Season’s greeting kiddos! Did we all have a lovely post-Santa break in with the family? Oh wait, that’s presuming there’s family. Ah bollocks, we’ve made a right pigs ear of that right out of the gate haven’t we with a lazy assumption and not thinking of others again. That’s it, we’re done. As good as cancelled now, fucks sake. Can’t say nothing these days, not even Merry Christmas and you’re literally thrown in jail and stuff. Bloody millennials… [ old man shouting at cloud ]. Seriously though gang, we hope your festivities involved all those it required, your turkey was moist, your pigs were blanketed, your socks were unwanted and your shit sweater your auntie always buys you was, well, shit.
So, another Xmas has been survived and this can only mean one thing. Boxing Day football. Oh yes. However gone are the days when this was a simpler affair for us old farts who’ve been watching this pony since the good old days when stuff was in black and white and Pathe was a major news provider. Back then we’d all meet up at a pub in Sutton for 12, get lashed up and stagger down to some dive like Colston Avenue, stopping only for some of Greek’s vodka jelly along the way from the boot of someone’s car, to take in 90 minutes of giving it large over those far far less fortunate than us and invariably coming away with some points. Oh no. These days it’s all properly serious big boy stuff, with proper grounds and proper teams. Like Crawley. Oh.
Well, when he fixture goblins shat out our schedule back in June, this one initially didn’t look too bad to be honest. I mean, we’d kinda got used to going to Boreham fucking Wood on a day with no trains when literally the only good thing about going to Boreham fucking Wood was that there was just the one direct rain required from the PROWS, so getting to Crawley should be a piece of piss in comparison. Sadly though, broken Tory Britain was once again on hand to intervene and another train strike over the festive period meant that not even a rattler to Gatwick was running the day after Santa’s reindeer based impression of DPD, thus ruling out a bus to Croydon and you can probably guess the rest. Understandably, even our stoic travel sec baulked at this fucking carry on and largely swerved discussions about what the bollocks we were going to do instead. The situation quickly unravelled from here as Greek subsequently took over planning. Which tends to pan out about as well as asking Elon Musk if he’d like to buy a social media platform if I’m honest.
Despite this and like Orient last weekend with many pussio blow outs giving various lame excuses regarding non attendance, we agreed that we’d assemble at Sutton Spoons for no later than 10.30am, have a beer (or two) and club together for cabs direct down to the sticks. The cost being, hopefully, no more than a bullseye between us each way thanks to the modern miracle of Uber. Hopefully. So, it was because of this that my alarm kicks off about 9 on the Boxingest of Days and I’m getting called all the names under the sun from beneath the duvet by my beloved for disturbing her shut eye at such a stupid post-Xmas hour. Still, at least I’ve no hangover to battle this year as having been down my brother’s out in the countryside, approximately half the fucking way to Crawley no less, the day before I’d had to drive and only put away a single G&T the the whole day. I know, what a fucking loser eh?
Up and showered and all the rest, a quick peck on the cheek and a mumbled “Have a lovely day my beloved” that sounded very much like a ‘fuck off’ from Mrs Taz, I dip out just in time for a bus to Sutton. Or so I think. 15 mins later and no bus, I realise I’ve been duped again by those bussy bastards and start to wander down to Wallington Green to intercept the X26, only to see the bastard fly past me halfway there leaving me to mutter all sorts of rude things under my breath the rest of the way down the road. With a 20 minute wait until the next one and it being a touch nippy out, I fold and rustle up a cab into town instead and soon I’m being whisked into Sutton by a nice man in a Prius. Thanks to this, I’m strolling into Spoons and taking a quick look around find I’m the first to arrive, although Johnnie and Beckett are in for an early pint and some breakfast. I sort a pint of Guinness and a bacon sarnie out and in lieu of any other Sutton around, I make myself at home and catch up on Xmas festivities and other nonsense with these two.
Soon 4Days appears along with his good lady, who’s got to entertain herself locally until a pickup at 5pm to head to Luton for Norwich’s game at Kenilworth. Still, at least she’ll get to see what’s on the washing lines behind the away end there on the way in. Mr X is next in, swiftly followed by Burgers, who isn’t actually coming along today as he’s got family stuff on, but he’d spotted the Man of Mystery and decided to join us for a quick livener. Merry Christmas mate! Greek is last to arrive and once all that much stupidity is in one place, the conversation of course turns silly. Beckett reveals he has shares in no less than 6 racehorses, which leads to him stating “I’ve got three 2 year olds on the go” which has Mr X querying “Should you really be saying stuff like that out loud in public?”. The B Team’s chief of banter also has a little Xmas themed quiz question for us which goes along the lines of “What festive baby name did 25,000 people call their new born last year?”. Naturally, this is treated with the seriousness it requires and as I disappear for a leak shouts of “Tinsel!” and “Donkey!” can be heard. Idiots.
