Porcelain Mugs

Well hello dear reader! How lovely to see you again. Thank for joining us for what feels like episode 9673456 of “Get up early and schlep North for League 2 football” of what some people refer to as ‘the 2021/22 Season’. Yes, ladies and gents, it’s a Saturday and that of course means another visit to our new second home of Euston station (we’ve genuinely been there more than GGL lately!) to head up to Stoke to meet Port Vale, with whom the original clash at our gaff back in October was quite the classic.

The U’s two down early on to a decent side, we pulled one back before the break and then levelled it. They then took the lead again before we once more levelled late on and then Coby Rowe sent GGL barmy by roofing one deep into added time. Proper entertainment and no mistake. Even the visiting fans had to concede it had been a cracker, even though they’d been on the receiving end. Since then we’ve both largely ambled along at the sharp end, sniffing about in the Play off spots and eyeing up an auto spot but without ever quite making it our own. Of course, of late our little stumble thanks to an injury list that would make Florence Nightingale lose her lunch has dropped us to the fringes of the play off race although the win at Oldham did at least keep us in touch.

London early. Again.

Todays run is of course the last stop until next weekend’s big day out at that retail park in North London with the big arch. Wembley excitement has been building nicely and with over 11k tickets sold before today, we should have decent backing at the National Stadium. Further excitement was provided on Friday when those golden tickets starting pinging into our inboxes. Tickets that we’ve paid £1.5 for the privilege of printing at home, using our ink and our paper. Ah the magic of the cup eh? Oh and fuck you Ticketmaster, you robbing pricks. Still, should be fun regardless.

This week’s been a bit of a struggle as it’s been a touch non-stop around those 2 days taken for the Oldham trip. Stupidly, we of course went out and got leathered until the early hours after that one rather than have a celebratory scoop or two and turn in nice and early so we were fresh for the rest of the week. Idiots you say? Well, yes, we’ve never really denied it. And yes, I do realise I’m getting far too old for that sort of childish carry on. Still, if we didn’t do it, you wouldn’t get to live it via these ridiculous missives which brighten up your own hum drum existences. So swings and roundabouts. You’re welcome by the way! Another thing dropping sand in my own personal jar of vaseline this week has been the fact that HQ is due to cop some renovations next week with new windows going in. So there’s been a mass movement of accumulated personal junk around the place at various points to allow the chaps adequate access and space to do the work. Difficult? No. Stressful? A bit.

Wembley
“We’re the famous Sutton United….”

My alarm wakes me before 7, much to Mrs Taz’s eternal delight and killing it I tumble out of the sack and head for the shower. A quick freshen up later, dressed and still not very with it, I bid her ladyship farewell and make for the bus stop. First drama of the day is my intended bus almost sailing right on past my stop as I stand there waving frantically like a dickhead to indicate to the driver I’d quite like him to stop. Fortunately, he sees me and I’m soon on the way to East Croydon. With Victoria once more out of action this weekend (yeah, cheers lads!) Thameslink is my only option which makes me nervous. As their hard earned reputation for being a bunch of absolute shithouse frauds over many years on the West Sutton loop has proven hard to overcome. Still, needs must. As I trot onto the Platform, I spot Magnum PI in the waiting room tucking into a breakfast sarnie. Morning! The train rolls in a few later and we board, going in search of his other half, Heidi. She’s joining us for the trip up and back today as her lad is studying at Keele Uni near Stoke and she’s heading up to spend the day with him for Mother’s Day. How sweet!

With the good lady located, we settle in for a trouble free trip to St Pancs. Next is the walk to Euston, dodging Friday night’s pavement pizzas as we go and we arrive at St Pancs to find the usual boards milling about and making the place look untidy. Robbo, Dr Bell, Indy, Dukey and Mr X are waiting and chatting away to a Southern based Vale fan about today’s clash. Also about are some Stockport lads, complete with life size cardboard cut out of manager Dave Challinor in tow, fresh off the train on their way to Eastleigh. Poor bastards. Rather you than us lads. I do my usual Sainsbury’s run for breakfast and return to find Greek has arrived and with the party complete, we head for the train. On the way, Mr X and I grab our usual cuppas for the trip, as well as a Latte for Greek. The latter takes a bloody age as the gang at the kiosk take forever to get stuff done. One chap who’d ordered a hot chocolate for his lad is kicking off and we’re all left puzzled when some lass orders a ‘latte without milk’ and then to Mr X’s annoyance, gets it before his order! Eventually sorted, we head for the train and find the rest of the idiots aboard before settling down to discuss the ‘latte without milk’ conundrum. Now, we’re not professional baristas or owt, but isn’t that just a fucking Espresso?

