Ah football. As a sport it can be a funny sort sometimes, giving you the most incredible highs one day and then giving you the cold shoulder and leaving you wondering why you bother at all the very next. This week’s been a good example to be honest, a good home league win followed up by the shootout madness to earn a Wembley appearance on Tuesday, we’re back to earth with a bump at Walsall yesterday. And I don’t mean just the fact we were having to go to Walsall.
With the shift put in by the lads on Tuesday, especially in that last 15 or so where we really had to dig in and withstand all that late pressure, I’ll admit I travelled to just near Birmingham today not expecting much. With a small squad and a couple of injuries and knocks bothering us, we were always going to be up against it in busy periods of the season like we’re seeing currently. Games come thick and fast and it’s sometimes tough to get life back into tired legs. Still, it is what it is, we just have to suck it up, get our heads down and plough on, hoping we come out the other side smelling of daisies.
Speaking of tired legs, Jesus this week’s been a struggle after Wigan! I’m getting way way too old to be doing that sort of a pub shift on a school night. Sure, it was all great fun at the time, but my god I’ve been feeling it since. But hey, that’s my problem not yours and I’m definitely not angling for any cheap sympathy regarding my self inflicted ailments. Oh no. Not me. I’d never cheapen this upstanding online publication in that way. Ahem.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, Walsall away. We’d last met back in October where the U’s suffered a rare home defeat in a largely forgettable game settled by the one real flash of quality on the day, so we were heading North again today hoping for a little bit of payback for that result if not overly confident as we fully expect a few bodies to be rotated for this one. Still, an awayday is an awayday. Up at 7, a quick shower and the usual and I’m out the door by half past. A bus soon rocks up, East Croydon is next up and after a brief wait there, a train to St Pancs is boarded. All going well! As we trundle into town, my tiredness mentioned earlier comes home to roost and I briefly nod off as the train sits at Blackfriars, waking up soon after as the train trundles through a tunnel. Oh shit. This could be bad! This means I’ve either just slept through my stop and this is the bit after St Pancs, or the bit immediately before it after Farringdon. Only time will tell!!
Fortunately, St Pancras International appears a few moments later and my heart rate returns to normal. Stepping onto the platform, I’m on my toes and soon strolling through the backstreets towards Euston with the sun in the sky and a curse on my breath about probably having too many layers on. It’s not long before I’m into the square outside the station 20 mins or so before departure to find the rest of the mob mooching about waiting. Greek, Mr X, Magnum, Robbo, Indy, Dukey and Dr Bell will be making up the travelling party today and with Mr X having handed over tickets, I head off to Sainos as per to raid their hot food cabinet for some bacon. Supplies sorted, it’s back to the gang and we head for platform 7 to get our train to Brum. For budgetary reasons, we’ve gone cheap and cheerful today, so are rumbling to our destination with London North Western and the trip time is around 2 hours. So naturally, having got settled in, we pass the time talking shite as per usual.
The first order of business is what’s our cup final song going to be. This was discussed at length during the week on the top secret, VIP only Whatsapp thingy, where we mostly bullied Sleepy Joe into doing one given that Totts has no studio available currently. This discussion also included Greek suggesting a load of shit as possible songs and displaying about as much talent for song writing as I have translating ancient Sumerian manuscripts. He also revealed, much to my and Mr X’s disgust that he dislikes the Proclaimers ‘Sunshine on Leith’. Naturally, we punish this stupidity by whistling the first few opening bars of the song at various points throughout the day. Next up is chat about what time everyone turned in on Tuesday, with the car mob then discussing the ‘Dogging caravan on the downs’ still being in situ this week when passing by. Most of us change the subject here to taking the piss out of Magnum’s height or lack thereof following his photo being taken at the Papa Johns promotion in Carshalton on Monday where it was revealed that even diminutive Sutton winger David Ajiboye is taller than West Sutton’s foremost PI. Most of all this is interspersed with Greek constantly complaining about how long the journey is and berating Mr X for booking us on such a long winded service.
