In the immortal words of Dante Hicks, “I’m not even supposed to be here today!”. Yes folks, despite having accepted the kind offer of Mr Clarke to have a pop at some awayday bloggage for this weekend’s schlep down to Exeter (and very good it is too!), allowing me the opportunity to just get pissed and watch football in peace, the mob’s train adventures of course threw up a load of material that the party felt simply couldn’t go to waste. And as such, I was disgracefully peer pressured into putting this together by the rest of the firm. No rest of the wicked I guess.
So, as I briefly and all too subtly touched on in my blog for Tuesday’s 1-0 thrashing of Hartlepool, the train chosen for this particular trip was yet another of the ‘Cheap and around the houses’ variety. The sole good news about this being that it could be conveniently picked up at Clapham Junction was soon overwhelmed by a ‘but’ so big it would make Nicki Minaj green with envy. That being it’s departure time of 7.20 in the am. That’s right. As in 40 minutes prior to 8am. Now, you might think that given the early starts we’ve had over the last several years yomping up and down the country that this wouldn’t be an issue at all, but you’d be wrong. Mainly as most local trains first services etc round this way getting you into Britain’s busiest station on a weekend do so leaving very little margin for error in this case. Miss it, you’re fucked. Get delayed along the way? Fucked. Miss your stop? Well, I think you get the picture.
Because of this, I find myself being awoken at 5am by the buzzing little shit that is my alarm clock. As I stumble out of my pit, I peer round the curtains and note, not without some level of self loathing, that it is still dark outside. Which when you consider it’s been a good 2 years since I’ve had to do such a thing thanks to Covidbollocks, the impact of this is considerable on my mental well being. “I must be fucking mental” I mutter as I head to the bathroom for a shower. “You are fucking mental” mumbles a sleepy Mrs Taz at my back as she rolls over and cocoons herself the half of the duvet my carcass has just vacated.
With the usual stupidly early morning ablutions taken care of, I head out into the still dark streets and rustle myself up an Uber as there’s no way on earth I’m trusting buses today. Of course, as I wait for my designated Toyota Prius to appear, a 407 sails past heading to Croydon. Yeah, I see you, you big red twat. Cabbed up, I arrive at East Croydon just a touch too late for the Victoria train and instead notice there’s a London Bridge one next. Perfect, that makes getting to Waterloo via Waterloo East a bit simpler. And yes, I’m indeed going full hog on this one. There’ll be no Clapham Junction start for myself and several others today as we’re concerned about the lack of seat reservations on our service, so we’re mobbing up at the starting point to make sure we all get sorted for tables etc from the point of origin. Plus Waterloo has a McDonalds that’ll be open at that time for a grotty breakfast. See, everyone’s a winner!
Hitting the concourse at Waterloo 40mins after leaving home, I head down to McD’s and find Steve and Ipswich Lee already in the queue. Grotty food ordered, as we wait the first drama of the day unfolds as a Deliveroo rider starts kicking off at one of the lasses about an order he’s come to get that apparently has already been taken\collected. Naturally, this draws the usual British reaction amongst those waiting for their own food of lots of tutting and mumbling of “Give it a fucking rest mate, it’s not even 7 yet!”. Food sorted, he head back upstairs to consume and are interrupted by a lad asking for spare change. Sorry dude, we didn’t have any 10mins ago when you asked us in McD’s and we don’t have any now either! Robbo appears and then Magnum rocks up and with the party largely assembled we set off for tea. On my way out with my cuppa, Mr Spare Change appears once more to enquire as to my coinage situation. To his credit, he does clock that he’s asked me before and apologises for bothering me again and I decide to bung him the fiver I have in my wallet purely for his persistence. At this point, Dukey appears fresh from Motspur Park and darts off for some sustenance of his own.
Boarding the train we find a sweaty Deano waiting for us. He had woken up an hour late at 6am and somehow still managed to make it here comfortably before the train left. Not only that, he’s managed to cop a date with the apparently attractive female bus driver on his service this morning! Quite how someone can be that charming not only at such an early hour but also when up against it time wise just beggars belief. I’d have told Salma Hayek to fuck off this morning quite frankly. Dukey is the last to board, clutching his breakfast. Which consists of a pack of 4 M&S Yum Yums and a pint of milk. I dread to think what his insides must look like.