Stafford
Old Conference stomping grounds…

We’re on the slow train again today, mainly as in the words of travel secretary Mr X, “It’s cheep! Like the budgie!”. Still we have seats and we’re being entertained by the guard who starts out by asking people over the PA to smile at the person nearest to them, sadly this means I have Greek gurning in my direction, which is not something you want at any time of the day, let alone before 9am. He also does a bit of tour guiding by pointing out the spot where the Great Train Robbery happened and also as we pass Bletchley Park, home of the Allied WW2 codebreaking teams. Mr X says some terrible things that I simply cannot commit to print here and then commits to a vow of silence for the rest of the trip “I probably shouldn’t say anything else today”. Robbo also reveals he has developed a gambling addiction lately, which is unsurprising given he’s usually sat near Magnum and Greek on awaydays doing all their different bets. Robbo reckons he’s £300 up so far, but its surely only a matter of time before he’s lost everything and is sleeping in a cardboard box somewhere in the car park at GGL. Be careful kids, don’t end up like Robbo!

We change trains at Stafford and the place is packed with train spotters waiting for a steam train to pass through, people in Liverpool shirts heading to Anfield for some testimonial game or other and a lot of young, very loud lasses in various odd fancy dress outfits. Fortunately they all get on the train before ours so our trip on the second leg to Stoke is much less busy. The short hop to Stoke made, we hop off at the station and head for our first pub, ‘BOD’ which is on the platform there. Then we leave BOD and walk out of the station to the other side as the boozer is split down the middle and you can’t get from one side to the other without going the long way round. A couple of pints here whilst Greek says some terrible things that I simply cannot commit to print here. “You awful cunt!” I scold as other members of the party all solemnly nod in agreement. Sadly he fails to follow the man of mystery’s example from earlier. After 2 here, on Greek’s insistence, we head to the Glebe next, a short walk away. Because of this, we insist he navigates and as he wanders off following Google maps, everyone else remains in place to give him a few seconds head start to correct any initial navigational issues before following. We’re good though and we’re soon in a lovely old wood panelled gaff with stained glass windows and a decent selection.

Named after the odd 70’s/80’s kids show. True story.

Whilst sinking our drinks here, we get a message on the top secret VIP only Whatsapp thingy from Steve, who is currently tossing it off in the Caribbean at the Cricket, which contains a pic of this very pub with Magnum outside! It seems one of his England away mates has spotted the colours and dobbed us in! We really need to have a word with Malcolm back in the PROWS about this shocking security breach! Loose whips Drink Ships. Or something. Two here and then we’re off round the corner to the White Star. Here the place is pretty dead and our arrival interrupts the landlady who’s sat doing some paperwork. We soon put her to work pulling pints and as Magnum and Indy set about trying a few tasters of the beers on offer, I head for the gents. Coming back, they’ve made their choice but a few of the tasters remain. “Do you want to finish those? They’re just going to get thrown otherwise!” mentions the landlady. Ever the helpful sort I put myself in harms way and polish off the lot. Fucking amateurs, leaving beer lying around.

Settling in for a couple, we of course once more turn to our favourite pastime of abusing each other rotten, sadly Magnum once more slips into the firing line with further stick over his lack of stature. His defence rests on his claims of his actual height being far more than our own assessments. “If I had a tape measure, I’d prove you wrong!” claims Mr X before joking asking the landlady if she has one. Magnum’s face when she plucks one straight out of a cupboard behind the bar has everyone in hysterics and soon West Sutton’s finest undercover operative is made to stand by a door frame for Mr X to take his measurements. All sorts of pelters are thrown during this process and Magnum resolutely refuses my demands that he remove his shoes as “You’re definitely nicking a couple of fucking inches with those soles mate!”. I won’t embarrass him by publishing the results here, but let’s just say ladies and gentlemen that Magnum’s claims to his actual height were declared “fucking bollocks” by Judge Judy and executioner Mr X.