Eventually though, we near Brum and after a chap has passed through the carriage declaring that he ‘loves being a smackhead’ we eventually roll into New Street shortly after 11. Time to get our pint on! With the time on our side, we emerge into a sunny midlands day and immediately head for our favourite haunt in these parts, the Post Office Vaults. Which is of course fucking shut when we get there. Grumbling, we loop back round to the Shakespeare, an early opening Nicholsons gaff opposite the station we’ve used before and finally start catching up on some VDT. Here I decide to head for a tactical poo and occupy the one trap in the khazis. Outside, a chap who came in after me seems to be taking a long time over his piss and washing his hands. So much so, that he’s still there after I’ve wiped and flushed. As I wash my own hands, he heads for the trap, and on getting a nostril full of South west London waste, he decides that the beak he was definitely not going in there to snort really isn’t that necessary after all and beats a hasty retreat. Sorry mate. Drugs are bad m’kay!
We have 2 in the Shakespeare and as the level of Stone Island and daft goggled jackets increases, we head back to the Post Office Vaults after a quick check of their website and a call ahead has revealed they now open at noon. We stumble down into this little cellar bar and get some beers ordered up and look to get a game of bar billiards underway. Sadly this is not possible as it turns our some skanky bastard has nicked the all important mushrooms for the table. Seriously, what has this country become?? At the bar, a gent finds himself refused service as he can only produce a pic on his phone of his passport to prove his age and not the document itself. The barman’s refusal to accept it then draws an accusation of racism from the mixed race chap at which the lad behind the jump takes mortal offence to and simply advises the geezer to fuck off. Here, with no bar billiards to distract us, the attention turns to our next favourite hobby after watching Sutton and boozing. Which is flat out abusing each other.
Magnum, still smarting from the heightist abuse on the way up, goes on the offensive, giving out all sorts to anyone who has wronged him. So much so that even a massive troll like Dukey is a little taken aback. “Fuck me, who’s put 50p in him then??”. Mr X and Greek retaliate and before long everyone is in hysterics as the abuse reaches a crescendo and the rest of the pub’s bemused clientele looks on. It gets so bad at one point that I suggest the next round be mineral waters for everyone, in plastic glasses lest someone lose an eye. Of course I don’t escape sanction and as per, Magnum digs me out further about my Papa Johns ‘bandwagon jumping’. Here I declare that I’d largely decided to ‘fuck it off until the final’ but hadn’t been able to for one reason or another. Also, if you are someone who tossed it off until we got to the big show, look out for this bit of merchandise hitting the Gandermonium store soon which we’ll be knocking out just for you.
At this point, we decide to make a move as the trains to Walsall seem to be on the fritz and we’re basically left with just the one option at 14.27, which makes getting in by kick off a touch tight, but doable. With Greggs patisserie next to the pub raided of all it’s goodies whilst we’re serenaded by some geezer from the local Communist party spouting his stuff in the square outside, we then head for the train and the football. Our rattler is on time and we make the short ride out to Bescot, a stop pretty much in the shadow of the M6, which the ground sits next to. Along the way, we find out that a late change has to be made to the side as Bouzanis has tweaked his calf in the warm up and Stuart Nelson will be making his debut today. A walk under the motorway later and across the carpark and we’re into the away end with a few minutes to spare. Timing! Right, let’s get this flag up and this show on the road.
Nelson, Kizzi, Wyatt, Rowe, Goodliffe, Eastmond, Beautyman, Korboa, Boldewijn, Wilson, Bennett SUBS: House, Bugiel, Ajiboye, Milsom, Randall, Dundas, Kouassi
As expected, Matty makes a few changes today before even having to swap out Deano. Omar, Dave and Rob Milsom all on the bench, with Louis missing out altogether. In from the off is Ricky Korboa for a rare start, so we’re all hoping he can show us what he can do from the off. The first half is a bitty affair and much like the game at our place, there’s really nothing much to write home about. The ref is being a touch home leaning, taking almost half an hour to award us our first free-kick. Our best sighter is Ricky hitting a first time shot into the side netting from a decent spot after Bennett’s nod down, but our attacking options aren’t helped when Wilson departs inside 20 mins to be replaced by Omar up top. With the hosts working hard to deny us any space at all, their own attacking efforts are almost zero. Then on half hour, a ball into the channel is chased down by their tall forward and Joe Kizzi with a shoulder to shoulder challenge sending the striker sprawling and the ref can’t get the pen awarded fast enough.
