And where are we playing? Well, and you'll have to ask Frakey to confirm this, but for the first time since Boston United beat us 3-1 back in 1988, we are away on the opening day in the GM Vauxhall Conference. Not only that. but we also get to play the virgins of Harrogate Town, who after a mere 14 years in the Conference North, 'The Sulphurites' are finally in the big time. Well, at least the non-league big time that is. Also if you're one of the COC's, then Maidenhead away back in 2014 was the actual last away day opening fixture. Massive in-joke: I've been biting my lip all season to say that. You Cretin!
|Hours of fun for drunken idiots...|
What is also surprising, was that us at Gandermonium managed to get our arses into gear and actually organise ourselves properly. Well, as far as Mr "I booked us all on tables" X sorting out return train tickets to Leeds that is. That's because somehow we'd decided to do two nights to celebrate the new season. Oh yes, that's right, two whole nights. On the piss. Us. That's never gone wrong before, has it? Well, apart from.....
It was also a shame to see two great talismans of the club leave us this week (Last fucking week by the time you got this up you twat! - Ed). First we had Simon Downer, who'd failed to get his fitness back up to a level he felt necessary and has decided to call it a day at the club. How can we ever forget the time he took a spin in goal at Torquay? After Worner was forced off with a injury early into the match, who else would put on the gloves but our man Downs! Plus, What about some of his tackles? Maybe he should have stuck to 'keeping? And need I mention red cards? There were a couple of classics, so much so that to be "Downer'd" enter the Gandermonium lexicon (Someone remind me to add that by the way? - Ed). I will also remember that it was he that had the players over to shake the hands of the Barrow
The other player who has also departed, needs no introduction, mainly because it is THE Legend that is Dundo. The DJ. The Caribbean Curly Toe. The Big Man. The boss. The geezer who told me to put all that. What was it? Only the eighth Sutton player ever to reach 500 appearances? Even less that that for 500 appearances and 100 goals? Not too sure how long the club have included friendlies into the stats, but what an achievement for anyone at this level and in these times especially. I remember last year he was asked what his best goal was, and I think he had remarked the one at Concord that obviously was never filmed thank to the pikey locals. And who else can forget his red card at Lowestoft? Apart from all of us that is, as we were shitfaced. And before anyone asks, I'm currently in high-level negotiations to have the mural changed next to The Shoebox, That is, trying to get it altered for nothing by the Brother-in-Law. What? All we need is a number changing and an 'exit' sign adding!
It's just before lunchtime on Friday and already, me & Robbo are making our way up town. The 1119hrs train from Carshalton is actually running and is on time. Fuckin' miracle! And as the clock strikes twelve we're already disembarking at St Pancras. With ninety minutes to the train there is nothing for it but to seek out somewhere for a drink. O'Neill's seems to be the easiest option and we head to there.
People begin to arrive and it seemed that nearly a dozen of us were going to be flying the Gandermonium banner this weekend. The plan was simple enough, Head up to Leeds, a short stop over (purely for refreshments) and then onto York for a night on the town. What could go wrong? With everyone present and correct, we head for our train. Although some of us were sent to the wrong platform beforehand.
Finding our seats, and surprisingly we actually have a couple of tables for a change! Settling down for the journey and you could see a distinct difference from the veterans to some our more newer members. I mean, who the fuck brings Sushi onto the train for a weekender? A couple of beers is of course fine, or a few cans of those under strength mixers that Taz likes is perfect, but a piece of raw fish? Go figure!
|Not standard fare...|
A nice journey up was only filled with the talk of us trying to work out how we're going to make as many games as possible this season. But it's all about the Irn-Bru Cup. And when I say it can fuck up our season, it can really fuck up our season. But that's for another time and we arrive in Leeds and head straight for your Duke's favourite pub chain. 'Spoons!
Couple of beers down and it's time to head to York. Some people decided to grab some food for the journey and we all seem to split up. Knowing what platform we need to be on, I head toward it and see Robbo getting on the lift down. Lightweight! With plenty of people on the platform awaiting the train I try to find some space.
