Boxing Day football. The highlight of the season. The jewel in the Association calendar. Right? RIGHT? Well, for some it is. But for others, those amongst the footballing fraternity where things haven’t quite panned out how they’d have liked over the first 4 months of the season, it’s a little less anticipated. Dreaded even. Especially if you get paired up with a local mob who are doing far better than than you are. Well, of course I’m talking about us you dopey sods for crying out loud. What did you expect around here? Cutting critique on Ligue 1??
Yea folks, we’re back. And as it’s the time of year for that sort of thing, Jesus H fucking Christ on a Motorbike with Mary and Joseph on the pannier, it ain’t got much better since we were last here in November with Dukey’s latest Surrey Cup love letter. Ok, yes, we know we won that one, but it was a rare spark in a largely unrelenting shower of shit since. Following the Wrexham defeat I covered here before the County Cup consumed our attention, we managed to turn over Bradford and string out another 4 league draws after that. This was us turning the corner. This was us finally finding our feet this season. Then we knocked Horsham out of the cup when we should have been playing Barnsley where we ended the game with one fit defender and he was playing out of position. Yeah, it seems we’ve been playing “tackle the transit van” at the training ground again.
After this, we were pleased to see the Harrogate game fall foul of the weather, but this also meant we entered the seriously scary “Oh my god have you seen who we’ve got in December and January?” phase of the season with a visit to league leaders Stockport and no idea what sort of a side we’d put out. Didn’t matter to be honest, as we turned in a truly generationally shit performance and copped our worst defeat since the war. 8-0. Yes. Eight. As in one more than seven. It was probably in brackets and everything on Final Score. We’re gonna be in therapy for years over that one and no mistake. Sadly, this on top of our form so far this season meant the end of the road for Matt and come Tuesday, the board pulled the trigger on his four and a bit years at the helm. Despite the inevitability of it all, it was still a slight surprise to a lot of us that we’d actually done it and one that brought largely a response of sadness from all in and a lot outside of GGL. We mostly covered it HERE in what was a rare as rocking horse shit serious piece on these here pages, in case you missed it. Bring tissues. You’ve been warned.
Following Stockport, Jason got the caretaker gig and despite having about the same resources Matt did up at Edgeley Park, managed to wring a reasonable showing out of ’em against Mansfield at GGL on Saturday. Still, we lost again. The worst part was a lot of results went against us that day and we ended it still bottom and 9pts adrift of safety. In the shit? You don’t know the half of it sunshine. Up the creek without a paddle, floatation device and some fucking rip off water firm’s opened the sewage run off valves as well. Fortunately, we had Christmas arrive and park it’s spotty arse on our sofa at this point, so we all had to plaster on fake smiles, go do the family thing and repress all that League 2 trauma we’ve had this season. Still, what could be better than a time of the year where drinking at all hours of the day isn’t frowned upon like normal eh? Why yes, I have done half a bottle of Disaronno liqueur by midday, thanks for asking. Fuck it, it’s Christmas. And we lost 8-0 last week, now bring me the gin.
So, here we are. Festive season, Merry Christmas and all such things. We hope you had a lovely time with you and yours and that none of the sick bastards raided Mr X’s boutique this year and dropped some Sutton gear on your toes so everyone else knows for a fact you’re a sad sack. We’d have much rather got socks ourselves to be honest. Myself and Mrs Taz spent the day at my brother’s gaff out in the sticks getting stuffed to the gills, where Football chat was light this year given the fact that there was myself, my Brother and old Man who are both Manyoo and his Father in Law who’s a Chelsea fan. Yeah, we’re all shit, but at least I had the “But are you the worst professional football team in England?” trump card to play once their entitled Premier League woe is me routine wore thin. Very fat, we headed back up the A217 shortly after 10pm, laden with more leftovers than UNICEF is trying to get into Gaza currently and fell into a deep Turkey and pigs in blankets based coma. I’ve had worse days to be fair.
