Here it is folks. Our first ever game in the Football League. And as befits our now full time professional Bertie big bollocks status, we here at Gandermonium will be changing tack this season to bring you a more considered, thoughtful and fact based approach with lots of match detail, discussion on new signings, stats and all the other things you’d expect from a mature, longstanding online football publication like ourselves.
Like bollocks will we! Oh boy you should have seen your faces, proper picture. Had you there for a moment didn’t we eh? No no, you can rest assured that Gandermonium will be sticking to it’s tried and tested formula of bullshit, profanity, nonsense, drunkenness, idiocy and occasionally, if we have room, mentioning the football. Stick to what you know folks and for us that’s getting lashed and falling over a lot. This is our solemn vow.
Since Matt Gray wilfully ignored the Sutton board’s wishes last season of “Keeping us in the division” and won the fucking thing, we all waited in great expectation of the League 2 fixture list coming out. So many destinations unseen, grounds untrodden and pubs undrunk. So what juicy little morsel did our new Football League overlords hand us for our historic debut? Forest Green fucking Rovers. Yes, Forest Green, the one we’ve been to as a Non-League side several times and has the mad vegan owner who’s binned as many managers as Dippy down the road from us. That one. Oh be still our beating hearts!
The other games following were a no less enthralling, with both Salford and Hartlepool as our first 2 at home. Jesus christ lads, give us a break. It’s taken us 123 years to get here and you lot just go and dump a load of Non-League on our toes before we’re even through the door let alone got our coat off. How are we supposed to be all wide eyed and overawed if you’ve got us playing shite we’ve met inside the last couple of years? Still, that’s the die that has been cast and to be fair, that little bumble down memory lane in the first couple of weeks is at least broken up with a trip to Cardiff City in the energy-drink-no-one-has-heard-of cup. So that’s something at least.
With tickets secured for the big day, you can tell it’s an historic occasion just by the fact it’s not the usual 6-8 bellends on the rattler and as such there’s a bit of a mob assembled for the train down there early doors from Paddington. Although one of those won’t be Crockett who cries off first thing in the AM as his missus and kid have picked up, wait for it, foot and mouth! Yes dear reader, one of our number, in the midst of a pandemic, has managed to pick up an ailment most associated with farming BEFORE we even get to the place where there’s farming. Us down to a tee that. Of course, the sympathy at his late cry off is is endless on the top secret, members only, VIP whatsapp group thingy. “I thought you lived in Caterham mate, not the 17th fucking century!”. Still rule #1 is invoked and this means we’ll head to Paddington already a man down. Great start to the season this!
I rise early, shower and just as I peck a still slumbering Mrs Taz goodbye on the cheek, I can hear the familiar hammering on the roof of rain. “I think it’s raining” the missus mumbles before rolling over to go back to sleep. Yes, thank you my love, most insightful. So I grab my rain jacket on the way out the door and by the time I reach the entrance to our block down a couple of flights of stairs, I can see my slumbering weathergirl was correct. It is indeed raining. A lot in fact. It’s that sort of rain that bounces, the drops are that fucking big. Still, I’ve only 200 yards to the bus stop, how bad can it be? And so soaked to the fucking bone I step aboard a bus to East Croydon a few minutes later. Lovely. At the station, the train I’m aiming for has to be sacked off, simply as I can’t move on the concourse by little more than pigeon steps as it’s that slippery. Any chance you bastards could do some mopping in here lads, I’ve genuinely about as much traction as Chris Bonnington trying to scale Everest in roller skates here. The next train is along shortly however and after bumping into Al and Billy (who we’d christened ‘Porn Star’s Nutsack’ on an away back pre-covid) on the tube, we arrive at Paddington to find a mob of U’s fans milling about. Greek is already complaining as Steve’s led him on a wild goose chase for a McDonalds on the concourse that has since ceased to exist and the COCs are lurking, planning on bumping onto our earlier train as their half past 10 one is now cancelled.
