"As for Maidenhead, the conga (which was amusing) aside, quite a strange bunch really – some the oddest chants I've ever heard at a football match" ~ localboy86, Amber Planet forum, 26th April 2015

Sunday 19 January 2014

Away Day Diary: Grimsby Town 2-1 Maidenhead United (11/01/14)

^^^ 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 (presently of the Conference Premier but previously a Football League side for 117 years).

Some 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 most common response. Fortunately, Grimsby Town plays 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 and large pairing of Rodney Rowe and Kevin Francis up front - losing 2-0 at Lincoln City (more on them later) on Saturday 13th January 2001Grimsby 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.

Crazy stuff.

On the subject of crazy ...

^^^ Macleod (M) and I got a ridiculously early train from Maidenhead (even earlier than 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 goalless) ;-)

^^^ A-ha! After a McDonald's 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 we departed from the London terminus, Macleod (C) texted to say that he'd overslept - following a no-doubt riotous leaving do for a friend at work - so would miss his scheduled flight from Dublin. Apparently, the next one wouldn't see him arrive at Cleethorpes until the early hours of Sunday. No deal. A real shame ... and something that 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 very cramped seating probably didn't help. 

We spent significant time on this leg of the journey, chatting with a Lincoln City fan from Devon. He was en route, via an overnight stay in London, to their home tie with another team that Les and I had watched, on occasions, during our student days: moneybags North Ferriby United. Richard Pacquette's name cropped up in conversation, having played for both the Imps and the Magpies. I'm disappointed with myself that I forgot about Udo Onwere! 

We had to shield our eyes from the bright sunshine as we passed places we'd heard of (Market Rasen) and others we hadn't (Barnetby). I 'kicked things off', meanwhile, by inadvertently tripping a Grimsby Town fan!

^^^ We arrived at Grimsby Town station just after 11am. Macleod (M) and I were permitted an early check-in. Our hotel was functional, ideally located (only a few minutes away from the station), and overlooked Grimsby Minster. We decided against trying one of the many pubs between the hotel and the station and instead took 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. Latter didn't have a pub on it, which was a shame, 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 christen it. The hardcore pissheads 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 tribute, I attempted to find 'Venus & Serena' by Super Furry Animals on the jukebox. No such luck; I 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, which was 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! Hats off to Mr Logic for taking this photo. It would be a 20-minute 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, at least in terms of size.

^^^ 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, the Magpies were in their Farnborough Town kit. Grimsby - wearing black, white, and red - took the lead shortly after this photo was taken (35 minutes 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 a large slope on this pitch. Or there was a strong wind blowing towards the away fans (housed behind the goal the Magpies were now attacking). Or Grimsby took their foot off the gas. Maybe 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 long-distance shot, 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. Alas, 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-minute-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. Later on, we bumped into one of them - he was working the doors 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 Luton Town, for example - but it seemed OK to me. Its 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 men's 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 sitting in the corner asked if we were Maidenhead fans. After confirming that we were, he offered to sign us in. £1 each. I gave 'Johnson Hippolyte' as my name, even spelling it out. We only stayed for one - I got a distinct impression that we were imposing, somewhat - but it was good fun chatting to the locals here (at least those not glued to the Man United 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?); then the Studio (where the above photo was taken). The drinks here were £2 a bottle and, aside from a couple of underage oiks, we were about the only blokes in there! The dance floor was chock-full of women ... well, I say women, but most of them were at least 12 years younger than me! You know you're getting old when you encounter a score of females wearing, essentially, negligees and the phrase that springs immediately to mind is 'catch your death of cold' :-O

^^^ Will H, stood 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. Yet 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 might hope for ...

^^^ Back to Swashbuckle Joe's. Again, the men were outnumbered massively by the 'fairer' sex. But at least most of these women were born when 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 to his orientation.

^^^ On the subject of orientation, the above 37-year-old - it was her birthday - and her party were seemingly 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 dance floor 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 McDonald's 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 leftover from Christmas). 

Macleod (M) - the gentleman he is - helped carry her (massive) case at King's Cross. She was headed for Putney initially and apparently wants to settle in Clapham. If so, I'll probably bump into her in the Northcote when celebrating Bruno's birthday on/ around St Paddy's Day in March. (We seemingly ALWAYS bump into random people we know there; last year, it was an old Uni housemate whom we hadn't seen for nearly a decade). Come that time, after only a few months in London, her affable nature will surely be a thing of the past! ;-)

Speaking of March, we have a trip to Edinburgh (taking in the Shire vs Clyde and Hearts vs Hibs) diarised for the end of that month. If those two games are half as good as recent visits oop north, to Barrow and Grimsby, I'll be happy enough.

< insert 'Maidenhead exit Trophy at Grimsby' tag-line here >

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Away Day Diary: Daventry Town 0-1 Maidenhead United (30/11/13)

Daventry's High Street. Saturday afternoon. 
It makes Maidenhead's look like Oxford Street.

