Tell you what, this League 2 lark is a bit of a stretch innit? Four away games to kick off the campaign thanks to GGL’s new environmentally friendly playing surface not being ready means that after 18 months of largely inactivity, some of our wallets and livers are gonna be pushed to the limits this month. Still, who alive could have predicted it pissing down with rain constantly during a British summer eh? What are the odds?
Today’s trip is one of the shunted games thanks to the fact we can’t make grass grow, with the scheduled home match with Salford getting switched to their gaff shortly before the big kick off a couple weeks back. This of course presented issues of a logistical and financial nature for some of the crew. Even a cursory check of the trains to Manchester before the switch was even announced and found that for the fast choo choo, the prices were already north of 70 sovs. We didn’t have any inside info on this, you just didn’t need to Percy fucking Thrower to tell from the Youtube stream the pitch wasn’t gonna be ready in time and figured a swap was most likely. Anyhoo, I digress. The reason for the many shekels needed to head north on that date? Opening day of the Premier League innit and Man United are at home. To Leeds. Which then completely shafts our old second option of getting to Manc cheap, which is of course via Leeds. Le sigh.
Still, that didn’t stop us from hunting around, oh no. And it was my good self that stumbled upon a £45 deal which took us via Crewe on the old Split tickets site. It was a bit slower and had a 30 min wait at Crewe meaning we’d hit Manc at 12 instead of our preferred pub opening time of 11, but it was a goer. Several people pounced on the deal and even better was to follow when I actually booked them as it applied a groupsave discount to the price meaning we were all going for less than 30 quid a head. Bargain! So, that 30 min wait at Crewe, isn’t there a bar on the platform up there??
Having done two days away for the Cardiff obscure energy drink cup tie after a heavy Saturday in Stroud, I don’t mind admitting that getting up before 7am on a Saturday was a push. Fatigue is definitely setting in. Still, I haul my carcass from my pit, do the usual, get told to ‘fuck off’ by Mrs Taz for waking her up with my goodbye peck on the cheek and I’m out for the bus and soon in East Croydon. Lovely stuff. Well, it was until I set foot on the platform. Already the Whatsapp group for this awayday is alight with train complaints, the main one being Thameslink being rogered. Which is of course completely out of character for that fucking mob. Oddly, this also seems to be causing some knock on as my Victoria trains are running behind too. Annoyingly, my chosen train goes back and back in arrival time and then I realise just too late than an unannounced later service is on another platform. Of course I get there as the doors close and it buggers off. Twat. So with the original rattler a no show still, I put on my commuter hat. London Bridge it is!
Now, the issue here isn’t quite so much that I’ll miss my train at Euston, it’s more that as I booked it, I have to pick the tickets up. So if I miss it, everyone misses it. I mean, if I fuck up that’s fine, but ruining everyone else’s day just ain’t on. I reckon I’ll make it with 10 mins to spare, so this might be tight given how long those poxy machines take to print out tickets! Off at LB, I jog to the tube, bounce the Northern Line, on which I see a lad in a Grimsby away shirt. He thinks I can’t see him trying to check out who I support and also the pain in his eyes when he eventually realises and I eventually make it up and out at Euston 20 mins before our 8.42 train. Never in doubt. Much! Good job too as like I said, the ticket machine takes a good several minutes to produce the returns for 6 people. Thank god it’s a reduced firm on duty today or I’d have been here until lunchtime!! Of course, this means I’m ‘that’ guy creating a long queue behind me of tutting fellow passengers as the ticket printer goes ‘brrr’. I shrug my shoulders and smile sweetly. Sorry everyone!
