No Cigars Necessary

Well folks, here we are. The last chapter, the final instalment. The cliff-hanger if you will. The last day of the League 2 regular season is upon us and the U’s go into it still with a slim chance of nicking a play off place despite last week’s defeat to Bradford. We’re not the only ones with something to play for either, with the final automatic promotion spot is still up for grabs as well as every play off place. It seems that following our promotion last season, we’ve left the trap door ajar a touch and allowed some of La Bastarda’s whacky races nonsense to leak out from Non-League and infect the Great 92 72.

For us, the job is simple. Win. As long as we do that, we’re into a world of god knows how many permutations. Although you’d need the ghost of Steven Hawking to help you have a shout of working it all out. We’ve actually tried to sit down over the last couple of weeks and try to fathom who what where and when, but it made our heads hurt more than a 15 hour session on the smash, so we basically gave up and decided to simply try & figure out what happened once the smoke all clears. The lack of clarity around our final position has also failed to put people off and in the run up to the Harrogate game we’ve sold over 400 tickets for the away end. An unthinkable amount for a league game this far outside the M25 just a few years ago.

One More Time…
Departure Point…

So, for what might be the final time this season, I’m woken early by my alarm and roll out of my pit to get my arse moving as Mrs Taz grumbles her protests before disappearing once more under the duvet. With my usual business taken care of, I’m out the door with a cab to East Croydon booked. As Mr X has taken the opportunity for a few days break up in York prior to the game, he has delegated me as outbound travel sec for this one and I’ve got everyone’s train tickets. So with that responsibility, I’m in no mood to put my trust in buses this morning. Of course, as I get to the end of my turning for the pickup, the guy cancels on me. Fucks sake! Not cool mate, not cool. Still, a replacement is soon on it’s way and I’m off to the station. The journey is seamless and I walk onto the platform as the Thameslink rumbles in and I’m soon on my way to St Pancras to find the other idiots.

As I head into town, the Whatsapp group starts to come to life as people check in with ETA’s. Robbo also chips in that that he’s seen some ‘sights’ at Morden with the Yoof who’ve decided that last day is fancy dress day. I’m not sure I want to know, so I leave that well alone! I’m not the biggest fan for games like this to be honest as if shit goes wrong, you end up looking a bit of a bellend. Far better to do it with with nowt on the line if you ask me. 30 minutes later, I’m off at my destination and heading over the road to Kings Cross. Here, 4Days in his bobble hat sticks out like a sore thumb. Dr Bell and Indy aren’t far away, grabbing breakfast. So I leave my bag and dart to McDonalds over the road for grotty breakfast and here my appetite is almost removed as I find the Yoof tucking into their own scoff, with no less than three of their number dressed as cheerleaders. Short skimpy skirts, the works. Just what you want before 8am of a morning. Proper difficult wank material that, mark my words. With my grub sorted despite my now slightly diminished appetite, I head back over and spot some other lads in fancy dress who turn out to be Maidenhead on the way to Grimsby for their annual Fancydresslemania outing. So I pass on my regards to Lenny and Murdo and get back to the mob to hand out tickets.

Train refreshments…
Nice view

Chalmers, Pete (not Irish) along with Robbo and Magnum are in now too, the latter hobbling around as he’s done something to his knee and needed to have a late fitness test to see if he could actually even make it today. Idiots assembled, we hit the train and settle in for the last weekender of the season. The initial leg is pretty quiet, with the usual piss taking soon underway and the now customary “What ground’s that?” when we pass Peterborough. Before long though, I’m in need of a cuppa and head to the buffet, finding Burgers and Becks in the next carriage, so I have a quick natter with them before getting the round in. My only other duty today is to get an email address set up on Gmail for Belly’s missus so she can get a covid passport for their hols in a couple of weeks. Bloody old people and technology! Then before we know it, Leeds is upon us and we’re disembarking, although not before Indy realises he’s managed to lose his ticket between leaving this seat and the carriage door. Doofus! Unable to pass the barriers, we leave him with Robbo and the lame Magnum as we dash over the road via a rather circular route to ditch bags in the hotel that Mr X fresh in from York has just checked us all into. When we arrive, the man of mystery is nowhere to be found and with us aiming to dash for the train to Harrogate, this is delaying us somewhat.

