As the champagne was being sprayed all round the joint and our extraordinary group of players went through their party moves to the sounds of their enormous travelling boom box Taz lent across to me and said “So, d’you think you’ve got enough material for the blog then…”
Football. I mean, bloody hell Isn’t it?
It’s over a year since I tossed off, sorry, crafted, one of these Gandermonium missives and ironically that was also at home to Hartlepool. The infamous “Last Game In London”, quite literally on the eve of destruction with everything going globally to shit all around us with great big knobs on .
Aside from that brief false dawn last autumn it’s been relentlessly grim ever since, particularly if you’ve been following your teams best league season in its long and illustrious history on dodgy video streams, commentaries, twitter feeds and fuck knows what else. At least since the gradual opening up we have been right royally looked after by Colin and his team up at Cheam Sports Club who have played a blinder in their marvellous tent city. Not even the flood of storm water rushing through the canvas as we clocked the decisive Maidenhead game could dampen our spirits.
|166 days later…|
We have to pinch ourselves to remember where we were at end of the season just two short years ago, a previous management operation had departed for a new project and the club was left in a sorry old state to pick up the pieces. The future suddenly uncertain again for the first time in a decade.
I remember a joint COCS/DBDC/Cocktail Crew/Gandermonium firm bowling off the Javelin and into the Priory Hotel in Dover, which had opened up early for the occasion, where the staff must have thought we had won the league from the general hi jinks and jollity rather than crawling towards the end of the season flat out of juice and on the bones of our arse.
Oh yes, that trip was also scene of one of my favourite pissed-up awayday fiascos when Dancing Marcus decided to hail a cab to the station even though it was just yards away round the corner, ended up going back through the one-way system, got stuck in traffic and missed the train home. Absolute fucking genius.
|Welcome to GGL!|
Anyway, Big Malcolm had chalked up an odds board in the boozer which had Dirty Barry nailed on as the next gaffer. The theory being that he was a safe pair of hands. OK, you wouldn’t really want to know where those hands had been but you could be certain of a firm grip for sure.
Luckily for us, the club board ignored not only this suggestion but also the CV’s of various “ex top players”, bullshitters, has been’s and never will be’s and opted instead to give Matt Gray a go. There’s no way we will ever be able to thank them enough for that call – fortune favours the bald and indeed it does me old Chinchillas. I have the living proof .
I’ve told the story and I will tell it again. How Matt Gray clocked me and Dirty Barry in the ladies knickers section at the St Pancras Marks and Spencers, recreating the famous Father Ted Lingerie Department scene at the start of some mad northern awayday. How Matt never broke his stride and just gave us a quick “alright lads?”. He didn’t judge us. He wasn’t phased. He just marched on to pay for his BLT sandwich and into the Sutton United and footballing history books Matt Gray knows don’t argue…
Anyway, we are back and not a moment too soon as we teetered on the edge of the most enormous climax. We’ve been back to the ground a few times for car park cans and a sniff about but this was the first time in what seems like an eternity that I could assemble my matchday regalia, splash on a healthy handful of Old Spice, down my cup of splosh, kiss the pensioner I now sleep with on the cheek (sorry darling, no one deserves a toes up more than you after 33 years in ITU and battling the mayhem of the COVID peaks) and I’m out the door like the butchers dog and onto the mighty road to glory we know as Gander Green Lane.
If anyone could dampen your excitement and enthusiasm on a day like this it’s Britain’s Grumpiest Carpark Attendant, unofficial club historian Frakey and there he is patrolling the gate with his clipboard and sporting enough PPE to keep a bent Tory contractor in luxury holidays for a lifetime. Someone said he resembled a Poundland Cyberman but I wouldn’t be so rude. He mumbled something through his various masks that may have been a greeting or may have been something offensive but I couldn’t care less. I’m through the gate and bounding across the tarmac dispensing greetings and bonhomie to good people I’ve not seen in ages and bursting with tension.
The hottest ticket in town, aside from a saught-after brief for the game itself, is an in to the pre-match, fully compliant brunch in the players lounge, pumping some more much-needed wedge into the club and where I was chuffed to meet up with my table companions DB, Big Malcolm P and Lord Woody of Horley, formerly of this parish and a U’s supporter dating back to the boot boy days of he sixties. Only thing to do is get in amongst it and at this time of day what you really need is Guinness, bacon and sausages and I get it down my neck with gusto and we are soon in the swim.
On a trip to the bogs I clock the COCS on their table and even from a distance it is clear that Bobby Bollocks, Sean the Ram and Marky are keeping the old table service busy as the clock ticks down to kick off. We squeeze in one last scoop and then it’s off, out and round to the gates. One sad aspect of heading off to the EFL is that our fabulous and unique battery of vintage cast iron turnstiles will no longer be compliant with electronic ticketing. I need to sort out with the club what they are going to do with them, I don’t want them getting mugged off for the scrap value or something daft.