Next morning, I’ll be honest, rising is tough. Still, it’s sunny out so it’s not all bad. I whip up a brew for me and the missus, then jump in the shower for the usual. Once done and fully clobbered up, I sup my cuppa whilst perusing the socials, where I laugh a bit too loudly at David Squires latest effort on Twatter and have to explain not only what’s so funny to Mrs Taz, but then also why a cartoon of Duncan Ferguson as a character out of the Fast Show would be found funny and what the Fast Show is and my word, is that the time, I’ve a bus to catch darling! And so with a peck on her ladyship’s cheek, I grab a handful of pringles with one hand and a fistful of celebrations with the other and dart out the door. As I wander down Croydon Road alternating between crisps and Galaxy chocolate, I check my phone for details on the meet. It seems no one’s sure if O’Niells is open at 11, but bollocks, I’m out now aren’t I? I stick some music on to pass the time and amusingly Poison’s “Nothin’ But a Good time” fills my lugholes. Have a fucking word lads. I let it play out thought before switching to a more appropriate bit of old school Sepultura, which suits my mood that little bit better. The SL7 rocks up first and 10 minutes later, I’m off at the top of the High Street and have beer on my mind. As I reach O’Niells, I spot Mr X ambling up the hill from the other direction, puffing away. Sadly our suspicions are confirmed about the boozer being a 12 open and promising landlord Johnno we’ll be back, we elect to hit Spoons for one instead.
Quick update on Whatsapp and we’re soon supping one in a relatively busy gaff full of people getting Boxing Day fry ups down and catching up on the usual post-Xmas chit chat. As noon approaches, 4Days and Lil’ Chris wander in and a couple of minutes later, Steve arrives fresh from a fat fry up in Poppins. We neck the last of our pints and head round the corner to a now open meeting point. Indy’s in already and has a pint on the go, so we make him get the round in and park up to watch some of Newcastle Forest on the box. Indy delivers the round and Steve’s not impressed to get a vodka lemonade rather than his usual coke. “How many did you have last night?” I enquire, looking for the most obvious explanation for this most basic of errors “Nowt!” he groans “Probably why my brain’s not functioning yet!”. General chatter follows and one point of discussion is the Xmas Day game in Belfast between Comber Rec and Crumlin Star. “Wonder if any weird groundhoppers have ticked that one off this year?” wonders 4Days aloud. The telly game isn’t particularly interesting and things only liven up when Steve refuses the pub toilets for a tip out and instead heads off to his missus place round the corner to use her facilities. Naturally, this is treated with the sort of maturity you’d come to expect of this publication.
Eventually just before 1pm, Greek appears with 2 double Jamesons and ginger on the go to complete the happy traveller party. We allow his tardiness for today as it was he that had the foresight on Saturday to keep things simple today and book a minibus cab for the trip there and back. No one complained and so we’ll be whisked to SW19 in fine style shortly before 2pm from just around the corner. With the Geordies and Forest trading a goal each, we sup a couple more leisurely pints before the big fella calls time and announces our chariot awaits outside. Marvellous. Suppose we’d better get this over with then? “If I’d made either of the games last season and didn’t need the tick, I’d have gone to Saints today” mutters a lighter but clearly excited Steve. Loaded up into the bus, we’re soon weaving through the post-Xmas traffic towards Wombleland in what must be the most underworked Transit van on earth, with the driver never getting it out of 3rd gear or breaking 25mph the whole way there. Must get like a 1000 mpg out of that diesel. As we head over, we hear that Forest have added two against the Geordies in quick succession, typically minutes after we’d left. Greek also tries to make it clear to the cabbie where to pick us up by the away end after, but he doesn’t seem too interested, even when we give him the postcode. That’ll be fun later no doubt. Eventually though we’re dropped right out front of Plough Lane and with a couple of the lads making disparaging remarks about a sculpture of Dave Beasant nearby, we head for the away end.
