False Dawn

When the Tranmere date was revealed back in June, some people from this parish jumped on it immediately and went about booking hotels in towns miles outside of Liverpool for a big weekend on it. Meanwhile the rest of us just shrugged, went “It’s in fucking March. Calm down!” and got on with more immediate concerns. Then once the season started in earnest and it soon became clear that us being shit was probably going to be a full season affair and this one fast got earmarked as a day trip for the remainder. But as the date further closed in, circumstances changed again as Dukey’s missus offered to lob up for him to do a weekend on the ale for his 40th that week and not wanting to let the flat capped wonder down on his big cake day milestone, we relented and booked digs for an overnighter.

The occasion came with some rules however. The Duchess strictly stating that we couldn’t kill him, lose him or get him arrested. Which really reduces our options I think you’ll agree. All that leaves is the football really. Some fucking present that is! Also, after last season’s carry on at Prenton, we really can’t even guarantee the ‘not arrested’ bit either. Oh well, guess we’ll have to wing it and see what the day brings I guess! Still, at least this trip was being made with a bit more spring in our collective step after Tuesday night’s huge win at Notts County. Steve Morison finally getting his maiden 3 points as Sutton boss with a performance full of spark and fight (something that we’ve not witnessed a lot of this season) that saw us lead no less than four times. That’s almost as many times leading in one game than most of the rest of the season combined. Naturally, the midweek travellers staying over (eg. Us) made the most of the situation and some were still celebrating the victory as Mickey’s hands orientated themselves in a position that for someone who could tell the time would know indicated 2am in the morning. Yes, we really are that starved of success thank you very much.

Guess which was ours?

Naturally, as I’m now firmly in middle age this meant feeling like shite Wednesday and also deep into Tuesday back at work. Lovely. Still, as a couple of drinkers that night were heard to wistfully say to no one in particular “We won a game of football!”. So fuck it. It’s not the first time past me has done stupid shit that future me was left to carry the can for and it certainly won’t be the last. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Damn right. And in this case ‘new tricks’ constitutes not being a twat on a school night. This also meant getting up at stupid o’clock to head to Euston was a touch easier than it has been of late. Could the lads back up that big win with another and truly spark the greatest of escapes? I’m awoken Saturday morning not by my alarm, but the rain hammering against my double glazing, which is just lovely. Showered and out the door by 7am, I’m treated to the delights of the 410 bus sailing past me as I reach the end of my turning. Sakes. Suddenly the joy of Tuesday night seems a million miles away again. A 407 is soon on scene though and gets me into Croydon in just enough time to bag a half past 7 to Victoria. Although catching it does require me getting my jog on a bit.

Victoria to the underground is next and before long, I’m emerging into the still pissing rain outside Euston station. Unsurprisingly, there’s no sign of Mr X out having a smoke in the usual spot, so with plenty of time to kill, I head for Sainos for some breakfast. Here I find a load of fucking West Ham have cleared out the hot shelves leaving me with just the one bacon roll. They’ve now moved onto unburdening the cold beverage shelves of their contents as I weave my way through to pay. Out on the concourse, I find our train at 33 past has been canned. However, the good news is that this means we can just bunk the direct Lime Street service that was 40 quid more than getting the Manc train to Crewe and meeting it there. Guess we can’t get delay repay on that one then? I find Mr X and Not-Irish-Pete by the platform. Still no sign of Dukey though. Clearly his lack of awaydays of late have left him a little rusty when it comes to this getting up to Euston early palaver. Pete and I leave the man of mystery to meet him with his tickets and dash for the unreserved to bag a table. We’re successful and settle in to await the others.

Dukey finally shows and he and Mr X are soon parking arses with us as the carriage fills out with more West Ham who are at Everton today and fellow 08.33 refugees. We leave on time and the umpteenth trundle up the West Coast Mainline of this season begins. As per usual, we pass the time talking random bollocks, with subjects such as feral schoolchildren, the type of plasticene that Aardman Animation uses, Crewe Alexandra away and business meetings in Nuneaton. Despite this stunning repertoire, the journey does seem to drag a touch. We get talking to a couple of West Ham lads sat across the aisle who’ve picked up on our shit football chatter and enquire who we support. Quite pleasingly we don’t get the usual “Sutton? What, the fat keeper that ate the pie?” routine from them, which given the Stone Island on show and cans of Stella on the go, we’re quite surprised by. This helps pass the time until we’re pulling into Crewe when the lad on the inside makes his mate get up so he can go for a piss. As the lad on the outside lets his mate out, the train brakes heavily for the upcoming stop and we get to watch in almost slow motion as their 2 freshly opened cans of Stella slide slowly and then unstoppably off the edge of the seatback tables and into the now vacated seats.

