Well now me old chinchillas. Been a while since I winged your a love letter from the South Coast but this close to Valentine’s Day it’s nice to be rubbing up against you again in the football blogging equivalent of the Clouseaus Erection Session. Too much? I haven’t even started with you yet my mates.
Like any died in the wool ducker and diver I’ve been taking any available opportunity to have a squint at the old Winter Olympics. Obviously I love the curling but some of the other stuff with mad bastards in pink leotards hurling themselves head first down an icy cliff on a beer tray is huge fun and got me to thinking back to a little known sport that I was involved in the invention of and which in my opinion is worthy of inclusion as an Olympic event; Toilet Tennis
Back in the summer of 81 I was lounging around the porters mess at the Royal Marsden, smoking, farting and swapping banter with the rest of the day shift but we were constantly on the lookout for other ways to break the monotony and maybe be there at the birth of a new sporting dynasty.
An early effort I recall was Loading Bay Ping Pong. This involved strapping a couple of students, who used to come and work with us in the summer to take the strain off the old lags, into wheel chairs while two groups of porters stood each end of the loading bay with a fire hose and tried to drive their lad towards the opposition with a jet of water. A winning score was when your wheelchair, with the contestant in situ, hit the oppositions wall. It was mayhem, but unfortunately we were grassed up and the management put a stop to it. Shame. And don’t bother berating me about being nasty to students, you really will be wasting your breath. Seriously.
But it forced us to set our minds to an indoor alternative and thus the sport of toilet tennis was born. This is how it worked. The two players were allocated an adjacent toilet trap and had to remain seated on the shitter at all times. The objective was to lob a full bog roll over the partition and try and get it to hit the floor in the opposition court which would secure you a point. It had to be released within a ten second limit. The receiving player had to try and catch the served up roll before it reached the deck and then lob it back. Scoring was exactly the same as lawn tennis with love, deuce, tie breaks and all that bollocks.
With the doors left open an eager and expectant crowd would gather to witness this extraordinary spectacle and shout abuse and encouragement. Chanting was soon normal and crowd violence not unusual in scenes that risked shaming the new and beautiful game of toilet tennis. Word soon went round the hospital and crowds grew and it wasn’t unusual to see one of Britain’s top oncologists on the front line, fag in hand singing “you’re shit and you know you are”. Staff nurses on their break in full uniform were actively encouraged to join the throng in the tight available space for reasons which were acceptable forty years ago but would definitely be frowned upon now. I won’t go into further details as I don’t want to risk a clout from the Duchess of Fife.
For a brief moment in the summer of 81 toilet tennis was all the rage, well at least in one smoke filled khazi in a corner of Belmont. But for reasons all too familiar in the modern game the novelty soon wore off. Gambling on matches was rife and once again the motivations of the money men corroded what had begun as just a joyous celebration of sporting excellence. There were allegations of match rigging, players throwing games for a cut of the filthy lucre and cheating was exposed when a contestant was found to have inserted a lead weight in the roll on a crucial point. It ruined it for me and like many others I walked away and the whole sport simply died on its arse. We went back to simpler pursuits, but in its heyday, no one can deny that toilet tennis was king.
What the fuck has all that got to do with the football match in the South West you’re supposed to be covering I hear you cry? Well, it’s a salutary lesson for all of us that we should take nothing for granted and that applies as much to us Sutton fans as we continue to perform out of our skins at lofty heights of League Two in another extraordinary season for Matty Gray’s Amber Army. Having trundled up for Saturday’s excellent showing against league leaders Forest Green I was reminded that I had volunteered to cover the Bristol game on the Tuesday night as the Gandermonium team of highly paid hacks -Taz and occasionally these days Duke – were AWOL.