When I return, I’m told the answer was actually ‘Turkey’ which just sets off another argument along the lines of “That’s bollocks that is”. “Are you sure you don’t mean popular baby names IN Turkey?” is one line of interrogation, but the B man sticks to his guns despite checks on the ONS website coming up blank, but after Beckett makes a call to his brother who’d supplied the knowledge to him in the first place to send his sources through, Mr X does admit that he’s found a recent link to the Mirror website detailing this info. Beckett’s declarations of victory last about a minute however before Greek does a deep dive on said article and discovers that the total of 25 thousand baby Turkey’s born ‘in the last year’ actually are taken from records stretching back to the fucking 1500’s. “And that doesn’t mean 3pm mate” I chip in helpfully. “What do you call a baby turkey anyway?” asks Burgers. Oh Jesus, here we go again…
With the B-Team crew getting the coach down, they start to make tracks for GGL and a 12.45 leave whilst we get Greek to book the four of us transport on Uber. A short wait later and we’re bidding farewell to 4Days lady who’s off to see the sights of sunny old Sutton and cramming into the back of yet another Prius. To Crawley my good man and don’t spare the hybrids! We weave our way through a myriad of country lanes behind a tit in a Merc who shits himself at every oncoming car, braking to allow the other car to pass, even when it’s a Fiat 500. An event that has even the cabbie joining in with us calling the bloke in front a wanker. The route is a little unusual as matey decides to sack off the assumed 217 and M25 path to the M23 and when crossing the 25 shortly after joining the road to Sussex, we see why with the world’s biggest car park up to its usual tricks. Thank god for sat navs. Being folded up alongside 4Days for 40 mins is bad enough as it us, sod being stuck like this for 2 hours. It’s a quick run though and we’re soon being tipped outside the Old Punch Bowl. Right, pint? Pint.
A round is sorted and we park ourselves to stretch out after the journey, although I get off to a cracking start by missing my mouth entirely and spilling my first sup all down my front much to massive sympathy from the others. Fucking idiot. Greek and Mr X order up some grub here to line the stomach and to be honest, I’m a bit jealous when their massive toasties come out, making my Spoons bacon sarnie earlier look pretty pathetic in comparison. Having had a couple in here and yammered about all sorts of pointless shite, we decide to start moseying on towards the ground. We make it precisely 100 yards before we’re ducking into the Brewery Shades. Our excuse being it’s a decent boozer and there’s a cab office opposite. With a round sorted here, Mr X goes for a smoke and to scout out the cabs. He returns declaring the lad behind the jump has stated it’s pretty dead today and he’s got loads of cars on, so a pre-kick off dash shouldn’t be a problem. Sorted! We tuck into a couple here with Greek bringing the latest West Sutton Cider Club meeting to order for possibly the last time this year with some Mango flavoured stuff and 4Days takes his life in his hands by going for a 5.7% Dark Star beer early in the day. This he justifies with some stuff about the brewery moving and it won’t be the same soon. Sure mate, we believe you, whatever you say.
With time getting on, we decide we should probably head for the game and true to his word, Mr Taxi man has a sherbert for us almost instantly and once more cramming into the motor, we make the shortish dash out of town to the ground. Through the turnstiles, I find the tea hut not that busy, so take the opportunity to pie up and with my edible handwarmer on the go, head into the terrace to find a vantage point for the game. This is a little easier than the visit last year where this section was absolutely packed to the point it got a little uncomfortable. However, the goal limbs were quite enjoyable when Tanto nicked one late. On the pitch, there’s a late change with Wilson pulling up in the warm up and Josh going up front. Hmmm, not sure about that if I’m honest. Right, game face on. Let’s have this.
Rose, Kizzi, Milsom, John, Boldewijn, Eastmondy, Smith, Beautyman, Randall, Neufville, Bugiel. SUBS: Ward, Fadahunsi, Kouassi, Hart, Goodliffe, Pierre, Dundas
I’ll be frank here and state right out of the gate that the first half is pretty awful stuff. Bitty, no real excitement or passages of play to get the pulse going nor any serious pressure or goalmouth efforts. We have a lot of the ball and look the better side, but it’s marginal if I’m honest. The best we can manage on goal over 45 mins is a rare flash from Neufville who gets clear but pulls his shot wide of the target and Harry getting up well to loop a header back stick, but the keeper makes a simple save and it looked like it was going wide anyway. Crawley don’t manage anything more and despite a couple of little nice interchanges of passing and a couple of forays down our end, Rose has little aimed his way to trouble him. You can certainly see why they’ve struggled this season. Still, it’s not saying much for us given we’re going in 0-0 at the break with them and no one’s saying very Chrismassy things about the on field fare.
