It already seems like a lifetime ago, but jump back 2 weeks and as the National League title race looked like it would go down to the very wire on the last day. We had our noses in front, just, but Torquay were still there and it seemed that if we stuck at it. we’d need to go to Barnet and get something. Which presented a problem for sad sacks like us. If we did, there was no way on earth we were missing out on that moment.
The problem is, as it has been all season (and some!), is that poxy bloody pandemic thing. Whilst limited fans would be allowed back in by then, it was strictly going to be ‘home only’ so this presented a conundrum. Did we know any Barnet fans? And did we know any that would be nice enough to sort us some briefs? As it turned out, it was a resounding “Do we bollocks!” on both counts. But, the hosts kindly obliged us in another more subtle way by allowing purchases by anyone with a previous booking history at the Hive. With that particular door left ajar, we declared this ‘Operation Barnet Sneaky Sneaky’ and quietly took advantage by rustling up every groundhopper contact we had, slipped in through the online gap and disappeared over the horizon clutching our golden QR code laden emails before anyone twigged what was happening. Up there for thinking, down there for dancing as they say in these here parts.
And no, I’ve no fucking idea what that means either, so shut your face.
Our cunning and dastardly plans became even more important when Torquay blinked first in La Bastarda’s title bunfight, drawing with Stockport live on the BT after we’d put 3 on old friends Maidenhead without reply earlier in the day. We now needed just 4 points from our last 2 games to be sure, which meant we were still looking at needing something in North London on that final day. Then with stress levels rising amongst the rabble, Torquay then decided they actually didn’t fancy it after all and decisively shat the bed at home, drawing with none other than rock bottom Barnet. Having been 2-0 up inside 25 mins no less. This league mate, mental, just fucking mental….
This latest twist in the tale meant that we now only needed 2 points from 2 games. But a win at home to Hartlepool would see the title at GGL and the U’s in the football league for the first time in their entirely Non-League 123 year history. As we know, the boys were in no mood to fuck about any further with this palaver and swept aside a visiting Hartlepool outfit that ironically put up about as much resistance as a primate suspended by it’s neck from a lamp post. Game. Set. Match. Checkmate. Yatzee. Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlestick. Done. Dusted.
Fuck a duck. We are up!
Suddenly that expected all important last day game was almost forgotten. Mainly as everyone went completely mental, within the current pandemic type guidelines of course and got properly munted that evening. But as hangovers receded and normality returned, we decided we’d still make use of our sneaky tickets and bump in at the Hive anyway. Why not celebrate the league win with a bit of an awayday eh?! We’ll probably lose anyway given the state of some of our lot that Sunday night after Hartlepool. So, a plan of attack was hatched and it’s because of this and the National League’s insistence on having a 12:30 kick off on the final day that I’m crawling out of bed at 8am on a Saturday morning for a game that doesn’t matter and I shouldn’t even be attending. Now that start time might not sound that bad, but I’d had ‘several’ at Car Park Cans the night before and so far in this working from home enforced period, I’ve not been up before half 8 for about a year now. Look, all I’m saying is it was a bit of a struggle, alright? Heading for East Croydon, I grab a bottle of ice tea and there’s a Thameslink on the platform right as I get to the bottom of the ramp. Lovely stuff. Drink necked, it’s time for a 30 minute doze.
I hop off at Farringdon to a shout from behind, it seems Chalmers has been on the same rattler as me and we stroll to the pub to await opening time and compare hangover stories following last weekend’s madness. There’s a short wait for the doors to open, then it’s in and breakfasts ordered. JR is next to appear, then Belly and Dukey isn’t far behind, complaining about the train having terminated at Blackfriars and left him with a 10 minute walk up the road instead of dumping him 100 yards away. Unlucky chief! Soon others are wandering in and getting fed and some beers in, including Spennymoor Pete & Keepo, plus Chalmers bretheren, Pornstar.
Last to arrive is Steve, which is handy as he’s the one who’s been kind enough to print off all the tickets for us lot. Him not showing would have been peak Gandermonium I think and a firm rubber stamp on the oft used phrase “Great at planning, shit at execution” we often roll out to describe our many mishaps and generally being shit at life. Like buying tickets for long distance away days for the wrong date. That sort of thing. Now all ticketed up, we head back to Farringdon for the Thameslink and trundle up to West Hampstead, then a quick shufty over to the Jubilee to head towards the home of Barnet. Which is basically in Harrow. Our super top secret sneaky sneaky plans are for us to head in small groups so we don’t get pinged as obviously away fans and told to get fucked at the turnstiles. Now, remember what I just said about ‘Great at planning’ etc? Yeah that.
