Welcome once more dear friends to the latest episode of a series we’re calling “This is just getting bloody silly now!” and what everyone else refers to as ‘The 2021/22 season’. This week, it’s the furthest north the U’s have ever been for a competitive game without actually entering the Irn Bru Cup (Ah Airdrie, good times!) and a League 2 visit to Carlisle’s Brunton Park. Now, this of course means Carlisle is quite the slap from here in sunny West Sutton. “How much of a slap Taz?” I hear you ask. Well dear reader, from SM1 to Paris is a mere 299 miles which includes having to go a less direct route via Calais. Carlisle? 330 miles. So yeah, it’s fucking miles away.
Of course, with such a long arduous journey as this before us, stopping over the night is the clear winner when we were booking the travel. And besides, pretty much none of us had ever had the pleasure of sampling the Cumbrian town’s delights previously. One deciding factor was the story in the news that Greek spotted that claimed a load of Scots had headed over the border for Hogmanay this year as basically sod all was open in Scotland due to the covids and the restrictions that brought. I’m not quite sure this is quite the glowing five star review on TripAdvisor that he and the others regard it to be, but there you go. So the travel sec set about getting us all sorted for the trip.
Due to how far away this is, this of course means a very early start on the Saturday morning for the usual 11am arrive to maximise the VDT’s. This was too much for the likes of Greek and Mr X who flat out noped it and decided they’d wander up Friday afternoon instead. This plan soon turned other heads with Magnum PI deciding the same and having found a cheapo ticket to Crewe, he too bailed from the Saturday morning Gandermonium wide awake club and joined the other two in heading up early. 4Days too chose this option although he’d be going to Newcastle instead for some CAMRA beer snobbing and would get the train across to Carlisle Saturday morning. This meant that the Saturday morning crew was reduced to the bare bones and it would just be myself, Belly and Robbo on the rattler up.
So, at five thrity in the AM, my alarm goes off and I’m quick to kill it’s screeching before it properly wakes Mrs Taz and gets me a right hander for my troubles. Cursing my sanity, I head for the bathroom and the usual morning admin. Half hour later I’m present, correct (if not in the head) and having bade my beloved farewell, I’m out the door having ordered a sherbert to East Croydon. I simply cannot leave anything to chance this morning as I’ve been given the responsibility of handling the tickets for the other lads. There’s no worries though and I barely break stride at the station, stepping straight onto a train to St Pancs. Lovely stuff! It’s a quiet trundle into town with the only distraction being some distinctive headgear on show. First a lad wearing a ‘Blue Square Bet’ beanie (remember them?!) which has me smiling and also a lass wearing an interesting sideways baseball cap with a woollen beanie on top combo. I doubt you’ll be seeing that on the runways at Paris fashion week any time soon. At St Pancs, I emerge from the depths of the Thameslink platforms and onto largely deserted London streets. A short walk later, I’m outside an equally deserted looking Euston, the first to arrive and with a good 40 minutes to kill until the train. Right, fucking bacon.
Sainsbury’s hot shelf provides the answer there and exiting the store I see Belly and Alan having just come out the Underground. Alan’s not on our tickets, but he’s on our train. Robbo soon emerges from inside and as we all scarf down bacon rolls, we’re serenaded by a couple of dogs yapping their heads off a few feet away, which their owners appear to think is adorable. They’re mistaken. Cuppas sourced and we’re on the train and departing dead on time for the three hours plus run towards not-quite-Scotland. With such a small group, there’s not much chatter and we all take time to catch up on some much needed kip. As we wind our way even norther, daylight breaks and we’re soon treated to some lovely scenery after Lancaster as we roll through the countryside, Lake District to our left, Yorkshire Dales to our right. Here we get chatting to a Scots lad who now lives in Liverpool. He’s heading to Carlisle to meet a mate for a day on the beers, something they do at the end of every month apparently and have done for several years. Ah, pub info ahoy! Sadly, our hopes are dashed. “We’ve never got further than the first Wetherspoons. We just meet there and never leave!”. Oh well, guess we’ll have to wing it then.
