Jump on jump in, next ride! Yes folks, we are back once more for the fourth and final part of our opening “Can’t grow grass” Football League opening salvo tour of England. Oh and Wales of course. We can’t forget the Welshists or our inbox will be full of hate mail before you can say “Land of your fathers”. And that would be just the shit we get from 4Days regarding the subjigation of his people.
With just over 1000 miles on the clock already this season, we’ll be adding about 400 more with this weekend’s hike north to Scunthorpe for what should be our first genuine Football League experience in a northern outpost that used to, but no longer makes stuff. Oddly, despite this one screaming “Day trip, in and out sharpish like after a few jars” some of the firm have decided that a weekender in order. Yes really. Still, this is the mob who thought not one but to nights out in Barrow was something their lives couldn’t possibly go without. However, idiots like Greek are overruled on this occasion and it’s decided that Scunny is a bit too shit even for some tastes and instead the bright lights of Doncaster would be a decent compromise. Jesus christ.
Personally, I was out at the point such stupidity was even suggested. Having done a night out in Donny some 20 years ago and found it pretty dire, I wasn’t in the mood at all to be spaffing the best part of a ton on repeating that experience somewhere I was sure won’t have improved greatly since. I know we’ve all been locked indoors for a while with Covid and we’re all dying to be out and about again, but even that has it’s limits as an excuse here. Nope, hard pass here thanks, just the day return for me please travel sec.
Still, despite this, I have to peel my arse off my matress at 6am to be up to Kings Cross in time for the 8am train northwards. Fuck my life. And with Mrs Taz quite rightly mumbling obscenities in my direction for having disturbed her slumber at such an early hour, I head for the shower to get myself alive for the day ahead. Admin taken care of, I’m out the door for the tried and tested run to East Croydon, Victoria and then Kings Cross. Although on this occasion, I decide that as there’s actually a Thameslink arriving a couple of minutes after I hit the platform at the Manhattan of South West London, that I’ll hop on that instead as it drops me right where I need to be and I can have almost 30 minutes kip whilst doing so.
On the concourse at Kings Cross I find the usual assortment of dickheads already waiting. Mr X, 4Days, Robbo, Greek, Belly and Magnum PI are present, along with Tatey making his away day debut and Aussie Deano (no, not the goalkeeping one!), who thanks to Covid, we’d not seen since the first episodes of Car Park Cans last summer. Hello mate! All that’s missing is Dukey, but I’m assured he’s somewhere between here and Waterloo and will be adding his flat capped nonsense to the group momentarily. Whatever, I need grotty food. Ah, hello McDonalds! With scran and a cuppa sorted, we board the train and before we’ve even pulled out of the platform, the abuse is flying thick and fast. Tatey gets an early volley and then the new boy provides some entertainment when standing to dispose of some litter, the train brakes sharply and he almost goes flying down the carriage. Of course, the level of sympathy for his near fall is somewhere between zero and fuck all. Sorry mate, this is awayday law and we don’t make the rules.
The stupidity continues as we trundle north, with Robbo having been accused of shitting the bed whilst sharing with Mr X on a previous weekender and a discussion about the sexual activity of ‘space docking’ which it seems both Mr X and Greek have entirely different interpretations of, even after having Googled it. It’s at moments like this that you hope at some point you don’t get nicked for some reason or other as our fucking search histories on our phones alone would be enough to convince any jury to throw away the key. Magnum gets some more toupee based stick and Tatey declares “This is like a SAGA holiday!” before a few moments later Alanisly declaring “Ooooh, me back!” and standing up for a stretch. Mr X also recieves a phone call he’d been hoping for from tonight’s digs confirming that the room he’ll be sharing with Dukey is actually a twin and not a double. Why is this such a big deal I hear you ask, well just consider the fact that in Falmouth a couple of years back the Man of Mystery slept on the floor rather than share a bed with the Duke and draw your own conclusions from there. I’m certainly adding no more on the matter!
We stumble off the rattler at Doncaster still bright and early, about 20 minutes to ten in fact and head over into town for the herberts to find their digs and drop off bags. Meanwhile, 4Days and myself decide to kill the 45 mins they’ve alotted for the task to go and find a local early opener that isn’t a poxy Wetherspoons. The Saracens in the place chosen to meet this need and we wander into a tidy no frills gaff with already a reasonable number of pisscans in place at tables around the place. The beer selection is about as mainstream as you can get so I and the Welsh Wonder settle for a pint of Guinness each to kick the day off. “Five sixty please mate” says the barman. Sorry, did he say £5.60? For TWO pints of Guinness? FIVE POUNDS AND SIXTY PENCE??! Fucking hell. Shame we’ve only really got time for the one to be honest! Black stuff sunk, we amble back to the station to find the overnight crew already on the platform waiting, along with members of the B Team and the Yoof fresh off a train from London.