The lad behind the jump soon reveals we’ve just missed him. “Where’s he gone?” asks an irritable Dr Bell, which of course draws a “Like I fucking care” shrug and a response of “People don’t have to log an itinerary with me mate” from the man on reception. Turns out that Mr X has gone to meet us at the station and approached from the other end missing us entirely. He’s soon back doling out room keys, but any hope of getting the half past train is gone. “We’d never have made it anyway” he shrugs “Getting to the rooms is a right faff in here!”. We soon get to see what he means as we have to take a lift up to the third floor, walk round to the other side entirely and then get another one up to the 9th. Joy! Bags ditched, we’re back to the station and milling about for the 11am rattler to Harrogate. Here as we wait, a number of familiar faces filter in, with the B-Team fresh off the 8.30 being the main group. The train’s on time though and we’re soon en route to our final destination. More silly chatter passes the time and I refresh my sad bastard Non-League credentials when 4Days shows us an illustration of a little covered terrace clearly from some lower league ground. “Where’s that?” he asks and quick as a flash I come back with the correct answer of “Ramsgate”. What makes this even sadder is that I only ever went there once, got there at half time and it was proper depths of winter dark as sin and utterly pissing down with rain.

Arrived!
Mobbing up…

We all tip off at Harrogate and immediately hit the Tap next door to start making up for lost VDT, finding the Yoof cheerleading crew cluttering up the place already. Before long, there’s a good few of us around and we start gathering outside with pints to get the party started. The Yoof depart for the much cheaper spoons and amusingly no sooner have they left, but they’re replaced by a group of locals, also in fancy dress, who are en route to a night out in Leeds. The two lads joined together as the slinky dog from Toy Story draws some admiring glances. As the pints go down, the number of Sutton in attendance goes up with the Dogging Crew soon in, with tales of a hungover Dirty Barry serenading everyone with Cliff Richard tunes on the way up. Fish the Cabbie also regales us of the story about his one and only trip to the long lost Chicago’s back home and his forced removal from the premises. We’re also glad to see that he’s got a beer glass with a handle on it to prevent and droppage. The Presidential limo is next in with Totts and Crooked Cess arriving thanks to Scotty’s chauffer duties, making it in a decent three and a half hours from home. Not bad lads! Greek is soon with us too, having stayed in York overnight and done a number of boozers with Mr X, he’d had a lie in and ponced a lift over with Ossie. Sadly Dukey doesn’t join us here, having had a lift straight up with his in laws and they go straight to the Empress on the common by the ground.

It’s at this point that Mr X, a couple of pints in and well rested after some time away, feels it necessary to declare “Well, I managed a whole season without fucking anything up!” with regard to his travel planning. With Harrogate the scene for his first major ticket faux pas a couple of years back, I can see why he’s done it. Greek isn’t impressed however “I’d have left that until you were home tomorrow mate. Just asking for trouble that!”. With three down here, we decide to start moseying more towards the ground and set off for the next pub the “Disappearing Chin” which is amusing considering most of us now have far more than one in our advancing years. Finding it is easier said than done however, as it turns out to be the most inconspicuous boozer in the world and we almost have to be stood outside before we see it. Once again, 4Days bobble hat helps out here as the Welshman had gone on just ahead of us and we spot him through the window. More beers are ordered here and as we sup we notice over the road there’s an outdoors shop and it has a sale on. “You know, we never did complete Belly’s outfit for Dukey’s wedding” Mr X thinks aloud and after a brief tirade of piss taking the good Doctor’s way and him foolishly “Don’t you fucking dare!”-ing the man of Mystery, we’ve collectively lobbed up £12 for a pair of bright pink 3/4 length walking trousers. Belly’s having none of it however no matter how much we tell him how well they go with the shirt we got in Barrow and refuses point blank to wear them. Even over the top of his jeans. The miserable old git. Even funnier is the fact that brand on them is “Cherry Berry”, so everyone starts calling him ‘Cherry’.