No drama. My eldest daughter lives in Bristol and having not seen her since Christmas I made arrangement to pootle down from The ‘Stings and stay over for the night. Two options for the journey. Head up the A21 and do the M25/M4 motorway thing or take the more time consuming but technically more direct scenic route cross country on the A roads. Would have made sense if the weather was decent but in the relentless pissing rain I abandoned the plan on the Hogs Back just outside Guildford to pick up the M4 and rock up in good time to make our pre-match reservation in a local vegan tapas bar. Now I don’t mind a bit of the old vegan grub as it goes but I find it can play havoc with my volatile Newingtons and so I was delighted to find that I could land myself some chorizo in red wine and a bit of fish in amongst all the plant based gear. With a bottle of Malbec on the go I was like a pig in shite and downing a final Cognac we were off in a sherbet well in time for kick off.
I’ve not been to the Rovers Memorial Ground before and in fact I’d not been to football in Bristol itself of any kind since a Chelsea FA Cup game sometime in the very early nineties that was memorable only from the incessant and wall to wall mayhem from start to finish. It was all a very long time ago and I’m sure some of my old mates will be able to furnish you with full details on request. You could start with Bobby Bollocks and then work your way through the card.
Traffic round the ground is rammers and looks like a big crowd for the night and so the cab drops us off a reasonable walk away within sight of the floodlights and as we stroll up the hill an old playground rhyme from my childhood is lodged in my head….
The Bristol Rovers were playing at home, parlez vous
The Bristol Rovers were playing at home, parlez vous
The Bristol Rovers were playing at home, kicked the fart from here to Rome
Inky, pinky parlez vous?
A stone cold classic. Picking up some tickets I bump into Frakey and congratulate him on his essay on the history of the GGL car park that was served up luke warm as Saturday’s blog. He grunts and scowls at me, but over the years I’ve learnt to take such rudeness as terms of endearment and friendship, but with Britain’s bentest croupier crooked Ces swerving the trip there is at least no DILF Bingo for us to get irate about. I catch up with Mr X, Chalmers, Clivey, Southampton Steve and a few other faces and before long we are stamping our feet in the charming little Gymkana away stand and the teams are out to the strains of Goodnight Irene, a Leadbelly tune I’ve been known on occasion to pump out on the old punk rock banjo. You’d love it.
Bouzanis, Kizzi, Wyatt, Goodliffe, Rowe, Smith, Ajiboye, Davis, Boldewijn, Bugiel, Wilson. SUBS: Nelson, Randall, Dundas, Korboa, Beautyman
From the line up, we look stretched for personnel and as the gaffer told us over a few nice scoops on Saturday a few of those turning out are carrying knocks. Was always going to be an issue for us with the tight numbers in the squad which makes our epic achievements so far this season even more impressive. The Gas start brightly and with their noisy home support behind them they seem to sense we are not quite right tonight. After a couple of warnings we give them too much time and space on the ball and end up a goal behind and if I’m honest I’m fearing this might be the night we come a bit unstuck. Up front Dave in particular looks lively but the sharpness across the pitch which was a feature on Saturday as we took the game to FGR is missing. We look a bit leggy, and not in a sexy way.
In first half extra time a particularly tired and clumsy challenge gifts the home side a penalty but Deano guesses right and makes a fine save to give us hope as we go into the break. Me, I’m cheered up finding a derelict turnstile block sadly stripped of its internal hard wear but horny as fuck none the less. So with renewed hope, we start the second half with a lively attack and have what I thought was a reasonable penalty shout waved away and with the ball pinged straight out down our flank, Deano charges out like a man possessed for a clearance he never had any chance of making. Their lad beats him to it and sweeps the ball into the empty net from the angle. Christ knows why he does stuff like that and I doubt he does either but it kills the game stone dead. We keep going like we always do and there’s no rout to follow but when the ref finally blows the whistle on a disappointing night it’s a bit of a relief as we head off into the night to find our way home.
We will bounce back, we always do but looking at the weather forecast for Friday and Saturday I can only wish the Amber Army making the trip to Hartlepool the best of luck. Take it easy me old chinchillas.