DJ Taylor: Loyal fan Barry Witter has been following Fulchester for 40 years

 

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The Independent Online

High up in the Fulchester FC grandstand, aged crony on either side of him, son Marlon in the row below, pie in one hand, flagon of 7-Up in the other, yellow-and-blue Fulchester scarf wound round his outsize neck, sits Barry Witter. The game – against fellow Conference Premier Leaguers Macclesfield – is barely 10 minutes old, but Barry, copy of the Fulchester Bugle open at the sports page ("Fullies take on Maccs in top-of-the table clash") to shade his eyes from the weakening sun, is already airing his discontent.

"It's flat," he announces to no one in particular, or, as it may be, the world at large. "F'ing flat." There is a nod or two of agreement. It is undeniably flat. "Flat," Barry says again, just to ram the point home. "Flat as…" – a second or two passes until a plausible comparison offers itself – "as roadkill." Another moment or two ebbs away; Marlon texts furiously. In the distance, beyond the concrete terrace of the away end, where the two or three dozen Macclesfield supporters are bravely corralled, the long slope of the Pennines drifts off into cloud. "Flat," Barry announces for a third time.

Barry has been following Fulchester for 40 years, ever since his dad, Barry senior, started bringing him along. It's not the same now they've dropped out of League Two and sold Sylvester Fredge to Hartlepool, but… Man U played here once in the League Cup: Barry still has the programme. Thirty-five minutes in, the crowd is so quiet that they might be asleep. "We need a striker," Barry's voice roars out above the silence. "An f'ing striker." The others nod. "Flat," Barry adds, reverting to his original line of attack. "No atmosphere."

Barry misses the Macclesfield goal, a minute before half-time. He is already down in the bar having his tea. He gets back to his seat just as Fulchester legend Alfie Sidebotham – a venerable man in a brown suit – is led on to the pitch. "Top man," Barry yells. "All right, Alfie?" Then it is back to routine. "No atmosphere," he announces a short while later. "They need a striker." Ten more minutes pass. The autumn twilight is stealing in. "Come on you Fullies," Barry cries hoarsely. "Flat," he despairingly reminds Marlon.

Leaving in the 85th minute, to extricate his Mondeo from the cramped car park, he misses the Fulchester equaliser. Happily, Marlon is on hand to text the details.

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