The train arrives and I get on, Not seeing anyone around, I assume that they've bolted onto another carriage given we're grabbing nosh for the trip. The doors close and we are about to depart when there is a light tap on the window. It's Taz, behind him I see Mr X, Pete the Perv, The Firm Leader and several others. What are they doing on the platform? Why are they not on the train?
|Getting on the (wrong) train...|
Jumping off at Garforth I notice that there was also three other people that got off and were waiting on the platform. Knowing that the rest were on the right train and it would soon be booming its way through the station, I decide to take my rude gestures from the right train like a man and hide. To add insult to injury, my connecting train is delayed. So with time to spare I decide to take a little wander around. Some sightseeing if you will.
Two choices lay before me, head out to the left or to the right. I decide to stay on the right side and head off in that direction. And the only thing I found was a Tesco's, so grabbing a cheeky can of piss poor lager, I continue on but find nothing else about. Turns out later, that if I'd gone left I would've found the high street and a bloody 'Spoons! FML! I couldn't believe it.
Arriving fashionably late into York, I head off to the hotel. I also spot those few people that got off at Garforth with me. So it just wasn't me then! Bumping into Sean Connery's Stuntman & Indy en-route, they inform me that everyone is in the pub and
Despite everyone having enough drink to sink an elephant already, we soon are heading off in York for several more beers. Plenty more pubs are checked off. Let's see if we can remember then all: The Windmill, The Punch Bowl, The Artful Dodger Bar, The Kings Arms, The Golden Fleece, Pivní & Evil Eye to name but a few.
Pivní was the last 'pub' of the night and probably the most memorable. That's because the four of us that didn't go home, get lost or went to Popworld, found a game that suited our sort of late night intelligence. It was simple enough, have a twenty pence piece stay on top of a lemon floating in a jug of water for five seconds to earn a free pint. Simples? Well, not for us, dread to think how much money we lost on that little attraction, but we never managed to get it to stay onto for more than a second. Even despite some of us trying to create grooves in the lemon.
|I'll leave then...|
With time running out we headed off towards a back street Gin Palace. And I'll have to say that all that craft shite is wasted on me. The various Vodka & Orange drinks I tried, all tasted surprisingly like Vodka & Orange. I think we all knew it might be time to call it a night when a young lady was sick in the corner next to the toilets and nonchalantly walked off. And the smell, very pungent!
Naturally it's time for food. 4 Days & Taz head for a McDonald's they spot. As for me & Mr X it's time to shine as I prove once again that I'm clearly the most progressive, the most tolerant & all round inclusive individual in Gandermonium. And one way to do this is at none other than a dirty Kebab trailer I'd spotted earlier. Looking at the menu, it's not long before I know what I want. Oh yes because we're going to rock the boat with a Northern Classic of Chips & Gravy. Naturally mixed with doner kebab and salad! Talk about bring cultures together. It almost makes me regret Brexit.
It was lovely of course! We eventually catch up with 4 Days & Taz. It's not long before we're back at the hotel. But, it did seem that the four of us could not all go up in the lift together. Weight issues apparently. So we turf off the heaviest and make Mr X walk up the stairs instead. The Firm Leader is not long in after me and he seems to have enjoyed his little jaunt into his youth at Popworld. Mainly due to the trays of Jaegerbombs on offer it would seem.
|Fusion food, right there...|
It's morning and we head down for some breakfast. To be fair it wasn't that good. the bacon was a touch too chewy and the eggs were as tasteless as one of my jokes. But at least I ate mine. Turns out that Taz came downstairs a little worse for wear and only managed a bit of toast before admitting that he was going back to bed. He reckons it was a posoinous, salty cheeseburger from the night before that did it. Well, this would be the first time that I can say that he'd be better off with a dirty doner from a wagon. First time I've ever heard of an over-seasoned cheeseburger from McDonald's as well.
Everyone (except Taz) gets ready and heads off to the station. Having to buy our tickets, and being a little late, me and The Firm Leader then get stuck behind some Chinese tourists as they try to work out how the ticket machines work. Eventually they just give up and fuck off. I just about manage to grab us a pair of tickets before heading off to some little two carriage rattler that makes us wish that Dr Beeching had fucked these off as well as all the branch lines.
I'm wasn't that surprised that there was only one an hour to Harrogate and on this ex-bus carriage you not only had a driver but a ticket collector in each carriage. So much for getting a ticket. And the one in our carriage hardly lifted a finger before fuckin' off at Harrogate. Most of the train journey appeared to consist mainly of how much tea we all could spill between us.
