Even when things are going well and you think it’s all rosy in the garden of life and there’s nothing to really be unhappy about, there’s always that one miserable sod who has to go and be an arse about something and bum everyone out. In our particular little circle, we call this person ‘Dukey’. Who despite seeing Sutton United attain their highest ever status and levels of success previously thought impossible still finds time for constant complaints about not being able to smoke at football any more. And us not entering the Surrey Cup now. And…well, you get the picture. So naturally, we were delighted for a change of origin in this respect when someone on the Amber Planet forum thought the ideal way to comment on a resounding 4-0 home win over Carlisle was to coat off the people who used to stand on the sadly departed Shoebox as well as this here publication.
Naturally, this initially took the form of the usual complaints about bad language, which is a common theme we’ve encountered down the years, but it also took a rather personal little edge with comments regarding our ‘behaviour’ in general and now that the ‘Box is no more, that we’ve apparently ‘slithered’ (their word, not ours) off to other parts of the ground to infect the previously serene landscape with out apparently disgusting behaviour. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Shoebox was certainly a spot where the fruitier vocabulary in GGL could generally be heard. But the comments went way over the top in my opinion. The Shoebox was a mixed bunch, yes we like a pint and a laugh, but we’re not scumbags. The guys that stood there over the years ranged hugely in background and profession and included, amongst others, a former bloody magistrate. And whilst there was plenty of effing and jeffing, the crowd there were never ever hateful or spiteful in their approach. I’d never heard any ‘ism’ you might care to mention (well, ok except maybe a bit of ‘toeragism’, but hey nobody’s perfect) uttered around me or witnessed any violent actions whilst stood there. Naturally no actual examples of our alleged front page of the Daily Mail “won’t somebody think of the children!” carry on were forthcoming. Funny that.
Also, this begs the question. If we’re such awful, unruly sorts, why have we basically never had any bother, anywhere, ever, on our travels? Not once. None of us has ever been ejected from a game or had any run in of that sort either. So either we’re the luckiest dickheads in football, a sport where the policing is not well known for it’s measured approach towards spectators, or we are actually just simply regular people who like a pint, are more expressive and have a fruitier vocabulary than you at a game?
The ironic thing about it all this is that prior to this season and the loss of our place to stand, there were genuine chats amongst the gang about where to go next, naturally the Curva seemed the best spot for most (as it was near where we used to be and offers one of the better views of the playing surface at GGL), as well as about actively winding our necks in this season as we’re well aware that we’re now out of our manor and might be treading on other people’s toes. This is also why we’re largely spread out now, so we’re not mobbed up and nicking someone else’s spot. What a bunch of properly horrible fuckers eh? Considering other people’s feelings. It’ll never catch on in this day and age I can tell you.
Finally, calling Totts a ‘dull boozy blogger who thinks he’s an entertainer’ was bang out of order. Funny, yes, but still bang out of order.
Still, I suppose I should still say thank you to them for not only allowing me to pad this crap out with a couple of paragraphs to get this episode underway, but not slagging me off for my potty mouth as is usually the case on there. Copy is copy after all! All I had lined up otherwise was a misty eyed look into the past with the 14th anniversary of the ‘Woodford 15’ FA Cup trip early in our worst season ever. Just staggering how far we’ve come eh? So following last weekend’s resounding arse handing against Carlisle, we moved onto our next assignment. Northampton away, who having had an ok start and looking to get back to League 1 after their relegation last season looks to be a tough one. And we’ve still not won away. Think we might need to bring our dinner for this one.
One good thing about this game though is that Northampton lies about an hour north of the smoke, so this means I can have a lie in. Any by ‘lie in’ I mean ‘only have to be at Euston for about half 9 rather than half 7 like normal’. Which is nice. So with all the admin done, I’m off out for the bus, dropped in East Croydon and stepping straight on a train to Victoria. Lovely stuff. Despite this flawless trip up, I’m one of the last to arrive and find the herberts outside puffing on woodbines and drinking tea. Some both. Mr X hands over my train tickets and then starts fussing about why he’s still got 2 sets left over, given that Steve is the only one yet to arrive. I leave him to his confusion and dart to Saino’s for bacon rolls and upon my return I find out that the spare ‘tickets’ are actually the collection receipts from when he picked them up. Twonk.
My own large cup of Rosie obtained, one that is almost too hot to physically handle (which is ideal for a couple of hundred yards stroll to my seat), I’m lagging behind the group as I reach the barriers where the guard that has to let me through professes surprise that Sutton even has a football team. Cheeky bastard. Clearly a bitter Eastenders fan still narked about us replacing his depressing as fuck soap that one night 4 years ago. All boarded, I park my arse and tuck into much needed bacon as the usual stupid conversations ensue around me. My breakfast in start contrast to the spinach based pasta salad 4Days is scarfing down next to me.