Breakfast and a cup of splosh secured, we’re on our way and trundling west through delightfully un-torrential rain affected landscapes. Bet that won’t fucking last. As we bump along, Dukey reveals the effects of his recent entry into fatherhood. He doesn’t need to actually say anything to do so, just his ‘piss hole in the snow’ eyes peering wearily out from above his facemask tells us everything we could possibly need to know. We also find out that Mr X is already 50 quid lighter this morning as he got nicked for vaping on Vauxhall station on the way up. I’m also insulted by Greek who says I “look like fucking Dobby” with my mask pulling my ears down at the top. Yeah cheers mate. Typical us that really, coming up with a perfectly good term\insult like “Dobby ear” for something just as it basically becomes almost completely irrelevant. Good work all round and bang on form that.
The train dumps us in Stroud on time and we go looking for a boozer. 4Days has located one up the road and we march up there only to find the joint still firmly shut. “It said it was open at 11 on Google!” he whimpers as everyone calls him a useless wanker and may other things as we trudge back down the road to the Wetherspoons we’d just passed. Two pints here and 4Days realising his name has been spelt wrong on the back of the new third shirt, it’s then back up the hill to the Ale House we’d found to be shut an hour before. 4Days takes issue with the landlord about his opening hours, which is fair given the level of abuse aimed his way over the wasted walk earlier, only to find the bloke had actually opened up about 10 past 11 as he’d still been tidying up from a gathering last night. Yep, we’re properly back on the horse lads! Here we’re seemingly followed by some random who’s out and about in town with a trumpet. His parping outside of ‘Swing low, sweet chariot’ sets off a bunchy of older ladies on a table across from us and they start singing along. Now, don’t get me wrong, they actually weren’t half bad and in tune, but it’s definitely double standards if you ask me, as if we’d been the ones up making a racket, our hairy arses would have been back on the street before you could say “Will you fuck off with that trumpet please mate?”. The Ale House also provides the first episode of what we have come to call ‘The Cider Club’, which is basically alleged ‘cider drinkers’ like Greek and Dukey buying actual proper cider and not the fizzy, fruity fake stuff they normally drink and then pulling all sorts of faces and using terms like “Fucking horrible” to describe their drink of choice.
This of course amuses the rest of us immensely, especially when Greek confesses he’d even ordered his ‘pint of vinegar’ after having had a taster off the pump first! The only thing that surprises us about the first Cider Club of the 2021/22 season is that Belly hasn’t partaken this time round as he’s usually one of the ringleaders. Don’t worry though, he will at some point this season, you mark my words. And we’ll be there to mock him. The downside of the Cider drinkers whinging up is that this forces us to move on after just the one as they don’t like the drinks on offer and we instead head for the Retreat down a side street a short walk away. Here the Cider Club recovers with pints of Estrella all round, which then in turn delights the rest of the group in the whip when I reveal the round has come to 20 quid more in here than in the Ale House. And that’s with us having bought a pint more by mistake there. Fucking drink hopping ponces, sort your lives out! Food is taken on board here, with Magnum PI of course once more revealing his painful middle class-ness by ordering a Salmon sandwich, complete with cream cheese and cucumber. Jesus christ, we’re trying to be fucking proper football league lads on the piss here mate, pack it in!
We then hit the Queen Vic for one more and find some of the Yoof and the B Team in attendance. A couple of quick ones here including a round of ‘squashed frogs’ to celebrate Dukey’s recent daddy-ness and we’re starting to try & line up some cabs for the trip into the middle of fucking nowhere for the football. I head out on a recce and locate a cb rank around the corner from the station. Here there’s one cab and a couple more emerging from the station. That should be doable! I return, neck my G&T and we’re off into the now wet afternoon for transport. Which in typical us fashion, is little short of a fucking disaster as it seems Stroud is actually harder to get a cab in than Chester, which if you’ve read this stufff for a while you’ll know is nigh on impossible. We eventually grab a couple, shoving as many in as possible and 4Days literally buying one off a couple of lasses for a tenner as they’re not in a rush. This leaves me, Billy and Alan as the last 3. Finally a sherbet shows and we’re off, getting dumped outside the ground at 10 to three. Made it, just!