Our train to Scunthorpe arrives and we’re soon trundling along through more flat Lincs landscape as we head to our final destination. This trip brings back some memories for me as I used to do this run a fair bit way back in the mists of time when I was seeing some lass from up this way. She lived in Immingham and the station after Scunthorpe, Barnetby, was the nearest stop. So shit was the journey that I soon took to hiring a car for the trips up instead. She was a big Grimsby fan and was always fairly disparaging about the U’s and our two-bob status at the time, so I did chuckle a little when we replaced them in the Great 72 back in May. Having finally landed in Scunny, we head for the first boozer just around the corner.
Sadly, the Honest Lawyer is shut and appears to be one of those midday opening places. So we instead carry on to the Bluebell so we can get one in and further line Mr Martin’s pockets. Here, we confuse the crap out of the barmaid with our first order as everyone buzzes about me hollering their order at me\her. “That’s the biggest round I’ve ever pulled” she wonders aloud after as she hands me my change. Robbo also confidently declares he’s memorised the number of a local cab firm from their office on the walk up and that we needn’t worry about transport later, before proceeding to reel off the dialling code for Epsom as the first 5 digits when challenged.
Two pints here and we then head around the corner to the ‘Class 6’, a little brick built spot next to Lidl’s, in between the rain showers outside. It’s a decent little spot and I partake in a couple of pints of Blue Moon here. Also joining us at this point is a blast from our very Non-League past. Thurrockboy! Tony, as he’s better known, had moved north a while back to take advantage of the cheaper house prices and with the mighty Thurrock\Purfleet no more, plus Covid, he’s not really been to many games at all lately, so is joining us for today’s match to get a rare football fix. Next stop is a stroll back to the Lawyer for a couple more before we order up some cabs (not called by Robbo, naturally!) to the ground. Along the way, we spot Porn Star with Nutsack in tow and they give the Lawyer their seal of approval. Here we neck a few more and Greek takes the opportunity to rinse the fruity for a hundred quid. “Would you like me to change that up for you?” asks the lad behind the bar semi-sarcastically as the pound coins loudly rattle out into the tray beneath the machine.
We’re dropped just outside Glanford Park and those of us without tickets head for the office on the corner to get our match briefs sorted. Now, don’t get me wrong, doing it online is way easier, but this is a big season for us historically and quite frankly, I’d like to get as many paper tickets as I can from it as little souvenirs. And buying from the home ticket office on the day is the best way to ensure this. Sorted, we head around to the other end and scan ourselves in. As I’m sorting myself out the other side of the turnstiles, there’s a loud knocking behind me. It seems someone’s rapping on the emergency exit, wanting to be let in. I assume the steward I’d seen outside a moment earlier is the one and with none of his colleagues around, I helpfully push the bar on the door and open up. He doesn’t look too impressed when he finds an away fan is the one doping the opening and before he can say anything about my act of kindness, I simply offer a cheery “You’re welcome!” and get on my toes away into the stand.
TEAM: Bouzanis, Wyatt, Rowe, Goodlliffe, Barden, Ajiboye, Eastmond, Beautyman, Davis, Bugiel, Wilson SUBS: House, Korboa, Smith, Boldewijn, John, Bennett, Kizzi.
On the pitch, and despite a couple of changes for the U’s at the back, we start fairly well in a competitive first half. The hosts look fairly useful going forwards, but iffy at the back and their keeps has to save well from Omar after one of their lads misses a header in the box. Easty also tests the stopper as does Wilson and Omar should probably have at least hit the target after a driving run. They’re not out of it by any stretch though, with a string of corners forcing us to defend well and Goodliffe putting in a cracking block to deflect a shot over from their one seriously good sight of Bouzanis’ goal. In the stands, it seems we’ve picked up some local-ish support with some lads from Grimsby joining us in the away end. With their game off at Bromley today thanks to Covid, they’ve decided to come and spend the afternoon with us Shandy drinking southerners. They’re an alright bunch and one of them displays a dangerously sad level of knowledge about us. “Is that the Davis who used to play for Braintree?” he enquires of Kenny and “is that big lad Dundas still going?” being the pick of the bunch. However, when challenged about being a sad bastard, he just shrugs. “Football stats, beer and weed are my life”. Quite!
Goalless at the break, I head for a pie and some soakage under the stand and check out the level of stickerage in the bogs. This is satisfactory and of a much better standard than seen at either Salford or FGR previously. Much more like it! On the pitch, the second half starts brightly for us before we then go and give them a leg up. A free-kick is played short on halfway rather than put forwards and with both our centre backs upfield, the ball is inevitably lost when Wyatt goes down in a challenge. They counter quickly and with Kenny not quite making a block a cross in is nodded against our bar before some kid they’ve got on loan from Bournemouth hooks the rebound over his shoulder and in. Cock it. This fires up the hosts and for a good 10-15, we’re looking a bit wobbly, making little impact up top and having to defend hard to make sure the damage doesn’t increase. A header just over and a shot just wide following another quick counter is all they can muster though. Finally, we get a little bit of a foothold back in the game and with Omar coming deeper looking for the ball, this gets us more into the contest. Then Kenny is hauled for Enzio out wide and this starts tipping the game back our way.
