The seasons seem to pass so much more quickly these days for us old gits. Only seems like 5 minutes ago that we tipped into December, opened the old festival of ‘fuck it it’s Christmas’ and started living off sherry, Quality Street and turkey leftovers for 30 days. And now here we are, already at the last game before the Crimbo festivities and in the thick of the the usual company piss up period. My own one involved going curling. Yes, a bunch of idiots, boozing and fucking around on ice lobbing heavy objects about. How that one got past HR I’ve not the foggiest. Still, somehow no one died so it all had a happy Hallmark ending.
At said do, I was once more exposed to the fact that Sutton is the centre of the known universe when discussing football with a recent recruit to the firm. The obvious question “So who do you support then?” comes up and turns out he’d a Dunfermline fan. When I then reveal my own sad obsession he immediately replies “Sutton? My best mate watches them!”. Seriously, it’s getting to the point these days where it’s genuinely more surprising when you meet someone who doesn’t have links to our dreary bit of suburbia than not. Turns out my colleague was also at Boreham Wood with his lot the day we were up at Airdrie in the Irn Bru and also, as he lives in Billericay and takes his lad to the odd game there, was also present when we got our arses fucking handed to us there in the FA cup in Matt’s first season. Lovely. “We’ve improved a bit since then thankfully”.
With the festive season almost upon us, we also got that bit of a cold snap that made the Colchester game a bit iffy followed by a rare bit of snow down here in the soft shandy drinking South. Naturally, this put a lot of games this weekend in jeopardy, however our intended oppo Orient did a fine job of keeping Jack Frost at bay with what sounded like a big electric blanket on their pitch. Which is quite the flex if you ask me given most clubs probably wince when flicking on the old floodlights before a game these days given what leccy costs. Still, at least it means we’ve got a game to get to, so that’s something. But another train strike also means getting into town is a bit more of a faff than it usually would be too, so that’ll no doubt keep things interesting.
Come game day, there’s seemingly not many of the firm travelling for this one for various reasons, mostly family commitments, hangovers and “Can’t be arsed” so as I set off for the meet in London Bridge, I’m not entirely sure who’ll be there to greet me. Not trusting a reported skeleton train service and because I’m not a scab I forego the usual run to East Croydon and having admired the pranged and awkwardly abandoned Prius on the main road, instead jump on a 410 for the short hop to Wandle Park. Here I pick up the tram and trundle over to Morden Road and enjoy the cold morning air again for the brief walk to Morden tube. With time to spare, I dip into a greasy spoon and order up a brew and a bacon roll for some early soakage. Fodder acquired, it’s onto the tube and as I hit the platform I swear I can hear the sound of Wreck it Beckett’s distinctive laugh echoing from somewhere nearby. Which is never a good sign as it means the Sutton masses are on the move! I find myself a relatively empty carriage and tuck into breakfast as the train leaves and begins the trek through all of the Claphams.
Despite my dislike of the Northern Line, the trip’s painless and half an hour later, shortly before 11 I’m off at London Bridge and following my astounding sense of direction manage to pick the right exit which brings me right out by the Old Kings Head, a regular pub haunt of ours round these parts. Having grabbed some cash, I lurk about until a couple minutes past the hour and with Mr X somewhere nearby having picked the wrong exit from the tube, I leave him to his adventures and head in to grab my first pint of the day. 4Days and Lil’ Chris appear just as I’m getting served and then Mr X finally shows up having got his bearings. Finally, Ipswich Lee rocks up having stayed up town the previous evening for his works do. Here we thrash out a plan for the rest of pre-match and decide to have a couple here and then make a run to Leytonstone for beers in the Red Lion there given the usual Orient pubbage, the Technical, is currently shut. With this all decided, I send Mr X to the bar with a Scottish tenner to get another round in. “Who’s that?” asks Lee pointing to the face on the note. “Rabbie Burns” shoots back the Man of Mystery. “Is Rod Stewart on the twenty then?”.