TEAM: Bouzanis, John, Goodliffe, Barden, Milsom, Beautyman, Eastmond, Boldewijn, Ajiboye, Wilson, Bugiel. SUBS: Korboa, House, Rowe, Bennett, Davis Kizzi, Smith.
Flag up in time for kick off, I make my way to the ‘covered terrace’ only to find it’s basically 3 steps in front of a Stadium Solutions flat pack stand of the sort you see in the Isthmian and the cover is it’s roof overhanging us. Nice. If it rains and there’s any sort of wind, we’re getting soaked! Still, could be worse, we could have been on the opnen steps to our left! The game gets underway and we start ok. They clearly have a bit about them and are decent on the ball, but by and large, we’re nowhere near outplayed and Bouzanis remains untroubled. As does their keeps to be fair. During the half we notice that we’ve been joined by former defender Simon Downer, who lives out in Swindon. He gets a warm welcome and then has to put up with Belly fucking fan-boying on him for the rest of the half. Mr X also takes to calling out every little event as being our ‘first as a football league club’. He soon stops when a couple of us threaten violence if he carries on. Then with the first half winding down and honours even, the hosts lead from nowhere. A looping cross from the far side and their lad in a bit too much space at the back post loops a header over a slightly leaden footed Bouzanis and into the net. Fucks sake!
With no desire to partake in any of the local fare during the interval (the digital pitch side boards declaring how many poor animals had been slaughtered in the last 5 minutes only making me want a steak pie even more), I head for a half time piss, during which I note how disappointingly short of stickerage the cisterns are and then catch Totts puffing away on his traditional Lah-de-dah with Bobby Bollocks out in the smoking area. Dukey and Mr X are also out there getting their fix before the restart. Some things will never change! Sutton get off to a decent start after the break, with Wilson having the ball in the net but it’s disallowed as a defender who’d fallen over after trying to simply obstruct his run rather than even try to play the ball is deemed a foul. Still, the lads keep plugging away and as the rain really starts to fall, we’re level. Dave gets a little room down the right and having a dart he wips in a super cross to the heart of the box where Omar’s lost his man and crashes a header into the top corner with the keeper utterly rooted. Of course, the away end goes fucking radio rentals. I don’t even mind Mr X’s exclamation of “That’s our first ever fucking FL goal!”. Twenty to go, can we stick it out?
The goal gets the hosts tails up and we have a good ten minutes spell where we’re on the back foot, defending in numbers. And barring a low cross that flicks up off Barden’s boot and bounces back off the bar, we largely have things under control. But as the rain comes hammering down again, the 90 arrivea and the board goes up for added time, it’s heartbreak. A properly soft as shit freekick is awarded near side around the corner of the box. It’s whipped in and their 8 loses Goodliffe and just gets a little flick with his nut, leaving Bouzanis punching thin air as the ball nestles in the corner. Fucking Ada! We press again, but despite a couple of late corners, including one Deano comes up for, we can’t level again and it’s an opening day defeat sadly. Still, the lads did well and we looked nowhere near out of our depth that’s for sure. So, with the troops clapped off, we hit the road. Cabs are a nightmare again and with the traffic down the hill looking murders, we head off for a pub one of the lads has found nearby so we can have a rethink. But not before we see the Dirty Barry fun bus leaving with Totts in the passenger seat brandishing a ‘Sutton Supporters Club’ sign they’ve used to blag a prime parking spot before the game! Fucking liberty takers that lot and fair play to ’em. Showing off the best of South London right there. We then hike round the hill towards the George Inn. And when I say hike, I mean it. The walk includes slipping and sliding down a winding little path and how some of the idiots don’t tumble to theirs or someone else’s death I’ve no idea. Still at least the path emerges directly into their beer garden. Although fuck trudging up there pissed after a night on the gas is all I’ll add to that.