Approaching Carlisle, there’s updates from the advance party and also news that 4Days is in a spot of bother. It seems there’s a tree on the line just outside Newcastle and his first two trains across are cancelled. Apparently, if the 12.39 is binned too, he’ll miss kick off and possibly the game. Of course, as is the way with us wankers, sympathy is in short supply. Finally, we arrive at our destination and hop off the train into a clear but windy day, with the rather distinct odour of horse shit in the air. Lovely. A quick Googles and we locate our digs and get our march on to get bags tipped and hit the beers. Fortunately it’s a short walk away and in reception, we decide to let one of the advance party take the strain and store our crap. So I call Magnum to see if we can use his room, and after a few rings he answers. “Be down in a minute!” he says and hangs up. A minute later, he appears and reveals I’d interrupted him taking a shit. Lovely image that for this time of the morning, cheers mate. In the end, Mr X gets lumbered with storage duty though as he’s on the first floor and thus nearer. Amusingly, I get to watch him struggle with the door from reception as he can’t work his card key and when he finally opens it and finds me on the other side laughing moans that “You could have opened it for me!”. Yeah, but that wouldn’t have been funny!
Crap dropped, we skedaddle straight to the nearest Spoons, whilst I battle against a force 9 gale to go get some cash out of an ATM. It’s a several minute walk away but the hefty headwind turns into a helpful tail wind on the return leg and halves the journey time! In the pub, I find Magnum in the chair and refuse to believe his news that he’s bought me a pint of Abbott. “They were out of Doombar” he adds. Get fucked, I’m no beer snob by any stretch, but I’m not drinking either of that shite. Get me something else!! The first one of the day goes down swiftly whilst Greek humble brags about his upcoming safari holiday in Seth Ifrika as well as wondering what to call the next variant of Covid he’s probably going to be bringing back. He settles on ‘Barry’ although I do state that one thing I definitely wouldn’t want to experience is a dose of ‘Long Barry’. After a second, we’re going over the road next, to the Caledonian. Which is one of those Scottish type boozers that makes you think you’ve walked onto the set of ‘Still Game’. A quick Guinness here and a horse tip passed onto Greek & Magnum from the GMOSC twitter account (it doesn’t win), then we head back over the road to the Griffin, a large boozer with TV’s showing the Ross County v Rangers game. We do two here and then it’s the Crescent next, a nice little one room micropub with some nice seats and with a cocktail menu. Here Robbo indulges in a ‘Kinder surprise’, whatever the fuck that is and Magnum and I seat ourselves at a table right in the front window, no doubt scaring off any other prospective punters as the world’s worst window display.
Here we’re joined by Keepo and Bacon Roll’s lad, Harry, fresh off the train from London and we catch up on various bits and pieces. Our next stop is intended to be the Last Zebra, an interesting sounding bar and a bit of a joke on Greek’s upcoming holiday. Sadly though, the place is only allowing so many in and the lass at the desk by the entrance reckons she can’t “accommodate you all at the bar”. The fuck? So, instead we end up at some place over the road that’s a properly dreary old former CIU place. Fail. With time now getting on, we decide to head towards the ground and apparently the Beehive by Brunton Park is the place. So we amble the 10 minutes or so up the road, admiring all the old Georgian brick gaffs along the way that no doubt would cost the same as a studio flat back in Sutton. Sadly, the Beehive is packed and not letting any more on when we arrive, but we’re directed to the Rugby club over the road which is far less busy and here we’re finally joined by 4Days, fresh off a 2 hour plus bus ride from the centre of Newcastle. Still, at least he made it! A quick pint here and we’re back out and heading for the turnstiles. Time to get game faces on. Or at the very least not appear pissed so we get denied entry….
Bouzanis, Kizzi, Goodliffe, John, Milsom, Ajiboye, Boldewijn, Smith, Eastmond, Bennett, Olaofe. SUBS: Wyatt, Davis, Dundas, Nelson, Korboa, Wilson, Sho-Silva
Before the start, the hosts have a lovely little minute or so’s applause to remember fans they’ve lost in 2021. A nice touch. Despite losing Omar to illness the night before, the U’s start bright but despite largely dominating the first 20 mins of the first half, we’ve not got much in the way of chances to shout about. We soon put that right though as we work it wide, put the ball into the box and the hosts young on loan Southampton defender, who’s not had the best of games so far, nuts the ball straight to Issac just inside the box and he pings it low first time straight back past the keeper at his near post. Lovely stuff. God job Steve’s not here though, he wouldn’t have been impressed by that! The goal livens Carlisle up a touch and they have their best spell of the half following this. They almost level too, when they work it wide far side and the cross to the back post is headed against the upright with the attacker stretching for it. At this point, I’m aware that I’ve once more reminded that I’ve been a silly billy and not scoffed any soakage pre-match. Mr X appearing with a scotch pie is all the inspiration I need, nipping down to the concourse to bag myself two. Nom nom nom. Soon after my pies have disappeared into my face, the lads have a nice cushion to help their cause along.
