Welcome dear reader to the second part of our back to back excursions to the North West region of our hugely enlightened, modern and politically untroubled isle, as we follow up last weeks trip to Tranmere with yet another early start and an awayer up at the BBC’s absolute favourite lower league outfit, Salford. It’s been a busy week at the training ground as we picked up another new signing and tied some familiar faces to new deals as League 2 safety looms and confidence grows after some long term injuries return and form improves a little. Sweet.
First up, the new man. Lee Angol, a striker we know from his days up at Boreham Wood arrived from Bradford City after we paid them a small fee for his services. No doubt this was laid out of whatever loose change was recovered from down the backs of the seats in the VP’s Lounge. This is also yet another sign of just how far we’ve come as a club where we’re not only paying fees for players these days, but they’re being signed from the likes of City and not Park Avenue. He’s a local lad too, being born in the Badlands, but we won’t hold that against him of course as we’re far more enlightened & cultured sorts here in the Republic as you’ve probably come to realise. Next up was the news that Kizzi, Milsom, Louis and Ben, along with skipper Easty had all signed extended deals as well. Although Rob looked less than impressed with getting dragged into AB’s impromptu reveal video that appeared on the socials afterwards as the lads travelled north for the weekend’s match.
The other main concern this week in the lead up was the weather. In that it was utter shit and having seen the state of Salford’s pitch on the League 2 highlights after the draw up at Tranmere, hopes were not high that this one would survive the almost week long downpour forecast. It’s not like we’ve ever been up here before and ended up spending an entire day on the lash after a game was called off after we’d travelled. Oh wait. There’s nothing for it but to pinch our noses and plunge into the ice cold waters of travelling miles for possibly no good reason at all. Still, at least there’s the small comfort it’s not Barrow or Hartlepool we’re heading for this weekend.
With trains actually running, the travel sec got to work and found that Avanti’s ponzi scheme bullshit was still having the absolute fucking front to charge almost 90 quid return for a service that they probably won’t bother running. That and the fact it was Manchester Derby day probably didn’t help much. Feel free to insert all your favourite ‘plastics’ comments here, as we frankly can’t be arsed. So instead we fell back on a now regular plan B of sitting on a rattler via the scenic route to Crewe and picking up whatever the Italian shysters can be bothered to provide. This also proved to come in some 40 notes cheaper as well, so our wallets were breathing a sigh of relief into the bargain.
Having headed to bed Friday night after the “So when do we reckon this is gonna get called off then?” chat had been had on the group, I’m awake at 7 and heading for the shower whilst a stiff wind lashes the rain on the roof above and onto the windows of HQ. And yes, it is at times like this that life choices are considered. Clean and dressed, I grab my wallet, keys and charger pack for my phone and head out the door. The flag I cannot be arsed to drag all that way up and lug around for no reason if this is indeed binned off. The wind is still howling out, but at least the rain has ceased and so the walk to the bus stop doesn’t leave me soaking wet. A 407 later and I’m ambling into East Croydon to realise that there are no Victoria trains today. London Bridge or a Thameslink it is then! After a wait of about 10 minutes and a thoroughly childish 4Days weather related crack on Whatsapp about getting ‘blown off at the top of Sutton High Street’, a Thameslink arrives first so I hop aboard and curl up in a corner pulling my hat down over my eyes for some bonus snoozing.
Less than 30 minutes and that robotic sounding lass they use for the on board announcements declares we’re approaching St Pancras and that’s my cue to reanimate and disembark. A couple of minutes later, I’m emerging out of a side exit into the still very dark morning next to the British Library and begin the short stroll through the back streets to Euston. Helpfully, the rain decides that this is now a good time to resume, so I mumble some bad words, pull up my collar and hood and set off on my less than merry way. As I walk along still deserted streets, I note an older building has been all but razed since I was last here, no doubt to make way for yet more shit overpriced flats and I spot though a window that a local charity\foodbank is in full swing knocking up some fine smelling nosh in their kitchens. Ah yes, breakfast. Eventually I pop up into the square outside Euston station and spot a couple of familiar wankers huddled in the entrance out of the rain.