Naturally, the lads are proper pissed and protest vehemently, but no dice and the pen is sent down the middle with Nelson guessing to his right and we’re a goal down. To add insult to injury, the scorer runs over to give it the biggun to the away fans. Wait a minute, that ugly prick looks familiar? It turns out it’s that bellend Wilkinson who’d done exactly the same thing at Dagenham a couple of seasons back after scoring against us. The bizarre thing being that on both occasions the Sutton support hasn’t so much acknowledged his existence let alone dug him out. Sorry Connor, you’re going to have to show us on the doll where they touched you mate as we’ve not got a fucking clue what your problem is you ugly lanky prick. Later research reveals he was born in Croydon, so our best guess is Sutton either knocked him back as a kid and he took it very badly or, as is more likely, he’s just a cunt.
Sutton respond to going behind with Harry having a volley blocked in the box and a peno shout of our own waved away when Kizzi is flattened in the box going for the ball after a free kick. The lads are incensed and surround the ref to remonstrate, salt then being added to the wound as a goal kick is awarded when even we could see from the far end their lad had touched it last. Our annoyance is made worse when right on the break, one of their lads runs Harry into the goal support at our end seeing the ball out and pulls up. Naturally, the ref does fuck all about this too. Naturally, this means Harry won’t reappear after the break meaning an already rejigged side has had to make 2 subs with half the game gone. After the restart, we have a couple of bright minutes as we set about trying to get back into the game, but after that we spend a lot of time defending, sadly mostly due to our own problems with giving away possession more than the oppo’s own efforts. Nelson has to make a couple of decent saves and almost gifts them a second when caught in possession in the box by pricko from the penalty. But Coby’s having none of it and crashes into a superb recovery challenge to make the block and save his keeper’s blushes.
An ineffective Korboa is subbed off for Ajiboye as time ticks down and this finally sparks a little bit of life into us as they sit in more to try & protect the lead. As it is, Dave makes a couple of mazy darts, but as they have all afternoon, they simply crowd the flanks, sometimes tripling up on U’s wide men meaning space is at a premium. Ben Wyatt does stand one decent cross up to the back stick that Bennett heads on goal but has deflected over off the head of his marker only for the lino to award a goal kick. This is too much for Easty who cops a yellow for yet another appeal of the “Are you fucking sure about that?” type appeal to the ref. We feel you skipper, we feel you. The ref’s performance is summed up right at the end when the home manager grabs Joe Kizzi as he tries to take a quick throw in, something that only incredibly earns him a yellow for his trouble. So, after the lord mayor’s show it is and having clapped our weary troops off, we head straight for the station. We need a beer after that lot!
Back under the M6 and plans for heading into Walsall itself are soon abandoned as the opposite platform is full of, well, wankers and they’re already giving it large 10 to 2 style to the Brum side platform. As I walk down the stairs I can already see two local coppers eyeing up someone on the other side for a chat and hilariously, when he dashes up the stairs to finally have his bit of “HOLD ME BACK LADS!” he runs straight into the arms of the local bobbies on the bridge who spend a couple of minutes no doubt advising him not to be a cock before he sheepishly returns to the platform to great mocking from across the tracks. A couple of bits of loose change also come our way and Mr X deftly plucks a 20p out of the air and pockets it, later adding it to the whip. You can take the lad out of Scotland it seems…
Back on the train, we head back into Brum and decide to hit the Shakespeare for one as it’s closest and then after one there, head for the Wellington another pub we know nearby. On arrival here, another bit of agg is brewing as a local lad is complaining that someone’s nicked his phone and he’s being pretty aggressive in the way he’s talking to the two lasses from the staff trying to have a word. In the end, he lays hands on and that’s the end of that, as he’s ushered out of the boozer in a manner that publican 4 Days approves of. “Very effective” he nods before taking a sup of his pint. We do a couple of pints here but with time pressing on for the train home, no one’s in the mood to stay any later, so we split off to do the usual food and cans run. I get the food job and with little else round here immediately accessible, we go for a mass Chicken nuggets and cheeseburger buy up in McDonalds. So off I set and with the fast food pretty busy, I get my order in on the terminal, pay up and get in line to pick up.
