I’m something of a connoisseur of popular culture. Never tried to hide it. Never needed to. I like those glimpses of life that open a window into a world that’s passed by. Adverts in old football programmes are a rich source of such snippets but I’m here right now to open this loosely branded “match report” with a celebration of a particularly niche corner of this ephemera – the Donald McGill postcard.
I have a few of these beauties amongst my extensive collection of vintage treasures. Every one of them a carefully crafted double entendre laden with heavy sexual overtones and often large garden vegetables. Like one of my heroes Max Miller, well out of fashion nowadays and certain to get you cancelled by some bunch of students somewhere if you’re ever stupid enough to set foot on a university campus.
“What’s the relevance of this to todays football you silly old sod?” I hear you cry. Well, a McGill classic pictures a woman leaning out of a car window, addressing a fella on a bike with the immortal words…..
“Can you show me the way to Oldham…..?”
So here we are then. I will be honest, I don’t know a lot about Oldham but I do know that they are in a spot of bother. I like to be armed with hard facts rather than gossip, wild speculation and general made up bollocks so I’ve done some research and established that Oldham were founder members of the Premier League and could be the first team at the birth of totally shit, elitist football to drop into the murky depths of the Bastard League! And that would be quite a thing me old Chinchillas.
I’ve not had time to investigate fully how this club has plummeted to the EFL basement trapdoor but it appears to be the usual clown car cavalcade of toerag owners, broken promises and chronic mismanagement that hangs over the beautiful game like a toxic cloud of vaporised shit. Things have got so bad for the Oldham fans that many of these working class Northerners have made the surprising decision to take up tennis according to the pictures I’ve seen of their midweek protest before the Accrington game. So a trip to south west London and the environs of the All England Club must have come as a welcome relief from their grim predicament.
Mind you, if you want to talk about those who have fallen from grace with god take a butchers at my Spanish team Hercules. To collapse from La Liga to the sprawling fourth regional tier of the national game is truly spectacular. To do it in a thirty thousand all-seater World Cup stadium is just plain fucking stupid. Anyway, I’m off out there after Colchester away next week so expect grainy TV pictures of a large bald Englishman mobilising the massed ranks of Herculanos in a coup d’etat against their shithouse owners. Or possibly just the usual stream of selfies from the terrace of the Sueno Azul. We will see.
But back to West Sutton and we are still pinching ourselves. The extraordinary effort by the largely unsung army of club officials, contractors and volunteers who have transformed the stadium from what was basically an Isthmian League set up into an EFL compliant ground despite all the weather and supply issues needs to be marked again in this missive. My own small contribution was to knob up six out of the seven vintage turnstiles and sell them on for as much as possible to help cash flow the refurbishment. Shame to see em go but one remains for posterity at Big Malcolm P’s gaff on Collingwood Road and another will go in the bar in due course. Anyone spilling beer on it will get a clump round the earhole so be careful.
Due to an allergy which prevents me from travelling to northern shitholes or Wales more than twice a year the only game I’d clocked so far was Forest Green away where we took Dirty Barry’s Fun Bus in the safe hands of Scotty Coaches to that mad vegan billionaires plaything in Nailsworth and but for a couple of costly errors we would have been celebrating like drunken sailors. It’s become a bit of a thing the old costly errors but hopefully a dose of Andrew’s Liver Salts will clear them out our system and the good news is we look well and truly at the races at this level. And that’s grand.
Match day arrives and I am awoken from my slumber by an inappropriately early call from my old mate Robbie Rhubarb, one half of the infamous Polegate U’s, who tells me he’s driving up and can he park on our drive. Well, really I ask you? Gotta be a tenner in that hard cash so a I agree and he says he will rock up about noon. By the time I’ve fried an egg for a sandwich, fannied around with an old vending machine for a bit and caught a bit of the cricket he’s banging at my door.
We take the short stroll up to the Gander where the Old Bill are already showing a presence and after half hour or so it starts filling up with northern lads in snide Stone Island and those weird anoraks with welders goggles sewn in the hood that the apprentice modern hooligan ponies up a monkey for. In my day you’d get a pair of Martens, some Brutus high-waisters and a tank top and you’d look like Jack the Biscuit on the terraces. Kids these days are fucking idiots. If you want a coat get one from the butchers and write the team and it’s players on it in Biro. I can’t even be arsed to argue with them.