“This it?” I enquire as I walk up. And it seems it is, with just Mr X, resident troublemaker 4Days and Indy the only other ones from the firm bothering today. The man of mystery confirms my suspicions and thrusts a wad of train tickets into my hand. Yep, it’s one of those kind of journeys! With 20 to spare until departure, I scoot off for my usual bacon rolls from Sainsbury’s only to find myself behind a group of plastic Mancs who’ve stumbled upon the hot shelf by accident and are currently nicking my breakfast. Fucks sake! One lad weighs up getting a second bacon roll, but I make the decision for him by bagging the last one along with a sausage bap and head for the tills. You snooze you lose pal. Food sorted, we head for the train and with a cuppa sorted, I catch the rest up as they jump onto the last carriage. Here we spread out and I tuck into the spoils of my Sainsburys raid as we slowly pull out into the rain and head north to Crewe. First stop, Milton Keynes.
The chatter is the usual nonsense, along with us catching up with the latest developments with the bullshit from during last week’s game. Annoyingly, 4Days has had not so much as a phone call from the po po about it all despite numerous statements and other contacts made throughout the week. Fucking useless. We also discuss the somewhat inclement weather on the M40 that had slowed our progress home from Liverpool last week. Before we know it we’re at Milton Keynes and after a short delay to let a, surprise fucking surprise, late Avanti service overtake us, we’re on the move again. Here our train picks up a guard and within 2 minutes he’s spotted that bobble hat and wandered over for a chat. Naturally, he’s a Wales away lad too and it seems he and 4Days have met before abroad, although the rest of us do note that neither seems to remember the other’s name! At one stop, a old-ish woman with crutches gets on with a small dog and sits in the row behind us. Sadly this then puts me in direct line of sight of said small dog curling out a shit on the carriage floor that must be half the size of it’s own body. Thankfully she bags this and none of the others are treated to this visual delight, although I do notice nostrils flaring as the odour of the business undertaken starts to waft our way.
She departs a couple of stops later and as we pull out Mr X asks the million dollar question. “Did her dog take a shit or summat?”. Also, having overheard the dog’s name, 4Days helpfully suggests “Casper the friendly shitting dog” as the title for this weekend’s missive. Yeah, cheers. I’ll have a think on that one if you don’t mind mate. Soon we’re off at Crewe and bidding 4Days Welsh mate farewell and waiting for our connection onto Manc. Here Mr X goes for a smoke and we get talking to a Northampton supporter who’s on his way to Stockport. Eventually, our connection arrives and we all pile on to find our reserved seats are not only taken, but shown as reserved from London, not Crewe. Fucked over again by Avanti! Turns out they’d canned the train before this one and it’s, as per, complete chaos on board and standing room only. Cunts. So it’s back to the old days of standing in a vestibule for 40 minutes right by the khazis. Joy. “Fucking glad we didn’t lay out 80 quid for this shit” mutters Indy bitterly. Still, the mood improves when 4Days appears from the buffet car with some cans. Well, most of us anyway, as Mr X gets a Budweiser, the poor bastard.
When we hit Piccadilly, there’s a wave of runners and hurried people in colours on the platform as they have precisely 35 mins to get to Old Trafford in time for kick off. Good luck with that! We amble out and find Porn Star and Nutsack on the concourse. A quick hello and then we’re off to the Tap outside for a pint. We’re soon joined here by Dirty Barry, Fish and a weary Keepo who’s had to put up with the other two on the trip. “All they’ve done is bicker the whole way!” he groans. His mood isn’t helped by us showing all the sympathy you’d expect and start calling him their carer and other such terms. Fish doesn’t care, he’s got his dark lager and he’s happy. We do one here and then head off to the back side of the station to hit up a brewery tap called Sureshot. Here’ there’s some oddly named beers, some 90’s ‘Gamesmaster’ footage playing on the telly and some more dogs. Although these are of the barky variety rather than the shitty, which is appreciated. Soon we’re joined by Kev Sutton formerly of our parish and now living the cheap life Oop North. Of course we all comment on his successful location of the venue given he’s the man who once went to Lewes for our game against the Rooks only to discover on arrival that the match was actually at home and he’d just paid to get into a reserve match. Sorry Kev, you’ll never live that down mate. Soon after, the other Tap attendees are in the swim as well and we get some pre-match pints drinking into gear.
