After Saturday’s steel toe cap to tender fragile body parts around the waist area episode still fresh in the old memory banks, we’re having to dust ourselves off sharpish as we’re back on the road again, this time in the EFL League Cup, sponsored by a product no can pronounce and can ever remember seeing for sale anywhere. Unlike last season’s big adventure to Cardiff City, this year we’ve been handed a trip to Milton Keynes. A town so desperate for League Football they nicked someone else’s spot rather than take the time and effort to earn it like a lot of us. But more of that later.
First up, as touched upon in the blog from the weekend, this week’s all go in the Republic and just because we’re really not that bright we added to our already hectic schedules by chucking in a Monday night down the pub to surprise condemned man Dukey prior to his happy day on Thursday. Naturally, we spent the whole time slaughtering the groom to be and as such our usually “Couple of pints and some grub” plan bullshit worked out just about as well as those plans usually do for us, quickly becoming an 8-9 pint session ending with a late one in Spoons before a bus home. Idiots.
Still, at least I was sensible enough to at least get some food down my neck in O’Niells before the intake of Guinness left no room for anything else. Others were not quite so lucky\fortunate and there were grumbles on Whatsapp groups come Tuesday morning of the “Too old for this shit” nature you’d expect. We are nothing if not completely and utterly unpredictable ladies and gents! Also by good fortune, I’d booked the day off for this one as 4Days had come up with the genius plan of heading to Bletchley Park for a mooch around the codebreaking museum there beforehand, seeing as it was the closest town to the ground and apparently had more options beer wise. Bit of yer actual culture innit.
Of course, this was before dropping the best part of 10 pints the night before and as such, my walk to the station in the Badlands involved some perspiration, with mostly Guinness leaking from my pores for at least the first half of the stroll. Past me again, making life difficult for future me. Cold drinks bagged and ticket sorted, I’m soon on the thankfully air conditioned rattler with 4Days and Dr Bell for the trip to town. The Welshman is one of the wounded from the night before and being slightly hungover and therefore grumpy, takes exception to a lady having a VERY loud phone meeting in our carriage and also the fact that the good Doctor and I have fucked up our tickets.
It seems we’ve been lumbered with a trip via Kensington Olympia, a route that as yet has not resurfaced post Covid, so even if we wanted to go that way we couldn’t. Marvellous. Not wanting to have to explain this fucking sorry tale at every set of barriers between here and Bletchley and with some time to spare before our train at Euston, we head to the ticket desk in Victoria to get the situation sorted. A small upgrade on the price later and we’ve got 4 new tickets printed and head for the underground. Where of course the new tickets resolutely refuse to fucking work at the barriers. Sakes! Euston is soon achieved with still 15 minutes to spare and we all head for some food for the trip up and before long we’re rumbling north to Buckinghamshire for a rare bit of awayday culture that isn’t a boozer. Fortunately it’s only a 30 minute run and we’re soon back out into the sun and being blinded by the freshly painted white reflective markings in Bletchley station car park. Lovely.
The museum is a short walk away and as we head into the gate, there’s the toot of our car horn behind us. Turning round to tell whoever this was to “Fuck off” we instead discover it’s Bob & Cath, obviously having had the same idea as us. “Stop following us!” we remark, flick the v’s and head in to get briefed up and check out what’s on offer. Basically, we spend the next three hours looking at very complicated bits of machinery and lots of fascinating exhibits on the toppest of top secret stuff that Alan Turing and the gang got up to here in WW2 working out what the Nazis were jabbering on about via their enigma encryption. Now, the one thing you find when people from that era talk today about Bletchley is that just how 100% utterly schtum everyone remained. Not a sausage was told. Most people of course tend to put this down to the fact that they were made of sterner stuff back then, stiff upper lip etc etc. Personally, having read the stuff on display from most of the staff outside the small circle of proper smart fuckers that worked here, I think it’s actually because the job most were doing was so exceptionally dull, they probably thought no bastard would be interested! Naturally, they were wrong of course, but there you go. Overall, it’s well worth a visit and whilst it is a bit steep at £25 to get in ,that ticket is valid for a year however, so you can go back again anytime you want which does soften the blow a tad.