Along the way, there’s a stall selling football badges and on display they have full size replicas of not only the FA Cup, but European Cup and PL Trophy too. “I know this lot claims the ’88 Cup, but that’s taking the piss a bit”. This year on entry, we’re actually being directed to use the turnstiles closest to the block our ticket says we should be sat in. This at least is a bit more organised than last season, but I bet they don’t enforce that in the ground itself. If they do, we’ll all be dotted all over the place. We grab a pie and a pint, although mine could be warmer (the pie, not the pint) and Mr X is delighted to find the old lager on is Stella at 6.50 a pint. We scarf down our refreshments and pass on Xmas greetings to the familiar boats that we see, but before long, the hour of judgement is at hand and we head in for the game. As with last year, it’s pretty chaotic in the seats as the ticket checking extends only to entry into the stands. After that it’s a free for all and as last year, the centre section is far fuller than it should be. We sit off to the side and leave them to it, just before kick off, Kit Man Clive’s missus Jill sidles in next to me. Oh, hello! Nice Xmas? On the pitch, Jason’s shuffled again, with Ben back in, Tope starting wide and Angol also makes a start. Dom Gape is a surprise name in the first XI and Patrick makes his second start in two games. Unsurprisingly after their half time hauling on Saturday, there’s no spots for N’Guessan or Coley today.
Bouzanis, Goodliffe, Hart, Kizzi, Jackson, Fadahunsi, Gape, Beautyman, Patrick, Smith, Angol SUBS: Arnold, Milsom, O’Brien, Pereria, Clay, Sowunmi
The open exchanges are pretty even to be honest. We manage to keep our shape well and the Wombles are clearly following the ‘hit them down the left as often as possible’ pattern we’ve seen so much of this season. However whilst they have a little sniff of success, they don’t seem to fully commit, probably due to the perceived threat of Patrick sitting in front of Hart. As the half ticks on, we grow more and more into things, win some set pieces and start to find our feet. Suddenly from one free-kick wide, the ball’s not cleared, it’s put back into the box and drops to Ben Goodliffe who hits one on the turn towards the near post that the keeper has to be down smartly to turn away. This seems to give the lads belief and 10 minutes later, a quick break, a 1-2 and Harry Smith is free in behind. The keeper does well to spread himself for the shot, Gape can’t turn in the rebound and then Patrick somehow manages to put his shot straight at a startled keeper who somehow deflects it wide for a corner. It’s not one way however, with Bouzanis having to deal with two efforts straight at him, one from a free-kick, the other a shot after Sam Hart misses his header on a ball into the box.
Despite having had the better of the half though, we inevitably go in goalless at the break. And things don’t get any better when we check other scores. Whilst Salford are losing to Tranmere, Colchester are holding MK and FGR are beating Newport. Not good. We could be 10+ points adrift by full time if this pans out as it is, regardless of a decent first 45 here. “We’ve got to nick something here second half and hope it turns elsewhere” I mutter as push my phone back into my pocket and quietly await the restart. Jason unsurprisingly swaps out Ben for Sowunmi at the break and the second half starts a bit more scrappy than the first. No one really gets a hold on proceedings, but they carry a touch more threat with a couple of corners and our chief tormenter from the game at ours, Tilley, is probing at every opportunity. On the other side however, the other ex-U in Josh Neufville is having a pleasingly ineffective afternoon as Tope and Jacko combine to make sure he gets nowt. To shake things up, Jason makes another change with Gape and Tope off for Pereria and Clay. This gives us some fresh legs and we pick up a touch. One little ball down the left gets Patrick in behind, but with no support, he has to go for the shot and the keeper saves with his legs at the near post. It’s a start.