Bacon rolls sorted (cheers 4Days!) we make the train and just before it rolls out of Euston a couple of minutes late a hot & bothered chap in a pink blazer, loud flowery shirt and some chinos barrels on and asks “Is this the train to Crewe?”. He gets several confirmations just as the doors close and adds “Marvellous, that would have been embarrassing!”. “Have you fucking seen what you’re wearing mate?” mutters Mr X under his breath. We trundle slowly north and soon realise the extended travel time takes us dangerously close to the limits of our usual away train talking bollocks material. So much so, Dukey is soon amusing himself by demanding I add every single little detail to the blog notes I make and Mr X is groaning at every stop as the list of remaining stops is read out. Still, it could be worse as we soon work out that our connecting Welshist Rail rattler at Crewe will have started its journey in Milford Haven at 5.45 this morning. Fuck. That. Other ‘entertainment’ comes from snickering at the passengers who get stuck on the train at Atherstone as they don’t realise it’s got short platforms and Mr X declaring “Doesn’t he play for Liverpool?” when Dukey mentions a following stop will be ‘Something Trent Valley’.
Dumped at Crewe on time, we happily find the on platform bar is open and dive in for a much needed pint. We have got half an hour after all! Here we find some Prescott Cables fans and having announced we’re playing Salford today, they declare “Hope you beat the wankers!”, which is to be something of a theme during the day when we announce who our opponents are to anyone we meet and converse with. Pints downed and with some of the lads grabbing cans for the last bit, we hop on a busy 5.45 from Milton Haven and head for Manchester. Also on board is another Welshist in Jared the Pieman who has been on this fucking thing since just after 7am from Swansea. No, just no. It’s another little trundle through non-league places like Stockport before we alight at Manchester Piccadilly and hit the Piccadilly Tap just down from the station to make a plan. I suggest a couple of pubs more in the middle of town and this is agreed. Naturally, one wrong turn has Mr X declaring me sacked from navigating, despite he himself once leading us far more astray on these very same streets a couple of years ago. So we agree he’s a hypocritical cunt and press on.
We find our first stop, the Hyde and enter a wonderfully old school tight little boozer, with some locals sat up front watching the United Leeds game on the box. Manyoo taking the lead shortly after our arrival. The barman is a nice lad and another one who wishes us ‘well’ today as he’s a FCUM fan. He also hates Leeds and takes a shine to 4Days Jamie Collins pen t-shirt that he has on. Some Scunthorpe lads also say hello and wish us well apart from next weekend when we’re up at their gaff! Right, next pub! And what an arduous journey it is. All of 2 doors down is the Circus Tavern, which purports to have the smallest bar in Europe. It’s a properly tatty old two room snug type pub but the lasses running it are good as gold and the beer is well kept. The gang argue the ‘smallest bar’ claim, reckoning the Nutshell in Bury St Edmunds is smaller. I let them rattle on until I point out the working. The pub doesn’t claim to be the smallest bar, just that is HAS the smallest bar. And the bar is indeed tiny, probably measuring 3 feet across at most. Done here, it’s another long walk all of another two doors down to the Old Monkey. A much bigger place, but it’s still pretty cosy. Here we meet a Man City fan who also declares great respect for our oppo today. They’re a popular bunch it seems!
With the hour less drinking and time pressing on, we order our taxis to the ground from here and head off Salford-wards about 2.15 and we’re in the ground early enough to have a pie and a pint, sidestepping a U’s fan arguing at the turnstiles about the stewards lack of face coverings. The away support is thinner on the ground today, what with the relatively late swap round, but there’s still about 100 in attendance. Not bad. Right, best get this football stuff done so we can get back to the pub.
TEAM: Bouzanis, Milsom, John, Goodliffe, Barden, Ajiboye, Eastmond, Davis, Beautyman, Bugiel, Wilson. SUBS: House, Kizzi, Rowe, Smith, Bennett, Korboa, Boldewijn.
As the rain starts to fall, we get underway and from the off you can see where Salford’s game plan is. Dominate the ball and ping it around trying to find a gap. However, we’re no mugs of course and the lads get stuck in and get the graft going. Eventually, we produce the first couple of sighters, with Omar threading Wilson away wide, but his first time shot is gathered second go by the keeps and Dave has a poke from 18 that’s straight into the stoppers midriff. They meanwhile seem rather uninterested in actually shooting and many times having worked a space, they pass rather than having a dig. Suits us lads! The home side’s lack of killer instinct in the final third seems to send the home fans to sleep and for much of the half, it’s down to us to generate the noise. Not long before the break, the hosts best chance arrives with a nice ball in from deep picking out a lad making a late run and his firm first time sidefoot is across the goal and about a foot wide of the far post.
