Cuidado con ese árbol! – Football Abroad

A tough, grinding season’s finally over, the manager has fucked off and so far so has about half of last year’s squad. So you’d think now would be a good time to go and rediscover real life, start clocking up the brownie points with the other halves and generally forget all about the beautiful game for a few weeks. Especially as there’s no World Cup on (FIFA or CONIFA!) to keep you otherwise amused? Wrong. You go find yet more football, obviously. Preferably somewhere with nicer weather and cheaper beer. And the more obscure the better.

So, it’s because of this that at 1pm on a Friday afternoon I find Magnum, 4 Days, Dr Bell and Dukey on the concourse at East Croydon station. And we’re off to Gatwick. Why? Because we’ve decided to take a little hop down to Alicante in the South of (hopefully!) sunny Spain to stuff as much tapas and cervezas into our fat pasty little Brexit faces as possible. And also take in a couple of games at the fag end of their season. I mean, who wouldn’t? Right? RIGHT?

Pre-flight beverages
About time!

There is a connection here. Our very own Totts, you know, the one that does some stuff on this here blog wotsit, can strum a banjo and runs the Proud People’s Republic of West Sutton. That Totts. He has a gaff down in Alicante, has done for years and he’s a bit partial to their local side Hercules, who currently play in the 3rd tier but were in La Liga as recently as 2010. He’s been banging on about them for a while now, so in the end, with a less than memorable season at GGL now behind us, we decide ‘Fuck it’ and book up for a long weekend in the sun and to take in Hercules’ last game of the regular season at the Rico Perez. Sadly though, El Presidente’s enthusiasm for a mob handed PRoWS cultural exchange trip doesn’t quite stretch to an invite to stop at Chez Totts. He’s not completely fucking daft. So, flights and digs in Alicante sorted, a varied group of idiots assembles for some post-season tour action.

Gatwick is a breeze, barring of course Dr Bell’s bionic hip triggering an alarm so loud I’m half surprised most people don’t flee for the exits thinking there’s a fire or something and we’re soon in Spoons for a customary Brits abroad pre-departure pint. Chalmers and his brother Alan soon appear, followed by Steve and last but not least, Mr X who’s driven from work and had a wardrobe malfunction at security with his belt breaking. He’s also wearing a big fucking coat. “It was cold this morning!” he whimpers. Of course, with pints on the go, the usual bullshit starts with us touching on the recent Jeremy Kyle ‘scandal’ as well as what former Sutton player will Havant be unveiling today at 4pm. There’s a few guesses and a couple that turn out to be correct, but more on that later.

With refreshments on board, our gate is announced and we head down, a couple of us go via Pret to get a sarnie, although Steve just buys fuck loads of cake as he “Doesn’t like sarnies with green shit in them” apparently. Amusingly, for the first time ever, we find ourselves departing from Gate number 1. As in the first one. Finally, it seems these airline people have realised how special we are and shouldn’t have to walk miles from the fucking pub to get to our plane to take us to another pub somewhere sunnier! Well done British Airways. Elsewhere however, Totts and Bacon are ruing not flying a major flag carrier as they’ve found their EasyJet flight out is delayed by an hour. That’s what you get for cutting corners lads!

Seeing the sights…
“There’s bloody loads left on this!”
Nope, no fucking idea what was going on here…

We board and just before the phones go into flight mode, we check out twitter to see which ex-Sutton face is now a Havant player. The news of Roarie Deacon being that man is met with a mix of curses, rueful shakes of the head and told you so’s. Bet that’ll go down well on the forum after some recent bitching about all the departures in the Hampshire direction! But, from here on out we’ll be taking a leaf out of other people’s books and moving on. So over to you Mr Gray, oh and some fucking signings would be nice, thanks. Our flight’s late getting off thanks to a small commotion on the gate, which includes having the police summoned. Nope, nothing to do with us smashing the gaff up over the Deacon news you’ll be amazed to hear, but a stag do causing a commotion by not only sticking a pic of Jordan’s disabled son Harvey over the grooms image in his passport (defacing a passport = bad), but also leading him to the gate despite him having a boarding pass for a flight with a completely different airline departing an hour later that they’d booked him on! #BANTER. Eventually though, they’re allowed on at the say so of the captain, who apparently pissed himself when told of events, under the proviso they got no beer during the flight. Right, Alicante here we come!

