A Highland Fling – Football Abroad

As you may know, we occasionally like to take ourselves out of our footballing comfort zone and parachute ourselves into more exotic surroundings in which to witness the beautiful game. We usually prefer somewhere where we don’t speak the lingo, the beer is cheap, the food is strange and the money looks like we printed it at home. So, of course, this time round, we’re off up to Scotland!

No, you fuck off.

Yes dear reader, this latest instalment of what we here at Gandermonium laughably call ‘Football Abroad’ is indeed coming to you from north of Hadrians Wall. But there is some logic to our usual stupidity in this case. Waaaay back in December, whilst the BBC were knocking out an edition of Football Focus live from the Times Square Lounge at GGL before the Cheltenham cup tie, we noticed a little something on that there twitter thing we like.

See. They started it…
Makes a change from Gate 13…

Now, whilst we are idiots and usually need adult supervision in most things, we like to think we’re reasonably ‘up’ on our football. Ok, we’re not big on the Azerbijian Premier League or who’s the top scorer in Estonia this season type hipsters admittedly, but we like to think stuff like other teams playing in the same sodding colours as us wouldn’t tend to pass us by. Mainly as the only other sporting outfit we previously knew that does is Hawthorn Hawks in Australia. And they play a completely different fucking sport altogether.

Well, it seems we’re not quite that well up after all. As it seems another football team right here in our beloved, sceptered, Brexit voting isle does indeed tip out of their dressing rooms in the same clobber as ourselves. That team? Forres Mechanics of the Highland League. Naturally, once this fact is known, we need to know more and inside the space of a pint, we’ve worked out that they start before us and they’re up near Inverness which can be reached by plane from Gatwick. We of course all swear solemnly there and then that we’re definitely off up there for a game next season, fixtures permitting.

Fast forward 6 months and the only thing we’re waiting on more than the National League fixtures is the Highland league ones. Thankfully, the Scots fag packet fixture scribbler is a bit kinder than the ones down here normally are and Mechanics, or The Can Can’s as they’re known to their mates, are at home on the opening day of their season to Nairn County. It’s a local derby no less and most important of all, the match is 7 days before we kick off our own campaign.

Hello Aberdeen!

Wallop. Bosh. Sorted. As Dukey may or may not say.

The now well oiled and not in the alcoholic sense for a change, Gandermonium travel machine kicks into gear and inside a day or two we have flights and accomodation booked. Sadly, it seems there’s something going on in Inverness as flights are so pricey we think that Concorde might have been re-employed so we’re forced to go to Aberdeen instead. Still, it’s fine. It’s a couple of hours by train and we’ve never been to Aberdeen before! Job done.

Then with a week to departure, EasyJet go and move our flight home back almost an hour to 8:40. But, this is one of those bad newsgood news situations. The bad being we’ll get home later. The good? This will allow us to take in a second game down in Dundee, a derby against their very near neighbours Dundee United no less. And as an added bonus, a certain Mr R. Deacon, formerly of this parish now resides there, employed by the blue footballing half of the city. Which means we get to go and scream like schoolgirls and throw our pants at him one last time. So, with a quick rejig of our earlier plans, we sack off the train and hire a car instead to make us that bit more mobile. And before you know it, a magnificent seven of Gandermonium’s finest fuck ups and pisscans are on the way to Gatwick bound for the land of Tennents Super, Haggis and Heroin Deep Fried Mars bars.

I myself have decided to work a half day so I can meander down at my own pace. So tipping out of the office at 1, I go for a walk in the sun down Embankment, spot some weird football stickers and then pack onto a train for the airport at Victoria. Surrounded by similarly early finishers and got knows how many spoilt little school holidays brats with their disinterested parents letting them run fucking riot. Nice. The train collects 4 days at Clapham and before long we’re at the airport and stumbling through security, where both of us as seasoned travellers who rarely if every get a pull of course set the fucking metal detector off like a busted car alarm and end up shoeless and having our bags closely inspected. Well, I say closely. The bloke just looked at me sans belt and my sketchers and just mumbles “Yeah, that’s fine mate” before buggering off to waste 10 minutes of some other poor bastard’s time.

Remarkably upmarket for us…
Some local grog…

Cheers pal. The United Kingdom is definitely a safer place and my feet are far colder thanks to you.