Half time, more pies and gravy and a shit pint of Coors to wash it down with. Any danger of something to drink that isn’t cheap and shit lads? Seem to recall the home end was all fucking craft beers and posh street food last time we were here! The rain comes again and we head back in under the cover. From the restart, the hosts have obviously had a bollocking and we’re finding that we’re having to sit in a lot more for long periods, snuff danger and clear our lines whilst waiting for opportunities to counter. Still, despite having a good 70% of the ball, they still create very little in the glaring chances category and the best they can manage is a decent save from Bouzanis who sprawls to his left to push away a deflected shot and a nice cross in being glanced comfortably over by the runner from deep. We’re not just defending though and our best chance comes from a corner, Beautyman sticking it back stick where Louis gets a nod on it above his marker, but it bounces back up off the turf and off the face of the crossbar before being cleared. With 15 to go changes are made, we yank Wilson for Enzio and the well marshalled Omar for Bennett, whilst they throw on ex-Womble Tom Elliot up top and start trying to get it into the mixer more.
Sadly for them, all he gets is a yellow card for an embarrassing dive near the end that even the fucking useless one eyed ref can’t ignore. Then right at the death, we have a chance to nick all the points when Bennett’s clever step over lets the ball run in behind for Easty, but his firm finish is well saved down to his right by the keeper. The twat. Still, a point and a clean sheet away to the bookies favourites is not to be sniffed at for your first ever Football League point on the board. We give the lads an ovation for the shift put in, with a couple removing their tops and pointing to the myriad of names printed on the rear panel of the black third kit. Yeah, we’re with you boys. Let’s get a win next eh?
With a train back at 7.30 we need to hit town and make use of our VDT before the journey home so we get outside and start rustling up some Uber sherberts. As we wait, a bloke in a Man United shirt walks past “Long way to come for a 0-0 lads!” he sneers. “Built, not bought you cunt” I reply. Fucking Premier League wankers, can’t stand ’em. First 4Days cab shows up and some local tries to nick it, piling his kids in before the Welshman intervenes and tell him where to go. “But I’ve got three kids with me!” the bloke whines. And that sir, is your problem not ours. Now fuck off, we’ve got beer to drink. My own cab arrives soon after and having made sure we’re there as soon as he pulls up to avoid further attempts at theft and sat in some traffic, we’re dumped outside the City Arms on Kennedy St. It’s a fine little pub I remember from trips up here for family do’s and Christmas way back when, but oddly, I’ve not a single recollection of the Vine Inn, which is right next door to it! Weird how the memory works sometimes eh?
We bang out a pint in here, but not before a local has complimented Indy on his moustache, complete with a rather suggestive wink, then hit the Vine for one and stand outside under the awning they have and chat to some locals, who are the latest to compliment today’s oppo in less than glowing terms. Seems the marketing still needs some work lads!! We eye up the third pub right on the corner the other side of the City, but then realise it’s just another ‘spoons, at which point I refuse point blank to go in, as it’s clearly a pricks move by that wanker Tim Martin to try & put the two more traditional boozers out of business with his cheaper ale.
