Over the last few years, despite the level of relative success the club has had, we’ve still managed to make ourseleves look a bit daft from time to time and given the age we now live in what with all the Bookfaces, the Twatters and Tok Tiks, these moments invariably wind up online with people taking the piss out of you and having a right old Paul McGrath at our expense. From the run of the mill goalkeepers scoring against us (both former and future U’s no less) type stuff to absolutely timeless episodes that people will literally remember our club for regardless of anything else we ever achieve such as that pie thing, we’ve featured in more than our fair share of online ‘LOLz BANTER!’ moments to be honest. And that’s before you get to stuff like the SunBets outrage.
Well, after the Boxing Day trip to Crawley, it was nice to be able to be the source of one of these but with the shoe on the other foot as it were for once and after Steve and I put out the clip of that amazing corner routine I mentioned in the blog (and on twitter during the game), things went and got a little out of hand. From a Gandermonium perspective, we got all the likes, re-twats and such with the video being watched over seventy thousand times. Them’s big numbers for no mark dickheads like us and no mistake. Steve had it worse though as his got picked up by a couple of blue tick journos which gave it some serious traction and the last time we looked it had over a million views and was soon on the likes of Sky Sports News as well as popping up elsewhere in the mainstream. No doubt be on Soccer AM this weekend too. Despite all this attention though, our man in Middle East was disappointed to find he only picked up two followers into the bargain from all that attention! Unlucky mate.
There was also another twist in the tale when the following day, Crawley’s Cryptobro owners announced they’d binned off their manager just a mere 32 days after hiring him. Was this purely a shit results thing or was the scandal of that corner routine the final straw for them? Or could it be that they’re simply daft Yanks that don’t have a fucking clue what they’re doing? Also if was the corner thing, is our Dubai correspondent directly responsible for costing a League 2 manager his job? All this is up for debate of course, apart from the last bit as, yes, that’s definitely 100% Steve’s fault. The bastard. Still, if nowt else, it was something to keep us amused inbetween changing channels on the telly and our latest course of cheese on crackers with a side of Quality Street, so it’s all good.
With 3 useful points added to the total down in Sussex, we return to the beautiful wonder and majesty that is Gander Green Lane for the traditional midweek after Xmas but before New Years encounter that always seems to surprise people who are currently unsure of what day of the week it is. This time we’re welcoming bottom side Gillingham to GGL for the first time and we’ll be looking to get some measure of revenge for that abysmal last minute defeat down there back in October. A game ranked by some of us as probably one of the worst under Matty’s reign. Since then they’ve not really kicked on at all from that morale boosting win either and still only have the six league goals to their name, meaning our contribution to their onion bag tally is somewhere around the 16-17% mark in case you were wondering. Still, things might turn for them in the new year as they’ve just got a new owner done and dusted and with the window about to open, most of us are just glad to be getting them out of the way now before they sign 157 new players after Jan 1st and inevitably start turning other mobs over.
With most of the gang largely tossing it off this week doing nothing, Tatey suggests a little post Xmas get together in O’Niells for some pints and some grub, but mostly pints. The idea is well received, with even the likes of Dukey accepting the opportiunity to escape parenthood for a couple of scoops. The meet is set for 3pm and having shaken off my own ‘what day is it again?’ lethargy, I leave Mrs Taz to a quiet afternoon\evening in and head out for the bus into town. My only delay is some temporary lights by HQ but we’ve soon escaped their shackles and a couple of tracks later on the headphones, I’m hopping off in the usual and heading for the boozer. Inside, I find some right wankers sat in the corner, which just so happens to be the party I’m joining. Greek, Tatey, Indiana Jones, SLO Loffers, 4Days, Lil’ Chris, Robbo and Magnum PI are all already in the swim and enjoying their post-Xmas jars. Tatey has given Magnum a lift to the pub as he was passing his gaff earlier and is now extracting a high price for this by doubling down on some ‘Help the aged’ type banter, so much so that Magnum is soon begging for Dr Bell to arrive, simply to take some of the flack away from him.
Another angle of attack here is an ill advised social media post from him that appeared to us a filter of some sort and made him look far younger than he is. “Have you had fucking botox or summat?” enquires Tatey, with his target now long since regretting accepting that offer of a lift. You don’t get this sort of shit from an Uber, I can tell you. On the telly some darts is being played out and we’re so interested that it takes us close to an hour to realise it’s a re-run from 2015. “Was the live stuff postponed due to the weather?” someone enquires aloud. Eventually Dr Bell arrives briefly to Magnum’s relief before he twists the knife and piles in on the abuse as well. Sorry mate, can’t win with this lot!! We then turn to discussing the total combined scrap value of Robbo, Magnum and Dr Bell thanks to their assorted range of titanium scaffolding holding them together. Could be useful to know if the whip ever needs topping up on a big awayday. The party is soon rounded out as Dukey finally arrives and adds one more Dark Fruits to the round. Also in the pub by this point are a few early arriving Gills fans and we briefly chat to one lad who seems hopeful that new signings will turn their fortunes, he’s apparently also heard they might be getting Dom Telford from Crawley for 100 grand. “Better hope you get Newport version and not the Crawley one!” chuckles Indy.