Arriving at Harrogate and we head off to find our Hotel. Apparently called Premier Inn Harrogate Central, it's a walk and a half to find and worryingly there wasn't many pubs en route. We eventually find the damned thing and then have to wait for some service so we could all dump our bags as the rooms weren't ready. Eventually with that all done, we then take another long route back towards town.
With me leading the troops, we come across "The Winter Gardens" and as luck would have it, it's a 'Spoons! Imagine that, me finding the 'Spoons! And it's a fancy little fucker with a immensely dangerous staircase to boot. Few beers later, and bearing witness to a walking tour that actually came through the pub, other Sutton fans start to arrive for the big day. Not only were the Yoof here, but the Oxides were making an appearance too!
Finding out through the use of social media, we discover here the meet is going to be. We hang around until Taz finally arrives. When he does, we have another beer for luck and begin another uphill struggle to where we need to be. And once again we fail to find any pubs. Well, pubs in the sense of 'pubs'.
When we get to the Harrogate Tap, there are plenty of the Amber & Chocs about with the DBDC & COCs already outside with beer in hand. This station boozer is one of those beardy-weirdy places that doesn't serve well known stuff. So it was a picture to see when the Firm Leader nearly went for a pint of 9% Chocolate Marshmallow flavour Porter. I think most people tried and hated it. Well, all except Alfie...
More and more people soon arrived, well it's a new ground after all. The Burgers, Ozzie & even the B-Team rocked up after dumping their mini-bus at there digs. In Bradford of all places! With plenty of numbers in one spot, it soon became a worry that the sherbets would be a little lacking in numbers. So some of us decided to walk the mile towards the ground. Which was a touch as when we came to leave, there were fuck all cabs to be had!
A nice enough walk that has you cut through a open space not much seen back home these days. Eventually you come across the ground and groups of people outside trying to get their last nicotine fix before entering the non-smoking hell hole that was to be our home for the next hour and a half. Don't care, but any club that doesn't let you smoke or even come outside at half-time can lose a point in their ratings in my book.
Surprisingly, entering the ground and passing over the money, you don't get a match ticket and even more surprising was seeing that the fella that took the money didn't write down any tally or anything. Now unless he's got an exceptional memory, I can't say that I 'm too happy about that. The ground itself is nice looking except that the club bar was a no-go due to the heat inside. This was despite the Chairman risking it in full blazer and tie.
Also I gather that the solitary snack wagon got an indifferent vote. According to Chairman Totts, The pie with the addition of mushy peas were first rate and even the 'burger wellington & Red wine gravy' was lovely. But everyone that had the 'town burger' were somewhat disappointed. oh well, onto the match...
|First half view...|
Butler, Bennett, Thomas, Eastmond, Clough, Collins, Bolarinwa, Bailey, Lafayette, Beautyman, Taylor. Bench Warmers: Beckwith, Davis, Wright, Wishart, Drinan.
Sutton's start to their first match of the season was very much like the pre-season. We seemed a little laboured and took a long time to get going. So much so that Harrogate had most of the opening chances. Several times, Thomas was left for dead in the left back position as this became the biggest area of threat. I lost count of the amount of balls that sailed across the goal mouth. Some where actually met by a Harrogate player an one even watched as his header came off the post.
Eventually Sutton were to get back into the match. With Bolarinwa on the right, our main threat came with his pace.At one point the Harrogate keeper came right to the edge of his box to deal with a high ball. So much so that his momentum took him outside. WELL outside. You could tell he thought he was out of the box, just by his reaction. He dropped the ball and tried to look all innocent like. And despite this, nothing is given by the man in the middle. Or the lino. What a way to start a season, with inept officials.