At Clapham, the rest of the party boards with Ray, Belly and 4Days joining us, along with Ryan from the Yoof, as well as Alan, Nutsack and his sister Ella. And so begins the long journey South. The chatter is largely low key given the early hour, but we still find time to take the piss out of Deano’s bus driver date, Dukey’s awayday brownie points with the future Mrs Duke now being almost all but exhausted and our amazement at Ryan’s choice of two large bottles of Buckfast as his refreshments for the journey. His insides must be as horrendous as Dukey’s! We also get the story of Magnum & Deano’s boozing the previous evening. It seems West Sutton’s top PI had invited Deano down to the cricket club for a couple and he rocked up, true Aussie style, in a white t-shirt and salmon shorts only to find the reason Magnum was there in the first place was he was attending a bloody wake! Naturally, he stayed ’til closing.
Chat also turns to the sad passing of Sir Clive Sinclair this week, 8 Bit computer games and then properly old football chatter. Between us we reel off FA Cup finals from 1980 to the mid 2000’s before we start to lose our way. A confident Steve establishes with the group here a level of trust on this matter which goes no further than 1997 after several mistakes. So yeah, if he’s in your quiz team and the question is “Who won the 2005 FA Cup” blank him. He’s losing you points almost certainly! Eventually, after what seems a lifetime and nowhere near enough tea, we roll into Exeter Central and hop off here a stop early as we’d noticed there being way more pubs round this way. On exiting the train, a young lady catches some of the lads eye with a rather revealing top. “I only want to take a picture” mumbles Dukey a little further up the platform and it’s only after a moment of two that I realise he’s talking about his shit Windows phone not working so he can snap a pic of the platform sign, not that he’d missed a chance to photograph the physically captivating young lady just before. Being a dad has really changed him it seems.
Having located Mr X, who’s had a night in Plymouth rather than suffer that train journey twice in one day, we head from the station, down the hill towards the first pub we’d found that was open for our arrival time of 10.30 and wasn’t a Wetherspoons. I’d located the the City Gate as it apparently opened at 8, although alarm bells are run when we approach as I note it’s a Youngs place. Now don’t get us wrong, Youngs are a decent brewery and the beer’s fine. But they’re not the cheapest around and this was one of their hotel gaffs, so the whip was going to take a beating here early doors. To top it off, they weren’t serving until 11 either! We order anyway and £60(!) quid lighter for 11 drinks, we head for the garden out back to await pints. Now, has anyone seen Alan?
With Al having re-joined the party after wandering completely the wrong way into town, pints are downed and we head into the high street to the former local of Sir Francis Drake at the Ship Inn. Former because he’s of course been dead for 500 years, but I guess he could have got barred at some point too I suppose? Along the way, we almost crash a parade for the Devon & Dorset Regiment, darting off at the last moment to avoid walking in full non-league shite formation past the mayor and a small crowd gathered behind barriers opposite. Ooops! Eyes right lads, quick march! We hit the pub and it’s soon filling up with some of the D&D lads, their green and gold colours confusing the hell out of Deano. Here we meet some local fans and they’re in confident mood, all predicting a 4-0 win. Whatever lads. One does at least provide some backup for the pubs we’d been looking into.
And with this in mind, a now well into his stride Mr X sets off with the whip and an advance party for our next stop, the Hole in the Wall. Following soon behind, we get an update from him showing him nowhere near the pub intended. So we backtrack only to find he’s then sacked that off as the place he’d been told was actually shut. Of course, by the time we catch up, the Hole in the Wall is not only shut but not even called that any more. And the other place next door has gone too! Damn you Covid!! We then head for the Old Fire House to find that too is also not yet open and won’t be until 3pm. Fucks sake!! In the end, we hit the Stand Off round the corner. It’s a resolutely Irish Rugby pub, but we’re not in the mood to be particularly fussy at this point.