Beer
It begins again…

We ask the lass behind the jump if there’s anywhere decent nearby for one more before the game and she recommends ‘BRU’ a little craft beer spot round the corner. So we sup up, bid farewell and head round. At the place, we find the door open but a gate barring our way. A lady sits at a table just inside reading a paper. “Are you open love?” we enquire and we’re soon welcomed inside by the landlady Annie who apparently doesn’t normally open until 2pm (it’s now half 1) and she was just chilling out waiting for her dray delivery! Insisting that we’re not disturbing her and that’s she’s happy to serve, she knocks out a few pints for the gang and we settle into this cosy little converted shop deciding that cabs from here to the ground is the plan. Annie even offers to order them for us! Top pubbage this. With a final quick cheeky short all round for everyone pre-departure, we wish our host farewell and we’re off to Vale Park for the match.

Bouzanis, Wyatt, Kizzi, Louis, Goodliffe, Eastmond, Beautyman, Ajiboye, Boldewijn, Bugiel, Wilson. SUBS: Nelson, Rowe, Davis, Korboa, Olaofe, Randall, Bennett

The journey is pretty swift, but closer to the ground, the traffic backs right up and winding our way round a confusing one way system it looks like we might miss kick off. Thankfully though, the cabbie throws a quick shortcut into the mix and we’re pulling up outside the away end with 10 minutes to spare. This is handy as getting in turns out to be a proper fucking pain in the arse. Take it from me, if you’re visiting Port Vale and usually have a flag with you, don’t fucking bother. You’ve got more chance of getting a loaded shotgun on a commercial flight. First they demand the fire certs we have to have for these nowadays, not a problem, they’re on the flags themselves. Secondly, do they have any slogans on them. Slogans? What, like Sutton United FC? They still pull all 18ft of flag out to check regardless. Finally, the clips that we use to secure said flag in grounds and that, to date, have been fine for every one of our 19 away games so far this season, are treated like they’re fucking WMD’s.

Pub
Stop number 2. Spies just out of shot…

The debate is of course one sided, lacks any sort of common sense and eventually I just tell them to throw it all back in the bag and we’ll call it quits as I really cannot be arsed. Then a supervisor appears, assures me he’ll ‘sort the clips out’ and with this seconded by our local plod representatives, I head for the turnstiles. “Bet I don’t get those back until after” I mutter to myself. On the other side, I meet Mr Supervisor, who in the 6 feet he’s walked since assuring me he would ‘sort it’ has absolutely not fucking ‘sorted it’ and the clips disappear to a secure location lest anyone use them to bring about the end of civilisation or something equally terrible. I fucking knew it. Some here might call me cynical, I prefer to think of it as knowing full fucking well when I’m being lied to and mugged off.

On the pitch, we’re fielding what is a very decent looking line up, no doubt to try and get some regulars minutes before Wembley next week. Sadly though, having so many out there just back from injury means a slow start and the hosts are bang at it from the whistle. Less than 10 gone and we’re behind, slow to react to a ball wide, it’s stuck low across the box where there’s a veritable queue of white shirts waiting. Deano makes a great point blank save from the first shot but he can do nothing about the rebound being bundled over the line. We slowly come to life after this, but we’re largely living off scraps and not making a huge impact on their defence. The best chance being Easty swerving a shot from 18 just wide after a bit of a scramble in their box. Just as we seem to be finding our feet though, the mountain to climb gets bigger as they stick a couple of balls into our box, we never quite clear our lines and from the last one, Louis heads away to 18 where their lad spectacularly scissor kicks it straight back on the volley into the top corner. It’s an absolute shitpinger and no mistake and whilst it’s a twat that we’re 2-0 down, there’s really nothing you can do about those other than applaud and mutter something like “Fair fuckin’ play son”.