A couple down here, we leave the steadily busying Kings Head and jump back on the tube, taking the Jubilee round to Stratford (or ‘Strat-ford’ as the driver calls it as we approach) for a quick couple stop hop on the Central. The wait at Stratford is longer than we’d have liked and the platform steadily fills up, including one lad with a Xmas tree, this is gonna be a squeeze. When the train rumbles in, it’s every man for himself and we scatter to insert ourselves wherever we can find a gap. Still, it’s only 2 stops and it’s not long before we’re navigating the icy pavements of Leytonstone to find the boozer. Here we rack up pints and find Spennymoor Pete, just about to leave and head to meet the DBDC party down in Leyton. He soon abandons that plan and instead gets another one in and sticks around with us instead. We catch up over a few as it’s been a while since we’d last crossed paths. Here in the gents, I find an interesting bit of graffiti declaring ‘Matty sells nudes for Twix money’. Hey, I like a Twix as much as the next man, but that’s a bit much if you ask me. Get help mate or at least sell someone else’s nudes if nowt else.
Being so close to Leyton, we probably get a bit blasé about time and our last beers are knocked back at half 2 before we skedaddle back to the station. The TFL app shows two options that should get us in with enough time to hit the ground in time for kick off, but when we get to the station, there’s one soon and the next isn’t for 20 minutes. Ooops! Looks like we’re squishing on again! As with Stratford, the platform is busy and we again pile in where there’s a gap. I’m followed in by a lass with a pushchair no less and another little’un in tow who starts to freak out when he bobble hat comes off and disappears into the scrum. She’s soon placated when someone locates it and fishes it up off the floor. We bundle off with a load of others a stop later and head to Brisbane Road, skipping in through the turnstiles with still several minutes before the action gets underway. Timing!
Rose, Kizzi, John, Boldewijn, Milsom, Beautyman, Eastmond, Smith, Neufville, Randall, Bugiel SUBS: Ward, Hart, Kouassi, Fadahunsi, Dundas, Kendall, Gambin
Most of us have pretty much written today off result wise. It’s a free hit and anything we get here today is basically a bonus. Wilson’s absence means a tweaked formation for us and a rare change from our stock 4-4-fucking-2 we normally stick out. Who knows, maybe that’ll surprise ’em? The game is cagey early on and soon develops basically into a largely midfield scrap. Their efforts in the final third are a little more coherent than ours, but lack the final ball, whereas we can’t really seem to make the ball stick or create much in the way of threat. Louis has to make one good block from a shot in the box and Rose’s bar is rattled from a free-kick right on 18 after a break right through our middle is halted on the edge of the box. Still, it’s a tight half and we largely keep our shape well and frustrate them in the main. Elsewhere, there’s a lot of empty seats in the home stands, odd given the game apparently being a sell out. I guess that’s the danger with these cheap match offers, if people don’t fancy it (too cold etc), they just don’t show. It’s only a fiver after all. Amusingly, it seems we’ve been joined in the away end by Spennymoor Pete, an actual Orient ST holder! Christ knows how he wangled that one as we’d waved him off outside the away turnstiles earlier.
At the break I go down more in hope than anything else of getting a pie or summat, but there’s a big old scrum at the jump and I can’t be arsed to wait and no doubt eventually miss out, so head back up into the stands. The second half starts out much like the first really with us working hard and frustrating the hosts whilst both sides fail to really create much in the way of chances. We have a few corners, but all the deliveries are poor and nothing comes from any of them. Then around the hour, when most are starting to think we’re looking at a 0-0, we make the first mistake and that’s pretty much your lot. Enzio doesn’t deal with a ball forward and his poor touch gives the wide player possession. He still has plenty to do though as he cuts across the edge of the box and cracks a tidy hit beyond Rose and into the back of the onion bag, which understandably wakes up the so far almost silent home support.
Matt makes an immediate change with Tope replacing Harry, but again despite a lot of graft we really can’t get much going in the final third at all and it seems we’re going to fall to another narrow, brave defeat. The icing on the cake though is provided with 10 left, when pressure far side leads to a low cross into the box, Ali stretching to block and only succeeding in looping the ball into the air and over Rose into the far corner. Game over. More subs arrive but there’s no way we’re getting 2 back against top of the league and as expected it’s the old nul points for us and after lauding the lads efforts, it’s out into the dark streets of Leyton and a stroll to the Birkbeck for a couple of pints to let the crowds thin out, the mob at the tube proving this to be the best choice as we pass by. We locate the boozer, a cool old place in a back street and get a round in. Just as we arrive, the local vicar lady is kicking off a little carol singing session. Lovely.
