Happy Easter folks. I hope you’re all stuffed to the gills with Creme Eggs and feeling wonderfully nauseous on this fine long weekend. And thank you for joining us for the second part of our own little Easter fable as the U’s head to Bradford hoping for some resurrection stuff to take place after we got nailed to the League 2 cross by Stockport at GGL on Friday. Although knowing us, we won’t be able to roll the fucking stone back from the entrance to our tomb to complete the trick and instead some archaeologist will find our dusty bones centuries later, slumped against a wall with the words “Well, that’s just fucking typical” scratched into the rock as our final message to the world.
My alarm buzzes in the annoying and very ‘always wakes me up’ manner it tends to. The hour you ask? 6 of the AM. Or ‘fucking early’ as we tend to refer to anything prior to 9 o’clock round here these days. Mrs Taz doesn’t stir next to me, which is a right result I assure you, as it’ll save me a bollocking later on when I get home. I tumble out of the sack and note that for this time of year it’s still a little dark in here and pause for a moment to allow the sound of rain slapping into the double glazing to reach my lugholes. Marvellous, not only is it stupidly early, but it’s pissing down as well. At this, I crawl to the bathroom to get the morning’s admin underway, cursing my life every inch of the way as I go.
With it being a Bank Holiday and really stupidly early, I don’t even consider bussing it and obtain a sherbert via a popular ride sharing app on my fondleslab. Amazingly, there’s one just 3 minutes away and 10 minutes after hopping into the motor, I’m bidding my driver a good day and strolling onto the concourse at East Croydon. There’s a train in 5 minutes to St Pancs, which is just about bloody perfect. On the platform I have a look around, but there’s no sign of Southampton Steve at all only to turn around and spot his unmistakeable orange jacket heading down the platform towards me. Starbucks in one hand, MaccyD’s in the other. He’s also noticeably wetter than I. “Oh, is it raining out mate?” I enquire as he gets into earshot. “No trams & no buses. So I had to fucking walk it!” he complains. I refrain from replying, my smug ‘I got an Uber’ smile saying everything I need.
We board the Thameslink and settle in for the run to London. Opposite us, a homeless fella is fast asleep with his goods and chattels all piled up in the luggage rack behind him. His blue jacket is all torn at the front so the stuffing hangs out like someone’s disembowelled a large teddy bear. Makes sense I guess, with no guards on these through services, you can easily get on somewhere early, bump the barrier and spend 2-3 hours a time running between Brighton and somewhere like Bedford. Fair play chief, fuck being outside today. On Whatsapp, Mr X’s own trip into town is less peaceful as apparently some lad is in his carriage watching what the man of mystery describes as a “Rocky porno crossover” loudly on his phone. Sucks to be you mate, sucks to be you. We’re soon in town and hopping off at St Pancs for the walk across to Kings Cross. I’m looking forward to my Greggs breakfast and Steve is annoyed by this as he’d already had a far inferior Maccys on the way up. No matter, as he goes full Hobbit and clobbers a second breakfast. Fat bastard. As we munch, we spot Mr X on the concourse fresh from his morning’s train entertainment. Right, let’s get this show on the road.
Downstairs, he’s chatting to Harry from the Yoof and as we arrive, so does 4Days who’s taken such a dislike to the weather he’s even pulled his hood up over his prized bobble hat. With tickets doled out, it’s soon clear that this is literally it for the party today. Myself, Steve, Mr X and 4Days. Greek was due to join, but still feeling under the weather today, he’s sacked it off. Can’t say I blame him. We’re soon joined by Johnnie from the Yoof and he and Harry head off for the train as the platform is announced, only to walk straight back from the barriers when Harry remembers he’s not actually collected his tickets from the machine yet. Ah, the next generation of Sutton United idiots are bubbling along nicely I think you’ll agree. With brews sorted, we’re soon joining them and getting set to head north once more for the millionth time this season. Also on board are a few Millwall on their way out to Hull. As we await departure, everyone’s left muttering “Fuck off mate” at the far too happy guard on the PA welcoming us to this wonderful train with it’s delicious buffet car and amazing staff. You’re on an LNER service to Leeds fella, not auditioning for a Christmas M&S ad, wind your neck in, it’s far too early for that nonsense thank you.
