"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

Tuesday 10 May 2022

Away Day Diary: Grimsby Town 1-3 Maidenhead United (07/05/22)

 Fancy Dresslemania XX

Given that (1) Macleod (M) and I had already stayed over in Cleethorpes (with Will H, after the Magpies' narrow FA Trophy defeat to the Mariners in January 2014), and (2) it's a pain in the backside to get to, this would *not* have been my handpicked location for the twentieth instalment of our storied end-of-season tradition; Chorley (scheduled for 2020; ultimately cancelled) would have been preferable, if not Boreham Wood (scheduled for 2021; ultimately home fans only)

Rather than walk into town  on Friday afternoon  and catch the 12:54 (as suggested by Trainline), Macleod (M) and I got a lift from Macleod (P) and met with Macleod (C) in time for the 12:25; after a couple of eye-wateringly expensive rounds in the Parcel Yard at King's Cross, we were seated expectantly on the 14:30 (to Edinburgh), trying to work out the Magpies' overall Fancy Dresslemania record

Into Newark Northgate on time (15:44), we met outside the station with Shay (who'd been on the same train as us) and walked the 15 or so minutes to the Castle Barge; after a couple of pints there (Lincoln Green; meh), we made our way to nearby Newark Castle station – only stopping for some quick #yeractualcultureinnit photos of, erm, Newark Castle – to catch the 17:01 to Grimsby, which consisted of two carriages and was packed (including – partway through the journey – inebriated Market Rasen racegoers singing Sweet Caroline on repeat)

Marked difference in the weather – drizzling and cold – as we disembarked and made our way to check-in at the Holiday Inn Express (bumping into Emile Acquah and his brother, who were staying on the same floor as us!); after a quick drink in our second barge of the day, wolfing down a McDonald's (needs must) on the station platform, a meet-up with Mushroom and – because of a cancelled train – a couple of rounds in Wetherspoons, we hit the bright lights of Cleethorpes
Shay brought the average age down significantly in No. 2, immediately off the train, before a subsequent pub crawl that went as follows: No. 1 (once we'd worked out how to get in ... there were no handles on the main door! [Paulo Dybala on the scoresheet for Juventus in their 2-1 defeat at Genoa reminded me of an interesting bit of trivia, which Shay later put to good use]); Willy's (a nudge that Willie T had swerved this trip  the first Fancy Dresslemania he'd missed  in the [ultimately forlorn] hope/ expectation of seeing Exeter City win their first league title since 1990); Studio (after deciding against the Nottingham House; lots of silly-coloured drinks for £2 a pop; no girl-on-girl head-butt on this occasion); Swashbuckle Tavern (great fun, like last time, despite the DJ not playing 'You Win Again' by the Bee Gees); and an unnecessary final round  at 'stupid o' clock'  for Macleod (C) and I in the Dolphin & Beach Bar (from where yours truly thought it would be a good idea to walk back to Grimsby ... )

By happy coincidence, I made it to the hotel just as the Macleods were eating breakfast! After two helpings of bacon and scrambled eggs, the briefest of lie-downs on the bed, and a shower, it was on with our costumes (Carlos Valderrama, Homer Simpson, and Lieutenant Colonel Kojak Slaphead III [on the shoulders of Boris Johnson]), some quick photos (uploaded to various social media sites), and off to catch the 10:42 train to the seaside (again)

You might be unsurprised to learn that we didn't make it past No. 2 (decent, but most importantly nearest), where we stayed (despite having two other designated away pubs, according to the police officers who said hello!), joined by a whole host of other characters (including but not limited to): Evel Knievel David Bowie Elvis Presley, Moscow from Money Heist, Luke the Leprechaun, Logic the Lobster, Roman Emperor Rainey, Section Commander Maurice of the Home Guard, Cardinal Les, Scooby-Doo, a Maidenhead United legend Shrek, Aquaman, Del Boy, an extravagantly-coiffured cheerleader, Hiawatha, two Mexicans, and Solihull Steve dressed as Solihull Steve

The walk to the ground was a memorable one (along the beach and then across a railway bridge), and not even Lieutenant Colonel Kojak Slaphead III (on the shoulders of Boris Johnson)'s flags denied entry (because the away end is kindling or summat) could scupper a party atmosphere (yet more fancy dressers, various inflatables, etc.) that went up several notches still further when Luke Waterfall had two minutes (if that  11 seconds of playing time, according to the highlights on BT Sport) to forget: an own goal (his second in as many games, apparently), then sent off for a professional foul (with the subsequent penalty duly dispatched by Sam Barratt)

Our voices were already hoarse (and stomachs likely permanently creased with laughter) when Ryan Upward added a 68th-minute third for the Magpies to compound the misery for a shell-shocked home crowd; after saying goodbyes at the final whistle to the friendly police officers (happy keen to pose for photos), we walked the way we had come and made ourselves comfortable again outside No. 2 (more photos; more pints of Carling Black [Fruits] Cider; more fool anyone who doubted Bristol Rovers!)

