^^^ Maidenhead's reward, following blog-worthy wins at Daventry Town and Barrow (in addition to an earlier victory at Eastbourne Borough), was a trip to Blundell Park to play Grimsby Town (now of the Conference Premier, but previously a Football League side for 117 years).
A few of us would be staying over after this massive game (Aldershot Town at home in the FA Cup? Pah!) and I posted on the Conference Premier forum, in the run up, asking for recommendations. 'Don't go to Grimsby,' was the common response. Fortunately, Grimsby play in Cleethorpes and we'd be spending the vast majority of our time by the seaside.
Macleod (M) - who had treated Macleod (P) to Rochdale vs Leeds United the previous Saturday - would comment, on the way up, that he wasn't particularly familiar with the area. Les and I, in contrast, were relative experts having spent varying lengths of time enrolled at the University of Hull. Many a Saturday afternoon/ Tuesday night, during the 2000/01 season, would see us attend the now-demolished Boothferry Park to watch the Tigers in Football League Div 3 action.
The Soccerbase website lists Hull City - with the little n large pairing of Rodney Rowe and Kevin Francis up front - losing 2-0 at Lincoln City (more on them later) on Saturday 13th January 2001. Grimsby Town, meanwhile, lost 3-1 at home - in Football League Div 1 - to a Crewe Alexandra side featuring future-Magpie Ade Bankole and Dean Ashton (who is co-commentating on a Serie A game, live on BT Sport, as I write).
Fast forward 13 years - almost to the day - and Hull City's Boothferry Park-replacement would be hosting Chelsea in the Premiership, live on BT Sport, as Grimsby Town prepared to take on Maidenhead United in the FA Trophy.
On the subject of crazy ...
^^^ Macleod (M) and I got a ridiculously-early train from Maidenhead (even earlier that the one we got to Berwick-upon-Tweed a few years ago!).
^^^ I don't know what Chewy the Basingstoke Town fan was doing up so early. Perhaps he couldn't sleep, with excitement, ahead of their home league encounter with Bath City (which, incidentally, finished nil-all) ;-)
^^^ A-ha! After a McDonalds breakfast at King's Cross we met with Les in good time for the 08:03 to Newark Northgate (where the above photo was taken). Shortly after our departure from the London terminus, Macleod (C) text to say that he'd overslept - following a no-doubt riotous leaving do for a friend at work - and so would miss his scheduled flight from Dublin. Apparently the next one wouldn't see him arrive into Cleethorpes until the early hours of Sunday. No deal. A real shame ... and something he'll have to live with.
^^^ It took us as long to get from Newark to Grimsby as it did to get from London to Newark ... or, at least, it certainly felt that way. The extremely cramped seating probably didn't help.
Much of this journey would be spent chatting with a Lincoln City fan from Devon en route, via an overnight stay in London, to their home tie with moneybags North Ferriby United (another team that Les and I had watched, on occasions, during our student days). Richard Pacquette's name cropped up, in conversation, having played for both the Imps and the Magpies. Gutted that I forgot about Udo Onwere!
We had to shield our eyes from the bright sunshine as we passed places that we'd heard of (Market Rasen) and others that we hadn't (Barnetby). I 'kicked things off', meanwhile, by inadvertently tripping a Grimsby Town fan!
^^^ Arrival at Grimsby Town station, just after 11am. Macleod (M) and I were able to check-in - early - to our (functional) hotel; only a few minutes away and overlooking Grimsby Minster. We decided against trying one of the many pubs between the hotel and station, instead taking the short train ride straight to Cleethorpes.
^^^ What is it that they say about first impressions?
^^^ Carl Taylor made fun!
^^^ The beach. And the pier. The latter didn't have a pub on it, sadly, and so we headed inland. 'We' now included Magpie-in-Northern-Exile Keith, who had travelled from Cottingham and bumped into us outside the pier entrance.
^^^ Pub number 1 was the Swashbuckle Tavern, or Swashbuckle Joe's as we would later term it. The hardcore pi55heads amongst us, you see, would end up back in this galleon-themed boozer much later in the day.
