Smell The Jelly

Loud buzzing noise. Waking me up. Must stop. Must stop noise. My arm flails out to the left and despite my eyes remaining firmly closed my hand slaps down squarely on top of the offender. Alarm clocks. Both a wonder and an absolute bane of the human race. Sort of thing that the inventor needed to be presented with an award for coming up with before being then led out into the carpark and shot. “Yeah, great idea pal, we love it. But, well….sorry. BANG!”. Mental note: Look up inventor of the alarm clock so I may curse their name. Unsure of if I’d hit the ‘no more alarm today thank you’ or the ‘make more noise again in 10 minutes’ button on the clock I fumble for the ‘make no more noise at all’ switch to make sure. If I’ve hit the snooze and this bastard kicks off again at twenty to 6 while I’m in the shower, Mrs Taz is going to fucking kill me.

Dear lord, what is wrong with me? Getting up at half 5 to travel god knows how many miles to the arse end of the country, for a 4th Division football match taking place at a venue where, to my knowledge, we have never even led, let alone won at. And all whilst the place was blanketed in snow just yesterday morning, meaning the game itself is a touch on the iffy side. Oh well, there’s no use moaning about it now, I’m up. Let’s get this shit show on the road shall we? With all the usual tasks taken care of, I’m out the door a sniff after my self imposed 6am deadline. Not bad. This leaves me with 90 minutes to get from HQ to Euston for the train North. And to ensure this is more than enough, I rustle up a sherbert via Uber. Fortunately a nice man in a Prius is only a minute away and I’m getting tipped out at East Croydon 15 minutes later having admired the glorious purple colours from the impending sunrise.

One of the biggest signs that you’re up stupidly early…
Still not quite up yet? Lovely.

I wander down the slope to the platform and there’s a Victoria train already in standing. Lovely stuff. Just ahead, I can see Steve’s unmistakable orange jacket and slip onto the train to plonk myself down as loudly and annoyingly as I can opposite him. “Morning” he grunts before beginning the process of pushing a stinking Maccy D’s into his face. With that completed and the train on the move, we alternate between admiring the developing appearance of the sun over the horizon and chattering about whether we think the game will be on and the endless fucking bin fire that is the Gary Lineker\MotD situation. It seems that overnight that all the lead commentators have also told the BBC to go fuck themselves and withdrawn from doing games. Yeah, going well for you that eh innit lads? Absolute mugs. Still, it kept us entertained on the socials last night, although I never did find out what a tenner on a fourfold of Le Tissier, Lampard, Terry and Shilton standing in would have won me. Also touched on is Salford’s bed shitting the previous night going from 3-2 up to losing 4-3 to Crewe, a result that means we can go 7th and into the play off places if we win today.

We alight at Vic and hit the Underground. Before the train pulls out, Fish darts onto our carriage, also bound for the wilds of middle earth today. Although it does take him a second to clock us both! Wakey wakey mate. 10 miuntes later, we emerge out into the cold morning air and find a few other familiar boats cluttering up the place outside Euston station. Mr X is dragging on his vape whilst Dr Bell, Indy and Ipswich Lee mooch about. It seems Mr X’s issue of a pre-booked Uber to Wimbledon costing him £45 was resolved by Lee’s missus giving them a lift instead. Also in the swim is U’s historian and guardian of the GGL car park, Frakey. As there’s no supporters coach today, he’d managed to get in on out Groups save action, as have a couple of the B-Team in Beckett and Jamie, who are gassing with Johnnie and Harry from the Yoof firm nearby, bags of cans at their feet. We hit Sainos for bacon rolls, which is timed beautifully as they’re being chucked into the hot shelves as we arrive and with our scoff sorted, it’s back to the throng to await platforms.