The Dutch winger has a couple of darts and seems to have got the measure of his man when inside the last 10, he goes for the bye line, cuts in and slots the ball back across for Wilson to cheekily flick in with his trailing instep. Away end goes barmy and we’re right in this now. The hosts arses seem to fall out at this point and we finish the game by far the stronger, especially when Korboa replaces Ajiboye and starts causing issues down that side. With 7 minutes added at the end, he’s involved in both moments that should really see us nick all the points. First a darting run down the right sets up a quick counter that ends with him picking out Wilson in space about 10 yards from goal, but defender and keeper sold, he takes a wild first time swing at it and launches the shot over the stand where a touch before shooting would surely have seen him score. Then with time almost up, Korboa again does his man wide, feeds Wilson and he lays off to Eastmond who’s shot is scuffed and trickles agonisingly wide of the post rather than inside it. It’s frustrating, but a point’s a point and having applauded the lads off and said goodbye to Thurrockboy, we head back out to Kwik Fit to await transport back into town.
Once more spotted up in the Lawyer, the beers start to flow and Dukey once again finds that getting a Vodka and Orange nort of Watford is something of a challenge. It seems those that live up here don’t really do vitamin C and he’s had all sorts before including a dash of orange cordial (both diluted and undiluted). On this occasion it’s a bottle or orange and passion fruit J20 that’s providing the colouring for his post match short! One day mate, one day. We sort out which train back to Donny we want and 4Days and my attempts to bag some cans for the trip prove a pain. The offy we’d seen between here and the Spoons has now closed and there’s nothing else nearby that we can get to in time for the train. And with 12 minutes change time at Donny, we’re not hopeful there either. Oh well, we’ll see.
On the train back to Doncaster, we’re again joined by the B Team and some of the Yoof and here Wreck It Beckett tries to sell Mr X on the virtue of ASDA’s ‘slim fit’ stretchy jeans. He’s not impressed, least of all by Beckett’s admission that his old dear usually buys them for him. Back in Doncaster, we wave off the overnighters and after a fruitless search for cans and food, 4Days & I join Porn Star and Nutsack on the platform. Naturally, they’ve a big bag of cans sourced from some secret locale no doubt more than a 10 minute walk away. There’s also some excitable young Daggers fans here on their way home from a big opening day win at Stockport. Yeah yeah lads, come back to us when you’ve done it midweek and kept a clean sheet eh?
We hop on and having been momentarily confused by a lack of a carriage G for our seats, we simply shrug and occupy 2 right by the buffet car. This we soon work out is because we’ve actually bumped onto an earlier service than we were booked on. Still, we resolve to blame the lad on the platform at Donny who told us to get this service and wing it. Plus if we do get chucked off, we’ll simply have to wait wherever that is for our slightly slower train behind. 4Days liberates some cans and some bacon rolls from the buffet and we sit talking shite for most of the trip home, with only a brief break for a piss. Embarrassingly, when I press the door open button, the door slides back to reveal a bloke just readjusting after taking a leak. Fortunately, this is tempered somewhat by them being a fellow Sutton fan. “Alright Taz!” he says as he exits. I soon find out the cause of the issue as when I take my own turn, finding the door won’t actually lock. So of course I shrug and engage in my own danger piss. Thankfully, mine goes uninterrupted. On the way back to my seat I say hi to to the Pornstars and ask the poor Leeds fans sat opposite if they’re boring them or not with tales of the bad old days on the terraces.
Kings Cross arrives and we hop off. Then halfway down the platform I realise I don’t have my fondleslab on me. SHIT! I leg it back and fortunately find it lying where we’d sat just as 4Days calls it to make sure no one had nicked it on the way off. Panic over, I bid the Welshman farewell as he’s heading just up the road to the Euston Tap to catch up with a young lady whilst I head for the underground. Amusingly, he later reports getting called out by a couple of Notts County fans drunk on glory after their 5-0 rinsing of Barnet that afternoon. Their choice of target soon bites them on the arse though when they find out he follows the reigning National League champions. Mmmm. Salty salty BELT tears.
A roasting hot Vic line back to Victoria later and I find I’ve enough time before the fast train home departs to obtain some fast food, so with Burger King grot secured, I settle down for the last train of the day back to civilisation. Sadly though, this too is a little on the warm side and having got to Hackbridge, I call it quits and hop off there so I can take a stroll back through the park to HQ. It’s a nice evening after all and it also means my only danger will be running into Hackbridge Harry rather than having to constantly dodge the agents of evil lurking on every dark corner on the walk back from the Badlands.
“You stink of beer!” declares Mrs Taz when I arrive home a short while later.
Really my love? Can’t think how that could have happened.