We hit the Spoons, one of those with a really weird queuing system and get beers to await the arrival of the others. Belly, somewhat amazingly given his latest train missing antics on the way home from Havant last week, is the first to show. Right behind are Mr X and Dukey. A couple of pints later, we adjourn upstairs for food and to await Pete. Also, because thanks to our flight being delayed about an hour, we’ve time to kill. I and Dukey also ‘discuss’ who’ll be doing what this weekend blog wise. He wants me to do Dundee, a game I can’t drink for. So I tell him to get fucked and that I’ll take Forres instead. Bollocks to it, I’m in charge round here!

Pete eventually shows up having gone to the wrong Terminal and then having to get his home printed boarding card replaced as it wouldn’t work on the way into security. So pretty normal stuff for us really. With the crew finally assembled, it’s time to fly. During which we finally notice that Dukey is wearing a bright orange polo top, which on the plane makes him look like some sort of EasyJet bouncer. “Fuckin’ peanuts? I’ll give you fuckin’ peanuts fella”. Still, it could be worse. He could have worn it to the Dundee game on the Sunday. Because they’d just love a bit of orange clothing in the home end…

Having waited an age on the tarmac at Gatwick and discovered that we’d finally made it into the final printed publication we hadn’t yet featured in this year (Private Eye!) we eventually take off and touch down in Aberdeen finally about 40 mins late. Steve & I acquire our hire car van and having loaded it full of divs, we head into town to locate digs and more importantly, find a pub. Settled into our two luxurious apartments, which are for useless football idiots like us amusingly sited in ‘Bon Accord Road’, it’s finally beer time and we immediately find a battle cruiser on the main road with a wall mural commemorating the Scots famous win at Wembley when they dismantled the gaff, which amuses Mr X no end. A bit of pool and a couple of pints later, we head a bit further down to ‘The Grill’. Which is a bit more us, mainly as it looks a proper dive. Looks can be decieving though and it’s a really nice old school boozer with lots of characters about getting tanked. We quite like Aberdeen so far! I and Pete make friends at the bar getting a round in as a proper old soak randomly requests in a thick Scottish drawl “Swatch efter mah bevvy will ye, aam gonnae fur a piss!”.

Er, yeah, sure mate. “What the fuck did he just say?” enquires a bemused Pete.

Top boozer.
More churches should be like this…

With time getting on and the place starting to shut up, we head back towards the digs. On the way, we encounter a chap clearly trying to sent a new ‘Drunkest Man’ world record. He says something to us, clearly trying to be friendly but the mix of the thick local accent and him being heroically munted means we don’t understand a single bloody word. So we all just smile and hope he goes away. Thankfully he just laughs and stumbles off over the road, somehow avoiding several vehicles and not getting run over in the process. A further testament to the locals attitude towards weekend drinking is the Police van that sits at a set of lights as he weaves his way past, bouncing off shop fronts. Back home they’d have nicked matey for D&D in a heartbeat. Here? “Nae bother pal!” and the geezer is allowed to continue to beer scooter his way to the nearest gutter home. Chuckling all the way back to the street named after a shite football team we’re staying on, we find the ‘Soul Bar’ on the corner. It’s a huge old church, now catering to that of an entirely different congregation than in its previous life. We decide it’d be rude not to give it a go, so we prop up the bar for another couple of hours before finally calling it a night and hitting the hay via a chippy over the road we’d spotted earlier.

G’night Aberdeen!

The following morning, my jaunty sounding phone alarm wakes me. Only the fact it’s a new 600 quid handset means I cancel this god awful racket in the correct manner rather than hurling the twat against the wall. Still, an earlyish start is neccessary. We have a long drive north ahead of us and we want to maximise VDT at the other end. So it’s a shower and off to the local Spoons a short walk away for breakfast. Fed, we mount the i800 and point it northwards.

The trip through some nice landscapes goes well and we hit Inverness train station car park with enough time to park up, grab some cans and head straight back to Mosset Park, which we’d passed on the road not 20 minutes ago on the way in, on the train! The train is a simple 2 carriage rattler, it’s busy and some prick’s left the heating on, so it’s also like a sauna. We decide to collect in the first class area at the front to let the locals get seats before we filter into the gap. Then just as we all start sweating Tennants and Punk IPA, the guard comes through popping open some windows to provide some much needed ventilation. He sees us all milling about and equires as to why we’re making his train look untidy. “First class innit mate” we tell him. “Ah, nae one gives a shite” he replies and carries on about his business. Sorted. Seats taken cans cracked, we’re off to Forres!

