One of the things I like about ground hopping, is that I can feel completely detached and just enjoy the sport I love for what it is. I may find I grow an affection for one of the clubs I’m watching for some bizarre reason or another, but it only ever stretches to following results and possibly, possibly a future ground hop, but even then, it’ll purely be down to how the fixtures have fallen. Euston station was out of action due to HS2 engineering work, and so it was down to Marylebone from Moor Street on the Chiltern line. After not getting any sleep the previous day, I felt a little more refreshed after a night’s sleep. However, working a nightshift really does wreck your body clock to the point of narcolepsy. The thing is, it’s not like a normal clock that you can wind up, or change the batteries on. There are times when sleep just washes over you when you least expect or want it to. You find yourself having to explain yourself when that happens. Bottom line, however much your brain pushes your body, your body is still in charge. Civilised and domesticated we may be, but essentially, we’re still animals, still part of nature, however much we believe we’re above it. Back to the religion bit. What makes us think we’re different to other species, just because we’re dumb enough to think there’s a god who’s going to take care of us when we die? God is just your subconscious mind playing tricks on you. Our brains are so powerful that none of us will ever be able to fully utilise its true capabilities. As such, our imagination becomes bored when it’s not being used and invents things to fill the void. It’s why we create ‘false memories’. It’s why we struggle to remember things that really happened. What is and isn’t ethical? Who decides? Morals, respect and responsibility? Who writes the rules and why? Truth is, we’re all just stumbling around in the dark, trying to make sense of it all, clinging on to something we can’t see or touch. That’s not god, that’s just life. Now where was I? Oh that’s right, catching a train down to London. Least the weather was warm and sunny for a change on a bank holiday weekend. The Met Bar Wetherspoons was the first port of call. Next to Baker Street Underground station, it was full of yellow chicken sporting people in red. Liverpool were playing Manchester City in the F.A.Cup semifinal. There was the odd small pocket of City fans, but the rest were predominantly Liverpool fans. The fact that Euston station was out of commission wouldn’t have inconvenienced Liverpool, as a huge percentage of of their fans don’t actually come from the city. Once it was realised that the club attracted more fans from outside the city than a certain other club in the North West, they went about discrediting United. Ablely assisted by fans of Manchester City, Liverpool fans went about creating the myth that all United fans come from outside the city. The percentage of Liverpool fans that travel into Liverpool for games, is actually higher than what it is for United fans travelling into Manchester for United’s games. Paranoia and propaganda go hand in hand though, and a good propaganda machine creates ‘truth’ doesn’t it? In truth, although I really wanted City to win, I actually didn’t care about who won the game between them. All I was bothered about was what was going to happen in Glasgow. Hearts V Hobos in the Scottish Cup semifinal. That’s all that mattered to me. Had it been an evening kickoff and not 12:15, I wouldn’t have been in London, but up in Scotland instead. The combination of an early kickoff and major engineering works on the West coast line, had put paid to any ideas I’d got of travelling up for the game. My beer had been served in a plastic glass. An oxymoron for a poxy moron. It had a certain ring to it. After drinking it, it was onto the underground. Because of the sparse train service to Tolworth, and the lack of real ale pubs in the area, I’d decided to drink round Waterloo before the game, and then hit the West End afterwards. The first place was thankfully open before 12 o’clock. As pubs have been able to reopen post last lockdown, a lot of places have altered their opening hours. The King’s Arms were one of those places. It’s was a relief to find that they’d reverted back to their pre Covid opening times. Although, they’ve decided to stick with ‘card only’ payments. It’s something that I can understand, but don’t like. Imagine this scenario. You’ve just returned to your table with the drinks that you’ve just paid for on your card, and your other half then fancies a bag of crisps. Maybe it’s just me, but it just seems a bit daft using your card for something that costs less than a quid. The pub being open before 12, did enable me to visit a pub I’d not been able to visit since before Covid though. The Waterloo Tap is a place that sprang up underneath one of the viaducts that lead into the station.