^^^ Previous visitors to this place have included Steffi Graf and the Williams sisters. Clearly. In their honour, I attempted to find 'Venus & Serena' by Super Furry Animals on the jukebox. No such luck. Had to make do with 'Venus' by Bananarama. The bass was way too high. Drinks, though, were dirt cheap. Indeed, the most expensive four-drink round of the day came in the subsequent bar: the rather swish Harvey's. Two pints of Guinness and two pints of Tiger? £11. Wowzers! The Sheffield Wednesday vs Leeds United match was on the telly. Macleod (M)'s boys were three goals - and one man - down when we left, just after half time.
^^^ We met with the stragglers - some of whom had come on a later train, others on the subsidised supporters' coach - in the Fiddler, on the main market square. This place had a vending machine selling inflatable guitars for £4. Quite the bargain. In addition to the aforementioned Hull City vs Chelsea game, the Wednesday vs Leeds match was also showing. Check out Macleod (M)'s face! I think it was only 4-0, at this stage, as well! Good job, Mr Logic, with this photo. It would be a 20 min walk, along the A180/ Grimsby Road, to the ground. All bar Macleod (M), Les and I left in good time for kick-off ...
^^^ Macleod (M) needed cheering up - after the Leeds result - and this art deco fancy dress shop, on the corner of Isaac's Hill/ Clee Road, did the job.
^^^ Macleod (M) and I had wisely decided against a carry out, on the train, and I didn't think we were 'tipsy' - in the slightest - at this point. Although, in hindsight, you have to wonder ...
^^^ Re-assuring to know that we were, at least, headed in the right direction.
^^^ Macleod (M) photographed outside a sex shop = 25 iSpy away day points.
^^^ Main stand. Rather impressive.
^^^ The match - which had already kicked off - was being shown on TV in the Ticket Office. We asked if we could watch it from there but, eventually, they pulled the shutters down on us. The Mercedes is NOT Drax's latest company car. Repeat, the Mercedes is NOT Drax's latest company car. At least, I don't think it is ...
^^^ Escorted to the away end.
^^^ Obligatory corner flag shot ... with added background bonus of (proper) floodlight and ball in orbit (mid-hoof).
^^^ As if we would even consider it!
^^^ First half match action (sort of). As you can see, Maidenhead were in their Farnborough Town kit. Grimsby - wearing black, white, and red - took the lead shortly after this photo was taken (35 mins or so into the game). One Maidenhead fan - stood in front of me - started to celebrate before realising that we'd conceded, not scored! To save his blushes, he shall remain nameless. ;-) Grimsby added another before the break and I tweeted that it was 'make your own fun' time, thinking that the game was all but over ...
^^^ Half time. Most of the travelling hordes went to the away supporters' bar (pretty basic, apparently) beneath the stand. Macleod (M) and I didn't. #contrary
^^^ Flags R Us. The away end wasn't quite wide enough to fit in all of the black and white one!
^^^ Second half match action. I don't know whether there was big slope on this pitch, whether there was a strong wind blowing towards us (stood behind the goal that Maidenhead were now attacking), whether Grimsby took their foot off the gas and/ or whether Drax gave the half time team talk of his life but, for whatever reason, we were soon as dominant as Grimsby had been in the first period. Reece Tison-Lascaris halved the deficit with a bobbled shot from distance and Maidenhead seemingly had corner after corner after corner. If we had equalised - and we came close during a couple of goalmouth scrambles - then we could conceivably have gone on to win. As it was, we ran out of steam near the end and Elvijs Putnins was again the busier keeper as the final whistle approached. The supporters - a Grimsby fan in the pub afterwards reckoned we officially numbered 56 in the away end - took up the slack and proudly belted out a 10-min long 'Johnson Hippolyte's Black & White Army'.
^^^ Applause from the players. The teenage oiks, in the stand to our right, also applauded us. Fair play.
^^^ Thumbs up from the stewards. We would bump into one of them again, later on, working as a bouncer in town. 'Don't go into the Imperial, it's not safe for away supporters,' they advised. After dropping the flag bag on the supporters' coach, we headed straight for the Imperial. Now, our team had lost - and we're not, say, Luton Town - but it seemed OK to me. It's reputation is, however, seemingly justified.
^^^ Les headed to his hotel - the Premier Inn in Grimsby - as Macleod (M), Will H, and I left the Imperial and started the walk back into Cleethorpes town centre. After stopping for this photo - and then an unremarkable fish & chip supper in a glorified kebab house - we passed a brick wall with a door, sandwiched between the assorted shopfronts. 'New Imperial Social Club' read an inconspicuous sign. It was a working mens' club, or something similar. Should we go in? What would Merthyr Tydfil do?