More fashion tips from Dr Bell
Walking to the ground.

Next stop is the Devonshire, with some of the other face diverting off to the Empress a little up the way which is where we’re planning on heading next. In the boozer though, the locals reckon the place gets packed after 2pm on matchdays now and we decide that sticking around here might be best. A couple of quick ones in here and I decide that with time getting on I’ll head to the ground and get the flag stuff dealt with whilst the others dart next door to the Swan for one more before kick off. I walk up with Alan and there’s a good few heading towards the game, which always makes things feel a bit more ‘big football’ to me. Inside, I get my shit sorted and the flag up thanks to a helpful chap who is far taller than I and chill out to await kick off. Of course, the late pub arrivals go straight behind the goal and leave only a couple of us to make noise down the side. Oh well, might make us sound more well supported I guess!!

Bouzanis, Kizzi, Milsom, Eastmond, Goodliffe, John, Ajiboye, Smith, Bugiel, Olaofe, Randall. SUBS: Barden, Rowe, Beautyman, Nelson, Bennett, Wilson, Boldewijn

With the game underway, we start bright and several minutes in, Milsom hits Tanto with a throw in and he turns to pull back for Omar in the box. His shot beats the keeper, comes down off the bar, clips the post and bounces up nicely for Easty to nut in on the rebound. Get in!! Just the start we wanted that. The lead is tempered slightly by Randall hobbling off immediately after for Enzio and from here the hosts have a spell where they put us under some pressure and ask questions of the back 4. Their best chance though is from a corner when a towering header back post comes back off the opposite upright and is eventually cleared after a bit of a scramble. After that, we re-assert ourselves and Kizzi forces a good save from the keeper with a lunging volley after he’s drifted off his man at the far post from a free-kick and we probably should put things largely to bed before the break when a surging run from Omar takes him deep into the oppo half, he feeds Easty wide on the overlap and his clipped little cross is headed against the far post by Issac and rebounds into the keepers arms. Gaaah!!

Last one. Here we go.
Greeting the gaffer

Sadly at half time, things are largely going against us with the top two in particular not exactly going hell for leather to win the league. It seems that if someone’s gonna bail us out today, it’ll have to be one of those two that needs to turn it around. Pull your socks up you fucking bumpkins! I grab some munch from the teabar and join the rest of the mob behind the goal for the second half. Here they seem to think the rather erratic ref has had a good game. Clearly our more elevated spot down the side afforded us a better view of his nonsense! From the off after the restart, we’re straight into the hosts and practically from kick off Enzio gets teed up, but his low shot from 18 is just turned around the post by the keeper. We’re almost left ruing that not long after when a lovely ball through the middle splits the defence and their lad races clear, takes it round Deano and then from less than 6 yards out manages to put his shot against the foot of the near post and it rebounds back out to our grateful stopper. C’mon lads! We can’t fuck this up. Wakey wakey! The woodwork is hit again not long after when Omar tries a cheeky lob from the corner of the box, but once more it pings back off the far post and is hacked clear. At the other end, Deano has to make a solid double save to keep us in front but with 15 to go and the news no better from elsewhere, we at least take a step closer to getting the job done ourselves.

A couple of corners from Harrogate put us under pressure, but the last one is cleared and a sweeping ball out from fullback picks out Tanto about 30 from goal. He turns and heads for the box as the hosts try to get their shape back and his low shot deflects off a defender to wrong foot the keeper to give us a 2 goal lead. Celebrations have barely subsided before some utter bastard somewhere around us loudly informs us Mansfield have also just gone 2-1 up against FGR. Fucks sake man! Let us at least enjoy the moment! Thankfully hope is restored as news then comes through of an immediate reply from the mob up on the hill. “Come on Vegans, come on Vegans!” chant the Yoof to our right. Quite. From here, we really should put the game out of sight as the hosts wilt a bit and more chances present themselves on the break. First Enzio has a shot beat the keeper but a defender’s desperate lunge diverts it onto the bar as the woodwork is hit for the umpteenth time and the keeper recovers well to beat out Omar’s spectacular overhead kick, then near the death Wilson scampers in down the middle, but their annoyingly competent ‘keeper is once more equal to the task standing up well to save with his legs.