Just past the hour and there’s a little bit of needle. With us winning a few corners and throws deep in their half, we’re trying to exert some pressure. Former hero Bugiel is back helping to defend, doubling up as he has all day on Harry Smith front post. This time, he gets a bit too lairy and Smudger gives him a little dig in the ribs. Omar goes down rolling around, to a complete lack of amusement from us behind that goal and Harry. Who when Bugiel gets to his feet, points to him and makes the ‘sub’ motion to the bench. Complete shithouse that lad, love him to bits. To top it off, he gives Omar’s hair a little ruffle as well as Jacko winds up for the long throw. This seems to throw our old mate’s concentration as when Pereria makes a late dart to make it look like it’s going short, he starts to go with him despite another defender already having it covered. This means the long throw comes in and Harry’s got decent sight of the flight of the ball, sees it’s actually dropping short of him and blocks off the other defender tight behind and allows it to bounce high over his shoulder off the turf. This catches everyone by surprise and the keeper is left stranded at his front post as the ball drops to a completely unmarked Sowunmi to nod into the net from a couple yards out and spark absolute bedlam behind the goal.
Fucking hell. We’ve scored. We’ve nicked one! Some pyro gets lobbed pitchwards from the yoof as the celebrations continue and the lads pile up to the side of the goal. Get in there. We’ve deserved that, now let’s see the fucking job through eh? No freebies, no fuck ups. Dig in. And we have to, as the goal sparks one of the Wombles better spells of the game, forcing us to do some defending from balls in to the box and from set pieces. Despite this, their best effort is again straight at Bouzanis when one lad gets highest to a cross, nutting it down into the turf and straight at the Aussie stopper. O’Brien, recently added to the fray, gives us a new dimension and he has a speculative effort from about 25 deflected and looping towards goal. It looks wide anyway, but the keeper off his line takes no chances and palms it away for a corner regardless. But as the minutes tick away, we have to defend more and defend harder as the hosts look for an equaliser, but without really ever truly creating that one killer chance. After a long 25 minutes, we hit the 90 and the board goes up. Eight minutes. Nope, I shit you not. Eight. Come on, that’s so last week lads, give it a rest eh? Jesus this is gonna be stressful.
Thankfully most of the eight are played out shithousing and playing keep ball deep in their half. Of course, their best sniff of an equaliser is right at the very death, when we can’t quite clear our lines and one last cross in is acrobatically over head kicked in the middle just the wrong side of Deano’s upright as the added time expires. Bouzanis launches it one more time into the night sky and the ref blows for time to the delight of the travelling support. Our first away win since February that and it couldn’t have come at a more important time. I give Gill a big celebratory hug and wish her a Merry Xmas. As the team accept the applause of the fans, news filters through. We’ve not only won today, but we’re off the bottom! FGR have spunked a 2-0 lead to Newport and lost 4-2. Colchester have also gone down to a last minute winner as well, meaning we’re back to within 6pts of safety. Jesus Christ. Things have changed a bit in those 45 plus minutes and no mistake!
We filter out slowly and having walked the long way round, we find our minbus waiting for us right where we’d been dropped, right out front of the ground. As we get that sorted and start piling in, COO Tim Allison bowls out all smiles. “We needed that!” he understates by quite some margin and admits that having had a much better view of their last gasp acrobatic chance was also really not advisable for one’s coronary health. Right, Sutton please drive! We’re wasting VDT here. We cut through some back streets to dodge some traffic, passing the time checking the locals reactions on socials and calling 4Days a spawny bastard, as he had money on us not only to win, but also win 1-0. Although he bottled the latter and cashed out for a bullseye when they got a late free kick. Before long though, we’re back in O’Niells for a well earned victory pint at the Welshman’s expense and to see Man Utd shit the bed in the first half against Villa. As the evening wears on, Greek then Mr X drift away, although the latter messes up his bus times meaning he has to stay for another pint. Then with the break upon us, I decide to call it a night also and leave the remaining few to it to go get some food as I’m back in work tomorrow sadly and as much as I’d like to stay out for a few more, I don’t fancy that early start with a gut full of Guinness and shite food.
A quick kebab later and there’s a 407 handily along in a couple of minutes up by the Police Station meaning I’m back at HQ before 9 for some quality street and to regale a clearly thrilled Mrs Taz with all the details about why I’m actually in a good mood after a game of football for a change.
Merry Christmas? It fucking well is now.