The flight’s quiet and other than a stampede for the bogs at the back the moment the seat belt sign goes out and Mr X getting annoyed at them only having 4 cans of Heineken to sell and they’ve just sold three of them to the row in front, we land in Spain on time and without fuss. Taxi! Here X again excels by asking a Spanish taxi driver for a sherbet to accommodate ‘trois’ people (think about it!) and then making him piss himself at the man of mystery’s large winter type coat he’s carrying. We hit town and check in to our digs, being told that the loft apartments I had booked aren’t ‘suitable’ for us, by which we’re guessing they meant in a ‘pissed up groups of lads’ way rather than a ‘You boys look like discerning types, you’ll want something far more up market!’ way. Still, the alternative gaff is perfectly fine. Next it’s shopping and some essential supplies such as teabags. Also, according to Mr X, shit paper is an essential purchase, as he’s concerned we don’t have enough to last us the weekend.

His concern is all the odder when he then completely forgets to fucking buy any at all! Also, whilst we’re on the subject of defecating (stick with me here), 4 Days makes a challenge for a change of nickname by making full use of the facilities barely 4 Minutes after arrival. Still, with the fridges stocked with nibbles, a shitload of water and fruit juice, it’s time to hit the town and have a few shandies. Sadly, the advance group who hadn’t been to the shops go and behave like typical Brits abroad and park up in the nearest fucking Irish bar. Still, that’s what you get for sending ‘tradtionalists’ like Dr Bell and Dukey out as the recce team. The rest of us tell them via Whatsapp to get fucked with their Brexit bar choices and instead hit a SpanishAmericanGerman place round the corner. Pints please! The recce team join soon after with tales of having made ‘friends’ in the Irish spot with a fella who’d then been escorted out claiming he was ‘a Russian gangster’ and would be back to ‘kill everyone’. Nice.

Balcony view

Couple of beers and we’re off for some food at the suitably European time of half 10. A restaurant nearby doing pretty much everything is selected and we end up having something called a ‘tomahawk’ steak, which is pretty much a humongous lump of beef on the bone for several people to share. Noms. Food done, Steve gets distracted by a pretty lady and gets us dragged into her bar on the promise of 2 Euro drinks. The last time this happened was Savoy’s in Glasgow, which went well. We’re the only people in the joint so we neck our beers and fuck off, only to have the same lass try to persuade us to return once outside. Er, no ta. We amble round a couple of corners and then find we’ve stumbled into a properly rocking little clutch of bars. Result! It’s a pretty young crowd out, but Mr X spots a place he reckons is a winner “This one’s got adults in it!” he states, striding in through the door. Average age of clientele inside? 16. If we’re lucky. So we get a bit Jimmy Saville, grab a beer and settle in to observe the sights of the local yoof enjoying their nights out on stuff like pints of Jaegermeister and with what appears to be a large rubber cock behind the bar.

Eventually though, we head next door having discovered a rock bar and settle in for the nightearly morning. Here in Vendetta’s, it’s 1 Euro a Jager (Mr X buys 18) and they’re playing not a fucking jot of English language music. We soon find Spanish Ska and punk to our taste, or it might just be the Jagers. Alan departs after a vomity visit to the gents and his brother takes him home, albeit via the longest route possible despite our digs being 2 mins walk away. In typical Gandermonium “We’ll just have a quiet first night with a couple of pints and a curry” fashion, we eventually tire of 2 Euro beers and cheaper jagermeister and call it a night ourselves shortly before closing time at 4am. Best get our beauty sleep, don’t want to keep El Presidente waiting tomorrow!