The FA Cup is all well and good, but I've regularly despaired regarding Maidenhead's ability to fuck things up. Royally. No, not those Royals ... and don't mention H**sham either. Or Bashley. Or Didcot ...

I recall going to places like Bognor Regis (mmm, bread pudding), and they'd moan: "It's been years since we played a league club in the FA Cup. Too long". Try being one of the original 15 entrants, whose peak came in the '70s ... the 18 bleedin' 70s!

Anyway, I've been a fan of the FA Trophy for some years. Since the Berks & Bucks got segregated and trips to watch us lose at teams who REALLY were park sides disappeared quicker than you could say: "A bye to the Semi-Finals". Pah.

It's safe to say that the competition has provided some of *the* highlights of following Maidenhead United over the years:

  • Colin Tate's solitary goal in a Magpies shirt, away at Fareham Town in a 4-2 win.
  • Blyth Spartans - no explanation necessary.
  • Canvey Island - an invasion of the Admiral Jellicoe and an overbooked coach.
  • Halifax Town - minibus arranged at zero notice as the previous round only finished at 22.30 on the preceding Thursday night. 

There are plenty more, but these are just a few off the top of my head. 

OK, so you need a bit of luck with the draw, or it can be painful knowing you need to get through three rounds of games against sides in your division. Yawn.

Anyhow. A good draw can keep an otherwise drab season (as if ... ) ticking over nicely. The 'footballing gods' - or FA's Sinclair ZX Spectrum - were certainly smiling on us when we drew Daventry away.

  1. New ground? Tick.
  2. Complete ball-ache to get to by public transport? Tick.
  3. A rare chance for us to patronise a club even smaller than us? Tick.
  4. A great chance to progress to the next round? Tick.

Oh, hang on, 14 straight league and cup wins at home so far this season? Bugger. Scrub that last one, then. Oh well. As Meatloaf once sang, three out of four ain't bad.

With all the timing of a Kevin Tilley tackle, here's the dirt ... 

With Lenny away on a swingers creche club weekend (complete with outside jacuzzi), it was down to Team Macleod to (firstly) work out where Daventry is!
Train to Banbury and an hour's bus ride. Then, a taxi to Back Of Beyond Park or whatever the ground is called. Just the three hours to get somewhere you could drive to in an hour. Never accuse us of doing things the easy way.

Our second trip to Reading station within a week. The obligatory miserable minimum wager - who gave us evils as we lurked furtively outside her shop - was still looking glad to be working Saturdays.

Not having allocated seats soon became an issue when Virgin Trains decided to compete with Last Worst Western in a 'who can have the least available carriages' competition. Four coaches. One and a half first class, half buffet, one stowed out 'normal' carriage and - whoop-de-fucking-do - our favourite carriage. The one we always end up in - irrespective of whether we opt for it or not ...

In the words of Victor Meldrew, "I don't believe this!"

Having avoided the Hooray Henrys, who were en route to Newbury Races, it was time to consider a formation change. Three up front.

Don't mention Peru.

By the time we'd reminisced about our previous trip to Banbury, c/o Dresslemania VII, we were off the train and into pub number 1. Or the nearest one to the station, as it's usually known. 

Ah, yes, Bacon Butty. OK, Wild Lime. 
I preferred the first suggestion.

The last time I was in this place, I dressed as Snoop Doggy Pimp. I didn't recognise it. Appearances can be deceptive. 

Time for a quick couple of pints of cloudy foreign lager. I can't remember the name, but it was Radler-like. Not great.

Although I was confident that a bus - numbered X300 and travelling for over an hour - would DEFINITELY have a loo on board, we had a quick pre-emptive to clear the pipes.

Do you REALLY check the toilets every hour? Methinks not ... 

A quick stroll around the corner took us to the bus station and the promise of coach-class luxury.

Uh oh, where's the toilet?

Backseat scallies forever. Before this, though, a quick visit to the bus station shop ... 

Me: Hello.
Shopkeeper, smiling at the prospect of a sale: Hello.
Me: Where are the drinks?
Shopkeeper: In the corner. What are you looking for?
Me: What's the cheapest drink you have in a bottle?
Shopkeeper, looking a bit bemused: Water, why?
Me: Oh, nothing. How much?
Shopkeeper, crestfallen, and definitely no longer smiling: 80p.
Me, now smiling: Thanks!

Straight outside to pour the contents down the drain, watched by a couple of confused shoppers. Although, they hadn't been on the Red Stripe and the Radler before noon.

I'll be needing that bottle later ... 
Today's scarf of choice, incidentally, was Inter Milan. Nice.

The bus wound through various countrified villages; it was a pleasant journey across the rolling Northamptonshire countryside. Most of it, anyway.

You don't wanna know. That sign's taking the piss, though.

Upon arrival in Daventry, it was time for lunch: cold chicken tikka pies - a new favourite - and hot cheese and ham. OK, if you like your pies incinerated well done. 

Freddie declares that the cold pies are a gastronomic delight.

