Or: A trip to the end of the earth.
Another early start involved getting the pre-dawn train from “The Beach” and then the 9.00 train to Paddington. Dagenham may be in the biggest city in Britain but in travel terms it is as remote as any club in England. It always involves a long underground trip that eats in to drinking time by at least two hours over the day.
The first part of the day was improved by having a chat with old friend Choke. A fellow Gashead of the old school he has many a tale to tell and is very happy to tell them. He was off to work but he managed to squeeze in tales of Tote End skulduggery alongside his latest news of how to live in Thailand. We played football together as 10 year olds in the distant past. We occasionally cross paths at matches but rarely do we share the same pubs or fan friends. He is and will always be a bit of a legend.
We arrived in good spirits at Paddington. Ronnie played the Luddite and queued up for a day ticket. We of course, mockingly waved our Oyster cards at him. Even the Good Lord Powell had one ready for the day. Geoff the Pikestar became pub hunter in chief. Peter went off on his travels. Andy and I joined Bob, Ronnie Geoff and Lord Powell on a meander down to the river. The thinking was a logistical one. We would get on the required tube line and try something new. The estimated time needed was one hour and three minutes to get from Hammersmith to Dagenham East. Time for a last five minute warning somewhere around 1.15 was agreed.
Pre match Pubs
The pub was obviously a Chelsea fan meeting place. They arrived at the bar and had all the expected confidence of fans of a team in a relegation battle. Not! The pub is very grand and was fully dressed for Christmas. It had an impressive range of beers that included three stouts or Porters. I opted for the Cameron’s Craft selection, a stout called Tontine. The Craft tag amused me somewhat. It does expose the term as something a bit pointless but the brewery is comparatively small and artisan when compared to its American rivals.
We strolled down to the River front. The next pub had a good choice of local beers and a great outside space to use. We sat under the river wall, watched the rowers from the club next door come and go, and enjoyed the best of the day’s sunshine. The pub was a focal point for dog walkers, family cycle riders and of course the young rowers waiting their time to set to the river. The beer is in full London price mode. £18 plus for four beers. I would have expected something a bit more unusual for this price but that is the norm now I suppose.
The price went up here by another pound or so and there was no obvious place to settle as a group outside. They did have the marvellous Hogsback Tea on offer. I love this beer and would have no alternative despite the interesting beers that might otherwise be ticked. Again I left a trifle disappointed. At over £4.50 a pint it should shout love and care beyond the norm. It was frankly, average but distinctive. The pub was an interesting pace. I reckon on another day that the Dove, further along the bank, would knock spots off both of these pubs.
We left to get the tube. By the time we reached Barking, i.e. 2.20 ish the others opted to deploy a Wetherspoons card. They know I try not to use W pubs. The chaps don’t even bother asking nowadays but their ploy worked marvellously. They developed a team bladder issue. The only possible option, should they want to make it to the game dry, was to leave the train at Barking and go to the ‘Spoons by the entrance. Nods and winks were no doubt used to complete the plan. I continued on to East Dagenham on my own. The chaps appropriately relieved themselves in their choice of watering hole.
Dagenham and Redbridge 0 Bristol Rovers 3 Attendance 1,820 (630 Gasheads)
The team is now getting in to comfortable driving mode. It has an extra gear which it rarely needs to use when winning games like this. The Daggers offered some initial scares and might well have worked a lead. By half time though it was a question of when, not whether the team would get the second goal to finish it off. Sound a bit arrogant do I? Well I can tell you it has been a very long time getting to feel like this.
Entertainment Value 1
Man of the Match: Ollie Clarke The team needs a player who can just sit and protect the central defence. He did just that and little more. He does things simply and I quite like that.
Cask and Glass
It was just after 6 when we settled for the post-match pint. We chose this pub because Geoff somehow had drawn a very short straw and was going home by megabus from Victoria. It is a small and friendly locals pub but quite well known by those in the beer fraternity as convenient for that last beer before the home commute. The Master Brew was anything but masterful but at £12 for 4 beers we had found that somewhere relatively cheap in town. We sat outside and listened to the last wails of a strangled cat singing Christmas carols to anyone who might have the misfortune of walking by. Luckily there were few walking by and the 8 o’clock closing would surely put pay to her renditions. Then, as madness would have it, a flash car pulled up and whisked the prospective X factor wannabee away into the Buckingham Palace Road night.
We went for our 7.58 train home, connected well at B.T.M. and I was home by 11. It had been a gentle and amusing day. There was nothing to get too excited about. A bit like the Rovers performance then.
Best Pub: Swan Hammersmith
Best Beer: Cameron’s Tontine
Next up Wimbledon Away