April Fools. Again.

The first day of April. A day that many people, even in this modern day & age, still find amusing in some way as myriad brands try to make themselves look less like the soulless money grabbing behemoths they truly are by putting out some lame ‘April Fools’ cobblers on their social media feeds, the genuine comedy equivalent of putting a stapler in jelly. We take the meaning of this occasion more literally however, as what could be more foolish than going to Walsall early on a Saturday morning to watch a side that’s barely had a shot on target in their last almost 1000 miles travelled? Clearly when Mr T said he ‘pitied the fools’ he was no doubt talking about idiots like us traipsing about watching lower league football.

One thing that definitely isn’t a joke however is my alarm going off at 7am to once more awaken me on a non-work day so I can travel a couple hundred miles to drink beer and have a day out largely disappointed by the best that League 2 can offer. Still, it could be worse, some of the more recent risings have been at stupid o’clock, so this is a veritable lie-in in comparison. Having negotiated the basics required to be out in public without being detained by the law or in a special facility with padded rooms, I bid my beloved farewell and head out into the morning air. Checking the app on my dog, I see that I’ve seven minutes to a bus, so I’ve timed it well.

We’ll see about that, I’m off to the football…
Who the fuck’s ‘Bela’??

Or not. Now, I’m a cynical sort so I thankfully elect to not entirely believe the app and pop a couple of glances over my shoulder as I cover the couple hundred yards to the bus stop. Of course, half way along, my bus appears over the horizon in definitely a lot less than the seven minutes I’d been advised. “Fucking twat!” I mutter as I will my aging limbs into action and get my jog on. Thankfully, the bus driver isn’t a dick and realising I’m partaking in unscheduled cardio to make use of his services, he pulls in and waits the few seconds for me to catch up and board. Seems like I’ve dodged my first ‘fools’ bullet of the day! I’m looking well in time for an 8am train off Croydon until a driver change near the bus garage delays me and another brisk ambulatory movement is required when I alight. On the boards, I can see my intended Thameslink has been binned, however there is a Vic train a fraction late that I can make if, yes, I make yet another jog down the slope. What was that about dodging a fools bullet again?

I make the train and saunter up to the front carriage to lessen the walk at Victoria, having put in more than enough exercise than is necessary this soon after waking up. Here I find Cathy & Bob settling in with a paper on the run into town as well. I’m glad to see they’ve kept their promise to the polar bears and the fluffy bunnies in not printing out copies of the blog for the trip. Greenpeace will be pleased. Instead they’re just making do with a couple of tabloids. I take the opportunity to check on some of the pub info I have and confirm an 11am opener in Walsall, as we didn’t stray beyond Birmingham for pints last season. This confirmed, we sit back and watch the scenery on the way into the smoke. At Victoria, it’s a walk to the underground and a trundle north to Euston for the train to the midlands. As we emerge back into daylight, I hunt around for a familiar face or two outside, probably smoking and as Bob & Cathy head off for tea and breakfast, I finally spot Mr X sat hunched on a bench filling his face. “You gone blind?” he enquires as I stroll up “I was waving at you for fucking ages”. “Sorry mate, thought you were a homeless. And besides, you’re normally stood up with a fag on the go!”.

Football tourism from a train window…
“It’s my go on the swing you fuckin’ melt!”

Leaving him to polish his own breakfast, I hit up Saino’s for the tried and tested bacon rolls and fruit juice combo and return to find that the man of mystery now has Indy and Chalmers for company. Soon to be joined by Southampton Steve. Here I get the full rundown on Tuesday’s SSC exit, that of course left Dukey feeling rather blue, with Steve & Mr X confessing that they called ‘rule of 3’ on that one and were already heading for the exit at 3-0 when the fourth went in. Mr X was particularly miffed that he chose to watch what was essentially a second string Academy side get pumped over watching the Scots stick on the sniffy pure footballing fannies of Spain. As I smash bacon into my face, 4Days completes the troupe and Mr X starts dishing out tickets, both train and football, whilst nearby some peaky blinder lands neck bottles of Desperado. I can’t quite make out if they’re QPR or Milwall though. With everyone set, we hit the Upper Crust, bag some brews and hop on the train to make ourselves at home for the 90 minute run to Brum.

