Friday, 30 December 2016

The Sixth Annual Festive Parade of Rusty Rollers

Bridport FC. Well camouflaged.
I hate to be the bringer of bad tidings at this time of celebration, but I've noticed a worrying trend over the past few months. I've travelled hither and thither watching football matches since August, often reporting on them for Hopping Around Hampshire. On my travels, I keep a beady eye out for rusty groundsmen's equipment - if you're a regular reader, you'll be familiar with my Festive Parades and End of Season Round-ups of roller photos, e.g., here and here. Despite being the inventor* of the least popular side of the standard four-sided cheese-grater (the one with sticky out spikes that everyone cuts their fingers on), the roller photos are what I'm best known for.

Sadly, this season, I've noticed a worrying decline in the number of rollers at the grounds that I've visited.

*Not really, I made that up.

Shaftesbury FC. Inoculated.
I rang an ex-schoolfriend of mine yesterday evening to find out what was happening. My friend-made-good is Dr Mark White-Lines, the Emeritus Professor of Grassology at the University of Maryland. He's been studying rollers for several years now, and has a number of theories about their decline.

Firstly, there has been an outbreak of rusty roller disease in the UK this year. It's a lot like myxomatosis in rabbits, in that it strikes quickly and can wipe out entire roller populations within weeks if they haven't been inoculated beforehand. Dr Mark thinks that the disease arrived on board a container ship docking at Southampton early in 2016, which explains the lack of any rollers at the three Hampshire League grounds I've visited over the last few months (either that, or they've been safely locked away in store rooms on the day of my visit - Dr Mark wasn't sure).

Shaftesbury FC. The Chaser.
My friend has been testing another hypothesis recently. He thinks that illegal hunting may have had an effect on the local roller population. It's a well-known fact that roller rust is an essential ingredient in a rural Chinese medicine for genital herpes. Mixed with tiger claw and swallow spit, rubbed gently in to the affected areas, apparently this potion works wonders.

Poachers are paid a small fortune for the right kind of roller rust, and apparently, the damp British climate produces the perfect type of rust for the Chinese medicine-makers. Dr Mark wants me to ask around the grounds in the second half of the season to root out any evidence of this trade in the UK.

Goodwick United. Safe in Wales.
My friend has looked in to the effects of climate change on the decline in rollers, but has found no evidence thus far that our less stable climate has killed off any groundsmen's equipment.

However, climate change often leads to habitat change, which for many plants, insects and mammals which can't adapt quickly enough, can devastate their populations. Sudden manmade habitat change can be even more disastrous, and Dr Mark has identified a major cause of roller decline in this area of study.

He's noted the rise in artificial football pitches in the UK and has concluded that rollers are no longer needed at the likes of Hamworthy United or Alton FC. This would explain their disappearance at these specific locations, he has concluded.

Conwy Borough. Friend of the hosepipes.
Looking at the rusty rollers that I have seen on my travels, it may be worth investigating how they've escaped the cull this season, so that Dr Mark can create a plan for the remaining members of the species' survival. Starting off at Bridport in the top photo, it's striking how well camouflaged the roller and the wheelbarrow are, hidden in the long grass. This looks like a good plan to thwart the poachers. Dr Mark will recommend this action in his soon-to-be-published thesis.

Moving on to Shaftesbury, which is close to the edge of the disease zone, their roller was inoculated in good time and looks very healthy. It also has a vicious attack-mower (christened "The Chaser") to guard it from poaching. Dr Mark will recommend both of these methods of survival in his report.

Wales is a long way from the centre of the disease outbreak, and is also outside of the poachers' zone of operations, so the rollers at Goodwick United in Pembrokeshire and Conwy Borough on the North Wales coast should be relatively safe. However, the roller at Conwy has taken precautionary measures by surrounding itself with hosepipes. In the event of attack, it will use the hosepipes as a water cannon substitute. Good idea. Not sure why it has a whitewashed Mercedes badge. I'll leave it to Dr Mark investigate.

Worthing FC. Invasive species.
Sadly, it's too late for the rollers at Worthing FC, where the pitch is now one of the many 4G surfaces rapidly invading our football grounds. The club's trusty rollers have been replaced by a mini-tractor which spreads little rubber balls over the playing surface. What has happened to the rollers at Worthing? Nobody knows, but we can speculate. Were they flushed down the toilet like dead goldfish? Have they been locked up in a dungeon beneath the main stand? Were they donated to a local cricket club as a goodwill gesture? Let's hope it was the latter.

Dr Mark White-Lines will publish his report in to the disappearance of rusty rollers in the UK early in 2017. In the meantime, I shall assist him by finding rollers at grounds I visit in the new year and seeing how they've survived.

Happy New Year everyone. Thank you for reading HAH as I reach the end of my sixth full year of doing this. Year 7 will start on January 14th, weather permitting!

No comments:

Post a Comment