It feels a bit strange to see the arguments raging between Wrexham and Kidderminster fans on the internet, and consider the raw atmosphere which will greet us tomorrow, as Harriers are one of the best clubs you could possibly to visit. It’s also been the site of some of my most bizarre commentating experiences, but let’s get our priorities straight and start with the food.
The catering at Aggborough is legendary, and wonderfully is one of the things in life that lives up to the hype. I’ve already advised my co-commentators Carl and Alex not to eat after Thursday lunch time as they’ll need to leave room for the fresh and fancy delights available. I did ten miles up to Coedpoeth (well, okay, up towards Coedpoeth) on my bike this morning as part of my preparations for the Iron Man Challenge: Aggborough Soup AND a cottage pie. The soup, essentially what happens when a whole cow and a jungle of veg fall into a blender, is the finest thing on earth and should be on all carnivores’ bucket lists.
If there’s no Wrexham game on a Saturday, I used to wonder whether it was worth driving down to Kidderminster, paying to get in, buying an Aggborough Soup and heading straight home. Never mind the match: they wouldn’t miss me, and I’d need to get home to see TV Burp anyway! It’d take all afternoon, and be an expensive lunch, but it’d nearly be worth it!
It’s not just the food that makes Kidderminster stand out for me. If it’s ideosyncratic commentary experiences you want, Aggborough the place for you!
We went to Aggborough in 2003 and enjoyed a crucial win on the run-in to promotion, but for me that wasn’t the half of it. Andy Parkinson and myself were commentated and as the game began nothing seemed unusual. However, we would soon find that the location of the press box would bring about its own peculiar problem.
The fans in front of us weren’t aggressive, frankly that wouldn’t have been all that odd; only the Saturday before I was told by a Weymouth fan sitting in front of me that I was talking a load of b******* about five minutes into my commentary! He was right to be fair. Mind you, folk who decide to criticise commentaries tend to disappear just before half time and only re-emerge when the second half commentary has begun, for fear of reprisals!
What happened at Kidderminster was that an elderly lady who was sitting in the seat in front of Andy was for some reason under the impression that we weren’t commentating, but talking non-stop to her about the game! Naturally enough, she reciprocated and we found ourselves being constantly addressed as we tried to describe what happened!
We were told afterwards that this was a regular occurrence at Harriers games and the local journalists enjoyed watching unsuspecting away reporters blunder into the trap, but apparently our reaction was not the usual one. Being polite young men (well, we were young back then) we felt we couldn’t ignore her so we responded, bringing a third voice onto the broadcast!
But more was to come! Kidderminster were in the process of redeveloping their ground, and the stand opposite us had been completely demolished, leaving the pitch exposed to bursts of steam as a rather quaint train line was exposed alongside the pitch.
Also over there, totally exposed to a strong wind, was some scaffolding which was used by camera crews. Thankfully no one was filming this particular game as suddenly a gust of wind blew it over onto the pitch! Equally fortunately play was nowhere near there or the repercussions could have been horrendous.
Andy and I were horrified for a different reason though. As the debris was removed and the shivering players made their way back into the nice warm changing room we were left to fill in time on air until the game could resume, and of course we had no idea how long that would be!
Five minutes passed, we gassed on, but there was no sign of the players returning. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes, and still we had to flannel away. It was a broadcaster’s worst nightmare. However, we were had a secret weapon to turn to; as the twenty minute hiatus unfolded, we just handed over to the newest member of our commentary team, and let her get on with it!
She’s no longer in that seat, sadly, but there’s been a gentleman right in front of our commentary point on a similar mission in recent seasons. He’s one of a particular breed you get at away games, who always act startled when the commentary begins, even though it must happen every match! He’s also rather opinionated and likes to carry out a sort of director’s commentary on what we say. He doesn’t think much of Mark Creighton either, which at least illustrates that he’s fearless. I look forward to renewing my acquaintance with him (he’s harmless enough – the best way to handle people like that is have a friendly chat with them at half time and disarm them.) Not sure I’d enjoy him at the final whistle if we don’t go through though!