Runcorn’s Dirty Foul Masterclass

Even though thousands of gallons of ink have been wasted by the so-called popular press on the cynical dirty play favoured by teams like Wimbledon and Portsmouth amongst many others, the brave stab at the dirty foul big time by little Runcorn has gone by almost without notice. I refer, of course, to the Runcorn side of the early 1980s.

The pitch at York Street after Runcorn had visited frequently resembled the set of a Sam Peckinpah western shoot, parts of disembowelled bodies strewn all over the pitch while Runcorn players roamed around to see if anyone was still left alive and needed finishing off.

Witnessing the F.A. Trophy quarter-final of 1984-85 between Boston and Runcorn, which culminated with that marvellous 3-0 victory for our boys (mainly because Runcorn quite literally ran out of players the referee allowed to remain on the pitch), was a dirty foul masterclass. When Gary Simpson had a mock goal-kick taken on his leg the referee acted quickly and sent off the offending Runcorn player.

Upon Simpson writhing in agony on the deck, another Runcorn player sneaked up behind him, waited until as few people as possible were looking, and then stamped on Simpson’s injured leg. Everyone in the ground will always remember the death curdling scream”, along with the Runcorn player joining his friend in the tunnel while professing his innocence.

Later a Runcorn player seemed to be pondering having a go at someone in the crowd, and for maybe the first time we were all pleased about that 12 foot monstrous fence being erected at the town end of the ground – it certainly saved all of us that day.

Throughout all these attempts at Runcorn’s play belonging more to the Vietnam war than the G.M. Vauxhall Conference, it should be only fair to point out that they were a skilful footballing side and managed to do what Boston never do and actually lift up real trophies.

Narrowly they missed winning the F.A. Trophy in 1986, although a marvellous two man movement in the first-half which single-handedly accounted for several minutes injury time, they were very subdued at Wembley, and by then it was clear to everyone that they were no longer the great fouling force that they could have once lay claim to. Time possesses no sentiment.

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