More shocking heightist nonsense….

We keep plugging away, but Easty skying another effort from just outside the box is about the best of it and we go in at the break 2 behind. I head for a pie, which takes an age as there’s only one bloke serving. So little a shit does he give that he even refuses help when asked by another member of staff! My meat and potato is half decent though, so it’s not all terrible. 4 Days appears, having sacked off the day out and come up just for the game today as he has to be back home for a 60th later. His fresh bottle of coke purchased from the tea bar still has it’s cap on. A fact we both have a good chuckle over. Seems that they’re not happy about you bringing your own ‘missiles’ and would rather you use the ones they sell you! It kind of sums up the experience really, where it feels like that because you’ve not brought 1000+, you’re basically an inconvenience. Robbo also points out the 20 stewards on the concourse alone today. One for almost every 7 Sutton fans here. Bit daft really. What were they expecting, all out riots over the pin badge selection in the club shop? A dirty protest due to them possibly running out of programs? Fucks sake. We’re Sutton ‘Do you like my bobble hat’ United lads, not fucking Galatasaray.

The second half starts better for us and we slowly graft our way into the game, but again it’s just that lack of composure when we really need it that hurts us. Omar lashes a good sighter well over on the turn after the keeper’s dropped Joe Kizzi’s cross at the near post and Easty then again fails to hit the target from 18 yards, side footing wide when presented with a great sight of goal. The final sign it’s not to be our day is when Joe loops a header off the face of the bar from Harry’s free kick with about 20 or so to go. We make changes, with the ineffective Wilson replaced, Tanto making a brief cameo and Will Randall coming on for a very subdued Ajiboye, but it doesn’t really help much and 2-0 it is. With the lads efforts applauded, we head straight out via WMD storage to pick up my clips and outside the ground rustle up a couple of Ubers to get us back into Stoke to be nearer the train home.

Taxi
We love traffic….

It takes a little while, but we get sorted and then spend 15 mins sitting in traffic getting away from the ground. Fortunately, our driver again casts a little bit of shortcut magic and we’re soon free and before we know it, we’re back in the White Star and getting our pint on. Here we check out train options as we’re not tied to anything specific on the way back. However, it seems that we basically are as there’s literally no other options available due to a tsunami of cancellations at various points on the way. Joyous! We’re also re-joined here by Magnum’s other half and her lad who’ve been taking in the sights of Stoke on Trent. Although I doubt they’ll be making any contributions to local tourist board literature any time soon! So, with the train set for 7.24, Mr X and I depart for the nearby Sainos for cans and snacks whilst the rest mooch back to the station. A quick clearance of the sandwich section completes my work and I think head to help my colleague bag up the cans. With time getting short, we’re further delayed when the lass in front of us realises she’s left her purse at the counter the far end of the store and legs it to go get it back. Fucks sake love, not like we’ve literally got one train home we can catch!!

We bag up and laden down with the essentials of 30 cans of G&T, a dozen pina coladas, beer, Moretti, some ciders and all of the sandwiches, we get a proper march on and make for the station. With the disaster after the Walsall trip a couple weeks back, I’m personally in no fucking mood to get left behind somewhere up north again!! Carrier bags cutting into hands, lungs heaving and hearts pounding, we stumble onto the platform at Stoke station with about 4 minutes to spare and to no little fucking sympathy from the rest of the party. Wankers. The train arrives and I and Mr X sit there sweating. “Does anyone know CPR?” I gasp, as my heart continues to complain about the unscheduled workout. “I can, I’m a first aider!” chimes in Dr Bell. “Ok, can anyone other than Belly do CPR?”.

