Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Last night, whilst the brouhaha over the departure of `Big` Sam Allardyce was in full spate, an altogether different football experience was to be found at the Proact Stadium, home of Chesterfield FC - nicknamed The Spireites after the extraordinary spire on the local church.   The visitors last night were Gillingham FC, for whom our street`s local hero, Scott Wagstaff, plies his trade as a pacy flanker, fleet-footed wingback or midfield dynamo, depending on the manager`s selection, the nature of the opposition and the job he is required to do in any given game.

Now, here in our quiet Kentish conclave there is an eclectic mix of football supporters - West Ham being prominent, if a little on edge - along with my neighbour, who is a died-in-the-wool Gillingham fan and myself as a lifelong Southampton supporter.  But we all have one thing in common, which is to have followed the fortunes of 26-year old Scott Wagstaff over the years since his apprenticeship at Charlton, through loan spells at Northwich Victoria, Bournemouth and Leyton Orient and cementing his burgeoning career at Bristol City and now Gillingham.  Shades of The Return of the Native indeed..

Last night, the Gills found themselves 3-1 down deep into the second half but then Wagstaff produced two moments of inspiration to secure a 3-3 draw and a priceless point away from home in the depths of Derbyshire.   The first was to tumble under a heavy challege in the penalty area with such conviction that the referee, one Trevor Kettle, had no choice but to rightly award the Gills a spot kick, which was duly dispatched by Wagstaff`s former Bristol City colleague, Jay Emanuel-Thomas, aka JET.

The second - as deep into added time as the 96th minute - saw our local hero latch on to a cross and bury the ball beyond the despairing clutches of the Spireites` sprawling custodian.  And it`s becoming increasingly the case that moments like that, in the real football world rather than the tainted circus of the Premier League, remind us that there is life and joy and honest endeavour to be had beyond the avarice, the assumed entitlement and the deeply unedifying spectacle of the self-styled `best league in the world.`

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