The clocks have gone forward and it’s now dark when you get up as well as go to bed, the trees are dumping leaves all over the shop and ruddy cheeked children will soon be playing conkers the length and breadth of the nation once more. Which can mean only one thing ladies and gentlemen, it’s FA Cup 1st round time! Now this year’s a bit different for us than normal, as usually we’d have had to slog nervously through a couple of contests just to get to this point, but having now been elevated to the billy big bollocks ranks, it means we get to skip waiting in line outside with all the other plebs and instead get whisked straight into the club without so much as a second glance from the bouncer.
It’s quite fitting then that with our new found considerably more superior than yow status that this year is actually our 100th shot at the FA Cup. History right there. Although, we’re just as aware that it would also be just as fitting to go get our arses dumped out by some old non-league scuffers we used to tear it up with year on year. Hey, if nothing else, we’re all too aware of our roots, where we came from and just how much we liked making the lives of some Great
92 72 members a bit more difficult ourselves in those past 100 years.
My prediction pre-season was that we’d get drawn at some old Isthmian rival came true when the old velvet bag revealed we’d be traipsing over to West London and a meeting with old friends Hayes AND Yeading, with the two having merged back in 2007 in an attempt to form some sort of non-league powerhouse superclub. And it initially worked, with them in the National League within a year or two and hanging around for a couple being fairly competitive. But then came the fall, as they finally sold up Hayes classic non-league gaff Church Road and whilst playing out at Woking, slipped back into the Conf South soon after. Playing outside their home borough had the effect it does on all sides that suffer this fate and within 5 years they were down in the 7th tier. There was also a proper palaver on building their new drum on the site of Yeading’s old Warren and someone must have had their snout in the trough somewhere down the line as they sold a prime bit of West London suburban land for housing and got a barely finished one stand effort in return. Still, at least they’re home now and seeing the benefits as they’re back at Southern Prem level and currently unbeaten this season. So should be a doddle for the injury ravaged U’s!
Hayes also played a small part in the current trajectory that we find ourselves on. Back almost 5 years to the day, we lost 1-0 at home to a rubbish HandY side in the Conference South. This defeat was so bad, so upsetting, so infuriating that we decided to start winning. A lot. This spawned what is now known in PROWS legend as ‘The Run’, the 26 match unbeaten streak that saw us pip Ebbsfleet to the title and we’ve never really looked back since. So, cheers Hayes. It all started with you. Eh, what’s that? Free run in today’s tie and spot in the second round as repayment? Yeah, get tae fuck with that lads.
With the trip being a relatively short one in travelcard range, that gives the rabble that rare joy of a lie in for an awayday. I milk this for all I can, but come 9am I have to get my arse out of my pit and sort my shit out as I’ve a little errand to make before heading into town. I’ve some post to send and this means I’ll wander into the badlands, hit the post office and then skip to Carshalton station for the rattler into town unlike my usual East Croydon run. I head out into the warm morning sun and find a 407 due imminently. Lovely stuff as this saves me the walk and gives me time to sort some scoff for breakfast. As the bus reaches Wallington Green, I’ve got my headphones in and realise a little too late that I’m blocking an old boy wishing to alight. I apologise, but he’s not impressed and gives me the evils before moving his head really quite close to mine. Erm, are you just a bit unsteady on your feet there fella or did you just try and stick the nut on me? I’m not sure! Shaking off this encounter and with my use of the Royal Mail concluded, I’m into Galaxy Cafe over the road for 2 bacon rolls and a cup of splosh and then heading to the station with the hot cuppa burning my hand.
I scoff my breakfast on the platform and soon after 4Days and Lil’ Chris appear to join me. The Victoria train appears on time and we trundle north on the first leg of the journey. Things are clear and just a touch after 11, we find ourselves heading upstairs at Paddington station to the Mad Bishop & Bear for today’s meet up. The place is awash with various travellers such as Wolves and other assorted football fans and rugby weirdos heading to both Cardiff and Twickenham. In the boozer we find Mr X, Magnum PI, Robbo and Indy already parked up and a pint on the go. Best join them then! We’ll be spending the pre-match VDT here locally, as the areas around Hayes\Yeading is not the best for pubbage and we can’t be arsed researching it. Here we down the one to set the ball rolling, whilst Mr X continually annoys a bloke at the next table by accidentally knocking into his chair and then abandoning a visit to the kahzi when he finds the gents shut, a load of Rugby lads using the ladies and a very annoyed female patron kicking off about the odd shaped ball mob no doubt pissing all over the seats in the traps. Best move on I think lads!
