With having done the capital of Wales, and then seven days later, the capital of Scotland, and with it being an International weekend, I’d decided that the chance to complete the mainland set of capital cities within 14 days, too good a chance to miss. With having already done most of the grounds in London, and with a lot of the smaller Non-League clubs sharing grounds, it didn’t leave a great deal of choice, both Corinthian Casuals and the Metropolitan Police, were playing away. So by using the ‘Non League Matters’ website, I settled on this one in the 3rd tier. Although obviously not playing, I’m in no hurry to visit the two London grounds in the Premier League I haven’t done, and chances are, I’ll have ticked off both Brentfords and Wimbledon’s new grounds before I do Arsenal and Spurs, and they haven’t even finished building them yet. When I found my reservation on the train, it was taken by a young African girl, her friend next to her, was trying to grab some more sleep, something went wrong in the communication process, and the girl woke her friend up, the girl moved, and then the one that had been trying to sleep, moved over into my reservation, allowing me to sit by the window, deciding not to point this out, I just sat by the window, headphones in and nose in the magazine I’d bought, however, at Birmingham International, the bloke whose reservation I was now sat in, wanted it, not interested in my explanation, I then had to disrupt the sleeping girl again. He then preceded to take up all of his reservation, and half mine, the rest of the way to Euston. Thankfully, my playlist kept my mood just the right side of explosion. Getting off at Euston, I made my way to Euston Square, oh what joy, I found the station shut, and one of the lines I was hoping to use, also not operating. I walked the fairly short distance to Warren Street station, before finally getting on the system, changing twice to get to Liverpool Street, the bad news notice at Euston Square, didn’t mention anything about the other line I was hoping to use, being out of action. This ended up being one of those times, when I was actually grateful for having tinternet service on my phone, using it, I walked from Liverpool Street to Barbican, past the London Wall, walking past it, I wondered when the wall would be rebuilt, Berlin style, keeping all the undesirables out, by that, I mean every single person who lives in the midlands, the north, Wales and Scotland. Every now and then in the gloop that is London, you happen on an oasis, Charterhouse is one of those places. A postage stamp sized bit of historical tranquility in amongst the modernist architecture, towering above, guarding it menacingly, hemming it in. The Fox and Anchor is a Young’s owned hotel, a beautiful boozer, but £5.25 for a pint of real ale is steep, even for London.
“He was rubbish as a barman apparently”
“Probably why he doesn’t work there now”
Hope was supposed to be open at 11 o’clock, no hope, it was opening at half past, I was 10 minutes early.
“So I took a photo of the market to kill some time”
Hope was ok, but not worth a photograph, least the beer was cheaper. I walked back to Liverpool Street and to the Magpie.
“I asked for beer, not coffee”
The Magpie, a Nicholson’s, is in the GBG, though I’m not sure why, it’s nothing special.
I went back to the station, and got the train up to Enfield.
“Where old tube trains get put out to stud”
The Magpie might not have impressed me, but after touching down, The Jolly Butcher’s was the polar opposite, even down to it not being in the guide, it should be. McMullen’s owned, the menu was quite cheap, cheap for London definitely, and £3.80 a pint. I half expected the pint to be a bit ropey at that price, but it was reasonably well kept. The Jolly Butcher’s is very much a community pub, the type of place that you could quite easily make your second home, it’s got that something for everyone thing going on, which is what you need from your local. I was nicely surprised by the place. Pint sunk, I made my way to the Queen Elizabeth II stadium.
When I was misspending my youth, Enfield were a fly in Telford United’s ointment, always challenging for honours at the top end of the Alliance Premier League, whilst irritatingly having only about half of Telford’s fan base. Enfield were always bigger and faster, or seemed to be anyway. Always muscling Telford out of games. I disliked them for it. Since then, things have changed a bit, and I’m not just on about me. The Enfield that you see now, isn’t the Enfield that were forever beating Telford. They’ve had a nomadic time with their home ground for a start, finance wise, two pennies to rub together would have been luxury. They’re fan owned now, and at least now, they’ve got a permanent home.
“On your Mark’s, get set……….BANG!!!”
