Have you ever awoken from a dream and wondered what Ludovic Kennedy, the bastard love child of Marilyn Monroe and John F Kennedy, is up to now? Thanks to the power of the internet, it turns out that he’s working behind the bar of a Brewer’s Fayre in Stoke Poges. In a similar vein, here’s our resident historian, Dick Cheeseman, with his latest stumble down memory lane. Take it away, Dick.
“It’s December 28th 2015. The hinterland between Christmas and New Year. In a bid to escape their extended families and reruns of turgid situation comedy The Vicar of Dibley, over 3000 hardy souls have turned out at Broadhall Way to see the bottom of the table clash between Stevenage (our heroes) and Dagenham & Redbridge. The visitors are on a four game losing streak and are rock bottom of English league football. If you are a Boro fan the match is ‘big’ and ‘winnable’.
Cue Barry and Paul Chuckle.
Signed in a fanfare the previous summer to replace Bira Dembele, who had haughtily asked for a £3.50 a week pay rise, they were soon to prove that two isn’t always greater than one. Dembele had proven to be a stylish defender, often taking to the field gently puffing on a Gauloises and sipping a Remy Martin. In contrast, Hughes and McCombe would often demand saveloy, chips and gravy at half time, and a tin of McEwan’s Export. Probably.
The warning signs had been there from the beginning. In the warm up before getting tanked 5-1 at home by Oxford, McCombe could be seen, on his own, indulging in heading practice. Not once did the ball land back at the feet of his trainer. He was heading the ball like a man with a head shaped like a 50 pence piece. If the 50 pence piece was shaped like a dodecahedron. And made out of shit.
In the subsequent routine thrashing of Morecambe, Mark Hughes was brought on late in the match by clueless fuckwit Teddy Sheringham to make a game of it.
So, on to Dagenham (thanks Matt). It’s the 18th minute. An innocuous cross from the left wing into the Stevenage box lands on McCombe’s head. It’s a regulation header, unless you’re a man without a head. But it skims off the tall centre half’s loaf and ends up on the right flank. The ball comes back in, but it’s ok: McCombe’s there to make amends. Except a man 12 inches shorter than him out jumps young Jamie and it’s 1-0 to the Daggers.
A minute later, Dagenham have a throw in on the right wing. The ball lands at the feet of the heavily marked Chambers. Except he isn’t heavily marked as McCombe has decided to do some bird spotting or some other recreational endeavour for which he isn’t getting paid. Chambers has the time to control the ball, turn, scratch his arse, wave to his family in the crowd, and lay the ball off to Joss Labadie, all of this before McCombe even has the opportunity to put his binoculars away. Labadie is one on one with Hughes but, knowing that if he gets within biting distance of him he’s likely to get bitten, and possibly eaten, Hughes allows Labadie to stroke the ball into the far corner. McCombe and Hughes have to prevent themselves from celebrating their pivotal role in the second goal for the Essex club.
In a rare moment of tactical intelligence, Sheringham decides to substitute Hughes after just 30 minutes. Some might argue it’s 29 minutes too late. Incredibly, McCombe manages to stay on the pitch for the full 90 minutes and allows himself to be outmuscled for Dagenham’s 3rd, showing the strength and agility of a baby giraffe. That had been run over by a tractor.
Post-match Sheringham was quoted as saying we were ‘decidedly shaky at the back’. Fuck sake, Teddy. Not even Shakin’ Stevens operating a kango in a swimming pool full of jelly looked that shaky.
Both were to leave in the next transfer window. Hughes to Accrington, a town famed for its saveloy, chips and gravy, and McCombe to Lincoln City; a club famed for its ability to win football matches without actually playing football. Sheringham was heard to say that ‘he pushed the boat out’ to keep McCombe. We can only guess it was the Lusitania after the Germans had torpedoed the fuck out of it.
But if it wasn’t for Hughes and McCombe and the precarious league position they had been instrumental in fashioning for the Boro, Stevenage might have persisted with the incompetency and general lack of charm of Sheringham. And that is how the Chuckle Bothers invented Darren Sarll.”