We settle in for a couple and debate the transport situation. As in there isn’t any. But we’re resourceful sorts and having chatted with a few locals, one does us a solid by ringing a few contacts and secures us a lad by the name of Raj who’s on a job in Cheltenham, but will be here for 6.30. He’s also rustling up at least one more car to help ferry the hoard back to Stroud. Now, it’s fair to say this rather iffy sounding arrangement has a couple of the gang nervous, given than should our magical chariots not appear, we’re roundly bollcksed for getting our 7.30 train back to the smoke. But we remain glass half full and at pretty much dead on half 6 two cabs do indeed appear over the hill and pull in. We’re on the move boys! Drinks downed, we load up both cars and head for Stroud and along the way chat to the mysterious Raj who’s rescued us from a new life on the side of a hill in Gloucestershire. He’s certainly popular, as his phone goes off several times in the 12 minute journey back to the station all from regulars wanting a ride. “So this is why we can’t get any sherberts!” I declare “Fuckin’ Raj here has cornered the market and all the other lads have given up!!”.
Back in Stroud, the cars return to the George to get the others and we head for a pint and a sort out in the Spoons. With no luck locating an offy on the googles, Steve & 4Days take a wander to the nearby Subway for some food and a recce. They’re soon back fed but with bad news. “Everything barring Subway and the odd pub is shut”. Seemingly, Stroud is not somewhere that is likely to feature in anyone’s “Top 10 Craziest Nights Out”. I can see why we’ve always driven here before today! Pete and I decide that for food for the majority, we’re going for the very un-vegan USA Chicken next door to spoons and with 24 pieces and 10 chips ordered up, we then find out that the stragglers have bunged their driver a nice tip to stop at an offy on the way into town. So we’ve cans and all the chicken we need for the journey back to civilisation.
Train arrives on time and we board a deserted carriage. Lovely, this means we can scoff, booze and not bother with masks on the way back. Everyone tucks in and it’s at this point that Dukey’s race is run. With sleepless nights catching him up, he scarfs his grub, necks half a can of Dark Fruits and zonks out. Oh how the mighty have fallen! The rest of the journey is spent rinsing Belly for his Downer fanboy episode earlier and comments about him having to keep his head down passing through Swindon later as it’ll probably violate the retraining order the former defender will almost certainly have taken out. Amusingly, pulling there we find there’s a load of old bill on the platform and we all take great delight in rinsing the old fella again. “They’re coming to get you Belly!!”. He then does himself no favours by allowing a full can of beer to get dumped in his lap when the train brakes sharply and then getting himself locked in the khazis sorting himself out. This means an embarrassed phone call to me to come rescue him and a mocking round of applause from all present when he re-appears.
Back in London, we tip out, re-mask and head for the tube, with Dukey saying his farewells on the way back to his new manor in Motspur Park, still at least his hours bonus kip has refreshed him ahead of Daddy duty at about 3am. At Vic we assemble and decide on one more pint at the Spoons there before half the group promptyl decide actually no, we’re going home and just jump straight on the train back to the PROWS. Lightweights!! We hit spoons, rustle up a couple of nightcaps and chat to a couple of Lechia Gdansk fans who’ve been to the Charity Shield game today. Turns out one is based in Rochdale during the week for work, so we invite him along to our game there later in the season, as you do.
Finally though, it’s time for home and we hop on a fast one back PROWSwards, with my alighting in the badlands for the walk back to HQ. It’s a warm and muggy evening and I’m soon sweating like Belly when talking to Simon Downer. The situation is not helped by the wringing wet big flag in the bag on my back, which is gently dripping rain water from the seams onto my lower back and legs. By the time I get home, my back lower half is wringing wet. Nice. I lob the bag in the bath and resolve to deal with it in the morning.
“Did you win?” enquires Mrs Taz from the sofa as I hop about peeling off my soaked jeans. “Sadly we lost darling” I reply. “Ah, so bad day then?” she wonders.
I laugh. “Nah, was fucking brilliant actually!”
It’s good to be back folks. See you in Cardiff.