Next up, we hit the Waverley just down from the station and opposite the cafe that Magnum and Robbo had tucked into a full English not long before. It’s a pint here and then next to the Sussex Arms just up the road. A pub so non-pub looking that I basically walk right past the place and only realise we’re here when everyone else disappears inside. Wakey wakey Taz! Inside, it’s a bit shiny and new and Mr X is greatly concerned that this “Isn’t really us is it?”. Still, it does a pint and the interesting airline\Concorde decor is interesting to say the least, with the seating in the middle of the bar area actually those from the now long scrapped supersonic airline. So naturally I partake, recline the fucker and sup away. Although my little rich flying fantasy is a little deflated by 4Days complaints about the seating not being suitable for someone as freakishly tall as he.
Next up is the Victoria, a further short stroll away just off Gloucester Square. We dawdle a little here, mainly as we find ourselves poking our noses into a couple of the little mews dotted along the way. Mr X and I both agreeing that any lottery win would naturally see one of these purchased. One each of course, not together. That would be weird. The Victoria is a lovely old Fullers boozer and we settle down for a couple here while we take stock of time and further pubbage. With the clock ticking, we decide that we’ll hit one more before a quick dash back to Paddington for the train to Southall. The last stop on our wander is the Swan just round the corner in Lancaster Gate. A boozer I’ve been in a few times before over the years, but that I’d last visited the evening of London being awarded the 2012 Olympics to have a beer with some Austrian friends over on business and the evening prior to the 7th July terrorist attacks. Weird how one’s memory recalls such pointless details yet won’t retain what I was doing prior to Thursday this week. Robbo peels off here and heads back to Paddington as he doesn’t fancy the walk after and we down our pint before making the dash back.
We’re in plenty of time for the rattler out and as we sit down to partake in the short trundle West, we note with confidence that we’ve not left it too late as there’s a number of fellow U’s on this one, including members of the Cocktail Crew. Still, we formulate a plan to rustle up some Ubers at the station and have them whisk us to the ground for kick off. However, if you’re familiar with the activities of this here blog, you’ll know that we’re fucking awesome at plans. Less so on the execution. So, predictably, as we leave the stop before Southall, the attempts to get some sherberts fail miserably with some showing up to a 20 minute wait for them to arrive.
This won’t fly given that we’ll be getting in with about 30 minutes to kick off. So we spot up some other options and there’s a couple of buses that are pretty regular and will do as a substitute. Sadly, plan B also gets soundly slapped senseless by reality as when we hit the mean streets of Southall, we find that the main road leading down towards the bypass just after the ground is absolutely gridlocked. Which probably explains the issue with the sherbets and means a bus would be of little use. Those of us who are able decide to just suck it up and get our march on, double timing it towards Springfield Road whilst Robbo opts for a bus and a sit in the traffic.
Time ticks away as we march along the busy high street and we resign ourselves to missing the kick off. Still, we’re at least amused by the fact that Chalmers has been at the ground a good while now but can’t get in to the game as Mr X has his ticket on him. Every little helps when it comes to group morale, I can tell you! Eventually, after a wrong turn by 4Days insisting there’s a cut through when there isn’t, the ground eventually hops into view and we find Chalmers at the turnstiles waiting. As we approach, we hear a whistle go and assume that’s the match starting. It’s actually the ref signalling the start of the Rememberance minutes silence and PC’s loud “You took your fucking time!” echoes across the industrial estate. Ooops.
Bouzanis, Wyatt, Rowe, Goodliffe, Kizzi, Ajiboye, Smith, Milsom, Randall, Bugiel, Olaofe SUBS: House, Korboa, Boldewijn, Sho-Silva, Davis, Dundas, Wilson
It’s a bit nippy out and there’s a stiff breeze swirling about the place as the game gets underway. This means that what follows will forever be filed under “forgettable” as both sides fail to find any sort of rhythm. The first half takes forever to produce any incident and for us, the best chance of the half comes from Dave putting a ball in from wide, Omar chesting down and Issac’s rising shot being tipped over by the keeper. We don’t manage anything better than that, meanwhile at the other end, Bouzanis is untroubled with their best effort being ex-U Moses Emmanuel poorly nutting a free header from a free-kick well wide of the far post. They look ok on the ball, but their play lacks any of the real bite we were expecting from our own many years of watching non-leaguers battle Football League oppo. At the break, it’s of course goalless and it’s fair to say the highlight of the half is finding out how late a lot of away fans have got in after kick off having either misjudged the trip from Southall station, or like Greek and Dukey, finding out that their Sat nav’s preferred route over Hammersmith bridge was boned by the crossing being closed for roadworks.
The second half has a bit more life to it than the first, but that doesn’t include an upturn in quality. The hosts have a couple of sighters midway through the half where Deano has to earn his corn, one where we lose possession in midfield and a lad finds he has time and space to have a pop, but the Aussie stopped palms away the dipping 20 yarder. Then soon after, midfield is again the issue with a ball in behind forcing Deano off his line to stand up and make a block from the runner’s shot. We make a change and bring on Wilson for Issac and this does the trick with 20 to go as he has a run in space between midfield and defence, feeds the ball in behind for Randall, who just a minute before we were discussing the replacement of as we didn’t think he’d done much, to curl a sweet effort from the 18 yard line beyond the keeper and into the far corner! Get in! And yes, Sky\BT, we are still available on the same number if you need any punditry doing lads. Usual rates.