1-0. Easty gets us underway
2-0. Tanto doubles it just as bad news lands from Mansfield….

In the end though, it’s not enough. As the final whistle goes, a couple of other games are already done and haven’t gone our way and not long after as the lads gather together to await news, we find out that FGR haven’t found a winner but are still champions as Exeter have lost at home to Port Vale. Useless bloody farmers putting on the shittest title race ever, cheers lads! Elsewhere, Bristol Rovers have nicked 3rd on goals scored after annihilating a Scunthorpe side made up mostly of rejects and kids 7-0 to deny Northampton. Oh well, it’s not to be lads and we can’t really complain after the season we’ve had. The chaps file past and take the applause of the 400+ away fans but all their faces show nothing but disappointment. With our fanly duties complete for another season, we head out and begin the walk back to town, with the Tap our desired destination as it’s close to the station and an exit to Leeds later on. Along the way, 4Days and I take the shortest route across a large grassy roundabout at one junction much to Chalmers disgust. “Nowt in the Highway code that says you can’t!” is the best I can offer. Back at the pub, we get our beer on and recap what’s been a mad old first season up with the big boys. And by ‘recap’ I mean ‘discuss all the shit points we dropped over the season & cost us dearly’. We also manage to get onto the subject of a Serbian phrasebook that 4Days lent Pete (not Irish) years ago and has only just started using. “Fucking lucky I don’t charge late fees mate” chimes the Welsh librarian.

Many familiar faces filter in for a pint and then out again as they either head to their own stopover points or back to the Smoke. We meanwhile just keep the pints coming, with our whip boosted by the absence of lazy bastards like Magnum, Greek and Robbo who’ve got a lift off Ossie back to Leeds. We ain’t saving it for you lads and there’s definitely no fucking refunds. We let a couple of trains back to Leeds pass but eventually we decide we should probably head back and ditch stuff before starting the evening proper and on the platform we find the stragglers from the Yoof heading to Huddersfield for their own digs and night out. Here, Dr Bell finally manages to rid himself of the pink 3/4 lengths by gifting them to Harry who’s now finding his very short cheerleader outfit a touch chilly in the early evening air. On the train, we find out that Mr X was mistaken for an ex-Mayor of Epsom on a phone call he took in the club office and Harry ‘loses’ his phone only to discover it in the Saino’s carrier containing their train cans after a brief panic. Aye, definitely the safest place for a notoriously fragile bits of personal tech that, a carrier full of cans.

Close lads, so so close…
Well deserved plaudits

We say our goodbyes to the other travellers and hit the hotel for a quick change of top and douse of deodorant and head out to restart the party. The mob meet round the corner in a pub called the Griffin that’s absolutely fucking rammed with Hull Kingston Rovers fans. What the hell? Apparently, it’s been Challenge Cup semi final day today at Headingley and despite their defeat to Huddersfield, they’re making a fine job of drowning their sorrows. As I get in the place and go to top up the whip, I find I’ve left my wallet in my room and have to undertake the several mile trek back via 18 lifts to get it. It’s such a pain in the arse, I think the gaff was designed by the same bloke who decides where to put the khazis in branches of fucking Wetherspoons. Back in the Griffin we down a quick couple while we forumlate a plan and end up hitting Whitelocks Ale house down a back alley nearby. It’s a cracking old pub and here Robbo seems to delight in using some empty menu folder to recreate a scene from some shit reality show or other where someone decides who stays or leaves. It’s mildly amusing as he taunts his ‘roomie’ Mr X with it, but it gets old pretty fast if I’m honest. Two here and back onto the main drag 4Days and I hit the Packhorse to give the shit lager drinkers something utterly tasteless to stop them moaning. By now everyone’s pretty peckish so with McD’s right there we bite the bullet and stuff some grotty fast food down our necks for some soakage and head then for our final stop, the North Bar.