The plan is initially to have one and head to Track, another Brewery Taproom just around the corner, but no one can be arsed and we decide that this will be our return target after the match and instead we down a few pints of ‘Potato’ here. But with time getting on and worries that full time at Old Trafford will hoover up available transport, I book an Uber at 10 past 2 and am stunned to get one immediately and he’s only a minute away. Sakes! Drink up lads, we’re leaving!! I and the Three Stooges pile in and the journey is passed with all sorts of bullshit chatter, but mostly around my Uber rating. I bemoan losing my perfect 5 star score some time ago on another away day for some unknown reason and the lads mock my now terrible 4.92 score. “Actually…” chimes in the driver “…we tend to think perfect 5’s are a bit iffy. We trust slightly imperfect scores more”. Ha! In your face losers! Although this of course doesn’t mean I’m about to drop into the low 4’s after this trip. We pile out at the ground and head in for the princely sum of a fiver before hitting the pie hut for some much needed stodge. A fine peppered steak for 3.50 goes some way to rescuing the disappointing pie return I’ve touched on in these very pages on our last two trips up into these lands.
Ward, Milsom, John, Goodliffe, Kizzi, Eastmond, Boldewijn, Smith, Randall, Bugiel, Wilson SUBS: House, Fadahunsi, Neufville, Hart, Beautyman, Ajiboye, Kouassi
With Jack Rose injured, Lewis Ward is back between the sticks today and from the off, he’s the busier keeper as we defend against the wind on what looks to be a bit of a pudding of a pitch. He makes and early stop before the hosts are ahead inside 10 when a striker bounces off John, who should probably do better and rattles it into the far corner. Wakey wakey lads. Sadly, this doesn’t really kick us into life and they should be two up when a lad shanks an absolute rotter miles off target and into the face of a grounded Louis John, who’s header has just diverted the ball away from their big lad Smith up top and dropped perfectly on the edge. It takes a while for us to get going and we have a couple of moments up at the shallow end, but nothing that really tests the keeper. We win a couple of corners, but the delivery is lacking and nothing comes of them. Then just as it seems we’ll get away with a single goal deficit, we fuck up right on the break and we’ve a mountain to climb. A lad gets wide and to the bye line, hangs one up under the crossbar in the middle and under a little bit of pressure, Ward weakly two fists it straight to the earlier goal scorer and unlike his mate earlier, he bangs it straight back in for 2-0. Great, I’m going for another pie.
The second half starts with a nice flurry of rain being gusted straight in under the roof of the away end, which is lovely. Still, with the wind now at our backs, we certainly make the hosts work a bit more for their corn. Sadly though, final ball is again our killer and we waste a couple of hard won set pieces with delivery that can only be described as awful. Matt throws the dice with 25 or so to go and the addition of Tope and Ajiboye to the fray ups the tempo and finally we start to unsettle Salford. Tope’s looking lively and soon after coming on, a defender is all over him in the box challenging for a bouncing ball and the ref has no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Milsom steps up, but the effort is too far inside the post and the keeper guesses right to make a comfortable save. Fuck our lives. This place is getting as bad as fucking Eastleigh and we’re not just talking about the pitch neither. Still, despite the miss, the lads have a real go with Dave in particular looking like his old self out wide. Chances come, with Milsom having a free kick on target from a tight angle just clawed away and a cross dropping in the box to Ben Goodliffe about 10 yards out who scuffs the free hit badly and the chance is gone. Our day is summed up near the end when a corner is flicked on and as the keeper flaps, it hits Ben in the face about a yard out and rather than fly past the keeper, it plops perfectly into his arms. Having seen enough, I tell the lads I’ll be booking the cab back to town as soon as the board goes up. And with 5 added, I’m down by the corner flag rustling up a getaway vehicle.
