February 1979. This was the year it kept on snowing till May. Games were few and far between across the UK for about three months – I think this was the season of the famous shot of Motty in his sheepskin, slowly fading from view through a white veil.
Somewhat unexpectedly, in the middle of this tundra-like landscape, Chester City played Rotherham United on a Wednesday night. Starved of football by this time, I wagged my Polytechnic day release afternoon and joined 44 other hardy fools on Riley’s only coach to Sealand Road. Which, after a fairly lengthy diversion into North Wales, finally arrived with enough time to get in but not enough to get a pint in first.
The game itself was, well, just a game – Big Dave Gwyther (what a god that man was) scored in the very first minute, and we held out for the remaining 89 with, I think, John Flynn having a rare good game in a Millers shirt – but how the fixture survived is anyone’s guess, as by half time it was well below freezing.
Back on to the Riley’s bus, it lasted about 60 yards – just to the end of the car park – before coughing gently to its grave. Now to any experienced Riley`s traveller, this was no surprise at all, and as the Chester Supporters Club allowed us into the warmth, we were happy enough for the diversion. Until chucking out time, that is, when the bus was being administered the last rites and the Riley`s driver, spineless sap that he was, abandoning any notion of remaining on the bridge, legged it to the nearest chippy before it shut at 11 o clock. Worse, he flatly refused to phone base before he’d eaten his supper.
So it was back on the (unheated) bus for a three hour wait for Mick (The Replacement) And His 45 Seater.
By this time the temperature must have been about minus 12, the chippy had closed, and Sammy the 14 year old Rotherham hooly had arrived unannounced among our presence, having nicked the away turnstile receipts from the gateman. The invading odour of the perfume of the Aromatica factory next to the ground was making us all sick, and the energetically minded youths of the party were having a trolley riding rally down the Asda car park.
Mick eventually arrived, the replacement bus worked, and I got home at 6a.m., just beating my dad to the door who’d come off nights at the New Stubbin and who thought I’d got lucky the previous night (some hope), and I got 35 minutes sleep before having to go to work as though nothing had happened.
This memory has stayed with me for almost thirty years and without question was the coldest I have ever, ever been, by a distance.
Thanks HH – wonder what happened to Sammy?!
If anyone else has any memories regarding the Millers and wouldn’t mind going into print, then please let me know!
RUFC – A Millers Memory