Apparently the place is open until 3am and whilst I don’t think we’ll be needing that long, we get a table and settle in to talk the usual shite and get more drunkerer than we already are. Around midnight, Mr X can take no more of the house lager and he and Greek call it a night. The rest of us get another round in and 4Days shares his forceful conspiracy theory that Scunny have chucked their game today to allow Rovers to get promoted. It’s a bit much in my book, but it still wouldn’t have helped us out as they were 4 points ahead of us already. With time getting on and bodies getting weary, we decide to call it a night but not before I’ve insisted all 4 of us try and fit into a photobooth by our table for a comedy photo. Sadly the results are mixed as Dr Bell’s fat head largely dominates, but I’ll include it here for you to make your own mind up on. We head back to the hotel and a quick stop at a 24hr shop opposite for fluids later, it’s off to beddy num nums to dream of what might have been in the play offs.

Finally found a home…
Leeds pubbage…

The following morning, I’m once more surprised at just how shit I don’t actually feel after the day before. With some water down me and a shower reviving my tired body, I pack my shit up and as I prepare to leave 4Days snoozing and with the responsibility of checking out, I get a call from Mr X. “Did I give you any of the return tickets??” he asks. “Uh no, mate. Just the 8 outbound”. “Fuck” he replies before abruptly hanging up. What was that yesterday about not fucking up mate? Screw this, I need breakfast. I head to the nearby Spoons where Magnum, Indy and Dr Bell are fuelling up as the Leeds half marathon pounds by a few yards away. As I munch it turns out that Mr X has somehow mislaid 2 of the 9 return journey tickets for today and is currently being hounded by Greek on Whatsapp. “But you haven’t fucked up this season!” he posts mockingly. We did try and warn you about that claim mate. Whilst it’s not quite the original Harrogate train disaster or anything like the Torquay ‘wrong date’ mishap, it’s still something our travel sec is going to find hard to defend in the coming weeks. Fed, we head to the station and find that Mr X can’t get reprints and apparently has to square it away with the train manager for us to ‘bunk’ the journey we’ve paid for.

This proves to be no problem and the nice lady Holly is fine with it and we board with a few minutes to spare and settle in for the trundle home. This is thankfully painless and things are pretty quiet as most take the opportunity to further recharge their batteries with a snooze, read or listen to music. Only Dr Bell listening to Matt’s post-matcher out loud on his phone breaking the silence. Greek soon puts our aged chav in his place on that front. We hit London on time and with 4Days heading to Vic we bid our farewells and head for the Thameslink. Here the Sutton posse just makes their connection, leaving just myself and Magnum to await our Croydon train as they pull out and wave goodbye with all manner of rude hand gestures. Back in Croydon, a bus later and I’m soon alighting outside HQ tired and really in need of a cup of tea if I’m honest. Hopefully that’ll keep me awake long enough to do the podcast with Mike later. Oh…

End of evening silliness…
Ok, that weren’t us right…

Well folks, that’s it. We’re done here. But before I turn out the lights and head off into the sunset, I’d like to just say a quick thank you from us all for sticking with us and reading this absolute tosh all season long, leaving comments (we read them all), retweeting\sharing us on the socials and just generally being nice people. This ain’t done for fame and it certainly ain’t done for the money! So we hope you’ll all join us again for some more League 2 bollocks next season. Maybe I can recruit some new writers by then! God I hope I can. Anyone want a job? Applications to wherever you can find us in the next few weeks…

Also, finally, a huge thanks to Matt, Jason, the staff and of course that absolute set of total non-stop bastards we pay to watch run about on the pitch for what has been another ridiclous season. A definite ‘Empire Strikes Back’ to last season’s ‘A New Hope’ and no mistake. It’s been emotional lads. Cheers!

TTFN. See you in July.

Taz

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