“Tell you what, I’m not into the singing, but the vicar’s pretty fit!” comments one of the party, who shall remain nameless, about the lady of the cloth going round handing out song sheets and geeing up the assembled drinkers. Yes, we fully realise we’re utter heathens and that we’re going to hell, thanks for noticing. We neck a couple in here with the DBDC firm and as we toast Dirty Barry’s 70th revolution around the sun, Smarty and I get talking about ‘Whamageddon’, the fun little seasonal game about dodging hearing Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ for as long as possible during December. I’m still in at this point, having dodged a bullet at work on Thursday by going for a shit moments before someone put it on the stereo at the pre-party drinks. He on the other hand laments having got out during the week as he politely stopped to let a lass reverse off her driveway and she had it blaring out of her car speakers! A DJ is setting up in the corner as we chat, “Guarantee you this geezer does me inside two songs though” I predict.
Turns out, much to West Sutton’s premier Window cleaner’s great amusement, that I’m absolutely bang on the money. Second track and George Michael’s warbling out of the PA bringing my run to an end. Bastard! Oh well, it was a good innings and I did better than most I suppose. The DBDC lot depart and head back to Morden for beers in Ganleys whilst we choose to have one more, but soon after a call comes through from Big Malcom, the PROWS head of security. Seems he’s left his man purse on the bar and as this is a national security risk, quite important. So I recover it and chuck it over my shoulder, promising to try & get it back to him at the pub in Morden, all whilst not trying to feel self conscious about it.
Next stop for us is a quick one in London Bridge to re-wet the whistle and along the way, I have a root through Malc’s man bag, as you do. Sadly there’s no wallet or anything of value in there other than a couple of glasses wipes, a strange iPhone looking cable and a tester of ‘Ralph’s Club’ that we all have a little squirt of. Hey, ‘no spray no lay’ as the freshen up lads insist! Back in town, we head to the Barrowboy as it’s dead easy out of the station and here we see a seemingly frustrated barman lob an empty Jaeger bottle over the bar for some reason, causing it to smash it on the floor much to the bemusement of the packed pub and also encounter three geezers, one of who is absolutely steaming, who’ve failed to get into a venue at the opposite end of the bridge due to said mate being too pissed. So they’ve come in here for a quick pint and swapped coats and even tops in the gents to try and change their appearance a bit so they can go back and give it another go. Can’t fault the effort lads! Pint polished, we head back to the tube and hop on for the run back to Morden, where we pass the time chatting to a lad and his Dad about the mighty U’s, much to the mum’s disgust. “Bloody football, always the bloody football!”. Sorry mum! Finally back at the arse end of the Northern Line, we say goodbye to our new friends and head over the road to Ganleys for a couple of pints with the remaining DBDC lot and most importantly of all, to return Macolm’s purse.
My good deed gets me a large G&T reward for my troubles despite my admitting we’ve had a go on his stinky spray and as the clock starts to turn to ‘late’, people start to drift away. 4Days shoots off to drop Lil’ Chris home and then get back out to a house party he’s meant to be at, Lee scatters for home still clutching his overnight bag that he’s been moaning about lugging around all day and Mr X also finally calls it a night, starting to feel the effects of drinking all the white wine at his Xmas do last night as well as a day on the lash. I stick around a bit longer to finish my pint and bid farewell to Keepo, COCs Paul and Malcom outside as I nip off for a timely164 back into Sutton. Back in town, I jump off at the station and noting that I have about 15 minutes until an X26 can put me in the vicinity of HQ, I nab a portion of chips to scoff as I wait so as to add some soakage and also keep my mitts warm as it’s now bloody freezing out again. Next mission? Not to wake up Mrs Taz when I get in.
Easier said than done that.
Have a good Xmas folks! See you in Crawley.