There’s Always an Alan

Have you ever heard the phrase: “If I didn’t laugh, I would cry”. Well, if you hadn’t, you have now. Yes readers I’m laughing. So much so, that I’m about to start having a coughing fit. So, I hear you ask, why are you laughing? Or am I actually crying? Or more than likely, you’re thinking what the fuck am I going on about.

And before you ask, I’m not crying because I spent £40 at Nando’s during the week. I’m laughing because, our away form this season is so fuckin’ dreadful. And as history is written down in the light of cold hard facts and results, this year we could be on course for a right shitter. I know, because I done what the kids do these days and Goggled it on Yahoo. Around some “reviewing” of Swedish independent art house films, naturally.

It’s Solihull Moors away! Yay, great, can’t wait. With the limp wristed performance against Boring Wood in the Trophy the previous Tuesday still in our minds, you could be correct in assuming that hopes of coming away with three points from somewhere near Birmingham weren’t exactly high. Especially when you consider the fact that we’ve had fuck all away from home since our single point at York back in October.

Er, nope. Not a clue…

The obligatory text around arrived Friday night from those wonderful people at Gandermonium Travels, asking us to arrive in an orderly fashion at Euston for the 0923hrs train North. Now remember that time, it’s an important fact in this story. Using that internet/computer thingy for something other than looking at moving pictures of boobies, I worked out that, with the Firm Leader currently sunning his pale arse in Lanza-grotty, my best bet would be the 0802hrs out of the Badlands of Carshalton.

Getting the eight o’clock train also meant that it would be a Southern service and not the useless wastes of space (apparently) at Thameslink. As it was formed of five coaches, it didn’t stop at the usual spot and the traditional jog up the platform begun for all those gathered (eg. Me). Finding an empty table, I plunked my weary self down.

It isn’t long before my quiet time is spoilt by Sutton’s answer to a Welsh Grizzly Adams, it appears that 4 Days is on this one too. Taking the train up to Victoria, we then jump the underground before arriving at our destination with at least half hour to spare. Clocking Indy & Sean Connery’s Stunt Double, I sneak out for a quick smoke as a flurry of sleet begins to fall. Lovely.

Oh the glamour.

As others begin to arrive we are told by Chalmer’s that “Miss the train” Alan wasn’t going to make it today since he had encountered a dose of Ghandi’s Revenge. Fair enough, if he didn’t want to risk it, then so be it. With nearly everyone about we locate some tea for the journey and head towards platform 14. Getting stuck behind Pete, as his ticket seems to be looked over by either a drunk or hungover ticket inspector, caused a little concern but at twenty past nine we locate our seats.Job done.

With two known no shows, we look around and realise that there is an extra space. Who is missing? Suddenly at 0922hrs, Taz’s phone goes off and it’s Dr “Alan” Bell. Who has only just arrived at Euston! Well you are fucked then fella. And especially considering that your ticket was with us, tucked in Mr X’s pocket, he had no chance of making it and only got to the barriers as the train began to pull out of the station.

This isn’t the first time that Dr Bell has missed the train either, in fact I’ve been “Alan” myself (no thanks to that bloody security guard at Tonbridge!), so it happens to even the best of us. After settling down for the hour and a quarter journey, we entertain ourselves in the usual manner that befits the sober outbound leg. You know, no swearing, no drinking & nothing to write home about.

Wrap up warm then!

Arriving at Birmingham New Street, we head outside and locate the first pub we can see. The Shakespeare is right next to the station and surprisingly there is a bouncer outside to greet us at 10 to 11. Taz uses this moment to use the facilities. Shortly afterwards he is followed by Mr X who returns to us first before uttering “Jesus, I think he’s losing at Angry Birds”.

A quick pint to get us started and we’re off to our first pub on the Gandermonium list. The Post Office Vaults is only around the corner and unsurprisingly is located next to a Post Office down some steps. After a round is sorted some of us start talking to a few Nantwich supporters who thought we were their opposition today in the form of Sutton Coldfield.