Here Mr X realises there’s an issue, as having handed out tickets sporadically over the 2 home games this week, he seems to be a set short and Dr Bell is the victim here. He recounts his purchases from the receipts and draws the conclusion that he’s either lost a set or handed them to someone who definitely wasn’t travelling today. Oops! Grumbling about “This is why I don’t dish them out until the day!” he hands his set to Dr Bell before frantically tapping away on his dog to get himself sorted with a fresh ticket for the journey. The damage? £120 quid. Ouch! Right, we’d best get a move on. Beckett and Jamie split off to sit with the Yoof and share cans, whilst Frakey sticks with us older farts. Although he does get some stick when he produces a copy of the Daily Mail from his bag, despite his protests of “I buy it for the sport”. There’s also a brief discussion regarding waxing or using Imac and all before the train has even pulled out of Euston. As we race away from the capital, the chatter gets a bit more choice and slightly more grown up as we discuss FA Disciplinary hearings and procedures and just how much Frakey actually paid for that 1940’s Sutton programme on eBay (it was far more than the Bullseye we mentioned on here in the Crawley blog!). I and Lee also discuss a Sutton Utd trackie top we’d seen on the same auction website and whether either of us really fancies shelling out 30 notes for it. Both of us are undecided, but resolve to get pissed and definitely have a dust up on the train home over it.

A moment’s silence please…
Get it up you Avanti!

As we depart Wigan, we realise we’ve not seen a single member of staff so far on the journey so far and with a change at Preston approaching and the window for that change narrowing, we debate giving it bollocks and winging it the extra 15 minutes on this one, giving us more time at Lancaster. In the end we decide that Italian owned fraudsters have had more than enough out of us this season and say “Fuck it”. They can take us all the way to Lancaster. The gamble pays off and we hop off at our destination, tickets completely unchecked. Standard. As we alight, we stop to pay our respects to Sir Toby the station cat before we amble over to the Barrow train which I declare will be “Some two carriage shitter”. Slowly everyone boards after nabbing a smoke break, a fresh cuppa or both. Mr X reports getting stuck behind a Polish lady waiting for his brew and her young kid grabbing a can of coke out the fridge that her mum just shrugs and wearily pays for. “It definitely had coke in it” he chuckles before revealing the kid had actually picked up a Jack Daniels mixer. Our two carriage shitter pulls out on time and as is the case with this stretch, the scenery out the window improves minute by minute. A Barrow follower also randomly leans over and asked me “Are you the one that knows Dave? He says hi!”. The fuck? Seems the chap knows the same Barrow fan I do, Dave who was a legend back at the end of the National winning season when he bought a load of the gang Barnet away tickets using his purchase history on their website. “Got your message!” I respond to Dave on FB.

As we go, we realise that this train actually ends up in Carlisle and realising that going via Barrow to there could take some time, we start looking up just how long this rattler would take. The answer? Three and a half hours! “That’s a lot of staring out the window!” according to Ipswich Lee. Here we’re also entertained by Harry’s latest car woes, where his second motor in no time at all is at risk of being declared a write off. It seems a woman opened the door on her Merc as he drove past and it’s made a right old mess of the front and side. Of course, we lay the blame firmly at his door, but he’s prepared for this and produces CCTV from a nearby shop that clearly shows the lass is fully at fault. “Insurance have given me a courtesy car” he declares “But it’s a Fiat 500. Like fuck am I driving one of those!”. Naturally, lots of comments about hairdressing ensue “I fucking knew this would happen” he groans. “Is that why you’re drinking cans of pink gin then?” enquires Mr X and the abuse begins anew. Still it passes the time and we finally pull into Barrow at just after 11. Right, pub? Pub!