Turned out nice again!

Within seconds, these are 2 foaming pools of Stella and whilst we’re not pissing ourselves laughing out of politeness, even we can’t resist a couple of comments of “Oh mate” and “Nightmare!”. After assessing the situation, they remove the cans, decide that these seats are out of service and with a cheery farewell, head off to go find themselves somewhere new to sit. Then we piss ourselves laughing. Of course, we then proceed to sit and wait for some poor souls to join the busy service and try to sit there whilst we sit and pretend like we’d not seen anything at all. First a dad and his lad go for it, but they’ve arrived too soon after the incident and can easily see the seats are wet and sack it off. We’re not to be disappointed though as a lad and his missus are next up and just happy to get two together, they jump in. 20 seconds later the lass realises. “I think these seats are wet!”. Oh really? And with now wet arses stinking of lager, they too depart for pastures new. Now I know what you’re thinking here and yes, we’re pricks. But this is what winning 5 games in a season does to you. It twists the soul, makes you a colder hearted crueller person. It’s not our fault, we’re just products of an abusive environment. Yeah, that’s our story and we’re bloody well sticking to it thank you very much.

As we approach Lime Street, a former Arsenal junior who played for us that wasn’t Keiran Cadogan or Craig Eastmond comes up randomly. But no one can remember his name. Annoyingly, before I can google it, we’ve arrived at our destination and have bigger fish to fry. Right, as soon as we’re in the pub, I’m googling the bastard! We exit Lime Street to the loud chants of “IRONS!” from the Hammers mob also disembarking and make the short dash to the Adelphi hotel around the corner to ditch our shit. Thankfully rooms are ready although check in takes an age meaning VDT is wasted. Once upstairs, I’m in and with bag dropped and a quick leak taken, I’m back out ready to go. Out in the corridor, Dukey is trying to get into the wrong room and Mr X is unable to operate the key card room entry system used by all major hotels for the last 35 years or so. Both are rescued by a couple of housekeeping lasses that take pity on them and we’re soon on our way back out. Pete joins us a short while later in reception. “Sorry, I got lost. Fuck knows where my room was! I’m in M11”. “Isn’t that a motorway?” enquires Dukey. Just a reminder folks, this is us sober.

We head out into the still pissing rain and trudge on over to the Ship & Mitre where we always kick off our Liverpool stints. When we arrive, the place is already humming with blues getting some pre-match scoops and fodder in as well as a couple of West Ham making use of their varied range of beers. At the back, we find Magnum PI, Nick the Greek and Robbo, fresh from their “2 pints and a curry” Friday night out in Robey, wherever the fuck that is. Right, I need a pint! With the whip collected, which Greek puts a 50 into, stating it covers him, Dukey and also 10 for Pete who has no cash. More like you want me to get my head kicked in at the bar when I whip that red one out all Cockney like. Still, the landlord is cool with it after checking and I’ve at least turned it into more useable notes right off the bat. We’re soon joined by two more, with 4Days, who’d come up a bit earlier to meet up with his Wales away mate Matt for breakfast. With the usual stops along Dale Street being busy thanks to Everton’s un-PL like 3pm start, we decide to just camp out here for the duration and stay out of the rain. Ah yes! Arsenal junior, I was gonna Google the Yahoos for that! So I whip out my phone and just as I open the web browser to get searching, my brain intervenes. “What? The Arsenal youth who played for us and isn’t Cadogan or Eastmond? Do you mean Jack Jebb? That one? Shit mate, if only you’d asked sooner!”. Fuck you brain, fuuuuck you. Also, the fact this lightbulb moment occurred just after I’d taken my first couple of swigs of alcohol for the day is completely unrelated.

Stickers? Khazi cistern? We’re listening…
Some of the banners in the SWA Glamping tent are top notch…

We get a few in here and just after half 1 with almost no one having tickets pre-bought and there being no comps floating about due to Scouser Stephen Duke-McKenna hoovering them all up so his family can do the game. Fair play. Bet he starts on the bloody bench now too! So we rustle up some cabs and get ourselves over to the Tranmere Glamping tent for a couple pre-kick off and to make getting briefs that bit easier. In my cab is Robbo and Greek. The latter having trouble closing the door in the back when he got in. The reason being is he’s knocked the door seal off it’s track and it’s jamming the door. I don’t know this at the time, but find out when the lad drops us outside Prenton and it’s just hanging there. Seriously, I’d have a perfect 5.0 Uber rating if it wasn’t for these tossers! I hastily fix the problem and make sure to tip the lad a couple of quid to make up for it. At this rate, I’ll be soon below 4.8 like some of these utter peasants I hang around with.