Ali grafts to keep the ball in the middle, lays off to Ben and he pings it just over the halfway line into Bennett. Ritchie lays off to Easty, he finds Issac and he then lays that off back to Ritchie. Our former Carlisle player then advances a touch and threads a delightful ball in for the run of Ajiboye and Dave keeps his composure to shake off two defenders and slot home the second. It’s a cracking little move and one that shows that their gaffer’s pre-match bollocks about us being long ball to be exactly that. Up in the stands, a chant of “The Sutton’s going up with a tenner in the bank” starts up and rings out around a dejected Brunton Park. Long way back from here lads! Enzio has a shot well saved after coming in off the far touchline and that route back in is almost as far as ours home tomorrow right on the break, when Issac gets in again, forces a save and Bennett following up has his shot just blocked in the 6 yard box. Close!
So, 2 up at the break. Up in the stands, half time is spent milling about and wondering when this ridiculous stuff is going to finally peak. I do consider another scotch pie but decide two is probably enough for one day. Mr X is less worried about his waistline and tucks into his third, the greedy get. Back on the pitch, the hosts have clearly had a rollocking and come out with a bit more about them. However, we’re fine with that and them having lots of ball. We tuck in, 2 banks of four. Ok lads, what you got? Not much is the answer. They huff and puff and as it is, we have the first real sighter when Issac pounces on a poor touch by a defender and races clear. But their lad does well to make the ground up and block just as Issac shoots. Their best chances are a cross being nodded on and Louis having to get his nut on a header on goal from a late runner and Deano beating away a shot from 20 yards and that’s about it, despite them easily having about 65% possession. Near the end, Enzio really should put it to bed, but after another nice bit of football, he fires straight at the keeper after a little 1-2 with Wilson has set him away into the box. It doesn’t matter though and as the home fans start heading for the exits, another chorus of ‘tenner in the bank’ starts up to cheer the lads over the line and add a 2-0 win to the 4-0 pants down we gave this mob earlier in the season.
With the points and clean sheet sorted, it’s a quick sort out of the flag and back to the Rugby club to catch our breath. Here a couple of pints go down well as we chat to locals about the game and also note the couple of plaques on the wall that signify the water levels from flooding back in 2008. 4Days is quite smug as he’s the only one amongst us tall enough to be able to have continued to drink his pint and not drown. “You’d have been fucked in 2015 though!” I chuckle, pointing to another one at almost ceiling level a good 2 foot above even his freakishly far from the ground head. Eventually though, the Rugby club is closing at 7 so we head back to the digs as some of us need to get checked in still. Here we find several scantily clad perma-tanned lasses from Scotland checking in prior to a night out on the tiles. Up in my room, I find myself walking into a fucking sauna as the heater is on full bore ‘dying star’ setting. It’s genuinely a race to turn it off and get a window open to let some air in before I pass out. First stop after hotel admin is the Griffin again. Mostly as we know it’s got Sky and the Pizza Cup semi final draw is on after their 5.30pm game. To our eternal delight, we draw Wigan. Away. Midweek. Oh well, we gotta beat good sides to get there and win it, so may as well crack on now! At this point, Porn Star and Nutsack appear, still appearing remarkably fresh despite having been on the 6.06am train out of Euston this morning!
With this news of the draw to digest, some of the crew head for Walkabouts to get some dinner, but Dr bell and I, still stuffed full of scotch pies decide we want to drink on. So we pull an allowance from the whip and go for drinks in the ‘nicer’ part of town. This proves to be a total and utter fail. As one place I’ve earmarked is shut completely and 2 others are, like the Zebra earlier, only allowing bookings. Which is most annoying. Not wanting to be wandering the streets of Carlisle wasting VDT we immediately abandon our mission and return to the Griffin. Two here and then we wander a few yards down the road to the Cumbernauld Arms. Somewhere the Friday gang had been the night before and resoundingly given the thumbs down due to a shit DJ. It’s a bit rough round the edges admittedly, but no one seems bothered by a couple of foreigners and we get a couple down us. The real highlight here though is that the tiny gents has a splash man on duty offering various fragrances etc to pissing patrons and his full range of patter is about as stereotypical as you could possibly get. You know the type lads. “No spray, no lay”, “No splash, no gash”. That sort of thing. I politely refuse his offer but drop a couple of quid in his tray anyway purely for the entertainment value alone. As soon as I return to the bar and tell Belly of this, he’s off to see for himself and returns chuckling a couple of minutes later.