Others in The Firm at this point also located a favourite Gandermonium past-time, a bar billiard table. Turns out that there is a slight slope on this one that works wonders for 4 Days game as he cruises to victory several times (I blame the snooker table scorer myself). You wouldn’t guess that there is a table in The Hope would you? I can’t put my finger on it but one of the pieces didn’t seem right either. What do you think…

Thar be pirates on the baaaaar billiards table cap’n!

With the “one pub, one drink” rule already broken thanks to the sporting feast underway in the corner, we settled down to await the arrival of Dr “Alan” Bell. Getting a slower London Midland instead of riding a Virgin (He! He!) he was due to arrive around midday. It may’ve been cheaper on Midland but it was a two and a quarter hour long all stopper train. And it of course he’s taken the hit in his wallet as well.

You see, in Gandermonium, one rule is that the first excuse you are told for something is usually total bollocks. So when he did finally arrive, if was of course not his fault. He went for the old phantom bus routine that Taz loves so much. “I was at the bus stop early and no buses turned up…”. Let’s not mention the fact that being on the doorstep of Sutton High Street, Dr “Alan” Bell believes his best route is to get the bus from Sutton to Morden rather than walk up the High Street to a perfectly good station and get a train.

Completely waving this idea away, me & Taz do a little digging and would you believe it, he failed to mention a few very important facts. Not only does he play darts on a Friday, and openly admits to one or two glasses of sherry whilst doing so, he totally failed to mention in his defense that he stumbled home at around half one that very morning. So yeah, there you go. Complete bollocks.

That’s either for spillages or to stop cows using it…

The time is fast marching on now and it’s decided that we’ve got time for one more pub. The Wellington is next and as the place is near full of Villa fans by the time we’ve got a round in and drunk it, we’re soon back on the road towards Snow Hill station. That’s not before bladders are emptied though in what appears to be a Birmingham toilet special. Not too sure what the purpose of the cattle grid-style below the traps is for, but it’s not jumping on it, I can tell you.

Arriving at the station to find your train is majorly delayed is never the news you want to hear, so instead we jump on another that required a change at Moor Street. We also have to purchase tickets for this leg of the journey and without a manned ticket booth we have to use a machine. And like the Metro in Liverpool, it takes an age to print of a mere 20 odd tickets.

At Moor Street we move and try and find the right platform that had us go outside and back in to see our train ready to leave, ironically it’s eventual destination being back in London! Making it with thirty seconds to spare we soon realise that Indy & Sean have taken the lift from the other side and are nowhere to be seen. Jesus, another set of Alans! The train pulls out and a call is made by Mr X to tell them we’ve already left.

What are you trying to say here??

“That’s alright, we’re on the train” is the reply. Turns out that the magic lift took them to the platform and they jumped on before we even knew about it! Little buggers! You would think that a simple one stop ten minutes journey would not produce anything of value that need to be put down on paper. Oh how wrong could you be.

Turns out things do happen. In the most traditional Gandermonium of ways, we all hang around a toilet. After several uses (we’re at least five pints in by this time remember) we try to settle ourselves as it’s not the smoothest of train rides. At one point, a rather heavy judder has 4 Days seeking some stability by the toilet door. Except it hasn’t been shut properly. This causes him to slam the door open with his back and nearly end up sitting on the throne. Cue mass hysteria from those that witness this less than elegant moment.

Arriving at Solihull Station, we are greeted with no form of public transport. A quick ring round rustles up a couple of sherbets and we wait for their arrival. Chalmers’ hunger gets the better of him and he wanders off to find some sustenance. He fails to find any real food and returns with what appears to be a chicken & bacon sandwich seemingly without any chicken or bacon in it . Great move fella, great move.

We’re here!

The two sherbets arrive, and after taking our places, we begin to go. Not sure how it happens but both drivers have different routes that they take and it isn’t long before we split up, one going left and one going right. It’s a depressing journey if i’m honest. No shops and not a single pub are passed as we take the ten minute run out to the ground.