Here, Mr X orders up and doing so incurs the ire of a female local for his bad language. Except for the fact that he hasn’t sworn at all. “Why don’t you call him a ‘See you next Tuesday’ instead?” she demands. Mr X stares back blankly. “I only asked him if he wanted a vodka and coke!” he replies. It seems the lass has thought he’d asked Steve “Do you want a Vodka you cunt?” and not “vodka and coke” like he actually had done. Keen to make amends, she’s soon giving us pub advice, including one that we know for a fact is a home pub we’ve been told to avoid. Yeah, thanks but no thanks love. Pints done, we head next door to the Black Horse which is a bit less jolly japes rugger bugger. Here there’s some more home fans and more 4-0 score predictions. They’re an alright bunch though and we have a bit of a laugh before we head to our last watering hole of the day, the St Anne’s Well which is right by the away end at St James’ Park.
On arrival, we’re a little disappointed, as the place is a properly run down joint where we’d been lead to believe it was actually quite a nice boozer. Sadly, it’s all plastic glasses and Doombar on offer, so we sit outside to drink away our disappointment and prepare for kick off. With this being the designated away boozer, we’re visited by the plod doing their rounds and it’s here than Mr X effectively tells the local football officer he looks stupid. Sadly, he takes it as the joke it was intended and ignores our pleas to lob the man of mystery into the van for the duration. Hey ho, we tried! There’s also time for us to turn our noses up at Beckett senior’s pint of Cola Cider. Not cider mixed with cola thankfully, just Cola flavoured cider. Final pints downed, we head for the turnstiles and into the ground with enough time to bag a pasty and get flags up before kick off.
TEAM: Bouzanis, Kizzi, John, Goodliffe, Milsom, Ajiboye, Eastmond, Smith, Boldewijn, Sho-Silva, Bennett. SUBS: House, Wilson, Beautyman, Randall, Wyatt, Rowe, Dundas
From the off, the lads look properly up for the challenge and set about imposing themselves on the oppo. From quite early on it’s apparent the hosts don’t like this and they struggle to get much going as we pressure all over the park and constantly force errors, pick up loose and get it forwards to the front four as quick as we can. Dave has a good chance, plucking a diagonal out of the air first time and cutting inside his man, but the keeper is quick off his line and saves with an outstretched leg. Bennett then nuts a cross over the bar from close range when he should probably do better. Tobi pulls up lame and Wilson is brought on to replace and it’s he who has our best chance, nipping in on a little pushed pass in behind and thudding a shot off the underside of the bar from 12 yards. Meanwhile, a frustrated Exeter manage only the one serious moment, a quick break forcing a solid save from Deano with his defence backing him up superbly to ensure there’s no seconds either.
So we’re level at the break after a superb 1st half, but you get the impression that having taken one of those chances would have been beneficial. The second 45 starts much like the first and we’re still giving them a lot of problems all over the shop, but despite that pressure and dominance, the goal won’t come and the game seems like it turns after about an hour when we overload in the box, they can’t clear and the ball is pulled back into the 6 yard box for Bennett. He doesn’t get the greatest of contacts, but that’s all it really needs for a goal. Sadly, their 5 gets a toe on it that diverts the ball up onto the face of the bar and out for a corner. With a couple of changes now made to try & change things, this is our last real chance as they hosts step up and try to finally find a way into the contest and with about 20 left, the inevitable happens. Enzio loses the ball at this end, there’s a counter and a lad gets down to the bye line, but Louis looks well in charge of the situation. However, the oppo player manages to switch feet, Louis slips and as we chase back to cover, his squared hall across the 6 yard line hits Goodliffe’s shins and bobbles inside the far post. Which is about as Sutton United as it gets folks.
Buoyed by the goal and with the home support really noisy for the first time today, the hosts press on and we throw Harry and Randall on to try and chase the game. Of course, this doesn’t really do much for us and makes the score line more flattering for them. 10 left, a ball in behind and Louis goes to ground tussling with his man. The U’s bench are up for a foul, but nowt’s given and matey advances, squares and it’s scuffed in at the back stick. Taxi! Fortunately, the damage gets no worse before the end, despite a couple of big pen screams from the far end. One of which looks like an outrageously OTT dive, the sort that if the ref doesn’t fall for has you wondering how the geezer’s not copped a card for simulation. Final whistle, lads efforts applauded we pack up and head for St James’ Park station for the train back to St David’s. The whole way we’re commiserated with by home fans relieved to have got away with the win. Not sure if prefer that or just being mugged off by wankers taking the piss to be honest.