Unsurprisingly, everyone sleeps in a touch the following morning and there’s no movement until I and Mr X enter the kitchen at precisely the same moment, both in our pants and both gagging for a cup of tea. Get the fucking kettle on! While it boils, he once again reiterates his concern about our toilet roll supplies. The boy is obsessed! Recovery is slow but gallons of tea and water helps, along with some cheese on toast. We then set out in search of Totts and Bacon down on Calle Portugal. Apparently the Civil War museum is around there, although we mostly just want actual bacon by this point however. A quick scoff in a small cafe helps matters and whilst the others finish what turns out to be a 10 Euro a head 3 course meal, I go in search of Totts in El Refugio, a bar apparently on the square outside.

That’s rude!

Only after several minutes wandering around fruitlessly like a twat do I read his message properly. Oh, it’s ON the square! I turn around to find the Bard of West Sutton hollering at me from across said square, sat in a small cafebar I’d completely failed to spot until now. Found ’em! Soon all are assembled and we set off for the start of our Saturday football quest. Now, before we flew, today was due to be a 2nd division game over in nearby Elche, with the Hercules game against Baleares on the Sunday evening. However, they like to fuck around with stuff like this a fair bit in this part of the world, so instead the Hercules game gets bumped to the Saturday as well and we’re left scratching for a second game tomorrow. If you want my advice on watching Spanish football, don’t believe anything you read about dates and times and leave plenty of fucking slack in your schedule. A couple of days should do it.

We hit a sports bar and having nearly all fallen asleep in the roasting interior, we find seats outside and park up for a while. A few beers later, our guide leads us all on a little hike as we take in one of the high points of Alicante on the way to the ground. Nice views! Then we grab a can from a nearby cafe and begin the descent to the ground, the Rico Perez. A large concrete bastard of a thing that hosted the 3rd4th place game in the ’82 World cup no less, sporting four huge fuck off floodlights of the type that give you a semi when you’re scrolling through ‘#floodlightFriday’ stuff on Instagram. Totts sorts the tickets like a proper geezer, by the dozen, although I reckon he’d look much more the part in his sheepskin and pork pie hat. Then with the admin sorted, it’s back to the important business of refreshments at a local bar frequented by a good few locals.

One Euro beers flow, lah-de-dah’s are smoked and some of us half watch the impending wash out of a cup Final on a phone propped up on a counter top. Meh. Totts also regales us of the time Elche’s ultras tried to ‘assassinate’ him at this very spot with what he describes as ‘a fucking huge firecracker’. Still, it wasn’t all bad, the barman did apparently pour him a brandy to soothe his frayed nerves after the event! Then with time pressing on, we’re off to gates 5-7 for some Segunda B action. Except the the Spanish system for numbering gates to enter football grounds can only be described as ‘fucking odd’ as when we arrive at gate 8, we find no such thing as gates 5-7. Eh? A steward indicates via some pointing that we’re at the wrong bloody end and we have to West Sutton two-step it back to pretty much where we’ve just come from. We’re gonna miss kick off!

Hello my beauty….
Beating the rush
We’re here!

We eventually get in a couple of minutes after the start and take our seats. Hang on, have we lost someone? “Where’s Totts and Bacon got to?” I enquire. “Getting patched up!” chuckles 4 Days. Patched up? What the chuff? Have Elche’s Ultras come back to finish the job?? “He walked into a low tree branch on the way round, cut his head. Claret everywhere!” comes the detail. Oh. That’s daft, even by our usually high standards. You’d think the one bloke who’s been here most of all would know where the local fucking foliage is located! Eventually, the PROWS top man reappears after being sorted out by the St Juan Ambulancia with a big white patch on his head covering a small nick on his shaved pate. He gives it the big’un about being ‘ambushed by Beleares top boys’ but we’re having none of it and instead just take the piss out of the big band aid on his nut.