The train leaves on time and we’re soon nattering away about the usual bollocks, joined by Johnnie from the Yoof. This is mostly us shooting down the rubbish April Fools shit people were doing on Twitter and thinking it quite apt that today is Harry Beautyman’s birthday. Love you really H! Although even we have to admit that LNER’s AF effort of announcing that one of the trains is to be called ‘Trainy McTrainface’ after a public vote is half decent, mainly as it succeeds in being wholly believable. Less so is one I spot on twitter from former Tory MP Rory Stewart where he ‘announces’ he’s doing a book on Shakespeare with ex-PM and Vildea mop cosplay cunt Boris Johnson. But whilst this fails the believability test, it does at least make me chuckle mainly as it catches a good few out in the replies. So full marks there. We also enjoy the mention of Zamalek’s away support reacting to going 3-0 down in a game by shifting in their end to sit in the shape of an angry emoji face. Creative. We like it. Sadly, we could probably only manage a half arsed question mark with our numbers away from home in those circumstances.

First pint of the day….
…swiftly followed by a second etc.

We pull into Birmingham with several minutes to make a little dash for a connection to Walsall. As we do, Johnnie’s on the blower to a mate already in Brum and tucking into breakfast in a cafe somewhere. But when he finds it’s a wholly inhuman 13 minute walk away, he elects to sack that and joins us in making the connection direct to Walsall. This is successful and means that we’ll be hitting up town perfectly for opening time. Here the subject of Nutsack’s missing hat from Mansfield away last weekend is raised (said hat was recovered from the Canalhouse pub and is being collected by a relative up there you’ll be relieved to hear!) and 4Days reveals that such a fate could never befall him as he has a reserve for his trademark Wales bobblehat. This then leads to chatter about said hat’s prominent appearance in Qatar at the England Wales clash and the Welshman’s concern that being front and centre of the stand in it that he might ‘meme’ himself like that lad who looks a bit like a Poundshop Steve McLaren. “Fucking surprised that didn’t happen on principle” I interject, before waving my hand the length of the aforementioned Welshman to indicate my meaning. “Fair point” he shrugs. We pass Villa Park on the way in, with Chalmers looking out the completely wrong side of the train as we do whilst wondering aloud “Shouldn’t Villa Park be around here somewhere”. Still, it’s beats the constant “Who’s ground is that?” enquiry every time we pass fucking Peterborough’s gaff heading North. Now there’s a fool!

We hop off at Walsall and emerge from the station into what Mr X describes as ‘The fucking Whitgift Centre’. After a quick bit of re-orienting, I soon have us on the main drag and we take the short stroll to the Lyndon House Hotel. Thankfully my info on this being an 11 opener is accurate and another fools bullet is dodged. We’re the first in and the lasses behind the jump are still cashing up the till as we arrive. Pints sorted, we settle in with Johnnie ignoring the ‘no caps’ dress policy for as long as he can. Sadly, having regaled everyone with a tale about someone fingering a lass through the window of a high street pub, he has to relent and reveals that he’s going a bit thin on top. In solidarity, 4Days removes his own lid cover. “Not because I have to, but because I have hair”. We’re a sympathetic bunch and no mistake. We down two here and soon a few other travelling souls have appeared and helped fill the place out. But with noon now passed we take our leave and head round the corner to the Black Country Arms. Here a large selection of beers greets us and we settle in, with a couple of other U’s also already in the joint. We park here and decide that we can’t be arsed moving again and instead make a plan of catching either the 2.20 or the 2.37 back to Bescot for the game.

Shirt porn.
Covering your bases a touch there aren’t we lads?