^^^ 'Sorry, members only,' said the woman behind the bar, in what resembled someone's living room. As we retreated, a bloke sat in the corner asked if we were Maidenhead fans. After confirming that we were, he offered to sign us in. £1 each. I gave my name as 'Johnson Hippolyte', even spelling it out. We only stayed for one - I got the distinct impression that we were imposing, somewhat - but it was good fun chatting to the locals in here (at least those not glued to the Man Utd vs Swansea game on TV). Many were Grimsby season ticket holders who had been at Blundell Park that afternoon. They were delighted by Lincoln's 4-0 home defeat. 'I want North Ferriby in the next round,' said one, 'so we can put those upstarts in their place'. They were equally pleased by Cambridge United's draw with Luton (Alex Wall had scored), as it meant that two of their promotion rivals faced an unwanted replay. A return to the Football League - as opposed to cup success - remains their priority. I wish them all the best.
^^^ We headed back to the main market square - as advised by the good folk in the New Imperial - and started on the silly-coloured drinks (various flavours). The subsequent bar crawl took us to Teddy's (rubbish, save for the drum n bass mix that the dread-locked barman was blasting out from his iPod), Bar Babylon (not much better), the Fiddler (did I mention the vending machine selling inflatable guitars?) and then the Studio (where the above photo was taken). Drinks were £2 a bottle and, aside from a couple of underage oiks, we were about the only blokes in there! The dancefloor was chock-full with women ... well, I say women, but most of them were at least 12 years younger than me! You know you're getting old when - presented with a score of females wearing, essentially, negligee - the phrase that springs immediately to mind is 'catch your death of cold' :-O
^^^ Will H outside (Michael) Malcolm's, shortly after leaving the Studio. Reportedly Maidenhead's highest-paid player EVER (really??), Malcolm has since departed the club by 'mutual consent'. Banjo. Cow's arse. Hit. Couldn't. More females were queuing to get in the Studio, as we departed, and one girl took a sprinted run-up before full-on head-butting another (who barely flinched). Not exactly the girl-on-girl action one hopes for ...
^^^ Back to Swashbuckle Joe's, where once more the men were massively outnumbered by the 'fairer' sex. At least the vast majority of these women had been born by the time Oasis released their debut album! The gentleman above was from Norn Iron. 'Whereabouts?' I asked. 'Londonderry,' he replied. 'Derry?' I teased. 'Londonderry,' he re-iterated. The orange trackie top and Rangers wristband were pretty big clues as to his orientation.
^^^ Speaking of orientation, this 37-year-old (it was her birthday) and her party were apparently convinced that I was gay. I really don't know what gave her/ them that impression, fondness for silly-coloured drinks and pushing-people-out-of-the-way-to-get-to-the-dancefloor-for-the-Madonna-medley notwithstanding. 'Papa don't preach, I'm in trouble deep ... '
^^^ View from the hotel window, the morning after. #yeractualcultureinnit
^^^ Macleod (M) ponders which mansion to buy on his credit card. After this photo was taken we would have our second McDonalds breakfast of the weekend - all I could taste was sugar - before meeting with Les at the station for the 11:34 departure (change at Donny - not Scunny, thank goodness - for Lonny).
We were sat next to a friendly 25-year-old brunette from Yarm, near Middlesbrough, who was moving to the Big Smoke to start a new career in HR (I know, I know ... but she really was friendly; even insisting that we share a Terry's chocolate orange left over from Christmas).
Macleod (M) - gentleman that he is - helped carry her (huge) case at King's Cross. She was headed for Putney, initially, and apparently hopes to settle in Clapham. If so, I'll probably bump into her in the Northcote whilst celebrating Bruno's birthday on/ around St Paddy's Day in March (we seemingly ALWAYS bump into random people that we know in there; last year it was an old Uni housemate that we hadn't seen for nearly a decade). By then - after only a couple of months or so in London - her affable nature will surely be a thing of the past! ;-)
Speaking of March, a trip to Edinburgh - taking in the Shire vs Clyde and also Hearts vs Hibs - is in the diary for the end of that month. If those two games are half as good as recent visits ooop north - to Barrow and Grimsby - then I'll be happy enough.
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