One conversation is about the quality of coffee obtainable from the outlets at the station as Steve is not impressed with his effort from Burger King, where Chalmers then professes a dislike for Costa’s as “They don’t even heat the milk for their latte’s”. Naturally this doesn’t then trigger a good 10 minute spell of ‘dreadfully middle class first world problems’ type piss taking. Mr X then reveals that his efforts in booking the Bradford and Tranmere weekenders had caused him some issues personally as the outlay off his card was so significant that his bank temporarily put a block on it! Greek isn’t impressed though. “Stop moaning, I always tip you when I pay up!” he declares, as if the several pence he usually randomly adds to the amount he’s repaying is in anyway a form of recompense for the Man of Mystery’s inconvenience.
Arriving in Northampton, we head down the road to the town centre, passing a rather rundown old boozer called the Black Horse. My concerns that Greek’s usual “Why are we walking past a pub?” complaints that have seen us drink in some proper shitholes in the past and might see us kick off the day here are soon dispelled by the fact the place is shut and has been for a while. As in the ‘well before even covid’ kind. 4Days locates an 11 opener though that isn’t a Wetherspoons and we head there, finding the Rifle Drum up a little alley off the Market Square. It’s an old school, one room backstreet pub with the customary old boy sat at the end of the bar and one old lass behind the jump who can pull 15 pints sharpish standing on her head.
As we get beers in, the old boy at the end of the bar enquires as to our origins and when we reveal we’re Sutton fans, he beams and raises his pint to us. The reason? He’d had us at 33/1 to win the National League last season! “You’re an absolute madman mate, none of us were that confident!”. Next up, we head for the Old Bank which is a 12 opener sadly and then so is the next one. Seriously Britain, closed for 11 months and you’re just turning business away!! Thankfully, the Wig & Pen is open however and despite a whiff of jolly japes rugger about the place, it’s got a decent selection of beers on that satisfies all needs in the group, so it’ll do.
Stupidly, I give Greek the whip to order up first and before I know it, Magnum has a Passion Fruit martini in front of him. Jesus wept. Although I’m not sure what’s more appalling, the PI’s poncy choice of drink or the fact that Steve knows of and then demands on behalf of Magnum, the shot of prosecco that apparently should come with it! Clearly someone’s been spending too fucking long in All Bar One with bloody Tatey and Loffers! Who says we’re yobbos eh? Half way down our first pint here, a lot of Stone Island and New Balance gear is suddenly in attendance and before long we’ve discovered some Bristol City fans are in for a quick couple.
It seems they’re bussing up to Peterborough today, the driver took a wrong turn somewhere and they’ve decided to take a refreshment stop and regain their bearings! Still, they’re an alright bunch and up for a bunny over a pint. After a second one here, we pop next door to the Optimist for one and then it’s off to the St Giles up the road. This one is mine and 4Days ‘proper beer’ stop for the day and the lager drinkers be damned! It’s also a superb place for the latest ‘Cider Club’ meeting to convene and pull funny faces at actual pints of real cider and not the fruity pretend shit they actually like. Unfortunately for Greek, he’s the only one of the usual culprits to go with a pint, as Dukey elects for a half and Dr Bell swerves it completely going for a pint of far more familiar Aspalls instead. Here we find Bob and Cath and a nice warm fire to dry off in front of after our brief rainy trudge.
A quick one here and we’re then heading for the Fish, where apparently the Yoof and B Team are planted up. But just as we arrive, they vacate for the much cheaper Spoons over the road and we nick their big table to help us along. Here Robbo’s 40th birthday present from the gang is revealed to him, a personalised video from none other than his favourite one hit wonder Chesney Hawkes. Unfortunately for him though, we have to be complete bastards about it in some way and as such, we’ve paid the 90’s warbler to sing a couple of lines of Bryan Adams monster number 1 hit “Anything I do”, which is about as well liked by Robbo as Mr Hawkes track is by the rest of the crew. Sorry mate! Two pints here and a quick bit of lunch for some soakage (including some cracking garlicky double fried chips) later and it’s time for the football portion of the day. With the rain now steadily falling, we head back to the Market Square as we’d seen a cab rank there earlier. There’s one waiting and as that departs, another arrives and we’re all soon on the way out of town to Sixfields, the home of today’s hosts.
For some reason, despite them having an actual away end behind the goal, we get stuck in some tiny little section in the bottom corner of a half built stand that is best known in football circles for the fact that some bent fuckers siphoned off a large portion of the 10 million quid loaned by the council to the club to build it. Amongst other things, some of this cash found its way into Tory party coffers in the form of donations and which that alone has seen several people charged by the local plod for electoral offences earlier this year. Lovely stuff. Just the sort of shady, cigar smoke filled rooms carry on that Totts could wring a good couple of thousand word out of to be honest! Ah bollocks, I should have got him to do this one shouldn’t I?