Fuck him, he gets enough trade as it is. Instead, we elect to head back to the Piccadilly Tap for one as it puts us by the station and a couple of supermarket type places for cans. Here we find a seat outside with a large group of Leeds fans loudly singing away despite having got roundly fucked in the face 5-1 at Old Trafford earlier on. Amazingly, only one local scally fronts them up but he’s quickly shepherded away by a couple of mates clearly wanting to get a night on the tiles started rather than a kicking from a bunch of Leeds fans that outnumber them about 6 to 1. This rowdy bunch also try to get us involved with their noise, but all Mr X does is go “I don’t know the words!” when one old boy is encouraging us to sing along to “We are Leeds” at which point the bloke just laughs and shakes his hand, admiring the man of mystery’s cheek. Pints done we decide to move on before the riot we’re expecting is finally triggered and hit Co-Op for some cans. Then as we go into the station, who should we see but Casuals Rob, who lives in these parts now, coming back from a game at Ilkley. This is amusing as we’d not seen him in bloody ages before Tuesday when he joined us at Cardiff out of the blue! Long time no see buddy! Can’t stop, train to catch….
We make the service back to Crewe in plenty of time and even exchange hellos with a couple of faces we’d seen on the train up this morning who are now making their own trips back to wherever they’re from. We also meet a really quite pissed Cardiff lad who’s apparently had a “shit day out” despite the Bluebirds 2-0 win at Blackpool and a day on the gas. “I’m not even halfway there mate!” he says. Erm, we’d beg to differ sunshine! Still, he’s very apologetic that he missed the Carabao cup match during the week but happy that we enjoyed out night out in his fair city. So all’s good. As we trundle through Stockport again, we can clearly see the U’s travelling party stood waiting for their no doubt far more roomy and faster train back to the smoke, the bastards! We do wave however, we’re still more than happy with that point they got us today after all.
Off at Crewe and with mobile signal letting us down on pre-ordering our customary Dominos pizza, Mr X and I set off to instead order manually. I mean, we have 30 minutes to kill right, should be a doddle! Pizzas bought, we’re looking at a bit of a brisk stroll back to make sure we get our train to Euston and Mr X wonders what platform it may be, So I whip out the fondleslab and take a look only to find that there’s no platform info there, mainly as the fucking thing has been cancelled. That, my friends is a problem. With us not due back in until quarter to 12 as it is, no train causes some issues. So I call up Dukey back on the platform to let him know. “No worries mate, we heard the announcement and have already sorted it. We’re on the fast one back to London instead as they’re accepting tickets!”. Now that my friends is what we call a result! I let Mr X know and he smiles. Now we have cans, soon will have pizza and will be back in London a resounding 45 mins ahead of time despite leaving Crewe 10 mins later. And he doesn’t have to moan like buggery about every stop in the middle of nowhere like on the way up. Winning all round I think you can agree.
The fast train pulls in and we board, find some unreserved seats and tuck in. But not before 4Days has found one of his Wales away mates, an old boy who follows Cardiff and has been in Blackpool today. Also a now-southern based Everton supporting Scouser who we present with a couple of cans when his run out. He seems to enjoy the company and thanks us for making an otherwise lonely journey back south from his homeland somewhat more bearable. The journey after this is largely uneventful barring my smashing my elbow very hard into the window ledge next to my seat and also having a small mishap with one of the pizza dips when gathering up the now empty Dominos boxes that results in the white creamy substance getting sprayed all up over the carriage window. I clean up after me though, I’m not an animal! Back in London, we have a 45minutes early spring in our step and head for Victoria, but here the jam in our doughnut is promptly removed as the wait for a Vic line means the majority will almost certainly miss their last quick train to Sutton. It gets worse having de-tubed at Vic as we hit the concourse to find everything is bus replacements tonight. Which can fucking fuck right fucking off! Back on the tube lads!!
So we trundle to Stockwell, change to the Northern and head through all the Claphams and several Tootings back to Morden. Here everyone says a quick farewell before scattering for buses that get them vaguely close to home. I’m intending an Uber, but find it’s £30 to mine in Wallington and as I mull over this expense, I spot a 154 pull up. Actually poke your 30 quid sherbert, that’ll do pig! A tap of the old card later and with the roads empty, it only takes about 25 minutes for the bus to deliver me a short walk from HQ that is gloriously pretty much all downhill. Lovely stuff. Now, all I’ve got to do is avoid waking her ladyship up when I get in and the day shall be a complete success.
Should be a doddle that! *trips over kerb*