The second half is little better to start with. They look a bit brighter than before whilst we still struggle to get much going at all. Our best chance comes from a quick throw in on the stand side finding Randall in some space, he turns and has a decent sight of the target, but rushes the shot and it’s across goal and wide of the mark. From here, the game drifts a touch and Crawley at least provide some amusement with what must surely be one of the worst corners we’ve ever witnessed. Their lad takes an age placing it, sorts his socks out, gives some hand signals prior to delivery and then shanks it horribly away from goal and right up towards the halfway line. Here a defender tidies up and lays it off to the keeper who subsequently hacks it straight into touch to his left. Fucking hell that was shit lads. Trust us, we’re experts. “God I hope that’s on the highlights!” replies Steve in Dubai to my tweet describing the event. With an hour gone, we’re hoping Matt makes an early change to give us a little more up front and thoughts are interrupted by the lads winning their first corner of the game. Much excite! We make it count too as the ball in from our left is headed up in the air, drops in the box and is acrobatically hooked onto the target by Omar. The keeper makes a good save down low but he only pushes it out as far as Kizzi who rams it back into the roof of the net. MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!!
Having conceded, the hosts to their credit try and up the tempo and force their way back in. A few minutes later, Rose has to be alert to deal with a low skiddy free kick that seems to catch everyone out, smothering it at his near post. This is as good as it gets for Crawley as a minute later, a ball in from wide is headed straight up in the air by a defender in the box. Him, a team mate and the keeper all leave it to each other and Omar nips in, pinches the dropping ball and is tripped in panic by their skipper. Penalty! Rob Milsom steps up and hammers in the spot kick to give us a two goal lead for the first time since god knows when. Right, can we not go and bollocks this up please? Cheers. Tope comes on up top and his energy gives us a couple of moments, one being a low save by the keeper at his near post, but from here we never look in any real danger until almost the last breath when they nick one back after we don’t deal with a moment on the edge of our box, but it’s too little too late for the hosts and the ref blows up moments after the restart to seal our second away win of the season. Get in there. With the lads applauded off, we head out into the darkness and wind our way under the bypass to the New Moon where we did post-match pints last season. Here we knock back a couple of celebratory scoops and take in the entertaining Villa Liverpool game on the tellybox.
We decide here we can’t be arsed with the walk back into Crawley itself and instead Greek rustles up another Uber to get us back to civilisation. Once more cramming into a Prius, we have an interesting convo on the way back with our driver abour the ridesharing firm and their pricing etc, as well as the fact the jam jar we’re in has racked up over half a million miles inside 6 years! Not bad, not bad at all! It certainly helps pass the time on the journey and 40 minutes later, we’re bundling out at the Post Office in Sutton and bidding the more miles than an Apollo moon rocket Prius goodbye and heading for the warmth and pints of O’Niells. Here we catch the end of the Villa Liverpool and rustle up some much needed fodder, which provides amusement from Mr X who goes full ‘Magnum PI’ to read the menu by illuminating it with the light on his phone. “Fucking hell, you’re so old!” cackles Greek. A couple of beers later on top of this and with Arsenal West Ham now entertaining us, Mr X and Greek decide they’ve had enough for one day and both trail off homewards leaving 4Days and I to enjoy a couple more and the rest of an entertaining Arsenal performance that fully exposes the level of tosh we watch on a weekly basis. As a nightcap, I treat myself to a G&T and decide to try out a strange new brand I spot behind the bar which is basically poured from what looks to be an oil can. Might have to get some actually!
These are supped and we both head for the 407 home, with 4Days dipping off just before the badlands to go and catch last orders at the Hope. At Carshalton High street, the wheelchair ramp is deployed, only for the lad intending to use it finding the gradient a bit much to handle. So I hop off and help load him up for his trip home. “Sorry, I’ve had a few!” he apologises. We engage in chatter and he offers to buy me a pint for my kindness. “Sorry mate, got to head home as the missus is unwell” is my excuse. “It’s only quarter past 10!” he complains before putting his thumb to his head. Oh mate, why you gotta do me so dirty?! I bid farewell to my proposed new drinking buddy at my stop and wish him a Happy New year as I go. Indoors, I stumble in and am surprised to find Mrs Taz still up given she’s full of a cold. “Couldn’t sleep!” she moans, so I head to the kitchen and get her a hot lemon and honey concoction to try & help whilst I rustle up a pork pie and some cheese on crackers to snack on as I kick this crap off before bed.
Fuck it, it’s Christmas! Sort of.