TEAM: Bouzanis, Kizzi, John, Goodliffe, Milsom, Ajiboye, Eastmond, Smith, Boldewijn, Bennett, Wilson. SUBS: Palmer, Wyatt, Korboa, Beautyman, Randall, Bugiel, Rowe
As the rain lashes down the game gets underway and in the first 15, the lads settle in and create a couple of decent sighters with Wilson latching onto a loose ball on the edge of the box to bring a half decent save out of the keeper with a firm drive and Easty nipping in to nut just wide after a long throw is flicked on. The best oppo though comes midway through the half when Enzio gets in space wide and clips a cross in that Ritchie heads firmly on goal, but the keeper does well to claw out of the top corner. The best the Cobblers can manage is a lashed shot wide of the near post after a low ball is deflected into the path of their head bandaged number 32. But as the half winds down, the U’s comfortable performance is capped with a goal finally when Milsom whips a corner in far side and Joe Kizzi meets it in the crowd to head down and past the keeper into the back of the net. Get in there! It’s almost two right before the break as a loose ball drops to Boldewijn in the middle about 30 yards from goal, but his whipped shot dips just over the bar rather than under it.
One to the good at the break, I head down for a pie and some form of refreshment. Having checked out the rather sparsely stickered khazis first, sadly the only type of pie available is a Chicken Balti and not wishing to get into the sort of carry on that you find amongst some of the shady lot down at Tooting, I elect for a sausage roll instead. Back in the stands and now covered in pastry crumbs for the restart and any hopes the hosts had of getting back on terms are soon washed away in the unrelenting rain. Within 30 secs of the half kicking off, they’ve given the ball away in our half, a couple of little passes up the near touchline and Bennett’s dropped off his man to collect and poke a pass through to Donovan who once more shows his unerring finishing by thumping it low and hard through the keeper’s legs into the far corner and it’s once more jumpy jumpy time on the building site.
This seems to knock all the fight out of the locals and the second half is then largely played out to nothing but the voices of the 200 odd away fans and the players echoing around the ground. Ajiboye should make it 3 when Easty finds him on the overlap, but he wastes a great first touch with an ugly lash miles high and wide where more composure was required. Enzio then wriggles though on the near side soon after but he can’t guide the shot on target and it flashes just wide of the far post. Omar then comes on for Ritchie who’s put in another top shift and the Lebanese geeze sets about doing what he does best in being an absolute fucking nuisance. Smith & Wilson have sighters but both are firmly straight at the keeper and Kizzi has a poke that would surely have made it 3 blocked in the 6 yard box following a corner as the locals stream for the exits and can be seen trudging away in the rain up the hill behind Bouzanis goal. Bye lads!
The result is seen out with minimum fuss and at the final whistle the lads are greeted warmly by the travelling mob. First FL away win, 3 points, clean sheet and if I’m not mistaken, the oppo kept to not even a single shot on goal at home. Lovely job. Right, can we pack up and get drunk now please? We’re soon making that same trudge up the hill I mentioned earlier, but in slightly happier mood as we head for a nearby Hungry horse boozer for a pint and to set about rustling up some Sherberts for the trip back into town, with most of us not fancying the walk in the rain. Here we find, on the 2nd of October, the pub has a an Xmas display up that 4Days treats with the disdain it requires by unplugging half the fairy lights so that he can use the plug socket to charge his phone up.
Beers sorted, we agree that a half 6 leave from here is more than enough to get us into town, get cans and maybe some grub for the trip back to London. That’s the plan anyway, but as per usual with us and sherberts lately, we’re left high and dry (or not as we wait outside in the rain) as the cabs ordered and ‘due in 10 minutes’ around quarter past 6 don’t actually show up until almost 7pm, meaning we’ve fucked our intended train back. Of course, no one listens to my protests that we should have just got some of the electric hire scooters that are dotted around the place and silently motored back into town like a scene out of some sort of shit 21st century Quadrophenia remake.
Still, we’ve at least time for cans and back ont he 25 past to civilisation. With the break in the pints caused by the taxi debacle, most agree that an ealry arrival back into town requires a visit to the Euston Tap for a couple of liveners. Outside the boozer, we find familar faces in Keepo, Vegan Bev, Smarty and that boozy blogger who thinks he’s an entertainer, as well as some Haringey Borough fans who it turns out know not one, but two of our lot and their acquaintances. There’s a couple sank here before we wave off our Non-League friends and having finished our own scoops head for the Underground and Victoria for the train home. A few are still keen at this point for a nightcap back in Sutton, but Steve heads for home, Greek, 4Days and Lil’ Chris hop off in the badlands and Totts and Indiana Jones stay on until Cheam. So I guess they’re a ‘no’ then? So it’s just myself, Belly, Mr X and Bev who wander into a pretty deserted Old Bank for a quick nightcap to round off the night. The fact the pub’s out of ice is all the motivation I need to rustle up a sherbert home as sit and drink my warm G&T.
Soon, my cab is outside and wishing everyone remaining all of the farewells, I’m off home to creep in and get to bed after a day on the gas without waking up Mrs Taz and getting myself a bollocking in the morning. This I somehow manage with the aplomb of a Sutton United defence keeping the home side without a shot on target away from home. Nope, I’ve no idea how either.