Within a couple of minutes of full time, we’re piling into a sherbert and are once more on our way to get beer. This time we’re going to Track, the place we sacked off earlier. We’re dumped soon after in an industrial estate and find our way into a large warehouse that brews beer and has some seating and a bar up front. No frills, but fuck it, we’re parched! Here we settle into a couple of rounds, realise that there was not a single copper at the ground today (fucking typical after last week that!) and make plans for our escape back South. In the end, 3 are chased down and we then head back out into the rain for the short walk to Piccadilly. Right, food and cans! We bump into Keepo and the boys exiting Sainsburys on the concourse as they rush for their Avanti back just before our departure. G&T’s sorted as well as some beers for Indy and we then look for food. Sadly, the initial plan of Burger King is a no go as it’s being made to order, thus ruling out the old school “Just give me what you got mate” approach. With Mr X insisting, I dart out to Co-Op and grab a supply of sarnies and pork pies just in case of emergency. My timing on the Burger is proven out as Mr X is the last to board our rattler to Crewe, just as the door alarm starts beeping. Here we discover he’s managed to somehow order 3 portions of chips to go with his criminally tiny bacon double. “I remember when they were the size of a whopper!” I comment, before claiming a spare packet of fries.
As we trundle to Crewe, I’m taken back to about this time 15 years back as the train pulls through the town of Alderly Edge, where I and Chalmers drove up to mega early one Saturday morning to pick up a shit car that we then later that year drove over 7000 miles to Mongolia. We still made the second half of our game at Ramsgate as well that day. We hit the cans and before long, we’re getting dumped back at Crewe to begin our last leg of the trip. This part of the trip is unusual in that Mr X remains awake for a change and doesn’t leave me to neck all the G&T and we’re joined by some Shrewsbury fans getting on at Tamworth after a fine 4-0 away win at Burton. “You’ll be playing them next year lads” one informs us once introductions are out of the way. We natter about lower league stuff in general before we realise that the train they’re on goes nowhere near Salop. “We’re from Bromley!” one lad admits. Yes, of course you are, how did we not guess. Silly us. Still, the chat passes the time nicely and shortly before 11, we’re pulling back into Euston and bidding our League 1 companions farewell. We duck down the side of Euston to re-tread the route I took at about 8am this morning, only to find the street swarming with old bill and a large section of the street taped off.
“Fucks gone on here?” wonders Mr X as we have to take a diversion to avoid the blockade. The answer dear reader? Just a drive by shooting. Nothing serious. Fucking state of this country eh? Having navigated the crime scene, we get to St Pancs and find Thameslink is of course all up the swanny. Fortunately for the lads, this at least means a train back to the Republic that they’d have otherwise missed is now a goer. With my choice of East Croydon train still 15 minutes away, I decide that taking a trundle back to the Badlands, the birthplace of Lee Angol no less remember and walking from there will be far quicker than waiting and trusting in a bus. Here the entertainment is provided by Mr X asking if I want ‘my’ Sainsbury’s bag or not. “Not mine mate, you paid for the beers, so you paid for the bag!”. He of course denies this over a good 10 minutes before having a think and remembering that yes, he had indeed purchased it with the cans and as such, was the legal owner. Pulling into Carshalton, I bid the other idiots farewell, pop in my headphones and pull up the old collar for the walk back to HQ. Thankfully, the rain holds off on me and I make it home before the next downpour starts hammering away on the double glazing. Right, Bedforshire.
Home game next week. Thank god.