Pub number 1 (in Daventry) was the Plume of Feathers. The excitement at them selling Kronenbourg at 1988 prices - £2.70 - was soon tempered by the fact that it was so watered down it tasted like Hofmeister. Time to move on.

A quick stroll down Tumbleweed Street the High Street. A search for a cab. We struck gold. Back Of Beyond Park football ground, please, home of Daventry Town FC. Certainly, Sir. 

The obligatory cab ride conversation about how long he'd lived here was met with the affirmative "many years" and comments about how well he knew the area. Before you could say, "Border agencies sting! You're nicked!" (more about that later), we'd arrived.

Daventry Golf Club. That'll be five pounds, please. Do we look like golf types?!

Another five minutes and we were (finally) at the Back Of Beyond Park. Quite tidy, TBF, although it looked like it belonged to a team used to spending their time at a much lower level. Terracing. You what? Covered standing. Eh? Nice two-storey clubhouse, though.

Match information:

So and so passed to someone; matey boy had a shot; someone else kicked another player. Who cares? You only look at this blog for the photos, anyway.

OK, I'll at least illustrate that I paid SOME attention.

Maidenhead was the better side and should have been out of sight by halftime, but Costa Pacquette had packed his slippers instead of his boots. Daventry saw plenty of the ball but nowhere near Maidenhead's goal. Maidenhead scored one scrappy goal, and Daventry scored none. The end. The players over-enthusiastically applauded all the non-support they'd received. A cynic might think that some of them read this guff, given the criticism they got from Lenny following the previous week's pathetic display at Bath City.

There were a couple of amusing interludes, though. 

In an attempt to trump the appearance of the Union flag and the saltire, this suddenly appeared:

That's not a flag ...

Quite impressive, but what's this? Shebang. Who? Club sponsors. #noddy

Although, Ken Le Pen probably liked the reference to the Purple (Headed) Army.

Secondly, an acute SMS (Small Man Syndrome) sufferer resided in the home dugout. Complete with a shrill, irritating voice which could probably receive incoming faxes, he was apparently the Assistant Manager. He seemed ever so angry. I laughed at him. That made him even angrier. He offered me a chance to see something in the home dugout. I think. Sadly, I never got a chance to take him up on his kind offer, as he raced off as soon as the halftime whistle blew.

Change ends. And time to put this lot firmly in their place, flag-wise. Maidenhead United generally can't compete in most willy-waving contests, but this is one where we can excel.

THAT'S a flag.

This week's caption competition.

Happy Bob tried to convince us that it was 'just like the good old days'. We agreed to disagree.

Devon Malcolm, who has been generally rubbish but had scored the winner, was rumoured to be the highest-paid player in the club's history. We slapped thine foreheads in unison. 

We'd booked our favourite taxi driver to take us back to civilisation town and duly dropped us off at Chez 'Spoons: The Saracens Head Inn. 

Knowing his previous faux pas was inevitably going to end up on this 'shitty blog that no one reads' (copyright some Tw@tterati monkey), we posed for the obligatory photo:

Err ... this isn't going on social media - is it?

Of course, it wasn't, we told him. Fingers crossed ... and hidden behind our backs. He failed to notice this. 

Talk turned to the inevitable dull home draw in the next round. Nae bother, as neither of us would be around for it anyway ... 

Before we knew it, time to get the last chopper out of Saigon: the 18:25 train back to Banbury. However, a pit stop at Tesco's first for food and drink carry-out. 

Now, ask yourself this question: what does a stereotypical shoplifter look like? TBH, I'm unsure and have never really given it much thought. However, I DO know that none of Team Macleod fit whatever the profile is supposed to be. I think. 

However, no one had told Brenda or Doris, who started with the casual 'looking round the corner, thinking they're not looking' routine. We'd been on the sauce, admittedly, but not THAT much. And we've seen more episodes of The Professionals than many people have had hot dinners, so we know all about surveillance.

That then escalated to 'pretending to tidy up the drinks around them' whilst I waited for Callum to find the ice and tumblers. The flag bag does make me look like I'm carrying my life's possessions, so maybe that was it.

Goods of choice located, it was time to do one. Not before I'd asked Brenda, Doris, and Alan the Store Manager - all by now stood looking bored near the checkouts (having failed to catch their presumed prey) - to allow us to purchase our alcohol. Of course, you can see my ID to prove I'm over 18. No? Suit yourself.

I'd expected the bus to be empty, but Daventry's party animals thought otherwise, taking their carry-outs with them before reaching the bright lights of Banbury. They had Foster's cooking lager. We had Singha and - in honour of the absent Lenny - Mythos. #verycosmopolitan

A holiday drink that tastes nice at home, too.

A pub crawl through Banbury ensued, culminating in the Banbury Cross. Banbury is a great place to drink. It's almost worth getting relegation (again).  

Like the Ethiopian runner, on the shoulders of the pacemaker, we timed it to perfection to get our train back. Nearly. We missed it by about a minute.


Oh yeah, that 'inevitable dull home draw in the next round that we couldn't go to anyway'? Barrow (A). 

Double knickers.