We’re soon on the move and heading out of London under grey moody skies. Most of the chatter is pretty low key as we trundle along and notice that the Millwall contingent includes some young lads who’ve clearly bunked the service. Mainly as they head through the carriage and immediately head back the opposite way, with a cheery “Tickets please” coming from behind us. This gets Johnnie and Harry discussing where is suitable for hiding these days on a long service and they reckon hiding under\between seats is a goer, although only for someone of less than average height. Like Harry. Sorry mate! The ticket dodging lasts until Peterborough when the guard boots the lads off, clearly accepting they’re just going to bunk the next one. Fair enough, at least he wasn’t a prick about it. The rest of the trip, as these tend to nowadays, feels like it takes forever as we sit mooching about supping tea. Finally, we roll into Leeds on time and head for our next service, this time out to Bradford. Mr X goes for a smoke while we hit the platform and minutes later just as we’re reminiscing about Dukey’s unfortunate detour to Garforth that time on the way to Harrogate, the man of mystery reappears chuckling to himself. “I just go on the Hull train” he confesses, pointing to a service on the opposite platform. “You dick!” is the only response suitable here and he adds that he only realised his error not when he couldn’t see us, but when the PA announced where it was going. Must be something about Leeds I reckon and not that we’re complete fucking idiots. Oh no.
The train to Bradford is more old shit foisted on the North by our charlatan operators. This one’s some of the old South Eastern garbage and is barely made for normal sized adults, which briefly causes some “Stop kicking me” “I’m not kicking you” toddler-esque bickering between myself and Steve. The trip’s uneventful and 20 minutes later, we’re tipping out at our destination and trying to get our bearings from last years visit. We fail miserably of course and decide to join the Younger lads in the City vaults to get started as it’s open before 11 and they’re going for breakfast. A couple minutes into the walk, Johnnie asks if we know where the pub is. “No, we thought you did”. Fucks sake! We finally find the boozer off the main drag just as clouds close in and the day’s threatened rain looks close to appearing. We pile in, get pints ordered and the lads get their fry ups in. One returning from the condiments section with some BBQ sauce, much to Harry’s disgust. Whilst we sink one here, the rain begins to pour outside and barely past 11 the conversation has turned towards nonces. Lovely. I take my leave at this point and go on a Spoons-eque odyssey to the gents khazis about 3 miles away. Deciding on just the one here, we set off up the hill to North Parade where we’d failed to take in any of the boozers last season as we’d done most of our drinking at the bottom of the hill more in town. It’s chucking it down and we’re soon discovering that even on a match day, the locals are pretty much all 12 noon openers. Marvellous.
Just as the abuse from the others starts to fall heavier than the rain from the heavens above, we press our thirsty little faces up against the window of the Sparrow, a little crafty place. But sadly, this too seems resolutely shut for another 15 minutes and just as we decide to head back to ‘Rumshackalack’ (which Greek would have absolutely lapped up) that we saw just behind us and actually opening, the barman realises that he’s got 6 thirsty punters walking away and before you can say “Come on mate, it’s only 15 minutes and it’s pissing down out here!” the bolt on the door is yanked back and we’re stumbling in to bag a nice comfy sofa and table near the bar. Right, who’s fucking round is it? What? Mine? Ah bollocks. Beers in, we settle down as the rain falls ever heavier outside and slowly but surely, the little pub packs out. Downstairs near the bogs is also a seating section with a few tables and these too are soon full up as the regular match day crowd piles in. With this, we decide that moving on is going to be a pain given the late open and the weather, so we invoke the law of ‘bollocks to it’ and keep tipping money over the jump here for pints. Now, I know we love our pub variety on a day out, but some days circumstances just dictate that you park up and you stay put. This is one of those days. Here the non-drinking Johnnie decides on a change and orders a coffee from the bar, which when it appears comes in an old school half pint beer jug, which is probably the most Yorkshire thing I’ve ever seen.
