Or: A case of Cape Town revenge
A 7.54 train was not what was wanted as the remains of my Cape Town belly worked its way to very public audiences. As a Geographer I pride myself on my good spatial awareness. Today I had to make sure I was never out of a very slow stroll to a place of convenience. As you will be aware Railways in general and the London Underground in particular make this a task of evil planning to survive.
We met at 8.40 at the station buffet at Temple Meads. The sad folk from South of the River were making their way to West Bromwich and another last minute disappointment. Our team of Ronnie, Bob, John, Andy and Marcus were in keen observatory mood. What they saw was the briefest of hello as I headed for station stop number 1.
From Paddington we headed for a pre-arranged meeting with our Mega Bus pals. Geoff the Pikestar had my match ticket. This had kindly been printed by Geoff while I was away. The Lord Powell had sorted the train tickets and arranged our 9 O’clock journey. They were later to be joined by Paul D and Roger Right Hand another of the Northern contingent who’s name I have unforgivably forgotten.
We arrived 9 minutes before they opened. Again! This pub is under threat of demolition in 2017 by Euston’s planned expansion. It has a mixed reputation among Real Ale enthusiasts but always delivers something to comment upon. In this case it was the wry smile as John hit a Saison beer. I have learned over the years that the initial taste of such beer should not be trusted and a pint is probably more of this style that I can stomach. Sure enough he appreciated the distinctive taste and then struggled to finish the pint with a straight face. The pub had a mix of Newcastle and Wolves fans heading for various London venues. I knew to make Station Stop number 2 here as the next pub can be rather tricky for emergency evacuation. The pub passed beer muster but messages arrived that the others who were travelling down from Kings Cross had arrived at the next pub. So we moved on.
This is a long time unvisited London favourite of mine. As we were sorting out beers from the well organised beer board (Royal Naval Volunteer and Small Bar please note) a voice called my name from across the bar. It was my old friend Ted Blair, a legend in the football and real ale world and all round good egg in beer drinking generally. I of course asked for his recommendation. The Anarchy Strait Jacket was an excellent choice. We chatted briefly about Darlington FC, local pubs and his plans for watching and drinking. We left with arrangements to meet when he goes gigging at Thekla in Bristol around the Yeovil game later this season. The station stop number 3 amused me. I guess it must be the women who graffiti a Unisex convenience because it is so rare to find it in gents versions in the modern world.
The Mable’s Tavern
I was in no mood or position to lead the way so we passed many a perfectly good pub to sample some Shepherd Neame. In for a penny I thought and a Spitfire would be a safe and quality choice. It was very average but the company was great so I coped. There isn’t much to write about this pub. We watched a bit of football and argued over the best route to Barnet. Lord Powell found out how to hold a notepad for the first time. Plans were confirmed for games up to the end of the season. Yes he really did ask for plans for York away on the final weekend. The pub has one or two advantages. Station stop 4 complete was followed by a short walk to Kings Cross.
We took the Metropolitan line to Wembley Park and Jubilee line to Canons Park. For future information there are station stops on the underground. Number 5 was near the exit and Ronnie was happy to point me in its direction. The others had jumped off for a pint or two at the Wetherspoons in Kingsbury or Queensbury.
Barnet 1 Bristol Rovers 0 Attendance 2,770 (1262 Gasheads)
Rovers lost. They should have won. Playing against ten men for much of the second half it was surely only a matter of time before we equalised and then ran way away with the game. It didn’t happen but it was a shrug of the shoulders sort of response. My observations related to the opinion that it only needs a couple of sub-standard performances in key positions for a result to go against a team. In this case I think Matty Taylor had a rare quiet game but Danny Leadbitter had a bit of a mare. Both can put some of this down to the performances of their immediate opposite numbers. Danny in particular looked a bit worried to get beyond the penalty area for fear of not being available to defend against their tricky left sided midfield player on the break. So he crossed badly from deep leaving poor old Ellis Harrison to make something of headers from the edge of the box. Devon White he isn’t. It was good to see a return for Chris Lines and the arrival of “Lenny” Lawrence. I can only guess that Ollie was injured at half time because up to then he was dominating the midfield and had made only one misdirected pass. It did miss the target by several miles though.
This concerns the so called banter of the second half. When I was a young, newly married, 29 year old I introduced my beloved to Bristol Rovers at a game at Northampton. It was a vital promotion game but I sold it to her with the following statement. “What you get with Gasheads is fun and witty banter. They can be a bit crude and near the knuckle but it will be sharp and amusing”. Christian McLean and Devon White were the target of loving and genuinely encouraging banter that set us on the way to a team win, it felt as fans and players were all together as Olly won it late in the day.
Today I was frankly embarrassed by a long and repetitive chant about an apparent act of paedophilia by their goalkeeper. I had to look hard on the internet to find the seven year old accusations against a 16 year old that had no basis in charges or convictions. The abuse grew larger, longer and more regularly throughout the second half. There was little getting behind the lads, encouraging them to go the extra yard only a puerile repetitive and in my opinion illegal chant against an opposition player. And to what effect? I was actually quite pleased when he pulled off two decent saves in front of our collected bunch of meatheads. He celebrated appropriately at the end of the game and no doubt will remember the afternoon long beyond the recall of those assembled Gasheads. The Guy next to me joined in saying he would kill the bloke if he had the chance and then moaned that the trains that passed the ground were “pissing him off with their regularity”. I thought the days of acid were well gone. Apparently not in this corner of the away fan section. I do look forward to the equally public apology when the fans get home and find out why they were singing this song. Faithful and true? Not today.
Entertainment Value 3
Man of the Match: Tom Parkes
By the time we arrived at Baker Street there was a decision to be made as how two accommodate groups going in four directions. I was in secure mode so decided to forgo extra beer and head to Paddington. Station stops six and seven cost me £3.30 a go but at least I was happy and unscathed. The route home was secure and I was home courtesy of the last train and a Rose pick up. It had been a good, if relatively sober day.
Best Pub: Euston Tap
Best Beer: Anarchy Strait Jacket in the Euston tap
Next up Oxford United Away on Sunday 17th January