With time to kill some of the lads order lunch, although this will take some time to appear and on the telly, Man City set about dismantling Liverpool despite an early set back, with most of us being a tad miffed at their lack of Haaland in the side hurting our fantasy league bullshit. Most of the chatter here is of the usual inane standard and by 2pm we’ve colonised a corner of the pub as more and more Sutton away filter in. Our hopes of making the 2.20 are dashed by our grub taking so long and as we wolf it down, we keep an eye on the time knowing that missing the .37 will mean missing kick off. “Is that really a bad thing?” someone wonders out loud between mouthfuls “It’s not like we’ll miss much!”. Now now! Fed and thoroughly watered, we stroll back down the high street and make the last pre-match train with a couple to spare and a short while later, we’re off at Bescot and wandering under the M6 to the away turnstiles. Right, war faces on. Let’s see if we can finally beat this lot…

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

The game is fairly even early doors, with Dave going on a mazy little dart from 18 and forcing the keeper to save with his legs from an angled shot and then Rose has to do the same from a sharper angle at the other end when cupped eared knobber from Croydon Conor Wilkinson tries his luck. Easty brings a good full stretch one handed stop out of the keeper after a bustling run down the middle and then Rose has to make a solid take when a corner presents a free header. Wilson’s already been denied a shot by one superb saving tackle when Ali Smith gets round his man through the middle and as a goal looks certain, another super last ditch challenge saves the day. The U’s midfielder won’t be denied though and from the resulting corner, Ali gets ahead of his man again back stick and prods the ball in from close range to give us the lead. Lovely stuff. Quite tellingly, despite there being only half an hour gone, a large number of people in the home end up sticks and depart, presumably to the bar.

Insert ‘Poundland’ joke here….

Much of the rest of the half is pretty quiet as we have a couple of sighters to extend the lead, but nothing doing and the ref again comes in for some stick as it seems that everything Omar does is in some way an affront to humanity, yet he can get kicked to fucking ribbons with no punishment at all. Naturally, he ends the half with his nut bandaged thanks to an elbow and a yellow card to his name for absolutely fuck all. Do these wankers send a memo out every week or something? Is there a ‘Bugiel Booking bonus’ being dished out? At the break, I decide I can’t be arsed moving, so settle in for the break and we catch up on scores. Not much is going our way, although we do take some amusement from K’s being into the bottom 4 of the Isthmian Prem as they’re behind and Herne Bay have leapfrogged them thanks to 2 goals in the fist half from a ‘J Dos Santos’. “That can’t be Jerson, surely?” I ask aloud and 4Days, after some googling, confirms that yes, it is indeed the wayward former U’s starlet from about 10+ years back. Blimey.

For the restart, the hosts make two changes, both of them players I’ve actually heard of, which is never a good sign. However, the 2nd 45 is largely a dull affair as we sit in playing on the counter and the hosts huff and puff creating very little at all. Their best chance comes with about 20 to go when a cross in is headed into the air by Eastmond, then nodded down inside the 6 yard box and somehow hooked wide by their no.4. Wakey Wakey lads! Despite this though, we look in absolutely no danger at all. Just got to see this one out now and we’ll finally have beaten Walsa….oh for fucks sake. REALLY?

Ready to go.
Ali Smith! 1-0

With time almost up, a ball over the top catches us out a little and Kizzi gets across to check their man, conceding a free kick about 30 yards out. We put only 2 men in the wall and leaving a big inviting gap, their lad lines it up. “He’s having a fucking shot here” comments Chalmers just as the lad does exactly that. It’s not a great hit and straight at Rose, bouncing just in front of him, but he really should be gobbling it up and killing the game stone dead. Instead he spills it off his chest and a red shirt pounces to prod it into the net from a couple yards out. Ninety fucking five minutes and we’ve fucked off another 2 points to this load of absolute shite. April Fool indeed. With a train back to Brum at seven past five, I’ve seen all I need to and elect to make a move and as I head down the stairs, the salt is rubbed into the wound as Enzio puts in a great cross at the far end for Angol to nut comfortably over the bar from a decent position. As I exit into the car park station bound, the final whistle sounds and the locals celebrate their undeserved point with a huge chorus of boos. And I’m pretty sure it’s not a comment on our alleged style of play.

On the platform, the others catch up in time for the train that actually leaves 5 minutes later than I’d been advised. There’s much muttering about shit late goals and with scores coming in from around the division, we’re now 6 behind a play off spot with 7 to play and only two of those against sides below us. Cant’s see it happening if I’m honest, especially as we now seem to have come largely full circle to the pre-Xmas ‘slog for points’ line up that didn’t exactly set pulses racing in the goal scoring stakes. About the only good news right now is that the earlier train means we’ll at least be on our way before the opposite side is full of coin chucking shitgibbons giving it large like last season. Back in Brum, we hit old favourite the Post Office Vaults for one to attach a concrete block to the feet of those 2 points dropped sorrows. It’s very stuffy in here though being so busy and we elect to move on to the Wellington after just the one. The sight of the bar billiards table essentially being used as a drinks shelf in the corner is also painful. The Wellington is also busy, but we at least get a seat and a table in here and set about sticking ales down our necks to dull the pain.

