27/7/19 Ayr United v Stranraer, Scottish League Cup 1st round, Group G. Wet Look Ayr Style.

The glorious weather of the preceding week, was to be replaced by rain. It could only mean the start of my holiday. As I waited patiently on the platform at New Street, I watched the driver of  the train, I was waiting for the lights to indicate I could board, get off and vomit on to the track in front of it. Ordinarily, someone being taken ill at this early time in the morning usually points to a heavy indulgence of alcohol the previous evening, but knowing the strict rules governing alcohol and train driving, this wouldn’t be the case. Assistance came, including a wheelchair, that pride dictated, wasn’t required. Now I understand that I should’ve been concerned for the blokes welfare, however, my concerns were for what was going to happen. A new driver needed to be found, and how late would we get into Crewe. Well first of all, it wasn’t the right train. What I thought was the replacement driver, took the train off. So it wasn’t the original driver after all, and wasn’t even the right train. At least it was the right platform. The train was late leaving New Street, and my connection to Glasgow looked perilous, by the time we arrived at Crewe, my connecting train should’ve already have left. To my disbelief and relief, the train to Glasgow was late running. I ran up the stairs to reach the right platform as fast as my legs could take me, and I’ve got to say, age and fitness are not on my side anymore, I’m too old, though I actually made it easily. Finding my seat, I had to wake the bloke up in the adjacent seat, as his bag was also asleep, but taking up my reservation. I touched down at Glasgow Central and went in search of a lottery ticket, vowing that I will explore the city at some point, as I did so. Getting the train to Ayr, I helped a girl who was recovering post op, with a suitcase that was about half the size of her, both on and off. I wasn’t nosy enough to enquire what the operation had been for. Touchdown Ayr, it was like it was in a 70/80s time warp. First place was the Ayrshire & Galloway, I’d a bit of time before needing to check in at the hotel. The place had some of Scotland’s famous winning scores versus other home nations in both Football and Rugby, etched in gold, on the beams. If I hadn’t already realised, I was definitely in Scotland. I moved on to Glen Park Hotel, an entry in the GBG, and the Ayr Brewery tap, with the brewery attached. I love speaking with such a distinctive accent, that the Brummy one undoubtedly is. I used to try and mask it, just to get served, on away jaunts, when I was a youngster. These days, with thinning, grey hair, the opposite applies, I frequent pubs and bars, where people on hearing my accent, are intrigued as to why I’m there. I had chosen Rabbie’s Porter by the Ayr Brewery, and even with it only needing to travel a handful of yards, was very nice. A smooth coffee flavour, with the obligatory plum backnote. As I supped, I noted my choice had been awarded silver for the best Scottish beer in 2014, I could totally understand why.

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“If you think this is big, you should see the owner”

Cheers, I would’ve missed this subterranean bar, had the boot not been discarded. The Wellington, no, not the one in Brum was a food oriented place, but wasn’t intrusive if you were just having a beer. Had I not  been on a timescale, I would’ve had another in there. I found the Arrandale hotel, and checked in with the lovely Linda, the busy and harassed lady, who’d rung me up, to confirm whether I would be taking up my reservation. Dumping my bag, I mooched off to find the ground. On the way, I worked out where the Smoking Goat was, but on trying the door, found it to be locked, as I looked for, and tried other comparable doors, one opened, and I was able to ascertain from the owner, that I’d be able to get a beer after the game.

On reaching the turnstile, I discovered you needed a ticket, so it was off to the club shop. After queuing, I enquired about a programme, to which I was informed “We don’t do them at this early stage”, yet I queued to buy a ticket, then queued again, to get in. I know I’m old, and I’m stuck in my ways, (Probably too much for my own good) but for a game that isn’t deemed important enough to bless with a match programme, why it wasn’t pay on the gate, is beyond me. I had to queue twice, and I wasn’t in Argos, a place I don’t like because I have to queue twice, but at least with that place, it’s cheaper. Maybe there had been hundreds and hundreds of fake tickets  for a game of this magnitude printed by an unscrupulous opportunist, that was out to capitalize.

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“Or not”

Ayr scored with their first attack. The Stranraer keepers first job was to pick the ball out of the net, the second was to admonish his defence who hadn’t realised that the game had kicked off. The pressure was all from the Honest men. I can’t lie, I’m being hones. . . . Oh like that joke hasn’t been done before. Ayr were relentless in their pressure, looking at the time on my phone, I was astonished to see that the game was only 12 minutes old, I was expecting 35, and even with it only being 12 minutes old, it should’ve been at least 3:0 to Ayr. It should’ve been 2:0 but for a great save, straight up the other end, the scoreline should’ve been level but for an even better save. Somehow Stranraer actually did equalise, but Ayr just went straight from the restart and retook the lead. When the first half is a really good one, rarely is the second half anywhere near as good. It was to be the case on this occasion too. Maybe it was because the rain was making proceedings difficult, maybe being part time, was having an impact, but the second half was disjointed. As the half was drawing to a close, the few Stranraer supporters that were in attendance, thought they’d scored, when their side had a chance, hit the side netting. From the resultant corner, they did. 2;2, and 2:2 was how it finished, though the home side claimed for a normal time penalty, that was waving away by the referee, who oversaw the penalties that the away side won the extra point with. Nobody was really bothered about the penalties at the end, and celebrations were very low key, not like the pitch invasion that was sparked by Spennymoor missing v Chorley in the National League North playoff final.

I unsuccessfully dodged the rain on the way back to the fantastically named Smoking Goat, a place I’d been looking forward to.

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“Got my goat”

I was disappointed, it only had Fyne’s Jarl, a nice beer, but a beer I’ve had many times. It did have a good ambiance to the place, another subterranean bar. For me, it felt similar to the Rock and Roller in Brum, taking my empty glass back, I noticed a new addition, Maisie from the Ayr Brewery, as my eyes lit up, my ears pricked up, reggae flowed out of the sound system, Toots and the Maytals sealed the deal, and a pint found its way into my hand. A less rushed Linda was at the reception, when I got back to the hotel, and after a chat, I went back out to the Ayr India, curry house for something to eat. So many establishments use the town in a play on words in the name of their business.

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“There’s rain in the Ayr tonight”

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