Seeing signs for Solihull Borough as we near the ground, we’re soon enough onto a dual carriageway and are at our intended location. Arriving just before the other sherbet was the cue for some “where the fuck did you go?”. Turns out that the other cab driver admitted that he made a wrong turn somewhere and even took some money off for their troubles.

A quick beer in the clubhouse and we’re heading into the ground. £14 it cost! I was always under the impression that it’s a league rule that the minimum price has to be £15? Anyway, who gives a fuck. It’s a damn sight cheaper than old Boredom Wood. We are also given the old magic wand (not that one!) treatment for the stewards as we enter. They must think we mean business then.

Game time

Worner, Amankwaah, Jefford, John, Collins, Gomis, Fitchett, Dundas, Bailey, Spence, Deacon. Bench Warmers: Gueye, May, Jebb, Traore, Tubbs.

It took less than two minutes for Sutton to maintain the current run of not keeping a clean sheet away from home at Conference level (currently ast 53!). This time it was a simple one-two that created enough space for Solihull to get into the Sutton Box. As keeper and defender both tried to stop the shot, it gets a little muddled and the ball fell nicely for another Solihull player and he calmly slots the ball home into the roof of the net.

Oh great one nil down already. This of course encourages the Solihull Youth standing at the wrong end next to us to go into overdrive. The abuse that we get from this little bunch is rather annoying if I’m honest and even after someone asked the stewards to intervene & move them on, they didn’t bother. One chant that did confuse me was the “You dirty scum, get out of Brum”. I just didn’t have the heart to inform them that in fact we were outside of Birmingham in this ground. It took the stewards over half hour to sort them out eventually, and even got shirty with us for complaining about it. Bring back corporal punishment I say!

After conceding the early goal, Sutton started to get into the game. Several times we came close, Bailey & John both had good headers that they failed to get onto target and Fitchett had a golden opportunity when he managed to create some space inside the six yard box but failed to even hit the target with his scuffed shot.

The time was fast ending in the first half when another cross into the Solihull box caused some panic. This time it fell to John but before he could get his shot off, a leg of a Solihull player prevents him and he crashes to the floor. Referee blows his whistle and points to the spot. Jamie “Top Goalscorer and hero of Leeds” Collins puts the ball down for the Penalty.

Waiting an age as the keeper decided at this precise moment he is going to redo his laces, Collins finally steps up and hits the ball to the keeper’s right. Unlike the Leeds one, this is quite reachable for the keeper and he guesses right and palms the ball away. How many penalties have we missed now this season?

It’s not Wembley you know

It’s my turn for the half time round (your next Firm Leader) and I wander towards the bar, only stopping to speak to a fellow Sutton fan who has only just arrived. “Still nil nil?” he enquires. Unlucky fella. Whilst in the bar I’m joined by the others who were in the round only to see Mr X arrive with a face like a slapped baby, “Two fuckin’ nil” he remarks. Yeah alright mate, I believe you! Then Dr Bell arrives and says the same thing. It is two nil? Bollocks. Turns out a penalty shout after Dundo is brought down is ignored and Solihull leg it up the other end. Worner saves and Solihull are quicker to the rebound.

Outside after his drink and Dr “Alan” Bell gorges on a pie & chips. “not…mmm mmm bad…mmm mmm” is all I can get out of him as he devours the poor defenceless pastry in what seems like a few seconds. The rest of us are lamenting the fact that no one can see this getting any better on the pitch and if we were not careful, this could get silly.

Down the other end we pass what appears to be some sort of seating area that has been bussed in to meet the ground requirements. You say this but, you can’t actually sit on them, sitting around just for decoration. Strange considering that Solihull Moors actually have an upper tier of sorts on their stand.

Denied. Verboten. Fuck off.

Second half and it doesn’t get any better. In fact it’s the sort of display that would’ve resulted in some public executions on the Piața Palatului in Communist Bucharest. First Amankwaah walks off injured and were forced to move Spence over and drop our most dangerous player Dundas into midfield as

Bad Boy is brought on.