We head over to the Duke of Edinburgh hotel opposite as this was a decent drink last year and get the rounds started. Here we continue the chatter and I and Lee get back to shirts and other football gumpf. He reveals he’s got an “Incredibly sad”, his words not mine, Ipswich shirt collection account on Insta and I of course instantly give it a follow (@itfcshirts if you’re interested!). “Do you get loads of messages offering to buy ’em?” I ask. “Yeah. Loads. Sometimes moments after the pic’s posted!” he admits. Then tells me about one from a particularly rare match worn he’d posted, getting a “How much you want mate?” within seconds of the image getting published. Turned out it was from his missus on a wind up. Fucking funny is Mrs Lee it turns out! After a couple of beers here, Frakey wanders off to see the sights before heading to the ground and we decide to give an old haunt, the Blue Lantern, another go. This was looking very dead last year post-Covid, so we’re slightly surprised to find it still open. At the back, the B-Team, the Yoof and a few of the newer youngsters are at the back playing pool and feeding the jukebox. We grab an okay-ish pint and as we sup we realise that the boozer has outlasted the vintage clothing store over the road, where we’d bought Dr Bell an ugly shirt on last years trip up. It’s now an eyebrows place and we briefly debate sending the good doctor over for some attention, but sadly and much to his relief, the place isn’t open. “Wonder what it’ll be next year?” wonders 4Days aloud “Dunno, but he’d better hope it’s not a fucking taxidermist” I reply.

Sure is pretty round here…
Om nom nom nom

With the beer only passable here, we finish up after one and wander down the road to another favourite from last season, the Robin Hood. Firstly because, well, the U’s 125th anniversary is still fresh in the memory and we were formed in a pub of that name and also because this gaff was a cracking laugh last time round, with the locals of a resolutely old school backstreet boozer latching onto Dr Bell’s ugly shirt, leading to one of the lads adding to the ensemble with a charity shop purchase. Place was in absolute bits by the time we left for the game! Check out that entry HERE for the full details if you’re not familiar with the story. Sadly, when we enter, the place has been completely and utterly revamped and refurbed. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not horrendous. Its actually not a bad job and the place is still quite busy with the old boys having a pint and watching the racing, but it’s definitely lost it’s charm. One of the locals agrees when he overhears us discussing and remembers us from last season. Seems the Barrow supporting landlord had knocked it on the head around October and the place was shut for a month until new owners came in and it’s not long re-opened after being completely gutted. It’s a shame, but that’s progress I s’pose. At least the beer’s decent.

We have a couple here before we’re reminded by Mr X of the cracking bakery a couple doors down that does seriously good home made pies etc. He declares he’s bagged a couple of scotch pies and before you can say “We fucking love Scotch pies” I and Steve have piled out the door to get in on the action. Although when I come to order, it seems the man of mystery has been talking bollocks. “We do scotch EGGS love, not pies” the lass behind the jump confirms. What a twat that man is. I settle for a steak and potato and a proper pork pie instead, with the latter being handed over in a small box. “Keep it upright love, or you’ll get jelly everywhere!”. I beg your pardon?! Back in the pub, we sup up the remainder of our pints and with kick off approaching, begin the walk up the road to the ground. As we go, 4Days enquires about my small container and I explain the jelly\pork pie transportation instructions from earlier. “Ah, so it’s your jelly I could smell earlier in the pub” he chuckles. Disgusting. Tell you what though, disgusting jelly comments aside, it’s a seriously good bit of scoff. Easily a 9/10.

Rose, Kizzi, Rowe, Goodliffe, Hart, Eastmond, Smith, Ajiboye, Boldewijn, Angol, Bugiel SUBS: House, Milsom, Dennis, Randall, Kouassi, Wilson, Beautyman

Now, we’re fairly well known for not getting bogged down too heavily in the nitty gritty of games on here. Of course we cover the basics as you’d expect, as this is essentially why we do what we do. However, we’re not here for your xG’s or your heatmaps or percentages of possession type shit. And this is one of the games that quite frankly allows us to get swiftly back to the beer and the bullshit. The first half is fairly even, but Rose is the busier keeper having to make a couple of stops at the far end to keep us level. Sadly we fail to get going much and our own sniffs are few & far between with again our final ball lacking and the shooting leaving a bit to be desired. The quality of the contest is also not helped by a pretty one eyed ref who seems content to blow us up for every single last infringement, but the locals can get away with whatever they like meaning it’s a fucking terrible watch.