We wait for the train and are amused to see the service pull in on the opposite platform is not only some properly shit old Thameslink stock that has no doubt once upon a time plied its trade on the West Sutton loop and stopped within spitting distance of GGL, but also that you can still see the outline of the Thameslink branding where it’s been removed and the new local firm’s stuff stuck over the top! Also, has anyone seen where Alan’s got to again?? Christ, his parents must have been sick with worry for most of his formative years if he was like this as a kid! The short hop back to St David’s is achieved and we head up the hill to what must be the biggest pub I’ve ever been in, a Wetherspoons set in an old manor house. We pug up at a large table out back in an impressive glasshouse type affair with steelwork that makes it look like someone crashed a Zeppelin into the gaff and rather than clear up the mess, they just glazed the fucker. Impressive. Totts appears for a quick chat and then some food is ordered as stodge is badly needed by some of the party, my good self included. here, Alan eventually resurfaces after missing the train at St James’ and a 25 minute wait for the next one.
Beers downed, some head off for kebabs from the station whilst we do the booze run. “The Shop” is our destination and for an offy type place outside a station, it’s selection is rather poor. Having almost wiped out a shelf of wine bottles with the flag bag, I grab some cans of dark fruits for the mob whilst Mr X empties almost all their Gordons G&T stock. Supplies sorted, we’re ready for the long trundle back to Clapham. The service is pretty quiet so we commandeer a carriage and settle in for the journey, however a couple of stops out from Exeter the train starts making a noise like we’ve run over a geezer with a vuvuzela and he’s tooting it ever louder to try & alert someone to his predicament. The guard appears to investigate and having confirmed we’ve definitely not run over anyone with a large plastic trumpet, he starts moving people away as it seems something might actually be wrong.
Confirmation of this is obtained when we arrive in Whimple (no, I’ve no fucking idea where that is either. Google it!) and notice the fucking HUGE cloud of smoke billowing out from under the carriage. That and the rather burny type smell that accompanies it. “Er, shall we move next door?” suggests Mr X collecting up our G&T supplies. Yeah, probably best eh? It turns out something has broken and the smoke is being caused by coolant leaking. Yeah right. Fortunately after only a few minutes delay, the lads have it sorted (and by sorted I mean ‘disconnected whatever was knackered’) and we’re back underway. Much of the journey back is talking the usual bollocks and drinking lots and lots of gin & tonics. Some surprising facts are that Dukey doesn’t curl up in a corner for some much needed kip as he’ll almost certainly be on nappy changing duty when he gets indoors and that Belly manages not to get himself locked in the kahzi’s again. On reaching Salisbury, it’s decided that continuing on with a train that nearly, definitely didn’t catch fire is probably not a good idea, so we’re shunted onto another identical train and continue on our merry G&T fuelled way.
It’s then smooth siling all the way back to Clapham and shortly before 11, we’re tipped out onto the platform and wondering how to get home. Keepo’s bang up for some action out at Agent Orange outside the station, but pretty much everyone else is of the opinion of “You’re fucking mental, we’ve been up since 5am” and we’re soon all waiting for a quick one back to civilisation with our wait only disturbed by a bunch of rugby league lads singing loudly. It seems they’ve lost a cup final today and are out on the piss afterwards. God only knows what state they’d have been in had they actually won! The train home is a 2 stopper with just Carshalton and Sutton on the menu, so I take my leave of the gang at the former and having swung the flag bag across my back, plugged up my lugholes with my headphones and cranked some tuneage, I make the sweaty walk back to HQ across the badlands, arriving home to find Mrs Taz where I’d left her 19 hours ago, in bed.
Deciding that disturbing her slumber twice in one day would be an error on my part I grab a blanket and instead crash out on the sofa, hoping my gentlemanly sacrifice is at least recognised with a cup of splosh from her ladyship in the morning.
No milk, 2 sugars please love.