Within five minutes there is another forced change as Spence goes off injured and Bailey is dropped to right back as new boy Jebb comes on. With another yellow card in the bank you can be sure that we’re still top of the fairplay league (something we might win) as before the match had started we were at least 80pts clear.

Solihull have several chances to kill the game and at one point force a fine double save from Worner. Sutton’s final throw of the dice is to throw “Brian” May on for Gomis. But within a couple of minutes it was Goodnight Vienna. Another counter attack from Solihull encounters, let’s say, some ‘lacklustre’ defending (Possible offside, couldn’t see from our end though) as they broke free to slot the ball to the far post for the third goal.

After that the game very much died as Sutton were reduced to a couple of outside efforts that failed to trouble the Solihull keeper, and Solihull were content to see the game out. It was nice to see Collins & John both come over at the final whistle to shake hands with the travelling support an apologise for the performance.

Dug out

Before the match had even ended, Mr X had disappeared. Thinking he had headed to the bar to drown his sorrows, we made moves in that general direction also. All of a sudden a phone call is received and that our sherbets have arrived. Great thinking Batman, let’s get out of dodge! The Solihull Youth were still trying to give it the billy big bollocks as we leave. One slap that’s all I ask for Lord, one slap.

With Amber Aleman joining us for the return leg. Three cabs are needed as we now number eleven. With me & Mr X in the last sherbet, we are soon headed back to the station. For some reason we feel that something just ain’t quite right. Both of us begun to work out what that could be when it dawned on us, shouldn’t there be someone else in the cab with us?

Just as we realised this, Mr X’s phone begun to vibrate. Oh shit, we know know who that is, Chalmers! Bloody hell, what is going on today?? Yeah, he got left behind. And he wasn’t happy about it either! Luckily he blagged a lift from Kev Sutton to the station and just made the train that we were aiming for back to Brum.

We checked. No gold. No safety deposit boxes, nothing…

Back in Birmingham and its the turn of The Old Contemplates as some of the egg chasers amongst us wanted to watch it on the box. The rest of us retired to a corner and did what Gandermonium does best, which is talk bollocks & drink! Don’t know how it started but we ended up talking about shaving. And not your faces either. Seriously, we need an away win fast or some of these post match conversations are going to get out of hand!

We were going to try another boozer next after the rugger, but it definitely wasn’t a Gandermonium sort of place, more your the sort your average Dulwich fan would like. So instead went back to The Post Office Vaults for a last couple of drinks. We also may or may not have spotted the Conference headquarters as well along the way. We also had to decided on our roles for the way home. Some went to Subways, others to secure refreshments and the rest to McDonald’s.

Being with the McDonald’s crew we soon found out that the new Argos type ordering system can be a dangerous thing. Especially when you couple it with those new self ordering touch screen thingys as well. Cheeseburger? Yeah five please! No wait, make that Double Cheeseburgers. No keep the cheeseburgers but add the doubles as well…

The 2010hrs train was due to hit Euston before ten but there was a delay of half hour around Northampton. Much to the disappointment of 4 Days, who had somewhere to be.Possibly involving a lady. We also bumped into some Wolves fans heading back. Turns out one of them lived in Weybridge. He’s the only Wolves fan in Weybridge apparently. Or so he hoped.

By the time we got to Euston and down on the Tube we thought we would’ve missed our train home, but as luck would have it, in true Southern style it was delayed and sitting at the platform for us. Half hour and some farts later and we’re back in the Badlands of Carshalton. It’s not long before I’m back home and hitting the sack before I’ve even got half my clothes off.

So we move onto a midweek trip up to Yorkshire, which I’ll be covering (with a bit of filler from Gandermonium’s attempt to get one or two tickets on the Sunday). Now would be a perfect time to grab at least a point as our attention afterwards will turn towards some trophy that isn’t the Surrey Senior Cup. Apparently it’s against a well known team, but their name escapes me…



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