We eventually went our separate ways from there: Carlos Valderrama, Homer Simpson, Lieutenant Colonel Kojak Slaphead III (on the shoulders of Boris Johnson), and Evel Knievel David Bowie Elvis Presley were on the 18:39 train from Grimsby to Lincoln (ft. a supermarket sweep in Tesco Express, where an elderly lady was adamant that Valderrama's head of hair was real ... but that his moustache was definitely fake!) and made it back to Maidenhead shortly after midnight  it had been a very long and tiring but enjoyable day (with my watch indicating that I'd walked nearly 21 miles!)

Not gonna lie  this season has been a grind at times (expensive and time-consuming), but days like Saturday (and King's Lynn in February) help you forget about all of that; well done to Alan Devonshire (I love the smile on his face and his reply when asked about the fans in the on-field post-match interview), the players and the coaching staff/ match-day team, plus all of those supporters who made any number of long trips to cheer on the Magpies, not least those who went to #FDXX in North East Lincolnshire ('Bonus points if you're a fancy dresser')

Sunday 1 May 2022

Away Day Diary: Torquay United 1-1 Maidenhead United (30/04/22)

Three previous MUFC visits to Plainmoor – two for which away supporters were admitted (October 2017 and August 2019) – and all three had been on Tuesday nights; this was to be our long-awaited Saturday debut, but, despite it being a bank holiday weekend and so perhaps an obvious contender for a stopover, Fancy Dresslemania XX at Grimsby the following week meant we would be travelling there and back on the day (with beers in Newton Abbot)

Ouch! The left side of my mouth was inflamed, extremely sore, and had kept me awake for much of the night, hence the swallowing of painkillers with coffee on the 09:30 from Reading (*not* the 08:15 from Manchester); I was sitting next to a Brentford fan (an EV Consultant from Southall on her way to visit family in Barnstaple), and  bearing in mind the big MUFC-related news this week  it was interesting to talk with her about the Bees' move from Griffin Park (plus Len Townsend and Ivan Toney)

Railway Brewhouse was the first stop on our pre-match pub crawl (conversation included Craig telling us about the time that he saw Kirsten Scott Thomas in a bar in Paris), followed by visits to Maltings Taphouse (surroundings reminiscent of the Neptune Beer Emporium in Chesterfield; a decent beer selection, but overall I much prefer Dhillon's in Coventry and Fixed Wheel in Halesowen), and Teign Cellars' sun-drenched patio garden

Quick drink and group photo in the clubhouse after our taxi ride to the ground before purchasing match tickets from a box office because Torquay is one of those clubs; indeed, the worst yet, as they were insistent on people providing names and addresses! ("Thanks, Mr Hippolyte, that wasn't so hard, was it?")

Unbelievably good goal from Sam Barratt, which opened the scoring in the second half, stood out like a sore thumb in an end-of-season game otherwise totally devoid of quality; a late equaliser (conceded during a rendition of 'Alan Devonshire's Black and White Army'  the second time that has happened this season), and substitute Reece Smith creating a golden opportunity for a winner that any half-decent (if not half-fit) centre forward would've gobbled up, was disappointing but not earth-shattering for the noisy travelling support (well, some of us were noisy)

Aldi  complete with an eye-catching signal gantry  back in Newton Abbot, for a supermarket sweep, before an entertaining second visit to the Railway: Macleod (M) chatted at the bar with some random bloke former Slough Town ("staying down") player and Beaconsfield SYCOB manager Simon Delahunty (who now lives down that way and who'd been at Argyle's 5-0 home shellacking by MK Dons); Craig and I sat outside as Plymouth and Exeter fans bawled the same songs ("One team in Devon," etc.)

Yours truly – returning from the toilet, not long into our journey on the 18:55 train – would find Craig and Macleod (M) in conversation with a couple of crusties who'd moved to sit alongside us; these twentysomething blokes (from Derby and Bracknell, originally) were on their way to the Beltane (May Day) celebrations at Glastonbury, and it was a relief when they left the train at Castle Cary (we made sure that they didn't miss their stop this time!) as they didn't half spout some absolute horseshit ... much to the amusement of Ruth and Pete, a couple from Winnipeg – en route to Heathrow after a three-week holiday that'd featured visits to Cornwall, London, and Bourne Town vs Blackstones in the United Counties League Division One (!) – who were significantly less irritating travelling companions worthy of several photos and a spare beer (and not just because Ruth likened Macleod [M] to Vinnie Jones!)