Sutton did eventually get the breakthrough. Bolarinwa once again terrorised the left back and managed to get round him at the by-line, the inevitable happened except the defender catches him before he reaches the box. A yellow card is displayed and Thomas steps up to take the kick. After a pause for the ref to sort out a spot of argy-bargy, the ball is whipped into the centre of the box. The Salmon to leap highest was none other than Mr Clough. And his bullet of a header took it over the keeper in the back of the net. 1-0! One person to react was the steward that stood for most of the half in front of us, stopping anyone from standing on the perimeter. His reaction was only noticed later on, but the photo of him shitting himself as the ball bulged the net, is something to be behold. Check it out for yourself if you don't believe us!
|If it was open, here's what you could've had...|
Half-time came with Sutton still in the lead. Forgoing the traditional half-time round, as the bar was hotter than my arse after a curry, we begin to head towards the other end of the ground. You first had to negotiate a wayward sprinkler that appeared to get most of the ground behind the goal covered in a mist of water. Talk about a local shower...
Second half and the game started even lower than the first. On the hour mark, Harrogate were given a golden egg. Trying to save a weak shot, Butler manages to spill the ball and give the fella the easiest of tap-ins. We try and change things up with Drinan & Wright coming on for Bennett & Lafayette, but to no avail. Things take a turn for the worse when out of another cross Harrogate take the lead with a free header. Wishart soon comes on and we soon have a penalty shout as Bolarinwa is caught in the box. But nothing is given by the fuckwit of a ref.
With time fast running out, it seemed that our first game of the season was going to end in defeat. A last throw of the dice had a Collins flick-on head to the back of the six yard box. Beautyman goes up to head the ball, but he's blocked by an arm of a Harrogate player. Penalty! But wait, the ref seems unconvinced, still, a look at the linesman and he finally blows his whistle and points to the spot. Why it took him so long as he was closer than the lino and had a better view in the first place is beyond me.
Up steps up Captain Fantastic and people wait to see what happens next. Well, most people as The Firm Leader is gripped by his "penaltyophbia" and looks away. Why he has to squat behind the advertising hoarding is something you'll have to ask him though. Calm as you like, Collins smashes the ball to the keepers right. From my view it looked like the keeper had saved it, but it rocks the net and we can mad. 2-2!
|Second half view...|
After the match, we head off back towards the town. With us all separated, a few of us decided to show Chairman Totts and Dirty 'I have a funny turn if I'm facing the wrong way on the train' Barry the impressive stairs in the 'Spoons. In between us was also an old Harrogate fan, who needled us for our opinions on the match.
We of course told him his lot were fuckin' shit and lucky to get what they did. One other thing that we happened to remark on was the questionable attendance figure given. What he reckoned was that if the stand running down the side of the pitch was full, then you were looking at least around a thousand. And if this were true, then I doubt there was only 300 around the rest to give a figure of under 1400. I guess we'll never know. It might help if you recorded how many entered the ground though.
Making it to 'Spoons it turns out for some reason only Me, Mr X & Perv made it. It turns out that most others went to Nando's on the way through, but didn't invite Pete. So we go for a spot of 'Spoons food. Surprisingly, my pizza seemed edible but it was much better than what the other two went for. Gammon, Egg & Chips it said on the menu. But what turned up, eventually, was a bit of leather with some boiled eggs and crisps. Not very nice apparently.
|Tastes like Smirnoff.. It all tasted like Smirnoff.....|
After that we walk back to the hotel to get changed and head out. Some of us took it serious, like Mr X who had donned a shirt, trouser & shoes combo, where others hardly lifted a finger. A quick drink for everyone, except me, in the hotel bar and we decide to try and find a pub. Eventually we do and its a Nicholson's pub called "The Alexandra" and consider how we battered it the night before, tonight appeared to be taken at not quite the same pace.
Nice boozer it turns out, with cricket on one telly, Golf on another and even some football to keep all entertained. A spot of MLS as Atlanta were at home against Toronto or as Perv thought, "Atalanta vs Torino". Someone's had a few! Several more beers were then consumed. And we even manage to get Robbo to get a round in. Despite the fact that he needed to write down what we were all drinking, still he managed to do it and that's all that mattered.
Looking at the map and we see that our options appear to be a bit limited, but 4 Days reckoned he found a place that is open till half one and wasn't like a club but something most of us would like. Well except Magnum P.I. Who called it a night after his second glass of white wine. Sushi first, and now white wine? On an away day? Shameful.
|At times, it was surreal|
The final drink was going to be round the back of Betty's Tearooms. A little place called the "Blues Cafe Bar". Trying to get in was an event in itself. For some reason, this old fella was standing right behind the door, and you needed to push it to get in. To be fair, the place was busy but you would think that he would've used a bit of common sense. Everyone literally need to push the door into him and him into the wall to squeeze through. Dickhead.