By this point, the Walkabout eaters are done and back in, you guessed it, the Griffin! So Belly and I leave the Cumbernauld and head back there, having to tiptoe round a proper little warzone in the street where one lad is in a right old state, sat up being attended to with claret everywhere. Another guy stands nearby in a similar state of disrepair whilst the local constabulary assist another gentleman into the back of a meat wagon. Nice! At the Griffin, we settle in for the last hour or so of the night as it’s not heaving and has a decent selection on the go. We get a good few more in and chat with various locals who’d been at the game earlier on. Most are very complimentary about the lads performance and understandably rather downbeat about their own prospects. Finally, last orders is called and we stumble out into the cold night air and as everyone else toddles off home, Dr Bell and I finally get the munchies. So we head into a chicken place over the road but not before another local’s stopped us to let us know how well he thought we’d played. His missus rolls her eyes as she plainly wants to carry on elsewhere for a drink and not be talking shit football outside a chicken shop “He’s not shut up since the match about how organised your team were!” she complains. Haha! Now if that’s not the ultimate compliment, I dunno what is!
Back at the hotel with scoff, the security lad on duty lets us sit downstairs and eat. On the tv there, he’s keeping himself entertained by watching rubbish football hoolie flick ‘Green Street’. This cracks us up as we make matey’s watch through far more entertaining by ripping the piss out of the really bad ‘faaahckin laaaahndan accents on display. I also help a couple of lasses stumbling in late with some financial assistance, changing up their fiver so they can pull a couple of bottles of water from the vending machine. Proper fucking white knight me! Right, I’m off to Bedfordshire. G’night!
With the Friday gang having indicated that it was probably best to be up early for breakfast to ensure the buffet is at it’s freshest, my alarm sounds at half 8. So I stumble into my gear and head downstairs for all the tea, bacon and industrial quantities of toast. Here I find Greek, Belly and Mr X already tucking in. So be rude not to get involved! The lad running the dining room is a Carlisle fan and another one impressed with our performance and less so with his own team’s struggles. With scoff done, I head back upstairs and crawl back into my pit for another hours snoozing before I have to actually get up, shower and make the long hike back to London with the rest of the gang. As we wait for everyone to assemble in reception, Greek’s delight at the Roomba type robot vacs patrolling the corridors is revealed as he’s been filming one in action. He also admits he apologised to it when stepping over it on his way to the lift!
At the station, we find a couple more Sutton fans are about, with CoCs Paul heading home, as well as Sal with one of her young’uns. They however are doing the sensible thing and using this train to go the whole way back to London. Us however, we’re saving a few quid by breaking the journey a couple of times with changes at Preston and Crewe. Amusingly, Greek realises that all 3 trains we’re getting end up in Euston, but we’re getting off two of them. The trip home is uneventful and goes to schedule. The last leg provides some final amusement as Magnum heads off to the bog in our half of the train for a tip out but finds there is no bog paper, thwarting his plans. Of course, we’re all completely sympathetic and start offering him the napkins from our lunch purchases at Crewe for vastly inflated prices. Eventually he realises that he can get to the other half of the train and scuttles off to use the facilities there, only to find the khazi at our end is the only working one on the service!! In a final desperate appeal, we asks the guard if he can transplant some bum rag from one of the others to the remaining working shitter. Thankfully for him, he agrees and we sit chuckling as the guard walks past us, bog paper in hand.
Back in London, Greek darts off for a Covid test in Waterloo so he can get his flight to SA tomorrow, Robbo heads for the Northern Line and the rest of us head for St Pancs and the Thameslink home. Here Magnum and I are treated to a staggering sight of our train arriving TEN minutes early. A Thameslink. Early. And not only that, by TEN minutes?? Madness. Less than an hour later, I’m hopping off a bus outside HQ having waved off Magnum a couple of stops before. Another cracking weekend with Matty Gray’s Amber Army comes to a close. And just when will this bloody mad old ride end eh?
Actually, hold that thought, I’m bloody starving. I wonder what’s for tea??