Basically, no one remembers this crucial part of the plan and the only reason some of us actually end up behind the initial group is because we’re gassing as we walk up from the Thameslink and wander into the Overground station and buzz through the barriers rather than the tube station over the road before we realise our error. Christ and we’re not even pissed! Still, at least everyone remembers to go to Queensbury rather than Canons Park so we’re at the very least sorted for looking like we’re coming from the right side of the ground to get in rather than an away end that doesn’t exist. Of course, that gets ruined when we approach the ground and don’t have a clue which turnstile is ours. Bollocks! Still, like the pros we are, we style it out and head for the corner where we get lucky and indeed find our way in. Slightly surprisingly, no one bats an eyelid and there’s none of the usual West Sutton five oh on patrol at the entrance picking out known boats. There’s actually just an air of ‘Yeah whatever lads’ and the stewards seem more concerned with you sanitising your hands than your actual identity, which suits us just fine amigo! With 20 to kick off, we hit the bar and unsurprisingly find a good 20-30 other familiar faces dotted about the place, with the COCs in particular, brazenly mobbing up on a table together. A quick pint follows as we catch up and probably too-loudly declare stuff like “Fancy seeing you here! Didn’t know you were doing this one mate!” and “Yeah, first time on this one, so a new tick for me” to throw any suspicious interlopers off the scent.
TEAM: Bouzanis, Wyatt, Ajiboye, Eastmond, Randall, Davis, Rowe, Sho-Silva, Lovatt, Olaofe, Simpson SUBS: House, Dundas, Nembhard, Kealy, Mason
With a quick dash to the gents before the off, of course making it look like we’d absolutely never ever been here before and knowing exactly where they were sited, we head out into the sunshine and as we locate our seats after spotting about 20+ other people who definitely aren’t from Sutton. A few of us exchanging very subtle nods and knowing winks along the way. Out on the pitch, it seems like we’ve basically chucked out whoever isn’t still pissed\hungover from the title celebrations last weekend. From what we’d heard, the lads had thoroughly flogged the occasion to death and when they re-assembled on the Thursday, one of our informers let us know on Whatsapp that he reckoned half of them were still pissed. And you know what?? Couldn’t give a fuck. Silverware’s in the cabinet mate, job done!
The hosts have improved since Bassey took over a few weeks back and they’ve picked up a couple of wins along with making a nuisance of themselves at GGL in our narrow 1-0 win a couple of weeks ago. And they’re trying to give their long suffering support something to smile about today, especially as a win here with Kings Lynn losing meant they could possibly avoid bottom spot altogether. Something that looked impossible before the former Wombles man came in. With our slightly rag tag and hungover side, they look better on the ball, but we definitely have a couple of sniffs with Issac and Dave causing issues. But you can tell a couple are blowing out of their arse quite early and with 10 left in the half, Issac gets a whack and trundles off for Callum Kealy. Then with the break looming, the sub really should put us ahead when Dave scampers wide, whips it low to the front post and the young striker pokes it against the upright and it pings back into the keepers arms.
So with it goalless at the break and Torquay continuing their slow wet fart of a run in being goalless against an Alty side we’d already put away by this point in our meeting recently, no ones particularly bothered. The bar is busy on our return, so I sack off a pint and instead catch up with a couple more definitely-not-Sutton-United fans before wandering back out. Here during the second half, JR forgets he’s supposed to be neutral and moans about a couple of offsides. Fucks sake mate, being undercover is your job!! Thankfully, I cover for him and tick him off for being so darn harsh on match officials generally. Rowe is the next to hobble off after a knock and he is replaced by Nembhard. And this change firmly swings the initiative towards the hosts as we lose our one solid presence at the back. Around an hour gone and Barnet are in front in wonderfully pissed up Non-League fashion. Randall is slow to close down far side, allows the cross and it drops at the feet of Simpson, hits him and pings in off the foot of the far post despite Deano’s attempt to fool the officials by snatching it up from just over the line. Oh well.