Now, time is pressing and I know I’ve placed a large order. Still, there’s time but it’s certainly gonna be tight. And so laden with all the nuggies I can carry, I leg it for the station. “Platform 7” is the message from Robbo and I head that way at a pace and as I reach the barrier, the guard there takes one look at me and my luggage, nods and pops open the gate for me. Top lad! “I’m off to Euston!” I shout over my shoulder to him so as to at least in some way validate my free passage. I reach the top of the stairs for the platform just as it dawns on me. Ok, platform 7, but which one? You see, at New Street the platforms are so big they break them down into A and B. And I’ve got no idea which one we’re on. Guess right, I might just make my train. Guess wrong and I’ll be on the right platform but 50 yards away from the train as it pulls out. Sadly, I hesitate rather than go with instinct and vital moments are lost. I barrel down the stairs to 7B to see the door lights go out and hear the familiar ‘clonk’ of the doors locking on my train. Ah for fucks sake.
You know the drill by now folks. “No man left behind! (unless mutually inconvenient to the rest of the group)”. So the train pulls out and I slump into a seat on the platform. The next train is in about 35 minutes, so that’s not the end of the world with regards to getting home, but I’m now left with a bullseye’s worth of junk food. With nothing I can really do about it now, I regain my composure, lobs some burgers into my face and make a plan. On my run into the station I’d passed at least 2-3 homeless people outside, so I figure I’ll gather what I have and at least make sure they get fed before I grab a couple of cans and jump on the next service to London. Set on this, my thoughts are interrupted by Magnum calling me. This better not be mocking! It isn’t. “Platform 2a in 5 mins. There’s a train to Brum International. We’ll get off there and wait for you to catch up”. Blimey. It seems the mob are getting soft in their old age! That or they’re really REALLY hungry and facing a 2hr train journey with nothing but cans to keep them going.
So, with the knowledge that the group motto is now “No man left behind! (unless mutually inconvenient to the rest of the group or they have dinner for the trip home)”, I head over to 2a and am soon on the move. On a train headed to Walsall no less. Fucks sake! As we go, a lass on a nearby seat gives me a look of pity of the sort that can only be reserved for a solo person getting on a train with 6 bags of McDonalds. “That’s some party you’re going to!” she chuckles. Chuckles that turn to laughter when I explain the reason for this utterly sad sight. Yeah, cheers love, I’m a big lad. I can take it. Want a chicken nugget? Whilst we rumble along, a bloke and his missus appear from another carriage having a blazing row. It seems they’ve missed their stop as she was fucking about on her phone whilst he’d nodded off. Awkward! Finally at Brum International, I alight and go looking for idiots. I find them occupying a waiting room at the end of the platform and all starving hungry. “Deliveroo!” I cheerfully announce as I enter to sarcastic applause. They all do seem happy to see me but I know that’s more because I have lukewarm nuggies and cheeseburgers rather than any wistful nostalgia for times we’ve previously spent in each other’s company. And to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Everyone starts inhaling food and soon after the next Euston train pulls in and we board. Sadly, this is much busier than the one they’d earlier abandoned and of course this understandably earns me some abuse. We get chatting to some lads and lasses on their way home to Rugby who find our drunken state and love of cold chicken nuggets amusing. Our attention is soon diverted by a young lass who starts feeling sick near us. One of the ladies from the previous group assists by simply handing the lass her own sparkly silver sequinned cap to yack up in. Of course, the sound of retching soon has other passengers moving away, no doubt mindful that the aroma of Vom is a sure fire way to lose your own dinner. The lasses depart at the next stop and soon after, the others get off at Rugby and with more space, we settle in for the long haul mostly aided by Mr X’s once more hugely OTT supply of cans. The journey home is sped up a little by the fact that engineering works means we’ll be moving to the fast line and only stopping at Watford and London after Milton Keynes and before we know it, we’re stumbling off at Euston wanting our beds.
We hit the tube and with Dukey heading to Waterloo, plus Greek and Robbo going to Morden, we move for trains back South of the River at Victoria. Magnum and I go East Croydon and the others back to sunny Sutton and the republic. Before long, we’re off at East Croydon just missing a 410 home, so we hop a tram down to the bottom of town and eventually a 407 is dropping me outside HQ. God I’m knackered! As I head indoors, I’m surprised to find Mrs Taz still up and about. Not waiting in hope of my return of course, but because she’s been kicking seven shades out of our Netflix subscription. “Ew, you smell of beer and McDonalds” she declares as I dump my shit by the door.
Eau de Pisshead. Drives ’em wild lads.