Having seen more Enigma machines than probably even Hermann Goering ever did in his ‘in charge of some planes’ days, we take our leave and head for a pub not far away called the Swan, as this is the local of 4Days aunt & uncle who live here in Bletchley. We’re soon a bit confused in a small housing estate when we find our way barred by a gate. Just as we’re about to give up and retrace our steps, a lady in a car pulls up and offers assistance. We’re soon on the right track again and treated to a cheery “Bye bye those people!” from the little ‘un she has sat on the booster seat on the passenger side. Bye! Another sweaty walk follows and we stumble in and order a round of cokes along with the beer to get something cold and sugary down us to raise the spirits.
Elsewhere, Indy has arrived from work and is soon joined by Mangum PI in the spoons in town. They consider joining us but can’t be arsed and stay put with the cheaper beer! We neck a couple with 4Days relatives before we decide to move closer to the ground. Thankfully we’re treated to a lift from Auntie 4Days but not before we’ve witnessed the early stages of the demise of humanity at the hands of the machines when we leave the pub and spot a small white robot trundling along up the road. The fuck? Apparently they get used round here to deliver takeaways etc. Mad. Couldn’t have those round our way, as kids would be nicking them to soup up their scooters or be just booting them into the main road in front of busses. It’s a slippery slope you’re on Bletchley. Be terminators on the streets up here inside a couple of years at this rate, you mark my words.
We’re soon in the Spoons rustling up another round joining Indy & Magnum, Not far behind is Steve, grumbling about getting on the train with no air con. Unlucky mate! Here, Belly makes the absurd decision to have a pint of Old Peculiar despite it being a hefty old pint and a thousand degrees outside. Old people, I dunno. We sink a couple here as the other 2 describe their brief foray from the Spoons to another boozer not far away that was apparently pretty shit, so they actually came back here despite being back further from the ground! Eventually though, we have it away on our toes and start the walk to the MK enormadome. Ah yes, MK Dons. Yeah, they’re not for me thanks Clive. You can give it all that bollocks about “But no one was watching Wimbledon!” as much as you like, but the fact is, no more watches them now they’re here in a town that was apparently ‘crying out’ for and ‘utterly deserving’ of a Football League place. Plus what was wrong with Winkleman sticking some cash into the old non-league club round these parts and pissing some Tinpot leagues like all the other money wankers who think their shit town ‘deserves’ a FL club? Anyone would think it was just a sop for a property deal or summat! Sorry, but what they are is the antithesis to clubs like us. Ones who’ve earned our spot how it should be, on the pitch. Tonight’s a ground ticking operation for me personally folks and I’m unlikely to be back.
We eventually find our way to the ground past a massive Asda’s, just along from an Ikea and set about locating our turnstile. It doesn’t seem very busy around the ground with 15 or so to kick off and those home fans that are around are mostly wearing a very odd home shirt, that is all white with some grey shading on it that makes everyone look like they’ve been rolling around on a garage floor trying to sort a particularly troublesome oil leak on an old Ford Anglia before dashing to the match. It won’t win any design awards, that’s for sure. At the turnstiles, I do the usual flag fire certificate dance with the lady stewards, although I do get the bonus of freaking one out when I open up the small UJ for checking (sod lugging the big one around all day!) to find there’s a fucking great big old spiders web got picked up on it. Inside, despite my dislike of the club themselves, I have to admit the concrete bowl they’ve had built for them in the middle of fucking nowhere is pretty impressive. Big open concourses, 2 tiers and the concourse opens out directly into the stands, a bit like the Stade de France. Must be great when Bon Jovi’s in town on tour.
Rose, Milsom, Kizzi, Rowe, John, Neufville, Eastmond, Smith, Boldewijn, Bugiel, Wilson SUBS: House, Barden, Beautyman, Ridley, Lovatt, Fadahunsi, Gambin, Kouassi, Thomas
The ground is of course practically empty for this one, with only a couple of blocks down the side open for home fans and us in the corner, so we try our best to get our nonsense echoing about the place. Not bad acoustics to be fair. The game isn’t exactly edge of the seat stuff, not that anyone’s bothering to sit anyway, as the hosts move the ball about neatly and go probing for an early goal. The defence largely handles it without too much fuss and an early dart from Neufville looks to be checked in the box, but of course, with an ex-Ryman ref doing tonight, we’re getting fuck all from that. Enzio and Ali have long range efforts easily saved, a Milsom free-kick to the back stick is nodded back across but the keeps reads it and claims before it gets anywhere near Omar lurking in the middle. They force a couple of regulation save out of Rose, but seem to be mostly interested in making pretty triangles and trying to walk the ball in. Enzio probably has our best chance, a diagonal ball finding him in space in the box, but he’s closed down sharpish and his resulting shot is blocked. Then with the break approaching, we’re behind. More triangles, lad plays a little reverse ball into a team mate in the box with a bit of space, he sends Milsom for a pie and getting the ball out of his feet quick pops it into the far corner. Joy. The home fans are delirious with joy, mainly as it means they can fuck off for a half time cuppa now, which a lot of them do before the goal music’s even ended.