Port Vale

We settle in for the journey to Rugby and the cans and snacks help replenish energy levels. Well, mostly. Greek elects to have a little snooze here despite large supplies of Pina Colada requested by him. Robbo and Heidi do their best to pick up the slack in the meantime. Changing trains at Stafford, we find Chancellor Oakes on the platform awaiting his Avanti train back to the smoke. “The staff reckon this is the most likely to get back to London tonight” he tells us ominously. Sadly, our tickets are non-transferrable, so we press on. Next stop, Rugby! As we near our latest target, we pass the time necking cans and looking continually at other routes that might possibly get us home any quicker, but there is nothing that works simply because each and every option has a cancellation that makes in unviable. Then not far from Rugby, the inevitable news that our onward service has fallen foul too arrives and we intensify our efforts to sort a way out of this.

Sadly, the literal only option is to wait at Rugby for about 40 mins and get the next train from there that gets us back to Euston at half 11. Almost an hour late. Wonderful. Still, we have cans, so we can at least sit it out. At Rugby, we park up on the platform and having made all our calls home to assure loved ones we’re not dead, we sit and wait. Dukey however, is not happy at all. “She’s gonna kill me!” he moans, meaning that his own good lady won’t be amused at his late arrival home. No doubt this will mean the flat capped wonder will be grounded again after the weekend and be on double Daddy day care shifts to make up for his misfortune. We commiserate with our comrade by taking the piss out of him and crack open another can.

Have we got enough G&T??

Our depature time arrives and with our train now 2 minutes late, grumbles start to appear in the ranks. However, these are cut short by a PA announcement telling us that there’s been a platform alteration. For our train. That’s already late. Cuuuuuuuuuuunts! Everyone stops dead, processing the news, then turns to see our train rolling in opposite before grabbing our shit and scattering for the subway to go catch it. “Don’t run, they’ll hold it for you!” shouts a member of staff at our backs as we give it legs down the slope. No one believes a fucking word of this and not wanting to be living in Rugby for the near future, we carry on full speed regardless. Everyone piles on and a couple of us hold the doors so the slower members of the herd in Indy and Robbo can make it. “Don’t hold the doors please” says a bloke on the platform. I smile sweetly and let him know that ain’t going to wash. “Don’t change the platforms at the last second after we’ve been waiting 40 minutes”. The stragglers make it and with all present and finally London bound, we head to the front of the train where some of the gang have found seats.

Breath back again, more cans are cracked and we settle in for the journey. Being the only train south it seems, the service gets busier and busier, and then spends a good 15 minutes sat outside Northampton due to ‘congestion’. “How’s that possible?” someone asks “There’s no trains running to congest anything!”. Good point that. At Milton Keynes some lads get on that we get chatting to, they’re from Hemel and got stuck after going for a night out at the Ice Hockey there. One’s a Leeds fan, so is utterly delighted to meet a bunch of pissed up Sutton fans. Sorry! Also, the amusement levels once more increase at poor old Magnum’s expense when Heidi, chatting to some of the others, finds out that our man’s choice not to sit behind the goal had been apparently ‘blamed’ on her. I’m sure it’s all a misunderstanding, but this doesn’t go down well and she loudly declares that this wasn’t the case to most of the carriage whilst telling off our colleague. This also of course leads to us teasing that he, like Dukey, is now going to be grounded and that he’ll have to invest in a fleshlight to get his jollies for a while now. “What’s a fleshlight?” enquires the PROWS top operative. Another explosion of amusement. Ah Sutton away days, the unstoppable self sustaining piss take machine.

Rugby station. We live here now.

Eventually though, we trundle into Euston late at nearly midnight, pretty exhausted and having only managed to drink two thirds of the G&T supplies. Here we go our separate ways with the Sutton side crew heading for the Northern Line and the hour of joy that provides all the way back to Morden. I, Magnum and Heidi head for St Pancs and a Thameslink back to East Croydon. Of course, the late arrival of our train at Euston has cost us one and we have a 20 minute wait here for the next. This is a proper stopper and we end up hitting East Croydon just around 1am as the clocks go forward. Making it actually 2am. Sakes. We get Heidi an Uber back to hers first, then manage to bag one ourselves after an aborted attempt to buy triple cheeseburgers at the 24hr McDonalds. Eventually, having dropped off Mangum, I tip out of the cab outside HQ around 1.45 pretty much exhausted. Fuck me I need my bed.

Cheap trains kids, don’t do it. Just say no.

Taz

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