Singin’ in the rain

Friday 6th January 2012

DALE Vince is not a household name, but he has an OBE, much wealth, and the businessman’s nous to make his enemies admirers. As a new age traveller, he lived in an old army truck and was present at the Battle of the Beanfield, Stonehenge, 1985. The company of which he’s the managing director – Ecotricity – is the UK’s seventh-largest supplier of electricity. He remains a vegan.

The first wind turbine Dale built stands atop a Cotswold hill, just up the lane from the Forest Green Rovers football ground. In 2010 he became the club’s majority shareholder.

The Soil Association is giving advice on how to grow the pitch organically; solar panels are being installed on the roof of a stand; red meat has been taken off the menu for both players and spectators.

Currently tenth in the Conference Premier, the team will not be involved in tomorrow’s cup ties, having lost in October to Arlesey Town, strugglers in a league two levels lower.

A few years ago, however, Rovers reached the FA Cup second round, drawn away, against Swindon: a local derby. It was the coldest, wettest, windiest afternoon for months. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

The click-clack of turnstile, squeezing through the narrow gate-house; then out, up, and on to the ramparts; greeted by battle-cries and hooters; sniper-flashes from the opposing hordes; a scowl of thick-set, soot-black clouds.

Even before kick-off, my umbrella had lost heavily to the gales.

I went down to the front, where goal-keeping coach, Jack Russell – the England cricketer, a former student of mine – was giving Robinson pre-match practice.

“What do you think, Jack? Giant-killing?”

“Maybe. Football’s a funny game…”

Early in the second half, Rovers took a 2-1 lead.

I was drenched, but cared not, cheering, swaying, singing triumphantly amid sleeting knives of rain… for the three minutes before Town equalised. And scored again later: dream over.

Shivering, I waited for the bus home, eager to wet my lips on a warmer, more comforting cup.

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