Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Dagenham Royal Swagger

Dagenham. Away. Easter bank holiday Monday. A clear sign that the long season is starting to wind its way to a conclusion. With this being my final report for Gandermonium before the summer break I decided to have a bit of a run up to it and posted up a daily Dagenham-related song on the old twitter feed across the bank holiday weekend.

This cornucopia of Essex-tinged sounds kicked off with The Stranglers “Dagenham Dave” and wound its way through Billy Bragg, The Clash and the Tom Robinson Band before culminating with the late great Ian Dury and his Dance Little Rude Boy with its line about the “Dagenham Royal Swagger”. I spent hours putting this unique soundtrack together to get everyone in the mood and was delighted to find that precisely no one gave a flying fuck. Cheers.



The trip out East brought back vague memories as a little kid of journeys down the old A13 to see my Auntie May who lived on that whacking great LCC Becontree Estate as part of the post war, east end relocation. That would have been right back in the 1960’s. Becontree was the only estate in London which managed to overshadow St Helier for sheer size. You will never see those kind of bold, imaginative public housing projects again. Trust me on that.

Any football fan has got to love the Easter bank holiday programme. A couple of games rattled off in quick succession just at the point in proceedings where every goal and every point counts at both ends of the table.

Off the back of a belting win at home against Gateshead in front of a bumper Good Friday crowd we were in good shape and almost banished any last lingering doubts about getting sucked into the relegation dog-fight although the safe-points threshold seems to be edging upwards almost by the day. A point at the Daggers and we would be able to breathe easier after one hell of a season.
In the interim I squeezed in a reserve game down at Worcester Park – I find it hard to not get a match in on a Saturday afternoon – and later regretted not having made the trip down to Leatherhead to watch Jamie O’Hara, now plying his trade with the paupers of Billericay, losing his shit to the chaps in the Cow Shed. Ah well, maybe he will be turning out for Staines Lammas against SCR next term. Who knows?

So Easter Monday trundles round and I have a travel plan in the bank that dodges all the tube line closures and various engineering works and which should land me safely in East Dagenham in time for a few scoops before kick-off.  And everything goes swimmingly. Heading out of West Sutton just after noon my first two legs up to Waterloo via Wimbledon are on the overground so a couple of cans of Stripe can be quaffed at a leisurely pace as I ponder the afternoon ahead.

< Insert obvious penis related joke here >

Dark. Moody. Just how we like our boozers.

The tube is well and truly shagged and that means the Jubilee Line up to West Ham and a shift across to the last lap on the District. Minding my own business at what was once hammer-land I run into the rest of the Gandermonium crew who ask why I hadn’t joined them early doors at London Bridge.  Well, partly because at my age you grab any chance for a bit of a lie-in and secondly I don’t dig getting mugged off for the price of a pint in those wanky city boy boozers. The point is made and I would like to think is understood. Time will tell.

After a long wait for the departure of the Upminster train we are soon trundling our way up through Upney and the likes and me and Belly have a nostalgia-fuelled natter about the long lost non-league grounds of Essex. Like 'Last of the Summer Wine' for fat old football yobbos. The others looked on like bored carers in one of those dodgy private nursing homes where no one really gives a shit. 

Anyway, soon enough we are pulling into East Dagenham and the decision has been made to head up past the ground and take in a couple of liveners at the historic Eastbrook, I for one am not disappointed. The pub's a belter. All walnut panelling and glass partitions and a fine collection of footballing and boxing memorabilia.  Brilliant. And a top class scoop of Guinness as well. I can recommend the gaff 100%.

After a prolonged discussion about vintage turnstiles, and the importance of regularly lubricating your central spindle, which I guarantee you the entire pub found fascinating, its soon time to depart this fabulous 1930’s time capsule and to head off back towards Victoria Road.