 Out on the pitch, the game isn’t bad for 3rd tier. Hercules are making all the running being at home, but they’ve only scored a very Sutton-esque 36 in 37 league games so far this season, so with Baleares sitting in, we’re not exactly hopeful of a goal fest. A couple of narrowly off target hits are the best the hosts can manage, ironically both coming from their centre back. With the game a little light on goals, we notice a couple of little details, one being there’s no away support we can see and that both sides are wearing numbers 1-11 on their back. No stupid squad numbers here in the Spanish 3rd tier! Hashtag AMF and all that.

Half time arrives with the scoreline blank and we head downstairs for a drink. There’s only alcohol free beer so we grab a coke and a bit of pizza that the concessions have had brought in by Deliveroo and they’re knocking out at 3 Euro a slice. Clever! Fed and watered, it’s back into the stands for the action to resume. Baleares show a bit more life from the off, but after a few minutes, they get bored and go back to sitting in, letting Hercules have the ball. With about 20 to go, the home team’s big chance comes when a ball is knocked in behind for the Hercules 9 to chase into the box. Drawing the keeper, he goes for a cute finish and lifts the ball over him only to see it ping back off the crossbar before being cleared.

Why can’t we sit up there then??
Walking wounded. We were all very sympathetic as you can imagine.

Of course, having had all the play and defended so solidly themselves, they pay tribute to the visitors from West Sutton by giving us a final little taste of the 201819 season and get properly suckered near the end. A corner is won down in front of us and with the defence dozing, it’s played short along the bye line. Matey clips it back stick and an unmarked man side foots it on goal. The keeper tries to keep it out but he ends up in the back of the net with the ball, a moment greeted with absolute silence. It’s fucking uncanny. If Hercules had been the one in yellow shirts, it would have been spot on.

We head off at the whistle and stroll back towards town making sure Totts avoids any further arboricultural confrontations. Getting bored halfway, we stop at a random bar for a couple of pints and to further mock our wounded comrade. As the night air starts to chill, we pay up what seems to be a very cheap tab and carry on our way, then a few minutes down the road, a rather out of breath and apologetic bar owner catches us up. It seems his waitress has undercharged us somewhat for the beer! Sorting him out another 25 euros, we continue into town where we say our farewells to Bacon and Totts who head off back to the PRoWS embassy in Grand Alicant. We then head off to get some much needed grub at a Tapas place near our digs where a fine bit of scoff is had by all. And with soakage on now on board, the night is yet young!

So it’s back to Tribeca where we started this all off yesterday for a couple more beers, here the late night crowd is pretty chilled and we get chatting to a nice young lady with a strange SpanishScottish accent. Well, at least until her boyfriend shows up anyway. She at least provides amusement in telling us Jesus died when he was 33 not moments before a currently 32 year old Jesusy looking 4 Days appears. We also encounter Dr Bell’s mate from the Irish boozer on the first night. “Heeey motherfucker!” he greets Chalmers with as he leaves. You two know each other then?

Rico Perez Panoramamama…
Where’s Barry when you need him?

At this point with the clock ticking round to 2am, the bar closes and some of the lads fancy a few more, but my tank is pretty full and with the spirits measures here big enough to anaesthetise a rhino meaning I’d only manage one liver stopping G&T anyway, I, JR and Dr Bell decide to leave the rest of them to it. It seems they head off back to Vendetta’s again for some more Spanish punk and ska and don’t return until pretty much closing time once more, with Mr X finding himself unable to operate the key and gain access to the apartment afterwards. Luckily for him Chalmers comes to his rescue, but at the cost of waking Steve and causing much grumpiness.

But I’ll let a far more reliable witness in Dukey (I know, I know!) fill you in on all that nonsense in Part 2, along with tales of some red hot Spanish 4th Division action to boot. Bet you can’t wait.

Vamos my son!


Click HERE for Part 2!

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