I grab my ticket and hit the tent, getting a round in before a few of the local faces we know from up here are popping by to say hello and all are eager to tell us just how badly we’re going to turn them over today. That and “Oh you’ll stay up!”. No one really believes either statement if I’m honest, but we smile and nod politely regardless. Here we get to see a preview in the flesh of the new ‘Royal Aubergine’ shirt the club are doing in support of the Royal Marsden which was announced on Friday. It’s not bad at all and whilst someone like Dukey might not be seen dead in it, I’ll certainly be taking a punt on one. In the Khazis, Dukey reveals he’s spotted not one but two of our stickers still present. “One bloke even saw the David Bellamy one and was well confused”. Apparently “Who the hell puts David Bellamy on a football sticker?” was his particular issue. We do mate. We do. As we sink the last of our pints, a quick look at the team confirms my earlier suspicion that local lad and comps hoover Duke-McKenna starts on the bench. Shame really, as he was excellent Tuesday night.

Arnold, Goodliffe, Hart, Kizzi, Adom-Malaki, Jackson, Clay, Eastmond, Lakin, Smith, Sanderson. SUBS: Bouzanis, Williams, Taylor, Coley, N’Guessan, Duke-McKenna, Moore.

The first half’s pretty even to be honest. Arnold has to turn away an early shot after we let a lad arrive late in the box unmarked, but we grow into it and keep plugging away. Lakin has a shot coming in from the left that the keeper gets a hand on, but the ball pops up on Smith arriving with the defender just beyond the back post and he can’t turn it back on target. Nino annoys the home fans after getting carted on the touchline and suffering a head injury, the same lad piling in again soon after gets a reaction from the young full back and some refs might have shown a red for it. Fortunately for us, for a change, only a yellow is forthcoming along with boos for the Millwall loanee from the home end for the rest of the afternoon. Lakin is again our most threatening player, latching onto a little clip over the top from Kizzi, but his angled shot is saved by the keepers legs with Smith lurking. Then right on the break, we don’t deal with a simple counter and Arnold is again making the save with Kizzi blocking on the line. From behind, it looks like its into his chest, but the oppo want a pen although the ref’s not listening and one of theirs cops a yellow for his protests.

There’s something about grounds with a statue outside. Just seems right…
Just avoided conceding another pen! PHEW!

So goalless at the break, but the general feeling is we’ll need to up it a bit if we’re to get all three here this time. From the restart, we’re out the blocks quick and Sanderson doesn’t make the most of a decent sighter as he’s slipped in behind after Clay and Lakin combine in the middle, the keeper saving a low shot with his legs. This is tempered by losing Goodliffe to a knock and he’s replaced by Academy graduate Jack Taylor to make his debut. Then Easty gets in wide and brings a block from the keeper near post, but his last touch was heavy and had reduced the angle too much. Straight from this, Tranmere break and Arnold has to make 3 decent stops inside a few seconds to keep us level. From here, this gives the hosts a bit of belief and they start to assert themselves far more. Not long after, a corner in is flicked on, Jackson gets the wrong side of his man who goes down in a heap and the ref points to the spot. It’s so soft and typical of the kind of defending that’s cost us so dearly this season.

Jennings steps up to take, goes down the middle and Arnold having decided late simply has to shift his boot to kick the ball away for a corner. SAVED!! Of course, from the resulting corner, a free header has to be smothered by the veteran keeps as well, just for good measure. Steve makes changes, getting Coley and Duke-McKenna on and this gives us a little lift, with the former driving a header straight at the keeper following a Jackson cross. But it’s a brief flash of life as whilst we have plenty of the ball, we move it too slowly or pass when we should shoot or shoot when we should pass and their keeper in contrast to Steve at the other end, has a relatively quiet afternoon. Tranmere waste a good oppo then Arnold has to make another stop when a simple pass up the middle puts Jennings in. But, then as we enter the last 5, most of us are thinking of just taking the point and moving onto next week’s big one against Grimsby. So of course, we let one in. Kizzi and Hart don’t communicate, both go for the same ball and it’s snaffled up and popped wide, Apter’s got too much time and space to step inside and bobble one through a crowd, beyond Arnold into the bottom corner. Shit defending, shit goal. Standard.