Loffers is the first to depart as she has SLO duties at the ground, but as time presses on, a few others drift off to get the 20 past 6 round the loop so they can get one or two in down at the ground. We’re uhhmning and aahing about what to do, but in the end, Dr Bell, Indy and I make a move about 10 past and decide to walk it whilst 4Days, Chris, Tatey, Dukey and Greek cram in one more pint here and will cab it down soon after. Our timing is good as we hit the bar at the MBA just as a freshly train delivered Robbo’s getting served. Pint please mate! We get beers and move into the Players as there’s more room and it’s here we find out that we’re a few bar staff down for tonight with illness, which is not great as they’ve sold at least 650 in advance. All those beer sales we’ll lose out on, Oaksey will be doing his nut! Bet 4Days gets roped in here as soon as he shows up an’all. My next task is to locate a customer from the Gandermonium store who’s order had failed online so we’re left to go old school and have me handing over a not at all suspicious looking brown envelope in return for a fistful of cash. Still, it’s a relatively painless transaction and I’m soon back to talking shite and supping.
Festivities are then tempered slightly by the news breaking that Brazil legend Pele has bicycled his last kick and shuffled off our mortal coil. Whilst it’s not unexpected given his age and reported recent poor health, it’s still immensely sad for an old bastard like me. Probably the first true global icon of the sport and well, 3 world cups, 1000 goals, that ‘Pele was Shite’ bit on Fantasy Football and ‘Escape to Victory’. What more is there to say? A true icon of the sport. Rest well Edson old son. We turn from this sombre news and instead throw about some January window possibilities instead. Most seem convinced that Dave will be back on lone from Posh, which is obvious really given he’s spent more time watching us at GGL lately than on the pitch for them. One who won’t be coming back though despite everyone’s hopes will be Tanto, as it seems he’ll be off to Stockport for about 200 bags, a fee that we probably couldn’t muster more than 10% of if we’re honest. Money always talks folks. Dukey then joins in the convo, holding a pint for 4Days who’s unsurprisingly got roped into jumping behind the bar to get the numbers down. He also shows us a little thing that tickled him during the week which is a tweet from Bayern Munich containing a graphic showing all their badges over the years.
“What’s missing from that?” he asks and we all peer at the pic on his phone for a moment. “Hey, where’s the one between 1938 and 1945?” I ask before the penny drops. “Oh!”. Our quizmaster lets out a chuckle and then proceeds to show us the one not shown for that particular time period. Let’s just say it’s not exactly subtle in a political sense and looks like the one used on the shirts of the German team in the aforementioned ‘Escape to Victory’. “There’s your first post Xmas break history lesson sorted” chuckles Indy. Our attention then turns to the team news, with Ben Goodliffe back in the starting line up and with no Rob Milsom in, we’re again forced into a reshuffle at the back. One of these days we’ll get to put an actual back four out on the pitch! Still, hopefully it’s enough to see off a mob that have no away wins and only 2 goals on the road this season. Actually, did I really just say that? What a fucking idiot. 4Days appears on a quick break from his busman’s holiday and necks his pint of Guinness that’s been sat waiting for him. He hands over Chris’ Season ticket and asks me to make sure he gets in ok as he’ll probably not get away now until shortly before kick off. I’m on it Bobbly Hat man!
Rose, Kizzi, Hart, Goodliffe, John, Eastmond, Boldewijn, Smith, Randall, Neufville, Bugiel SUBS: Gambin, Dundas, Beautyman, Kouassi, Fadahunsi, Pierre.
Pints downed, we head for the turnstiles and with the usual suave swerve of the hips, we dodge the long line at the first one and dip round to the practically unused ones on the other side. Inside, as expected, there’s a healthy following from Kent at the far end and the terraces our end look pretty well populated, so should bring a good attendance of over 3k I reckon. Not bad for a mid-weeker. We head up onto the Curva, say some hellos to faces we’d not seen Boxing Day and settle in for the contest ahead. We really need to get this one done tonight. Unfortunately, much like Boxing Day, the first half is largely excitement free. Enzio has an early dig wide and one of their lads stings Rose’s hands with a long ranger on the break, but apart from that, it’s pretty turgid stuff all round with Neufville up top making no impact at all and them just making far too many basic errors to create much threat at all. The main event of the half being a clash of heads between two of our own that sees Sam Hart departing with claret streaming from his face to be replaced by Harry. Time to shuffle that pack yet again gaffer.
