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|Been There Done It|
It's Blue, It's Square, Part 2
By: Chris Smith
Date: 19/04/2010 (Last updated: 12/09/2010)
I ACTUALLY had my wedding reception at Hayes FC in the Les Ferdinand suite. Great do, shame about the marriage in the end. The do was on a Friday in the 1997/8 season so nobody had to miss Town’s win at Millwall the next day.
If the club relocates next season as houses are planned for their old ground, it will be to The Warren at Yeading. This is a small ground on an industrial estate on the edge of Southall. I like the ground where Bend it like Beckham was filmed. You could watch the game from the bar. I’ve a pile of programmes from previous visits. Not a ground for the Football League purist but actually a nice setting bound by greenery up to the main line to Bristol and beyond. I saw Colchester there in the FA Cup and it remains the only ground where I’ve seen home fans drinking Tennants Super (or trampagne as its called in Roger’s Profanisaurus) in the stand.
AFC Wimbledon play at Kingsmeadow, the ground they purchased from previous hosts and incumbents Kingstonian. This ground is well known to Goolemariner and I as we both worked and lived relatively close. The large clubhouse did the cheapest cider in London as I recall and it was good wallop in Dry Blackthorn. The friendly stewards watched the old Wimbledon play at home one week and would volunteer at Kingsmeadow the next. Kingston is a fantastic place for a good drink if you are interested. I’m surprised I ever got to the ground. I saw Barrow play there in the latter stages of the FA Trophy and a less fine selection of the cataclysmically drunk you have never seen. They set a ground record at that game. I know Kingston well, a bit too well. This is because the 285 bus terminated there and I had a nasty habit of sleeping past my stop and waking up there in the early hours. It’s also a long walk back if you go in the wrong direction. As I did. At about one in the morning, I’d see a sign at last for Twickenham and think "Thank f*** for that, last three miles"
No true football fan can begrudge the progress that the proper Dons have made coming from minor league football. I’ve never seen anyone other than Kingstonian play at this ground and I saw quite a few games there in 1989/90 when I couldn’t scrape the money to travel to BP or a game up north. Town always won when I went here and the stewards soon found out who we supported. Wonder if they are still there…I also bumped into Keith there, a Mariner based in Lincoln. He was always to be seen having a good swallow (as drinking is referred to around here) at away games but toured the Isthmian League on alternate Saturdays when Town were at home because the atmosphere at BP was less fervent and the ease of getting cheap tickets to the capital.
Cambridge was nearly always a good day out. The game was invariably awful but it seemed to be one of those fixtures when the Town fans filled their boots alcoholwise. The 1981/2 fixture was the first time I got really wrecked before a match on the short journey from Colchester where I was "studying". I look wistfully at posters on The Fishy talking about going to University and I can only say that my student grant was used as a major investment for away games. I dragged a Swindon fan to this one, literally as we crawled through the gutter, accompanied by a bike seat sniffing Town reprobate. It must have been living in Luton that did it to him and I hasten to add he latched on to us. Wonder where he is locked up now…
We went two up in an eventual draw and my abiding memory is of virtually the entire and large away support collapsing with the effort of pogoing after a heavy lunchtime session. "Oh Micky you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind" was sung to Mr Brolly in a rewording of Tony Basil’s hit. The next season, after an abysmal run of defeats, Town fans battered each other in a ruck about how to get or not get behind the team.
I missed the game just after Christmas 1983 when a very pissed Town fan spent the first half telling the home goalie he was doomed, in an eerie dirge, each time Town came forward. Not content with this, he continued the performance in the second half but without realising the teams had changed ends until Nigel Batch, never one to suffer fools gladly, told him to piss off or get behind the team.
I suppose Histon’s proximity to Cambridge might make for a good day out. I think it must be something in the Fenland air that brings out the eccentricity in some of our fans.
I’ve not done the Kassam, but Oxford was a must for London based fans and we rarely lost there in my time. The Manor Ground was a pigsty though. We got a poor goalless draw at the start of the 1998/9 season which prompted a chant of "We’ll score again some sunny day". Next game, we won 5 1 against West Brom. True to form, I missed that one. An abiding memory was getting absolutely soaked there on the open terrace with the denim jacket taking a week to dry out. We cowered for shelter in the decrepit toilets banging out "Drink, drink wherever you may be, we are the drunk and disorderly..." in homage to a fine lunchtime in the city’s hostelries. That became a regular one as well at other away games, normally when we got into the ground after kick off (even in London, where we lived).