The right place for us really…
Mosset Park. Home of the Mighty Can Cans.

At the other end, we hop off and decide to follow the bunch of clearly football going lads who’d got on at Nairn the stop before. We reckon they’re the away support, so will know where the ground is. This is a good plan, right up until they carry on over the river ahead into town with us reckoning the ground is off to our left somewhere. Of course, being football fans, they’re off to the pub first. Bollocks! We bear left and having gone wrong a couple of times eventually get to Mosset Park. Here we’re told the bar isn’t open yet. Double bollocks. So we wander back to the pub we’d just passed a minute before and get a beer in just as Peter, the nice man from Forres I’d been speaking to, rings to tell us the club bar is now open!

Pints downed, we head off back to the ground once again to finally meet & greet our Scottish colour cousins. But not before we’ve bumped into a local who’s last game in England was at some place called Gander Green Lane just before Xmas. What is it with bloody Sutton? We’re always meeting people who’ve either lived there or recently visited for no real reason. Maybe it’s a magnetism thing? Our particular brand of dull surburbia seemingly being utterly irresistible to your average Briton.

We locate Peter in the bar and as we start ordering up, he disappears and returns with an armful of scarves, all in ‘our’ colours naturally! It’s a lovely gesture, mainly as we’d probably have all forked up for one anyway. It’s not one way traffic though and we hand over a scarf of our own as well as a shirt, fittingly it’s our token Scotsman’s from last season, Craig McCallister. This seems to up the ante and Peter promises one of theirs for us as well. We start getting stuck in with the beers as well as chatting to locals about all things chocolate and gold. Yeah, they call it gold, we call it amber. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it? We also meet their man who does the PA, who promises us a shout out before kick off. Er, thanks! We think.

Nice colours…
1-0 to the Cans!

Time is short though and there’s only time for a couple before we head out to see the teams emerge. As they do so, the chap on the tannoy is true to his word and thanks the “Visitors from South London” for making the trip up, adding “That’s if they’re not still in the bar”. Ahem.

As previously mentioned, today’s opener is a  local derby, so we’re expecting a possibly quite fiesty encounter. The first thing we notice are the 2 massive lumps in the Forres line up wearing 5 and 9. These are, it seems, the Fraser brothers. Graham is the centre back and his twin brother Lee the striker, someone the bloke in the pub earlier had advised us to watch out for. One thing’s for sure, if it is a tasty game, we think we know who Nairn won’t be pissing off!

The visitors start brightly and try to get at the Mechanics early. Their early play impresses us a bit as they get it down, get it moving and try to get wide to ping crosses into the box. A couple of early forays cause concern, but the keeper and defence in Gold do enough to keep things tight and County never quite fashion a proper chance from their early pressure. By the time we’ve wandered round to behind the goal at the far end, the Cans have got a foot in and are now starting to show what they can do offensively.

Best. Pitch. Side. Ad. Ever.
That’ll look nice in the bar…

Groat wearing 6 down the right is causing issues, as is the lad on the other side. In the middle, Stuart Soane the skipper is keeping things ticking over. A couple of promising attacks come to nothing before a free kick is dropped into the box and Soane slides a low effort across the keeper and inside the far post. It’s a tidy finish, although the County keeper really should have done better than help it on it’s way into the net.

Still, who gives a monkeys. The good guys are winning!

From here, the Cans run things with little to worry them at the other end and manage to force a couple of decent saves from the keeper. We’re also treated to the other side of the skipper’s game when he properly Nicky Bailey’s one of their lads as they try to break. It’s a challenge sufficiently late that it’s always going to get you a yellow, but not quite late enough to get a red. Needless to say Dukey is impressed and we giggle like naughty schoolboys, much like we do when we watch that video of Benjamin Massing dismembering Caniggia. Then, with the break approaching, we sidle round into the shadow of the stand to get closer to the bar. Here, the previously quiet Fraser brothers should really add to the goals tally. First a corner is somehow headed wide by Graham and then Lee gets on the end of a floated ball to the far post, but the keeper makes a great block from his point blank range header.