Another first half blank looks assured as we drift towards the break, but we get a ball wide quick on one occasion, Joe Kizzi lays it back off to Easty and he swings a great cross to the back post where Omar heads it back across, it hits a covering defender and goes in with no real pressure from a Yellow shirt at all. Thank god for that! Sadly, when you’re in the shit and out of form, that’s the sort of thing that goes against you. Not that I or anyone is complaining, well, apart from about 700 people up the other end, but hey ho. The goal comes a couple before the break and we see it out to go in one to the good. It’s not been great, but it’ll do.
Second half, we’re hoping to kick on, but it’s the visitors that come out with a bit more life and whilst they’re still pretty haphazard on the basics and a lot of stuff breaks down with a poor final ball or taking the wrong option. They have a couple of goes from range, but nothing to trouble Jack between the posts. That’s not to say we’re any better if I’m honest. Still the ball won’t stick up top and opportunities are at a premium, the best of ours being two efforts from about 20 yards from Eastmond that are comfortably a foot or two over the bar. Goodliffe goes the expected 70 minutes and leaves to be replaced by Pierre, another returning player in desperate need of minutes. As the half wears on, that one goal advantage, as per usual with us, starts to look a little precarious. They waste an ok chance with a low ball into the near post that’s prodded wide and as time passes, they seem to grow a little in confidence.
With 12 to go, what we’d all been fearing comes to pass. Pierre doesn’t deal with a bouncing ball and his clearance is blocked. This puts the oppo in behind and he puts the ball into the box. It’s half cut out in the middle, not cleared by Enzio and then runs to a blue shirt arriving late. He shows great feet to skip past Easty and one other before cracking one off into the bottom corner of Rose’s onion bag. Loud noise far end, limbs etc and we’ve now provided 28.5% of all of Gillingham’s league goals this season. “This half has been fucking shit” someone comments. “Oh I dunno, the 15 minutes for half time weren’t bad” someone else adds. From here, the fear is real and at least a couple of people comment “They’re going to win this now aren’t they?” or words to that effect. And for 5 minutes, they do have a real spark about them. But then they seem to realise a point is probably a more realistic aim and their purple patch ends as soon as it began. Thank god.
Finally in the last 10 we actually manage to get the ball down and make it stick a bit more in the final third and we’re able to get bodies forwards. We pressure but as time is running out, we’ve only a 20 yard effort from Enzio coming in off the wing and straight down the keeper’s yap to show for our efforts. Still, we keep plugging away and with no more than a couple left, we finally, finally make something happen. Tope prods it wide, Josh holds up far side and then lays off to Enzio supporting. He steps inside and puts a cross into the heart of the box that misses Ali but hits a defender and rebounds to 18. Tope collects and then tees up Easty arriving late. He still has work to do but with a quick switch of feet he makes space between 2 defenders and whips a low one back across the keeper and into the far corner to send a nervy GGL wild with delight. Get. The. Fucking. Fuck. In. Have we finally nicked one late this season??
Thankfully the answer is yes, we have. We see out the last minute or so without a lot of fuss and hang on to take all 3 points in returning the favour of that last gasp debacle at Priestfield. Was is good? Not really? Did we win? Yes. Do we care that much? Absolutely fucking not. Right, I need a bloody beer after that. As we wander out and around to the bar, I poke my head into the megastore to make sure that Mr X hadn’t missed the magical moment at the end. “No, I saw it, but I was getting grief of some geezer for not having gone out to re-open the shop as it did!” he chuckles. I dunno. Some people. Would rather leave a couple minutes early to get a bobble hat than see it to the end and not miss stuff like that. Mad. Back in the bar, pints are served and we alll take a deep breath to take in and absorb the events of another grinding bit of League 2 fantasy football. The table shows us on 32 now and a good 17 above the bottom two. Lovely stuff. So confident does this make us that we’re soon predicting that probably as little as 40-42 will probably mean safety this season. Yeah, I know, we’re idiots.
A couple of pints help calm the nerves as the bar slowly empties out, then begins the great Uber race as I, 4Days and Greek all battle to be the first one to bag a sherbert home. I win, but outside 4Days is the first to arrive and I and Magnum hop into mine leaving Greek stood in the car park with a proper sorry frown staring at his phone wondering where his own transport is. Bye mate!
Have a good new years folks. See you at the big Womble sell out on Sunday…