We throw bodies forward to try & level, but no dice and yet another avoidable, narrow defeat is chalked up. Back out in the rain, we trudge to the pub next door and get a pint in to have a moan about our season, still, alt least no one got almost arrested this time round. That’s something. Here we find Grimsby have nicked a 1-0 over FGR and with Colchester postponed, we’ve burned another game and got nowt. After one, we think about moving on, but with 5 of us, a cab is tricky. Mr X bins off an Uber Large as the wait is over half an hour. Pint? Pint. With this downed a while later, 4Days tries again. His need is greater as he needs to be back in town for his train home. But again, nothing doing. So I give it a go, choosing a regular cab. Sorted instantly 4 minutes away. 4Days has a paddy as its assumed he’s getting left behind and not wanting to get involved, Mr X goes to the bar for another round. Which means I surrender the already surge priced sherbert to the Welshman and tell him to fuck off while we have another beer. He disappears off into the rainy night whilst we sup our third standard away defeat pint in largely silence. Eventually though, the others are wondering where we are, so with less bodies, yet another cab is sorted and we’re soon working our way through the tunnel back to the Adelphi.

Another game burned…

A quick de-Suttonify of clobber here and we head on out to meet the others. We agree to meet in ‘the Beehive’ that we think is an old boozer down on one of the main drags by a McDonalds. When it’s actually a boozer 30 secs from our hotel and not what we thought it was. In the end, we tell Greek & co where we are and having spotted them, all hide in a phone box like complete children. When Greek can’t find us, he calls and Mr X just holds his phone up to the horrendous karaoke coming from the pub next to us. Eventually he gets the hint and walks right past us as we all remain giggling in the phone box. “Cunts” is all he has to say when he finally spots us and karma soon rears her ugly head as we go into aforementioned bad karaoke pub to hear a lad called Tom do what is undoubtedly the worst version of ‘Angels’ anyone alive or dead has ever witnessed. The next geezer isn’t much better. What is it with Northerners and Karaoke anyway? None of the fuckers can sing, at least not from what we’ve heard. Next! This pub has a DJ on and is better, well until the DJ starts singing along over the music butchering a couple of classics from Motown. Jesus Christ. Can we please, for the love of god, go somewhere that doesn’t have twats who can’t sing in it?

We elect for O’Niells around the corner and simply camp out here unwilling to move or go back out in the rain. Here we realise this is the site of the past trip when Robbo ended up dancing with some other bloke’s bird, whilst he looked on dumfounded at the edge of the dancefloor and we all watched on a CCTV feed to a large tv on the other side of the wall. Good times. We have a few here, Mr X & Pete call it a night and then approaching 12, most of the rest of us have had enough, so we depart too. I’m absolutely Hank Marvin by this point, so in need of scoff, I offer to take fried chicken aficionado Dukey for a birthday supper at Bazookas, right by our hotel. He’s dumbfounded by the choice but in the end plumps for some wings and chips and with scoff we head back to the hotel. The next thing I know, I’m waking up lying across my bed in my room with chicken burger wrappers all over the table. Ooops. Postion righted to a more orthodox head on pillow lengthways orientation, I crash back out and rise with my alarm just before 9 the following morning.

Showered, I hit the breakfast buffet and am soon reminded of the restoratitive powers of hotel toast with proper butter and a slap up fried breakfast. This gets some life in me, although not as much as the sneaky 30min nap I take when back in the room before the 10am check out time. By 5 past, I’m down in reception to find Mr X, Dukey and Pete waiting. Shall we? Refreshments bagged at the station, we jump on the train to Crewe for the start of the slow trip home. With Avanti again charging absurd money for these trips, taking the longer route home is sometimes worth the saving. Along the way, Pete recognises some bloke sat near us as having been in Hollyoaks. In Crewe, with a bit of a wait, we hit up Tescos outside for nibbles and to top up Ribena supplies and eventually board the rattler for the run back to Euston. Here I choose my seat poorly as it means I spend 2 hours being roasted by the sun through the window and also the heating vent by my ankles. Worn out by my second late night in a week and boiling hot, I spend most of the trip back whilst Dukey taps away on his laptop to complete an assignment for his teaching qualification. God we’ve got old.

Never heard of ’em? What are they, one of them indie bands the kids like yeah?

Back in Euston, we wave off Pete and Dukey as they head for Victoria whilst I and the man of mystery for Thameslink from St Pancs, where there’s an East Croydon train waiting on the platform. So I leave Mr X to his trip back around the loop to the PROWS and head to Croydon for a bus home and a weary trudge over the busy main road back to HQ. Indoors, Mrs Taz is curled up on the sofa reading and a quick change later, I’m crashed out in the remaining space for a much needed power nap.

Dinner? That’s Deliveroo’s problem.


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