Worse for us a minute or so later when Coby pulls up and has to be subbed off for Barden. Jon goes to fullback and Kizzi steps into the middle. Nice to see the fitness is there early doors lads. Or are we getting the injury crisis out the way sharpish? With the entertainment on the pitch slightly limited, it’s up to us to make our own as per usual however I get a proper bite out of the lino nearest us after he gives a rank looking shout. “Come up from the Isthmian as well like your boss did we mate? Fucking shows!”. Delightfully, the acoustics do me a favour and he hears it clear as day, giving a very sour look straight at the away end. It’s the little things! So, 1 down at the break I head for the food spot to top up with a pie and having ordered I’m told it’ll be a minute, so while I wait I chat to other faces in the queue and then get to witness one of the finest examples of what we call ‘fucking modern rip off football’. A chap wander up and orders a bottle of coke, a pack of ready salted and a bag of Haribo. “That’ll be £8.35 please!” chirps the smiley, cheery lass behind the jump. “Fucking Ada!” I mutter as the fella walks away with the sort of haul that down the corner shop would easily see you with a quid change from a fiver. Shortly after this I’m told they’re actually out of pies. Cosmic.
The second half isn’t much to write home about either really. It’s much the same as the first 45 with them playing it around, us sitting in and looking to pinch it on the break and not much in the way of chances. The first 15 are pretty dour for us as they press but create little barring one free header from a cross that the bloke steers wide across Rose’s goal, but by and large, we just lack that little spark and can’t really get much of a spell of play going. They give Rose a couple more drop your hat on them saves whilst the best we can manage is Smith’s low hit from about 20 that has their keeper at least full stretch low to make the stop. There’s so little going on that the pervading smell of shit in the air gets people more animated than much of the football. We make all our remaining changes, swapping out the front 2, getting Harry on and giving Gambin a go wide and whilst this injects a bit more life into us, we’re still not quite at it. We keep plugging away however and right at the death, Milsom goes wide on the overlap and whips in a cross that picks out Gambin, but his blistering volley is a good foot or two too high and flashes over the bar and into the sea of empty seats behind the goal. Ah bollocks. Never wanted to win the whatever that fictional drink is called cup anyway!
We applaud the lads efforts and head for the exits. A sweaty 30 minute walk back to the station awaits! This goes ok for the first part, but then we find we’ve lost the pavement and are walking along a grass verge next to an A road, coming up to a blind bend where even the grass verge disappears. In the dark. Err? Not wishing to backtrack 10 minutes and try to find our way back on course, we dart across the road in gaps in the traffic whilst those that go first are calling out the oncoming motors for the others. Fortunately, having hopped the central res, we’re soon back on course and cursing the local council’s dislike of human beings using their feet. It’s Buckinghamshire lads, not fucking California. The rest of the walk looks pretty straight forward but turns out to be anything but as more anti-pedestrian roads mean we end up going around the houses somewhat. Still, we hit the platform with a few minutes to spare so all’s well. Until the PA announces a platform alteration 60 seconds before the rattler’s supposed to pull in. Wankers! Cursing Sutton fans leg it up the stairs and back down onto Platform 2, only to find it mostly fenced off and a big fucking gate blocking our way! Thankfully it’s not locked and after being manhandled open, we’re all soon safely on and heading back to Euston.
An little over an hour later, which is passed by us trying to work out what percentage our 273 punters were of the sub-2300 crowd announced tonight (it was 12% if you’re interested stat fans!), we’re back in Vic having shed Dr Bell and Indy at Euston as a 10 minute wait for the tube means they won’t make the last Sutton train, so they get the Northern back to Morden instead. Here unlike Saturday no one’s remotely up for a nightcap and Magnum, 4Days, Steve and myself head for East Croydon and busses home finally. Now to just perform the “Don’t wake Mrs Taz” shuffle when I get in. I’m on a decent run there at the moment to be honest and I’d like to keep it going.
Barrow for a first win anyone? Failing that, there’s a happy hour in the fanzone beforehand.