“Not much, but a start”
With Non-League football, you have freedom of movement in a ground, as a ground hopper, you have even more freedom, you find a space you feel comfortable with, and you soak up the game, with ground hopping that far down the pyramid, initially, you don’t even know which teams which, let alone who any of the players are, you’re watching the game in what is probably, its purist form, no allegiance to either, no blind loyalty, just the spectacle of the game. I gravitated towards a group of Invicta fans, not because they were singing, as so were the home support, not because they were particularly funny, not because of the accent, not because of the colours, nothing, it wasn’t even like there was a gulf in the clubs positions, it just felt comfortable.
“I kind of liked the flag though”
The game, like the positions the clubs were in, pre match, was very even for the first 20 minutes, and then Invicta stepped it up a gear. It was similar to what those Telford games were like all those years ago, only it was Enfield on the wrong end. It was a nice bit of skill, but with purpose, a cut in, and near post finish. Same as all those years ago, it was followed up with a cementing of the lead, a cross evaded the home keeper, and an on rushing away player was there at the wrong time, in the wrong place, to powerfully head it into the net, 0:2. It was harsh on the home side, but then it always was on Telford too. Halftime, and I walked past the main stand, a construction that has got to be one of the most quirky in football, and wasn’t built with football in mind.
“Like a 1950s service station”
The Folkestone fans were in a confident mood as the second half kicked off, a mood that would change twice. Enfield applied the pressure, pressure that would provide a goal, it was game on, a great save kept the lead, but that confident mood evaporated quicker than an ice cube in a recently purchased cup of Bovril. It was the same on the pitch, as Folkestone got into good positions, but then snatched at things. To try and keep the spirits up, the Invicta fans exclaimed their dislike of Dover. Every now and again in the lower league’s and the Non-League pyramid, you discover rivalries that you were unaware of, rivalries that really, are quite obvious, but don’t have a media circus hyping it up for a fortnight or more before a game between them. I could understand it, as bluebirds don’t fly over the white cliffs of Folkestone, and there’s no Folkestone sole, there just isn’t that touch of romance about Folkestone as there is Dover. It maybe a chip nestling on the shoulder, but the dislike is definitely there. The minutes were being counted down, the nerves were jangling, Folkestone were going second, within a point of top spot, and with a game in hand, and there’s me, not caring, just enjoying it. In injury time, the mood changed again, from one of anxiety, to one of relief, after an unbridled explosion of ecstasy, that is. I slowly moved towards the exit as the game neared its end, but although the game was won, I stayed till the final whistle. 3:1 to the ‘Seasider’s’, so much more aesthetically pleasing than being a port that nobody really stops at.
Back to the station, and back into town on an old underground train with no toilets. Past the new Tottenham ground, complete with its huge emblem, neon burning into the night sky. After changing onto part of the underground network that was working, I got off at Leicester Square, joining the heaving mass of humanity, determined to do something with their Saturday evening. I went to two entries in the GBG for Covent Garden, the first, I managed to shoehorn myself into, was The White Swan, my nostrils attacked by a kaleidoscope of perfume, aftershave, hairspray and all kinds of lotions. I watched the Wales game, one of only a few, in a pub of many, that was remotely interested, on a choice of screens. The second, The Lamb and Flag, even had a bouncer on the door, though I think that was mainly to keep a check on the number of punters in there, than it was to what those punters may have been up to, as it wasn’t one of those kind of boozers, where you needed a bouncer keeping the peace. It had a good feel to it, a comfy, happy feel to it. Had it not been so busy, I would’ve taken a photo. Although it was in a plastic glass, not the flimsy sort, it was best pint of the day, and I vowed to myself, that I’ll be revisiting, but when it’s not impersonating a tin of sardines. Leaving theatreland behind me, I headed back to Euston, having enough time to nip in the Euston Tap. You’ve got your pick with the Euston Tap,
“Not that kind of pick”
Handily placed for the station, and tends to be ignored by the Carling brigade. Someone once remarked that London is a great place to people watch, believe me, you don’t need to go to London to people watch, anywhere there’s more than two people, and you’re one of them, is good enough. I was glad to leave the place.