A good friend of mine designed the banner which adorns my Facebook page, and I would hate to see his work go to waste;
  3. It would mean re-training mum on how to find the new blog.

Anyway, this is all irrelevant. The main point is, I have been a part of this online community for many years now, and have met a fair few of its members in ‘real life’ – almost all of whom are lovely people and proper football fans. They are like my second family. Well, third family if you count the in-laws.

A few years ago, a random thread appeared on our site, posted by a children’s cancer charity called ‘Kidscan’. I’ll admit that I had never heard of them before – despite their being located relatively close to County, in Salford – and, to my shame, more often than not I would have treated their post as spam and ignored it. However, it just so happened that members of my wife’s family were being affected by childhood cancer at the time, and it consequently struck a chord with me. So I read on.

It transpired that, unlike many charities, they were not approaching us with a sob story, in an attempt to guilt-trip our members into donating (and then pestering us for more money later on, as some sadly do). They were simply asking if any of us would like to take part in a charity bike ride they were organising in Manchester.

For whatever reason, I don’t believe any of us were actually able to take part (a lack of any functioning bicycle, as well as a deep hatred of cyclists, contributing heavily to my own personal absence), but because of the effect the post had on me, and the fact that I hadn’t taken part in a charity event for a few years, I decided to organise something myself.

It struck me that, of all the possible fundraising events I could consider, the easiest – and cheapest – to organise (and certainly the most accessible for the majority of people), would be a sponsored walk. Linking this to County was easy – we would simply walk to an away game. This is not a new concept, as I remembered a group of Brentford fans walking to their last away game of the season, at County, a few seasons earlier (about two hundred miles), so I decided to give it a go.

Now, if someone had suggested to me that we walk a similar distance to those Brentford fans, they would have been met with a resounding ‘fuck off’. As I have already explained, I wanted to make the event as achievable as possible for most people, so a local derby seemed far more appropriate. At the time, this narrowed the choice down to just two away games, and since one match was taking place over the Christmas period, it made the other – Macclesfield Town on Easter Saturday – a clear winner (which is about the only time Macclesfield Town have been the clear winners of anything).

So, on 30th March 2013, the first ever ‘Hatters Hike’ took place. Eighteen County fans (and Bexley, our dog) set off from Edgeley Park in Stockport, and walked the thirteen miles to Macclesfield’s ‘Moss Rose’ ground, prior to our match there. Everyone completed the walk (apart from Bexley, who was collected by my wife at the half-way stage), and we raised over £1,800 for Kidscan in the process. It remains one of my proudest achievements.


For a variety of reasons (not least of which was County’s relegation from that league at the end of the season), we did not repeat the walk the following year, but then, in 2015, I decided it was time to do it again. So, on Saturday 28th March 2015, almost exactly two years on from the original Hatters Hike, a slightly smaller – but no less determined – group, took part in ‘Hatters Hike to Hyde 2015’. As the name clearly suggests, our destination this time was Hyde FC and, because the distance to their ground was a considerably shorter seven miles, we walked back again afterwards.


Despite there being fewer participants this time (around half of the original Hatters Hike, in fact), we still raised more than £1,500 for Kidscan, which was again a fantastic achievement.

In organising both walks, I was assisted by a very good friend of mine, who we shall call ‘Hatter in Macc’ (or ‘Maccy’ for short) because, well, that’s his name. It’s not his real name, of course, his real name is Gareth, but he has asked that I refrain from using it, to preserve his anonymity.

I have known Gar… Maccy for around six years now, but it wasn’t until August 2012 that our partnership was formed (not literally – at least, not in the civil sense), when we were invited to take over the writing of an article in County’s match day programme.

Over time, not only has our article become a firm fixture in County’s programme – and arguably the best bit – but we became something of a double-act. I don’t mean that in the sense we toured the nation performing comedy (not yet, anyway), but we were invited to write articles for other teams’ programmes, we represented the forum at various County events, and generally became a well-oiled team (again, not literally).

Our latest venture – ‘Sandy and Maccy’s Big Road Trip 2016’ – is taking place in four weeks’ time, as we endeavour to visit all twenty-two football grounds from the Conference North (as at the 2015/16 season) in just one weekend. It promises to be our biggest challenge yet – by some margin.

Despite its name, the ‘Conference North’ actually covers most of England, so we will be travelling as far as Fylde in the North-West, North Ferriby in the North-East, Lowestoft in the South-East, and Cheltenham in the South-West. If things go according to plan, we will leave Edgeley Park early on the Saturday morning, and return around 9pm on the Sunday evening, having travelled just shy of 1,000 miles.

Here’s our itinerary:

Saturday 25th June 2016

Stockport County – 08:00

Stalybridge Celtic – 08:25

Curzon Ashton – 08:45

FC United of Manchester – 09:10

Chorley – 10:00

AFC Fylde – 10:45

Bradford Park Avenue – 12:15

Harrogate Town – 13:15

North Ferriby United – 15:00

Gainsborough Trinity – 16:00

Alfreton Town – 17:20

Boston United – 19:15

Sunday 26th June 2016

Lowestoft Town – 09:00

Corby Town – 11:45

Brackley Town – 13:00

Gloucester City – 14:30

Worcester City – 15:30

Solihull Moors – 16:30

Nuneaton Town – 17:10

Tamworth – 17:45

Hednesford Town – 18:15

AFC Telford – 19:00

Stockport County – 21:00

I have contacted all of the other clubs in the league to ask for their support, and around half have replied so far, with a handful of those posting an article about the trip on their own sites. I have also done an interview with a newspaper, and Maccy will be appearing on Tameside Radio tomorrow afternoon.

Our aim, aside from raising a huge amount for Kidscan, is to try and meet fans of every team as we go around the country, as well as – where possible – exiled County fans.

This is where you fine people come in. If you happen to live near to any of the grounds we will be visiting, even if you don’t necessarily support that team, we would love it if you could pop along and say hello when we arrive. The more people to welcome us at each ground, the better. Unfortunately, we will only have a few minutes before we have to be on our way again, but there will be live updates over the weekend via Maccy’s Twitter account – @GarethE77815055 – so that people can keep up to date with our expected arrival times, since our itinerary is very dependent on traffic.

If you are able to meet us, I can be contacted at, so that your name and contact details can be added to our list.

Last, but not least, it would be awfully remiss of me if I didn’t appeal to your good nature and ask for donations. If you could take just a few minutes out of your day to take a look at the fantastic work that Kidscan do ( and then spare a little change to help us reach our target ( we will both be eternally grateful.

Just think, if each of my regular readers donated just £2, we could add something in the region of £12 to our total.

If you donate AND come and meet us to lend support, I might even give you an uncomfortably long hug.

But don’t let that put you off.