Nerves. You can smell it. Or maybe that’s the stout and fried pork products at this early hour. I don’t know, but when you get this close to something that you can almost touch it you’re bound to be on edge. I roll round to the Shoebox where all the usual boats are assembled but my usual spot, back rail, in the corner, has been reserved with not even the DILF’s or the Bacon’s taking liberties on this holiest day of holy days.
These have been hard times for so many, none less so than those engaged in face to face, cash-only scams. I don’t like to point fingers as you know, I’m not a tout, but I do know that DILF BINGO supremo Crooked Ces has been relying on food banks and hand outs since it became impossible to run rackets from the top step of the Shoebox, snapping shut the purses of his elderly victims at a stroke. Anyway, he’s got a freshly marked pack of cards for the special occasion today and we duly succumb to our traditional mugging off. Hopefully this sort of nonsense is illegal in the EFL.
But back to the match….
Bouzanis, Barden, John, Goodliffe, Milsom, Olaofe, Eastmond, Davis, Ajiboye, Wilson, Bugiel SUBS House, Beautyman, Wyatt, Randall, Sho-Silva
Sorry to see H is still not quite right and is on the bench today but Kenny Davis has been playing well when called on all season and is perfectly capable of slotting in next to Easty in central midfield and using all that experience to shore things up in the middle of the park. There’s not a single member of this tight-knit Sutton squad you wouldn’t happily rely on when it comes to the crunch. And it doesn’t get any crunchier than this.
Hartlepools still have plenty to play for. The higher you land in the play off spots the better in terms of home draws and all that old palava so they haven’t come all this way just to soak up the sexual synergy of West Sutton and they are sharp out of the blocks and ready for a scrap. However, we have the first clear chance when Easty surges through, rounds the keeper but the angle beats him. But it’s squeaky arse time on the Shoebox about ten minutes in when the Pools lad curls a lovely shot onto the post and it bounces to safety. Come on now lads!
|Louis makes it 2-0 &GGL explodes…|
There’s a penno shout when Donovan collides with the keeper. I didn’t actually see it as I was swapping a bawdy tale about DB with Scotty Coaches but it was nailed on as far as I’m concerned. On the half hour the place goes mad as a Rob Milson free kick wriggles under the flailing Hartlepool keeper and it’s one nil to the Super U’s. Inevitably controversy breaks out over the DILF Bingo but I hate to see a grown man cry and sling two ten bob bits at Crooked Ces to shut him up. This is no day for arguing over such trivialities. Half time rolls around and with a smoking ban in force today there’s no Lah Dee to soothe the nerves and we kick our heels just waiting and hoping.
Soon after the break Hartlepool have the ball in the net but it’s chalked off for handball and we breathe again. But now Sutton really hit their straps with the prize well and truly in sight. Louis John hits the post with a header and Donovan pulls a top save off the keeper with a acrobatic effort, but the last half hour of this game just serves to prove why Sutton United are righteous National League champions. Louis is back at it diverting a Milson corner into the back of the net via a deflection and as the place goes stark raving barmy, even the hardest line nay sayers in our midst know this is now done. Well, all other than Bacon.
The deal is finally sealed in fine style when Tanto latches onto a pass from Kenny, dances through the defence and finishes with aplomb with a shot across the keeper nestling sweetly in the bottom corner. A few lads come on from the bench as the clock winds down including the immense Harry Beautyman as the party gets started early and as the whistle blows I really don’t know what the fuck has happened other than that we as a club have achieved something that many of us thought we would never see. Sutton United in the football league. Fuck a duck!
|Fortune Favours the Bald|
We head round the the other side for the presentation and I seek out my main man Omar Bugiel and give him the Cuban Upmann half corona I’d been planning to smoke at half time. He deserved it more than me. Then it’s into the bar and our allocated tables. The atmosphere is frankly a bit weird. But gradually the magnitude of the achievement starts to sink in, the scoops are flowing and we start to kick into gear. The players start to drift in and each one gets a rapturous response and although our numbers are restricted we sing our little old hearts out. The trophy appears and of course we all large it up, why wouldn’t you?
I’m pleased to catch up with AB who confesses he hasn’t slept all week having put his heart and soul into the club for so long and getting us within inches of the promised land. We agree that the ethos of this beautiful fan-owned and fan-run club will never change and I couldn’t be happier for Adrian, Bruce, Oaksey and the rest of the Board who’ve achieved the ultimate in Sutton United’s 123 year history. Mally Boyle even makes a lager-fuelled Churchillian style speech to add some steel to the proceedings and remind us of the challenges that now lie ahead in the EFL.
|Giving it some|
I get a few solid hours in but decide to cut and run at about eight pm before I end up sleeping in a skip in the car park, mainly as some of the other lads already have their eye on it too and like fuck am I sharing. So I do that walk back home down the Lane I’ve done so many times over the years with DB and Woody, but nothing will ever be the same again now. We work out that we have nearly 170 years supporting Sutton between us and we talk about looming away days including that return trip to Tranmere we always promised ourselves as we can now hook up again with Ebbo, Cambo and the rest of the glamping tent crew.
|You better believe it!|
Line up the pints lads. The famous Sutton United are coming.