With the Cans still ahead at the whistle we head for the bar, but the small room means getting a drink will take a while, so a couple of us head out to get a pie and a cup of splosh from the tea hut instead. Sadly, by the time we get to the counter, all the hot stuff is gone. Denied! I make do with the splosh and a twix and dream of Scotch Pies we head round to a spot behind the other goal to wait for the game to restart.

Noseying about…
Grubs up.

The second 45 is much like the first as the hosts are largely in charge, but just can’t quite force a second killer goal. Meanwhile, Dukey is mainly enjoying the fact he can smoke as much as he damn well pleases during the game, something he won’t be able to do starting next week!  Mr Fraser up top has a better second half and has another couple of decent chances, the best being a fabulous take down of a dropping ball in the box, then lifting it over the advancing keeper. Sadly for him it fails to carry into the gaping net and a defender recovers to clear.

At this point, we’re joined by a chap called Stuart who runs the Mechanics social media stuff and who’s had to put up with out crap on twitter lately. Nice chap.

Despite having a couple more chances, the Cans see out the game without too much trouble and rack up an opening day win. Which kind of makes the trip that bit more worthwhile to be honest! We of course adjourn back to the bar and get some more refreshments in. Here we chat to various faces, such as the gaffer, various players and assorted officials, including the chairman himself.

Once the place has quietened down, we get the full tour of the place, getting to nose about in the boardroom and other spots, as well as admire the various little odds and bods in the trophy cabinet. Amusingly, one of the items is a bottle of 10 year old Whiskey from Brora Rangers. Who’d have thought it eh? We also of course find out one of the guys hashad family in Sutton. Of course you do. Who doesn’t??

Highland league major lights

Peter then hands us a signed home shirt from this season for the bar back at GGL and also offers us a few old shirts from a past season for a tenner. Which of course we lap up before helping destroy the remaining pile of post match sarnies. But with the bar emptying fast and some others coming in to set up for a ‘gin tasting evening’ (do we really have to go?), we decide to bid our wonderful hosts goodbye and skedaddle back over the road to catch our intended train back into Inverness.

Bags collected from our dumped motor, we cab back to the hotel, check in and head straight back out bound for a Curry house that has come very highly recommended. After a top nosh up (check out Rajah’s if you’re ever in Inverness!) we meet up with 4 Days and Pete in a hipster pub opposite before ending up in Hootenanny’s over the road. A place with different bars on 3 different floors. Here we plump for the band on the 2nd floor doing ambitious covers of various rock classics, although they then somehow manage to deliver one of the worst covers of ‘Summer of 69’ I think I’ve ever heard.

Eventually though, we hit the 2am wall (it must be all those nights in O’Niells) and decide to tip out for home. On the street while we locate a cab office, we admire many of the local ladies in various states of undress with one lass carrying off a hotpants and wellies combo far better than you’d think possible. The cab office we then find is possibly one of the nicest we’ve ever been in. It’s certainly the first one I’ve ever seen selling local souvenirs!

Back at the hotel, having raided the vending machine of water and nibbles, we head for the rooms. Noticing a copper hanging around at the rear of the reception desk. Not wanting to see if the local plod’s tolerance to inebriated people is the same as in Aberdeen, we quickly hit the lift and get upstairs. Here, a rather the worse for wear 4 Days wanders off along the corridor unable to locate his room. He’s next door to us.

Classic. ROCK!
We were very very drunk.

Ah, he’ll be fine I’m sure. And besides, I need my beauty sleep. Want to look my best in case BT Sport clock us again at tomorrow’s Dundee derby.



It of course goes without saying that we’d like to say a huge thanks to all at Forres Mechanics for their wonderful hospitality. If you’re ever in the Inverness area during the season, look them up. And tell them we sent you!

2 thoughts on “A Highland Fling – Football Abroad

  1. I used to live in Sutton (now in Coulsdon), relations who live in Forres and support the Can cans. One of them was at the famous Coventry game back in the day.Spooky. Gazza

    1. We're slowly coming to the conclusion that Sutton is in fact the centre of the known universe. Sort of like a locational Kevin Bacon, every bugger and their dog seems to have links to the bloody place! 🙂

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