The goal takes the wind out of the hosts sails a bit and it’s not until the last couple that they really have a go for an equaliser. Their best chance comes with about 5 to go, a corner isn’t cleared, the ball back in looks nailed on Deano’s but Wyatt doesn’t hear the shout and ends up heading back on his own goal. Thankfully Kizzi does enough to distract the red shirt on the post and he nods wide of the target from about a yard out. That’s all she wrote for the non-league lads and the final whistle is greeted with some relief in the away end although it could have been a lot lot worse. Lads applauded off, we head for the bar to let the crowd die off and so we can sort cabs out of here, albeit we’ll be going to Hayes & Harlington instead. Sod sitting in those roadworks!! Two pints later in a very basic, bare walled bar area that is a stark reminder of the issues they had and are still having getting this place finished and a brief discussion about Mr X’s admission that he’s sure he and one of the locals present shared an emotional embrace at Church Road a few years back on the last day after we lost there, sending Carshalton down and saving the Missioners from the drop, we’re back trying to the important business of sorting transport.
I’m first in, getting myself a lad who’s barely half a mile away and already on Springfield Road. And that’s about as good as it gets. For some odd reason, he heads in the opposite direction, away over the bypass and then spends 10 minutes sitting in a side street doing nowt. Meanwhile Mr X sorts his out only to find the lad refuses to take 4 for covid reasons and Magnum returns to be stuck with us still trying to get something. As I fiddle with my phone outside having cancelled the previous attempt, a Land Rover turns up and the chap driving enquires if we’re stuck. Magnum explains the situation and having established we’re going to Hayes & Harlington and that’s on his way, he offers us a lift as long as we can do Sat nav duty. Sorted! It turns out Martin is from MBuzz Sports and is one of the U’s new investors in the last year or two and is over on a visit from his middle eastern base. He drops us at a pub just by the station and bids us farewell, having done us a massive favour there. Inside, we find Mr X and the others, plus a load of other Sutton faces all getting in the swim with pints.
We have a couple here, whilst Robbo briefly nods off from the exertions of the day so far and the feeling amongst the travellers is one of ‘shit game but job done’. Here we also discover that Dancing Marcus’ missus was on her first awayday today, poor sod and that Bev considers her daughter’s cat the closest thing she has to grandkids. Even producing pictures of it to try and persuade us of it’s undeniable cuteness and Smarty tells us the tale of a couple of their coaches getting told to pipe down during the game after loudly giving their lads advice from inside the away end. There’s also an old boy sat in watching QPR away at Blackpool on the box and he’s the owner of a fine 80’s vintage lairy QPR jacket that gets full style points from all present. Before long though, we head for the train back into town and walking up to the station, Mr X and I try & get our bearings from past visits to the old Church Road ground a short walk away, but even though it’s dark we can tell that Hayes high street and surrounds has changed massively since we were here more than a decade ago when a local newspaper ad board carried the headline of “Why Hayes Isn’t Crap!”.
Back in Paddington, a sleepy Robbo departs and the rest of us hit the Pride of Paddington outside for a couple more, then we say our farewells to the others and Mr X, myself, Magnum, 4Days, Indy & Chris hop on the tube round to Farringdon for a change of scenery. Here we hit the Hope in sight of Smithfields market and I have an odd exchange with a bunch of lads in the gents who seem to have randomly recognised each other from some club all nighter a few weeks back. With drinks done here we agree to one more at the Castle by the station before heading for home. Here there’s debate about the trains being shafted or not and how absolutely starving everyone currently is having not really had any grub today at all. Mr X attempts a pizza order from a nearby Papa Johns but abandons this due to train delay fears. In the end, we sup up and head down to the platform with the Republic bound party heading off first, leaving Magnum and myself to get back to East Croydon. Still Hank Marvin, I sadly believe the Googles in relation to the closing time of the McDonalds by East Croydon station and just hop on a bus home only to find it still brightly lit and churning out Deliveroo orders as we drive past. Useless internet search bastards!! Give me fucking Alta Vista any day of the week.
To make matters worse, even Beddington Kebab just up the hill from HQ is shut so I wave goodbye to Magnum here with my belly now very full of beer and not much else at all. Oh well, I guess a sandwich it is when I get in then instead of greasy grot! I head in trying to ensure I don’t rouse my good lady and head straight for the kitchen, where I have what can only be described as a truly heaven sent moment when I find a full pack of Lidl’s pork pies in the fridge. Get in my face you lifesaving little meat & pastry bastards.
Fucking love pork pies I do.