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Darlington Football Club

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Ray Simpson / 26th July 2020

The Ramblings of Rev John

The Ramblings of Rev John

More from our club chaplain

Ramblings of Rev John: Memories of Doncaster


Having travelled from Darlington to London by train on many occasions the names of the stations along the way are subconsciously imprinted in my memory, and many of them have linked associations, some good and others not so good. My permanent flashback of Doncaster is most certainly the latter! It all goes back to my first promotion season following the Quakers back in 1965-1966. Those of you old enough to remember will know already that it was a bit of a roller coaster even if it all did end well.


In those days the Easter programme was much more congested than it is now, and we had games with Doncaster on consecutive days, at home on Easter Monday and then at their place the day after. The first game was not one for the faint hearted. We eventually ended up winning 3-2 but no quarter was either asked or given on either side and it was clear that there were a number of unfinished duels, both on and off the pitch. Straight after the match I went to Bank Top station and bought a ticket for the supporters special for the following day; it seems surreal writing that now, but it really was a special train just for the match.


I remember travelling with Jen and Malcolm Mackenzie, and the mood on the train was pretty apprehensive, I think we knew what was waiting for us, and it was! A good thrashing on and off the pitch. By the time we got to the ground the match had been going for a very few minutes but we were already one down, and it ended up 6-3 to Doncaster with quite a few walking wounded on the pitch. That left us with the grand finale, the running of the gauntlet; getting back to the station to come home. Of course, the Donny fans were waiting for us and I took a few smacks before I was able to get through them and safely to the station.


Thankfully that was the last really low spot of the season and all ended well following a 0-0 draw with Torquay on the final day. However, I have never thought the same about Doncaster ever since and when I was asked to take a wedding there a few years ago I thought long and hard before agreeing to enter the city walls again! Of course, everything was fine when I went back, and maybe here we can take inspiration for our current circumstances.


These last months have been horrible, and this is not only because we have not had any Darlo matches to follow. Our lives have been turned upside down and some of us have lost loved ones, others are losing their jobs. I know that it is easy to say that we should always look on the bright side, but actually there is a lot of truth in that song. Yes, we lost 6-3 at Donny and yes, I took a few smacks on the way home, but in the end we were promoted (even if we did end up being relegated again the following season).


Life is like that, full of ups and downs but with some great times along the way. Let us hope and pray that come September we will be back following the lads again (one way or another). I often quote the old Russian saying: if it doesn’t kill you it will only make you stronger. That is certainly what happened to me after my first trip to Donny, I hope that it is how you will feel as our lives return to some sort of normality. However, if you are finding life a bit hard to handle at the moment and you would like to chat, please don’t hesitate to send a message to me at  chaplain@darlingtonfc.org