Did you know there were five teams with an "X" in their name? Oxford, Wrexham, Halifax, Exeter and Crewe Alexandra? Crewe are the only one of them that haven’t gone down recently. That’s the intro for Wrexham, a ground I’ve only visited once, on New Years Eve 2005. That late and thoroughly undeserved two one win there was one of the highlights of that season with a fine impromptu rendition of "Mariners" with other carloads of ecstatic Town fans at a petrol station on the way home. It reminded me how away games can be so much better than home fixtures. Sticking with ex league clubs, York stays in the mind for the Timewarp performance from Town fans in the FA Cup in 1989. I was new to seeing games again after several years of Saturday work, so it was doubly impressive. Rushden must be one of the most bizarre settings for a ground where the new stadium is built on the outskirts of the quintessential Middle England village. Nice ground though. Shame about having to taxi it from Wellingborough station. Kidderminster is one I missed, having had enough by that time of Slade’s first season at Town. It therefore came as no surprise when we won 4 1. Bastards! Mansfield? Two wins and a defeat for me in scab country. The only good thing about Mansfield is that it is close.
I paid a trip to Altrincham one slow Sunday to see them play Oxford. The gate was swelled to a few thousand by Man City and United fans getting in for a fiver on production of their season tickets. I didn’t know the offer had been extended to all season ticket holders until after I’d paid to get in. I still had my Town booklet on me from the previous day. Alty won 1 0 and regaled the travelling support with "You’ll be here for f******* years" I’ve seen Oxford win at now defunct Farsley as well and can imagine the novelty of these grounds has worn off for them.
On the downside, Barrow doesn’t appeal although Pseudonym will no doubt be familiar with this gaff. Its one of the clubs that didn’t get re-elected precisely because everyone was sick and tired of travelling there. I know for Brentford fans that it took up the entire weekend. Having said that, I’m curious about ex league clubs that Town regularly visited before I became a fan. Mind you, a Cumbria double if Workington went up would be hard to bear. I’m hoping however, that Forest Green overtake Eastbourne as that is a slow train journey from London. Crawley offers the chance to sing the "taxman" song at Evans.
I never saw Town play at Newport County. I couldn’t afford the Group Cup quarter final in the 1981/2 season and couldn’t get back to Colchester in any case. A business traveller wished Big Jim hadn’t gone along either as the dash to catch the London train afterwards led to his can of beer exploding over the unfortunate bloke. County have come a long way since going bust and playing in the Gloucestershire League to keep their name alive. Seeing as we aren’t in their financial dire straits, it puts our situation into perspective, unpalatable though it is to all of us. I’m hoping Dover don’t make it into the BSP because of the journey. Dover is so geographically distant that they sang "You dirty northern bastards" at Woking at one midweek game. Bath was always a happy hunting ground for us when Bristol Rovers were playing there. I’ll skate over our FA Cup defeat this season. Woking have a good ground which isn’t too far from the well-served railway station. Staines would be a good day if the pubs I remember were still there.
I can’t say that I know much of the clubs vying for promotion from the Blue Square North although my Brentford supporting mate always rated Southport as a day out. This is where posh scousers are supposed to live although posh and scouser is a contradiction in terms. Again, the Battle Bus supremo would know more about that. If Fleetwood were to do it, we could always remind them that "Our fishing port was bigger than yours, our fishing port..." They have appealed against the expunging of Farsley’s results and the reinstatement of points gained against the ex club would work in their favour.
I hope nobody thinks I’m dancing on the grave of the club with an optimistic look forward. If all of this remains just a hypothesis, with a miraculous escape from the drop, I’ll be well pleased. However, I refuse to spend the summer sulking if things don’t go our way. Having said that, I can understand the FA Trophy not gripping everyone’s imagination as we’d rather have automatic entry into the FA Cup first round. But I’ll live with it if needs be.
Anyway, I’ll be giving the lungs some exercise in the UF tomorrow afternoon as I did on Tuesday night.
Up the Mariners!
This article was written before Saturday's 3-0 defeat at home to Torquay
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