Shed on a roof

I’ve not been to the Daggers ground in a fair old while but not a lot appears to have changed except for the large stand behind the goal which I don’t remember from my last visit. But of course what does piss us all off wholesale is the TWENTY ONE FUCKING QUID that we are charged for admission.  Twenty’s Plenty! Says the bearded hippy twat from Virgin with his adverts and all that bollocks.  Not in non-league clearly and if you think you are going to get that spare quid back from Branson you will be waiting a long time my old chinchillas.

Something called “soft segregation” is in operation. Nope, not penile erectile disfunction but some odd arrangement where you come in through the same gates but sit, or stand, in an allocated area. Can’t really see the point of that but we are up in the seats behind the goal and would have to say it’s a decent view up there and with a good turn out from Sutton we soon get a nice bit of noise going. Strangely, no sign of the North Korean Daggers though. Presumably out on ballistic missile tests on Rainham Marshes. Or maybe rounded up and shot. Who knows?  Who cares?

Our team selection sparks a bit of sucking of teeth. Particularly the defensive line up, but we’ve had the memo from the mighty Dos and we are all up for it and right behind our lads as the match gets under way. It’s all fairly even in the opening exchanges and with the surface a bit on the dry and bobbly side neither team gets much football going for the first twenty minutes or so.  We look comfortable enough until a bit of routine defensive work goes to shit allowing Dagenham to open the scoring with an exceptionally soft goal. Fuck it. The patchy Daggers support suddenly rouses itself and we respond in kind.

What we don’t need now is to give away another before half time…KLAXON! Their lad breaks down our left, burns off Ben and somehow manages to squeeze a shot in at the near post from a highly unlikely looking angle. Not clever. Not clever at all fellas.

Dagenham East Nature Reserve

Get yer nut on it suuuuun!

The whistle blows and as we are heading down the steps towards the shared bar area one of their lardy lads does the old double handed wanker, two nil strut right in front of us. Nothing we’ve not seen many times before and about as scary as a chocolate bunny. But the stewards think otherwise and not only pull the bloke away but unceremoniously dump him out the ground on his arse while his mates suddenly become his legal defence team and make all kinds of representations about human rights and what have you.  The stewards politely tell them to fuck off. I enquire as to why he was lobbed out “Zero tolerance mate”.  Fair enough. Harsh but fair. And funny as fuck.

I squeeze in a fizzy lager pop and the talk is all of whether Dos will shake it up. And yes he does. Louis on to right back, Bailey to the left and Dundo revved up to do his thing up front. The moves are warmly welcomed and within minutes are being touted as the work of a pure genius.   Before the imminent carnage Puddy pulls off a belting one on one save that stops us going three zip down – as big a game changer as what comes next.

First, Max scuffs one in that pops over their keeper when he was clearly wrong footed by the bobble.  A bit of luck but Max was the right man in the right place to exploit the situation.  Cue huge excitement up in the Sutton contingent. Game on. Minutes later it’s a full on carnival as Max rises again like Christ himself to smash a header into the top corner to level it up.  This is fucking brilliant and we are at that height of excitement only the travelling football fan, when you’ve turned around a two nil deficit away to play-off contenders, can ever truly experience.

Now the game opens up nicely but by far the best chance for a winner falls to Roarie Deacon who’s deflected blast veers just wide of the post. But anyway, we are happy as Larry and it’s a great touch when Able shoves Max forward to take the full plaudits from the travelling support for a brilliant weekends work. Top stuff mate.


Of no interest to us, obviously.

We stop for a couple of pints in the carvery-style family fun pub by the station and have plenty of time to get into an on-line row with the Dagenham programme editor amongst others. Someone says we are not mathematically safe and gets a proper coating for trying to spoil the day with some post-modernist facts bollocks. Then its across the road for some chips and off back to the People’s Republic.

I leave the rest of the crew at London Bridge and retrace my steps via Waterloo and Wimbledon and back to the bosom of the West Sutton community.  Narrowly avoiding the come-hither lure of the Plough I strut back down GGL with that great feeling that the planning for next term in the National can get under way with a vengeance.  Meanwhile, Chester at home on Saturday.  Let’s finish this season in style.


The usual...