After a couple of scoops Lord Woody of Horley, West Sutton’s top washboard player, turns up and we head up the road to the ground. It’s busy, the COCs are well represented by Sean The Ram, Smarty, Bobby Bollocks and Keepo and everyone is in the swim having a pint in the car park and with the smoking ban inside the stadium I spark up an Upmann Half Corona. Good to catch up with Paul the Mod and the Fear Gang who I’ve not seen for a good while. DB and Fish the Cabbie stroll up but by now it would be easier to get out of Kabul than get a pint at the main bar with the queue snaking right round the Boom Boom so we decide to wander round the new rear entrance and get in the ground.
This is probably as good a time as any to address the elephant in the room – the sad but necessary demise of the Shoebox Terrace. Course I was gutted when AB told me it had to go, I mean I wrote my greatest/only hit fucking single about the old bastard of a thing but every cloud and all that. Part of it has been rebuilt in my yard and the rest is being resurrected by Colin and his crew up at Cheam Sports where an inaugural opening celebration, including the last ever live rendition of That Fucking Song, will be a mighty old cabbage.
Where the fuck are we gonna stand now? It’s a shambles. We end up on La Curva Sud closest to the Old Lady but the DILFS are up the other end and Gandermonium somewhere in between. In the old days a Tooting fan once said if the police raided GGL looking for toerags, Herberts and ne’er do wells they would find that we had already herded ourselves together on the Shoebox and done their job for them. Fair enough really. The bonus of this nonsense is that we avoid the racket of the DILF BINGO, denying Crooked Ces the chance to mug us off. Every cloud mate. Every cloud.
So, let’s have some football shall we.
Bouzanis, John, Milsom, Goodliffe, Barden, Eastmond, Ajiboye, Boldewijn, Beautyman, Wilson, Bugiel SUBS: House, Wyatt, Korboa, Rowe, Kizzi, Bennett, Smith
We are fielding what I consider to be our strongest starting eleven. I don’t really bother analysing the game as you know, there’s plenty of other sources for all that anal stuff, but we start solid and bright pinging the ball about and playing all the football and we could and should have had a couple of goals in the first twenty five minutes. I know he’s my International footballing celebrity mate and all that but Omar is truly immense and seems to be involved all over the pitch. Defence looks solid and as the Oldham fans concentrate their efforts on sacking their board we are in no real danger and really just need to sharpen up a bit top end.
Half time comes and if you were planning to risk a slipper off the Roses franchise forget it. You’d probably still be waiting now. I catch up instead with Father Kev, our spiritual leader, and we agree it’s only a matter of time before we put this game to bed and we can all bugger off back to the pub for a nice quiet pint. Hold that thought kids because of course you know what’s coming down the tracks.
Oldham have obviously had a bollocking in the dressing room and come out with a bit more intent but still don’t look like they’ve got a goal in them but the fact it’s a touch more of a contest opens up the game a bit giving us more opportunities . Dave gets done for simulation when it looked a fair shout for a penalty but soon after he gets his revenge. A corking shot from Easty comes back off the bar, Dave picks it up, dances past his defender and smashes it home. Go on my son. Let’s just finish this now.
The ambition of Oldham at this point is measured by a scuffed drive heading well wide that is greeted with near delirium in their end and chants of “We’ve had a shot, we’ve had a shot, we’ve had a shot….” And then more sack the board stuff. We are in control of the game with fifteen minutes to go, the oppo are dialling it in so what could go wrong…..
Well, everything. Of course. For some mad reason we decide to drop deeper and deeper and send out an invitation to a team that are out of the game to try their luck for a bit of fun. Ten minutes to go they take up the offer and nick a goal of such banality I can’t even be arsed to describe it. So then we go from dropping deep to chasing the game, get caught over-committed in their box and instead of smashing the grannie out of their man on the half way line and taking the card he’s allowed a free run through our final third and the rest is pure inevitable nonsense. And we’ve lost. The Oldham mob clearly cannot believe their eyes and go righteously fucking mental.
And that’s that. I swerve the idea of a queueing up all night in the bar and wander back down the Gander with DB and Woody where we catch up with Chalmers and a few others for a pint or two. Yes it’s early days but as we sit bottom of the EFL we are truly the masters of our own destiny. We are a good unit, a good footballing side but we’ve gotta learn fast and we have to stop the daft mistakes. No one said it was gonna be easy. We will do alright and get on a run soon as we get that first win on the board. Just a crying shame it wasn’t today. I’m not interested in the Pizza B Team Trophy so see you in the Roman Capital of Essex.