With the place seemly very busy I thought that only one drink would do me before I would get pissed off and head back to the hotel. But thanks to eagle-eye Firm Leader as he spots that there might be an upstairs. This was also after Taz had arrived at the bar and tried to order a round. With the band blasting out a spot of Muddy Waters, he looks at The Firm leader for his poison of choice, "Spiced-Rum" he mouths back but somehow that gets lost in translation as he is given a beer. "Staropramen is what you ordered..."
Upstairs, and into the 'Gin Palace' we went. And thankfully there were hardly any people and plenty of seats as well! We settle down and begin to enjoy the night again. At one point, me & The Firm Leader are outside feeding the habit when the barman upstairs speaks to Mr X:
Barman: Would you like another drink?
Mr X: Na it's alright, we need to order some lagers downstairs.
Barman: I Can do that for you.
Mr X: From downstairs?
Barman: yes, and have them brought up to you.
MR X: Jesus, go ahead fella!
Barman would you lik to pay cash, or start up a tab?
Mr X: Erm,shit,erm,erm..."
Luckily we didn't start a tab, they can be dangerous for us! At one point, Me & The Firm Leader head downstairs to use the gents and after squeezing past a Doris who wouldn't move from the bottom of the stairs we made it. The Firm Leader was in front and just as he pushed the door inwards, he managed to kop this poor fella right in the head! Sent the geezer reeling backwards! Sorry mate.
A few more beers later and it was soon timer to call it a night. It was gone one after all. This had followed about half an hour of one of the funniest conversations we've ever had at Gandermonium and one that I won't repeat here, but I'll leave it with the following: "Pete, I gave it three flushes, but there was still stuff there, so I gave up". We did appear to be in a lock-in, literally, as the place had locked all the fuckin' doors as well as turned out all the lights, but eventually we made it out and back to the hotel.
With an early-ish train back to Leeds, We all needed to be up and ready before the clock stroke ten. Me & The Firm Leader, who managed to not spill any water over the hotel room floor for once, head down for a selection of fried foods. There is a smattering of The Firm already digging in and we join in the occasion with a spot of fat bastard-style food. Everyone managed to eventually make an appearance, including Taz. No repeat of the I-can't-eat-because-I-had-a-salty-cheeseburger-last-night for him today as he scarfed down a decent helping of sausage and bacon.
Eventually it's time to say goodbye to Harrogate as we get to the train station. The Firm Leader has a huge sigh of relief as he sees that the Harrogate Tap is shut, so no more chocolate marshmallow porter for him then. We also clock that there seems to be several girls dressed up in various forms of rainbow colouring. At Leeds station, there are now shed-loads of teenagers all displaying various rainbows. oi,oi, I think to myself. Leeds vs Stoke seems to be a bit colourful this year. Thankfully the train is on time and w're all soon aboard, including myself as I make sure that this is the right one. I'm not going back to Garforth this time!
|The view home...|
You would think that after two days of travels, there would be no more this intrepid writer could give. But you'd all be wrong, particularly if you know that Gandermonium is the gift that keeps on giving. Humour of the lowest common denominator type of gift mostly. Travelling back on the train from Leeds and we're slightly spread out despite 'someone' booking us a table. We've
Even "It's all about getting on Badoo" Robbo takes a chance to stick on his headphones (no doubt it's terrible music, probably Chsney Hawkes 'Greatest hits' or something) to pass the time. Taz on the other hand whacks out his phone and begin playing away with it. If you think he's battling away on Angry Birds then you'd be very wrong. He's all about 'Chicanery' these days and something called
We arrive at King's Cross and the Croydon Boys say there goodbye as they are travelling to Victoria on the Underground. The rest head over to St Pancras and jump onto a train south of the river and eventually home via an overheard conversation between what possibly could be the three weirdest people I've seen in a long long time. And what a weekend it's been. I might end up more tired on the Monday then I was on the Friday but that's the wonder of non-league football for you.
|Missed opportunity for local cuisine...|
Thank fuck we're at home Saturday.