Both sides then rattle the crossbar with about 20 left. Barnet first and then the impressive looking Adam Lovatt for us. But as the game ticks down, the hosts look by far the most likely to add to the score and just as the board goes up for added time, Wyatt stands off the man far side, he runs past him, pulls back and a lad in the middle picks his spot. Top corner as it happens. Fair play son, nice finish. The home fans enjoy this at least and give us a nice chorus of “Football League, you’re having a laugh” to cap it off. Yes lads, we are. 100% taking absolute fucking liberties in fact! The game ends 2-0 and as the teams receive the applause of the crowd, an old boy leans over to me and asks “That’s not your proper side is it?”. I smile. I have no idea what you mean guv. And no, about 6 changes today mate. Have a nice summer! Sadly, the result isn’t sufficient to overtake Kings Lynn as they’ve drawn 4-4 with a late late equaliser. Elsewhere, Torquay have tossed off a 0-0 at Alty. Saving yourselves for the play offs eh lads?
We head for the bar as agreed at half time and find absolutely no fucker in there and instead head for the Tube, catching up most of the idiots on the driveway out of the ground. Back to Queensway and a tube to West Hampstead, Keepo calls and informs us he and Spennymoor Pete have bagged a big table in the Railway. Fucking top work sunshine! We all pile in and before we can order drinks, the staff have offered us a much bigger spot down the end as the table we’re bagging is reserved in a short while. Yeah, whatever, beers please! There then follows a few rounds and some top level piss taking, along with a ‘team photo’ of all the top secret sneaky West Sutton (and Spennymoor) ninja Ultras who’d breached the Barnet FC walls and witnessed a suitably awful title-already-won dead rubber.
Time presses on though and we’ve an end of season shindig to get back for! So bidding farewell to Pete and Magnum (who’s off elsewhere in town for a night out) we make a complete mess of cans for the train home and make the Thameslink back to Sutton. A quick change at Blackfriars and with Keepo making a mug out of Ryan from the Yoof with an old school “hold than for me mate” with an empty beer can. Ah, the old ones are the best ones! We jump off at Sutton and head for Morrisons to grab some cans for the early evening festivities as the bar can’t cater for us until a bit later due to another function on inside. Sorted, we cab it to GGL and stroll through the gates and out onto the plush Fred Gee carpet for the last time as AB starts with his after dinner speaker MC lark up in the stand. It’s a nice occasion, with loads just spread out on the pitch and some tables down front, it makes for a decent change for the usual sort of do you get at the end of the season. It’s also about as appropriate a send off as we can think of for our magic rubber carpet. A bunch of fat, pissed up idiots rolling about on it with bags of cans. Perfect.
As the sun goes down, the temperature drops a touch and most move into the now available bar inside. A few of us linger though, chatting on the pitch and sharing memories from the season we didn’t get to do so together at the time. I also get to have a fascinating chat with a club official who confirms that whilst we’d applied for and been approved for one of the DCMS’s iffy fucking loans, we’d not actually cashed that in yet. I leave the matter there and return to the bar with a grin on my face about how we’d managed to see off the likes of Stockport and Notts with far far less resources than even we’d first imagined, let alone thought was possible. I mention this to a few of our lot inside and before long we’ve dreamed up all sorts of tall tales to explain how we’d managed to keep fiunding everything right to the bitter end. Heroin trafficking, stolen luxury motors, you name it sunshine, the PRoWS was bang at it in the hunt for a Football League place. But you didn’t hear that from us right?
Here, having had precisely fuck all to eat since breakfast in Farringdon, the night descends into a little bit of a blur. Although I do recall the bar officially shutting just after 9 and then re-opening (with the consent of officials present of course!) shortly after staffed by what can only be described as ‘keen amateurs’. Although Bob does have to get behind the jump and pull his own pint of Tribute at one point late on as no one left serving has done that before and our resident publican, 4Days, is now too pissed to see straight and refuses on professional principle to fuck up a pint of ale. I round off the evening with a lively discussion with AB about former managers before I realise I’m really quite twatted and should certainly be home in bed by now. So farewells are bade to the remaining stalwarts, an Uber is rustled up and I’m whisked back home to to HQ nicely lubricated and rather happy.
How lubricated? Well, lets just say I simply crash out on the sofa fully clothed rather than disturb her ladyship and\or maim myself trying to get undressed for bed in the normal manner. Trust me, it was safer that way. “Good game” enquires the love of my life semi-sarcastically, late the following morning when I eventually arise from my coma. “Game? I wasn’t at a game yesterday! Must have been someone who looked just like me love!”.
Confused, she realises this is one of those moments where it’s simply best to cut her losses, so she just rolls her eyes and mutters “Idiot”, leaving me stinking of booze in the kitchen to make my own much needed cuppa.
Phew, that was a close one! Almost got rumbled there lads.