“Oi Belly! Think it might be a bit more you this year!”
Can you smell the Jelly? CAN YOU?

The second 45 is more open, but the quality doesn’t improve. With a strong wind in our faces now, we find it hard to get clear and as a consequence, we spend most of the half defending. Unfortunately for the hosts, despite a load of the ball they create very very little of note and their threat declines dramatically when their lad Whitfield goes off with about 20 to go. So much so that despite only contributing 70 mins, he cops the man of the match award. Our best chances of the half are Sam Hart having a shot deflected wide and a terrible touch from Enzio ruining a break where a steadier foot and head would surely have seen him send Dave away in behind. This means we finish the 90 without a shot on target the whole game. God I love League 2. Still, a point’s a point and let us never speak of this game again. “I fucking hate football” moans Lee as we file out before adding “I’m going home and burning all my shirts after that”. Yeah mate, wasn’t a classic! We walk back to the Duke by the station for a pint, and the weather is now a delightful ice cold wind with added sleet & snow direct into the face. Time for a pint, then cans, then train!

Ah, yeah. About that. With barely a sip taken from the pint, the word goes out that the 18.02 back to Lancaster has been cancelled. Fucks sake! And to make matters worse, that is our only option for making the last service back into London for today. So just getting the next one in an hour is not an option. A couple of us neck our pints and jog over the road to see if the rank at the station has any sherberts on it and if any of them will be willing to take us back to Lancaster. Sadly, it’s completely deserted so we report back to those back at the pub and then head into the station where we’re directed to the station office. Here a lovely lady jumps into action when she realises she has about 20 of us stranded here and starts making calls. Our suggestion is that she gets cabs sorted to get us to Lancaster and we’ll call it even, but her bosses in York seem adamant that we wait for the 7pm and get as far as we can following that and we’ll get transported home from there instead. That means Preston and basically a cab or bus back to no further than Euston, probably arriving in the early hours. Fuck. That.

While we discuss, Mr X and others at the pub are ringing round local firms seeing what they can get. Soon they have a promise of 4 motors which soon becomes 5 when we realise we need to get SUFC Press Sec Tony Dolbear and SUFCTV’s man Ahmed back as well. Ok, here we go! Back at the station, it seems that despite the nice lady’s efforts, Northern are sticking to their guns. She even tries to persuade the driver of the incoming service that should be the 18.02 to take us back out to Lancaster, but apparently he’s already right on the line hours wise and can’t oblige. In the end, we call it and thanking her for her efforts, we leg it back over the road to find that 2 car loads are already on the way back and two more have just pulled in. Loading those up with a mix of club officials, drunks and even some of the younger lads from the Yoof, this leaves just me, Mr X, Beckett and Harry to go. And we’re still a car short. Mr X asks me to ring a couple of other numbers to keep his dog free for any call backs on those he’s asked already and first try I get a “No sorry, nothing available”. I explain to the lad the situation and that if he can sort it, he’s a fucking life saver. “Give me a minute mate” and he puts me on hold. A couple of minutes later, he’s back. “I put it out on the radio to see who fancied it and there’s a car on it’s way. 5 minutes tops”. Result!!

Hello again Holker! Not a fan of the new floodlights though…
Thank god that’s over.

A few mins later, our car arrives and we pile in. It’s an hour and twenty to Lancaster station from here and we have an hour and a half to make it. This is gonna be tight. To keep our driver happy we lob up the 75 quid fare up front and just tell him to keep the change. This does the job and we’re soon heading out of Barrow in driving sleet and snow. Naturally, when you get a few of us idiots in a cab after a few pints, the bullshit is soon flowing. An episode of Pegging in Runcorn is mentioned and Harry’s complaints continue about his Fiat 500 situation. One the cabbie relates too as he reveals his motor is also a loaner as his regular jam jar is in for repair. “How the fuck did you get a Skoda and I get a fucking Fiat 500?” rages Harry before slumping into a sulk. There’s loads of other nonsense along the way that keeps everyone entertained and with time short Mr X advises the advance party to skip the 17.27 we’re due to get and simply bunk the Avanti again direct from Lancaster as this gives us 15 minutes more breathing room. Bollocks to ’em.