Other familiar faces appear and get in the swim and I catch up with Bob & Cathy who have been on a little adventure since Friday as they headed here via Stranraer to see them play on the Saturday. This of course went swimmingly and ended with a 150 quid Uber out of Glasgow to Stair Park after their sleeper service up Friday night got stranded at Newcastle following a fatality on the line and they wound up getting into Glasgow seriously late. Still, the full refund on the rattler they’ll be getting more than covers the cost it seems, so they’re not massively cut up over it all. The result? 0-0 against Forfar. Perfect. As time ticks down to kick off, we have a friendly little guess sweepstake on when our first shot on target will occur. Some are more confident than others as 4Days goes for 5 minutes. Mr X and Steve battle over the ‘none’ and ’90 minutes’ options. I myself go for 75minutes whilst Harry plumps for 79. Right, I guess we should get to the game then? Thankfully the rain has abated as we head outside and walk down some cobbled side streets to the away end at Valley Parade. This is amusingly in the ‘Bradford Lifts’ stand despite the fact you have to walk up several flights of stairs to get to your seat. That’s like Accy calling their away terrace the ‘Acme Umbrellas’ end. Upstairs, we snaffle up some soakage with some pies and with the start upon us, head up into the seats to see how this latest festival of the football will pan out.
Rose, Kizzi, Goodliffe, Rowe, Hart, Smith, Beautyman, Ajiboye, Boldewijn, Bugiel, Angol SUBS: House, Kouassi, Dennis, Gambin, MIlsom, Neufville
Talk beforehand in the pub had been about keeping it tight early and trying to frustrate the big home crowd. Of course, a couple minutes in and their first ball into the box causes problems and Goodliffe has to be alert to clear a dangerous nod down. Still, we work an opening soon after and Harry has a shot deflected just wide from 18 after Omar’s teed him up. But hopes of frustrating almost 18 thousand Yorkshire people are dashed after barely ten minutes when they get the ball wide, their lad darts past Hart like he’s not there into the box and slides a shot beyond Jack into the corner. Too fucking easy that lads, far too fucking easy. From here, we’re a bit on the ropes as they go for an early kill. Rose has to save from top scorer Cook once with his feet and then again when an easy cross is allowed from the left, he does superbly to tip a solid header onto the post. There’s a couple of other worrying moments that thankfully come to nowt before Sam Hart drives a shot from 25 yards a foot wide to remind us we’re still in the game. Then with half hour gone, a lifeline is tossed our way.
Angol pressures a defender on the edge of the box and robs him of the ball, darting into the box. He shapes to go round the keeper, who mistimes and wipes him out and the ref is left with no option but to point to the spot. Annoyingly, the keeper completely escapes any sort of talking to or even a card here. Ok, it looked a genuine attempt for the ball, but it’s still denying a goal scoring oppo so that’s a yellow, surely? Still, it’s the latest in a growing list of odd as fuck shouts from the ref so far today. Keen to put one on his old employers, Angol snatches up the ball before our nominated taker Beautyman can get there. H doesn’t look too impressed, but hey, it is what it is. The ex-Bradford lad sizes it up and to the delight of the locals, he rattles the free-hit against the bar, it rebounds out striking a following up Ali Smith and going out for a goal kick. For fucking fucks sake! At this point, most of us know we’ve probably fucked this one already. The penalty at least sparks a touch of life from us and the rest of the half is a touch more even, but we go in still one down at the break and without having troubled their keeper, leaving the shot on target sweepstake still up for grabs.
Most of the chatter at the break is about the huge top of the table clash in La Bastarda today where visitors and current leaders Notts County have just taken the lead thanks to a cracking free-kick it seems. Still, most of us think there’ll still be a sting in the tail there somewhere, it is the National League and as we well know, it’s an absolute fucking madhouse of a division. The second half we hope for a spark from us to take the game to the hosts, but we’re largely back where we were early 1st half with some defending to do and our own efforts largely thwarted by poor passing or the oddball ref blowing up for god knows what. With the hour mark up, Matt decides to get Angol off before he’s sent off for two cautions and slings Matt Dennis in along with Rob Milsom for Sam Hart. Any hopes we have of these changes breathing new life into our efforts are soon flushed down the Junior Hoilett a couple of minutes later when Kizzi gives his man way too much time and space, invites him inside and he bends one into the bottom far corner from 18. Right, what time is the first train out of Forster Square back to Leeds again? Half 5? Sounds perfect to me.
