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Nationwide Division One, 23/9/00
Stockport County
A BSaD first
By Matt Rowson

Welcome to a BSaD first...the first match preview to be written in Addis Ababa!

One week here, one week left. Missed two games, will miss one more, get back late on Friday night, Stockport may be an option, driving after a long flight may not be. Train, then.

Ah. Bugger.

Stockport station closed Saturdays until October due to engineering work. Brilliant. Public transport, what a hassle.

Well, no actually. Being out here puts little issues like how to get to Stockport somewhat in perspective. Train journeys across Ethiopia aren't an option, as it goes...there's only one (wooden) track heading north-east from Addis to the ports of Djibouti.

As for the roads...well, in certain privileged areas, there are lane markings (eg, outside the astonishingly out-of-place Hilton) but forget any semblance of highway code. The roads are pitted with potholes and pedestrians, in the absence of pavements worth talking about, wander nonchalantly through, across, in front of the traffic. Occasional laden mules and cattle add to the excitement, and the frequently burst tyres tend to be replaced where they expire...whichever lane you're in. It's utter, fabulous chaos. I will never complain about the M25 again.

Stockport. Not, in all honesty, looking great. If one of the most encouraging aspects of our season so far has been the ability to win games and take points when our performances have been below par, County must be concerned that their results haven't mirrored their performances.

Lee Jones is the keeper, signed from Bristol Rovers in the summer and now in the side following a broken finger to regular number one Carlo Nash. Cover is provided by ageing journeyman Andy Dibble.

Right-back is regularly Sean Connelly, but he is reputed to be following favourite Tony Dinning out of the club and his place may be taken by youngster Rob Clare. On the left, Peter Clark, signed in the summer from Carlisle, although the return to fitness of Shane Nicholson provides competition here.

In the absence of Dinning and the injured Jim Gannon, a lot will depend on the presence of Mike Flynn, diplomatically described as "not a great technician" on an unofficial site. Youngster Glyn Hancock may play alongside him, although Swede Frederik Bryngelsson may move to the centre if he recovers fronm a knee injury.

In midfield, winger Ali Gibb, once of Northampton, has failed to impress this season, and Dave Smith, ex- of Oxford, is also uncertain of his future. Left-sided Colin Woodthorpe can also play at the back, whilst Kevin Cooper is a fans' favourite. Former Bury men Rob Matthews and Ian Lawson and Frenchman Karim Fradin are also options here. Leyton Maxwell was signed on a year's loan from Liverpool and is deployable in midfield or up-front.

Ian Moore is starting to fulfill some of his early promise, but has not enjoyed his lone striking role this season. He also still has a chip on his shoulder the size of Brett Angell, and was sent off at Preston last weekend. Another option up front is former Clyde man Brian Carrigan.

Stockport finished last weekend poorly and have only won once this term, exiting the Worthington Cup to Blackpool. Young manager Andy Kilner is under pressure, the players being sold are undoubtedly of a higher standard than those coming in, players are injured and it doesn't look good for County. It's not too long since we were in a similar position, we should sympathise.

One thing, though...and indulge me this, I'll try not to harp on about this too often. This weekend, whilst the Hornets were beating Crewe, I was visiting Lallibella in Ethiopia's famine-hit north with my fiancée and her father. We went to see the ancient churches, astonishing feats of construction, dug out of the mountainside eight hundred years ago, but the poverty of the people is impossible to ignore. These people, real people, have nothing. The children learn English because begging from tourists is their only source of income beyond handouts from aid vans. In some ways this has been like stepping into one of the 1984 documentaries...except this is very, very real. And these are real people, so save your pity and sympathy for them. I have never felt more ashamed of my (relative) affluence, of my beergut, or of the disproportionate importance football has in my life.

Not an experience I'm going to forget.

Enjoy the game.