Final whistle view…. BOOOOOOOO!
Sights and sounds of Brum

All feel sorry for Jack given his fuck up has come on his return to his old stomping ground, but all agree that he really needs to be saving shit like that. We’re also briefly joined by a pub cat that in true cat fashion, appears, bags some scritches from all concerned and then promptly fucks off to the next affection giving sucker. Make no mistake about it, they’re cute, but they’re also wankers. Here we hatch our departure plans and with a longer, cheaper train home, we obviously need food and cans. Thankfully, a repeat of last season’s McDonalds debacle is to be avoided as KFC have kindly opened a new branch right around the corner from here. Touch! Steve and I offer to make the chicken run whilst Mr X does the cans. So, with a couple more pints down us, we head off and get to our assigned duties. All goes smoothly and thankfully I’m not left sitting on a platform at Brum New Street with a bullseye worth of junk food. We board the train and as we pull out, we’re tucking into the Colonel’s finest and cracking cans.

On the way home, we discuss whether we’re the cause for Gordon’s G&T cans now coming in 10 packs, given that we used to have to empty fridges of single cans and now can pick up handy multipacks. If so, we feel it only fair that Gordon’s get in touch and give us due credit. We also establish that PC’s massive power bank\charger thing is useless, as he’s spent almost the whole day with the thing plugged into his dog only to see it’s battery actually deplete. He eventually relents and takes up my offer of my unit and cable. He also reveals that for his own homebound grub stash, he’d included a prawn salad. “Prawns? After a day on the piss? Yeah that’ll end well” chuckles Mr X as he pops another G&T. “I note you ate the accompanying sausage roll and pork pies quick enough!” I add. Chastised, PC disappears off to find a toilet. Meanwhile Mr X is complaining about the length of our journey home. “Who’s stupid idea was this?” he moans before being shut down by a wave of “Yours you tight fisted Scots git” from the rest of us. Still, 8 quid versus about 40 with Avanti, swings and roundabouts innit.

That’ll end well…
Take me home please…

Chalmers returns from his pee run stating that in our half of the train, there’s two bogs and neither is working and both are locked. And he can’t get to the other half of the train without waiting for a stop so he can get off and go around! Jesus wept. This is bad news, as we’ve got a lot of cans being emptied into bladders that too will require draining. After a small period of stewing over this predicament, PC disappears again and returns a short while later declaring one of the khazis now open. It seems he has one of the square lock keys on his set and has used that to release it. “Bowl was fairly full, so I used the sink” he adds, answering a question no one asked. Lovely image that, cheers mate. The rest of the trip is like a jump back in time for us, with stops like Long Buckby (Ford Sports Daventry, FA Cup away in about 1998) and of course Hemel Hempstead. Mr X also amuses us briefly by getting us to guess the U’s team from our 13-14 1st Round tie away to Kiddy. As we near London, attention returns to Chalmers Prawn Salad. “Yeah I was just wondering if I should eat that” he admits. “Yeah, prawns that have been unrefrigerated for two hours after a day on the piss. Great idea” replies Mr X.

We roll back into Euston around 10 and drag our carcasses off for the stroll to the underground and the journey back to Vic. For a Saturday night, this is surprisingly uneventful and we alight at Vic with the Sutton posse having loads of time until their train for a change. So Steve and I leave them to it whilst the man of mystery heads for a smoke. Initially Chalmers is going to jump on with us back to Croydon but notes that he has a Redhill service a couple minutes later, so elects to get that instead. Back in East Croydon, I wave Steve off on the tram and then head over the road for a 410 which appears perfectly timed a minute or so later. And within 20 minutes, I’m back at HQ, shoes kicked off and falling asleep mostly clothed on the sofa.

April Fools? That’s us that is.


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