At this point, only the shot on target sweepstakes remains to be settled as this one’s done as a contest. Still, we keep going but can’t quite fashion anything to seriously challenge the hosts. And with 20 to go, we’re dead and buried. Enzio loses the ball in attack, one quick pass out and their lad Cook is away into space. Two green shirts get back to try & close out, but he steps inside them and rifles a low 20 yarder beyond a wrong footed Rose inside his near post. Again, it’s all far far too easy for them. Still, we keep chipping away and with 79 left, the sweepstake is settled. Ajiboye finally gets a run at his man, skips pasty and clips a teaser back across for Omar to get up highest back post and bullet in a consolation. Harry in the stands is made up and soon copping all sorts of ‘Jammy bastard’ type abuse from the rest of us. Still, his posturing comes back to bite him on the arse when he loses balance when stood half on the step and half on a seat in the row in front and with his hands in his pockets still, falls backwards down the aisle. Luckily for him, a railing stops him going all the way to the bottom and we all fall about laughing our heads off. Highlight of the day that, cheers mate! On the pitch, our goal oddly quietens down the home fans and the last 10 are largely played out without any further incident.
With the lads acknowledged on the pitch, we make a move for the station and set off up the road shaking our heads at another 18 hour day with basically one effort on target to show for it. Still, at least we scored it. Efficient! A short walk later, we’re onto Forster Square station and grabbing a soft drink and a snickers from the little kiosk there, jump on and settle in for the ride back to Leeds. This passes nicely as we discover that the Wombles have once more lead into injury time before imploding, this time losing 3-2 at home to Salford who’d even missed an 89th minute pen at 2-1! Naturally, the locals are revolting on the twitters. Long, busy old summer coming up down at Plough Lane methinks. Back in Leeds, we debate what boozer to go and spend our hour or so’s wait in before finding a crafty tap place right outside and just decide ‘fuck it’ and sidle into a comfy booth for a couple of pick me ups after the game. They also do some food here (a place called ‘Big Buns’), so we elect to order up something nice rather than a bucket of KFC for a change and tuck in. It seems we like Big Buns and we cannot lie. As we recharge phones and generally catch up on other events such as Wrexham’s dramatic 3-2 win over County in the big National clash, Johnnie wanders past and spotting us, ambles in to join us for a few minutes before his own train back to the smoke. It seems that in the wake of our own departure, it got a bit lemon as some of the younger lads had got jumped by some locals of similar age. The plod dealt with it and a couple of theirs got nicked whilst ours got ushered back to the station, but he also reports that at least one of those fingered for it was obviously crying after, which basically sums up a lot of scrotes these days. All the gear, no idea.
He darts off leaving us to our pints and not long after, we shuffle our own carcasses out back up to the station and into Tesco’s for some cans. Mr X does his usual ‘case of G&T’ but after I insist I only want the one as I’m not feeling it, he puts two back in the fridge whilst looking straight at me and shaking his head, disappointment etched on his face. Sorry mate, but saves it going to waste! With the usual ritual on the train of booting some geezer out of our seats undertaken, we settle down, crack ’em open and trundle back south discussing matters such as the British Porn industry (Ben Dover gets mentioned for some reason, dunno why) which will no doubt disappoint Dukey immensely given that if he were ever to go on Mastermind, this would undoubtedly be his specialist subject. This is then followed by a round of “Who famous went to your school?” (Former Man Utd ‘keeper Alex Stephney, thanks for asking) as well as all sorts of other football ups and downs from the day. Tooting’s long, slow tumble into the County leagues is completed with a 1-1 draw and Yeovil’s return to the regional levels also draws comment amongst others. Soon enough though, we’re back in London and making the brisk stroll back to St Pancs for trains home, with 4Days and MrX having a handy Sutton looper due about 10 minutes after we pull in. Stepping over a couple of utterly spiced out geezers at the entrance to St Pancs, we head down and the Sutton crew are soon on their way back South. A couple of minutes later, I and Steve are slumping into seats on the run back to East Croydon.
From here it’s a routine trundle, followed by a rather unwelcome jog up the slopes at East to make the next bus and avoid a 20 minute wait, but we make it and breathing like old Ben Dover in a few of his movies once more slump to undertake the last of the journey. Steve departs at Wandle Park and soon after, I’m once again in the now far too fucking familiar spot of trudging the last few yards to HQ with tired legs, a full belly of beer and largely fucking knackered 18 hours after I’d left. Still, at least it’s a home game Saturday. Who have we got again? Leyton Orient?
Ah bollocks, they’re good as well aren’t they?