The best part about this is that when we finally pull into the car park at the station, we’ve 25 minutes to this new option and can smash down a pint in the excellent pub on Lancaster station. Result. I get a receipt for the journey from the now thoroughly entertained cabbie so we can try to claim this back from Northern later and he hands me a few blanks for good measure “Just in case” he grins. The boys bid him farewell and then Harry darts off for a train to Sheffield where a night on the tiles awaits, whilst Mr X and I pile into the pub where Keepo, like a beardy little saint, is getting us a quick 20 minute pint pulled. My fucking hero! We neck this back and catch up with everyone else. It seems Keepo, Fish & co had lucked right out in escaping as they’d bagged a sherbert from outside the pub that was dropping off a fare and persuaded the driver he definitely wanted to earn himself the best part of 80 quid for 2 hours work. Still, everyone is accounted for and on the way home and that’s the main thing. Right, let’s get headed home shall we? We hit the platform where Steve, Lee and the others await. It seems they’ve kept it simple on the cans side and just got a load of crisps for snacks. Mr X is unimpressed however. “They’ve bought no fucking lager!” he grumbles “Just cider and craft shit!”. Unlucky mate.

Hard fought lads. Take a point.
The last chopp…er…taxi out of Saig…um…Barrow….

We depart a few minutes late from Lancaster, but find our reserved seats from Preston are clear and settle down for the trip home, cracking cans and scoffing hula hoops like they’re going out of fashion. As we head South, I keep prodding Lee on the trackie top but it seems the dour contest has taken all the fight out of him and he’s waving the white flag. It’s all moot anyway as I notice it’s only a medium size and will never fit a fat bastard like me. Oh well! Hula hoop? Elsewhere Mr X has solved his lager supply issue by simply clearing out the buffet of every can of Camden lager they have, cracking a barbed comment Steve and Lee’s way with every one he opens along the journey. We also have an odd conversation with Dr Bell who reveals that former Sutton man Efan Ekoku, who joined us from his Southern Amateur League side Merton, despite not actually being good enough to get in the 1st team he was playing in goal for. “Well your manager was a fucking div then” I comment. He won’t have it though and things turn ugly when Lee poses the question “So, many others in that side go to a World Cup then?”. “Yeah, show us your Nigerian caps!”.

Despite being some 12 minutes late at one stage and dreaming of another bit of delay repay compo from today, Avanti wows everyone by not only making up the time but by pulling into Euston a good 5 minutes early. The bastards! From here, most people scatter for their preferred modes of transport home, but the majority of our lot jump on the tube to head back to Victoria. The level of beer intake is somewhat exposed on the platform at Euston when a few people who shall remain nameless start shouting out “Steve!” to a completely random geezer wearing an Orange jacket. Thankfully he’s got bit earphones on so either doesn’t hear them or chooses to ignore the drunken silliness. We hit Vic in short order and the majority of the Sutton posse dart for a train whilst I and Steve nab a Burger King to help with some much needed soakage. These last no time at all on the train and before we know it, East Croydon heaves into view about 18 hours after we’d left it. Jesus these all dayers can be a killer!

Fortunately there’s a bus straight away off the train, so there’s no hanging around in the cold and waving Steve off at Wandle Park, I’m soon stumbling off the bus outside HQ and dragging my weary bones over the road at up to the flat. Inside, I kick off my wheels and slump onto the sofa before passing out. Barrow medals all round next home game methinks.

God I need a pint after that!!
Finally homeward bound!

And some therapy too. I think some might have PTSD after that one.


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