I was to have my favourite beer of the day in here. It was after 12:15, and so I got my phone out to follow the Hearts game. Mindful of time, battery life and wanting to take in the Hole in the Wall before getting the train to Tolworth, I drank up, put my phone away and walked the short distance to the next pub. By the time I’d got my pint, sat down and got my phone back out, Hearts were 2:0 up. It had only been 5 minutes since I’d drank up and put my phone away in the Tap, and it had still been 0:0 then. I was buzzing. They were showing the Spurs v Brighton game on the two TVs in the Hole in the Wall, but strangely, I wasn’t paying much attention to it. They could’ve been playing in the pub itself and I wouldn’t have been interested. (As long as they didn’t spill or knock my pint over of course.) I was much more focused on a tiny screen on the table in front of me. I caught the train to Tolworth and kept checking the score at Hampden. The Hobos had pulled a goal back before I’d left the pub, although my nerves settled a little after Hobos had been reduced to 10 men, I still wouldn’t be totally happy until the final whistle went at Hampden. It finally did though, and after jumping up and down like an absolute loon, and now knowing that the Jambos were in the final, I felt like I was floating on air as I walked to the ground. I say walked, I’m sure I bounced along anyway.
So why Corinthian Casuals v Horsham then? Well first of all, no disrespect to Horsham whatsoever, but the Casuals could’ve been playing anyone. Secondly, I knew that the club was responsible for a connection to the great Corinthians football club of Brazil. Thirdly, and probably the biggest reason for the ground hop, was just the name of the club. It evokes so many different thoughts. I’m not going to explain them all because you’ll have your own thoughts and they’ll probably be different to mine. What I will say though, if you’re a serious football fan and have any sense of the history of the game, then you really need to go to a game here. After gaining entry through the turnstile, I was confronted by this below.
It was to be just a taster of things to come.
So far, extremely impressive. Looking around and buying what was a really good match programme, I spotted the club shop. It didn’t look open, so I asked someone nearby. It turned out he was in charge of it, and opened up for me. Once in, I spotted several boxes of old programmes. I was in my elements. After choosing a few, I offered to pay. I was taken aback by what he asked for, and immediately gave him double the amount. Thanking him, I then stepped into the best clubhouse I’ve ever been in and ever likely to be in. After buying a pint from out of the cask that was positioned on the bar, I preceded to look round at all the memorabilia that decorates the clubhouse. I’m not going to apologise for the amount of photos, just the quality of them.
I’ve been in the museum of football up in Manchester, and I can honestly say that the clubhouse at Corinthian Casuals puts it to shame. It was difficult to tear myself away to do the one thing I was actually there for, and that was to watch a match. One of the many things I love about Non-League football is being able to stand there with a pint, and watch the game. Another couple of things I love, is the freedom of movement and the comfortable laid back atmosphere. It’s a world away from watching Blues. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t swap watching Blues for permanently ground hopping, but it is far more restful.
What struck me first and foremost, were the Corinthian Casuals colours. The home kit is in the same design as Blackburn Rovers. The difference is that one half is pink, and the other half is brown. The trim is is a bright light blue. I believe Kappa called it ‘electric blue’, when they used it on Manchester City’s kits back in the early 2000s. That’s right, those really are the colours, and that really is the design. It’s very much of the time of formation. I honestly thought Dulwich Hamlet’s kit was garish, but obviously Corinthian Casuals took it to another level. Eat your heart out Harlequins. You can stick your rugby where the sun doesn’t shine, must’ve been the mantra. I suppose unless they play Dulwich Hamlet, they’ll never need to have to change kits. Maybe that was an early attempt at brand recognition. It’s not like they could ever be mistaken for any other club, is it? I can remember Coventry sporting an away kit in brown, and I can remember Blues having a third kit of pink, but pink and brown? That’s bold. With colours like that, you’d think that not only would the players be able to spot each other easier, but given the potential of stigma being attached, they’d play with more passion. There’s getting beat, and then there’s the embarrassment of getting beaten whilst wearing those colours. Horsham had got other ideas. After all, they were wearing dark green with yellow trim. It was though, a fairly tight game. In fact the first goal was a grubbed cross that squirmed in at the near post. It was a bad goal to give away, and it seemed to take the sting out of the Casuals attack. They got in a few good positions, but then just squandered the chances. Halftime, and I just had to revisit the clubhouse for another pint of real ale and another look at all the memorabilia in there. The second half was much like the first. A tight game, until the final shot or header. Where the Casuals kept passing up great chances, Horsham made the most of good chances. It finished 3:0 to the away side, but there was never that much difference between the two sides. 1:1 would’ve been a fairer result. Such is football though.
With absolutely nowhere to drink in Tolworth, I raced back to the station to get the next train back to Waterloo. Had I missed it, I would’ve had to wait another hour till the next one. That was just not going to happen. Once back at Waterloo, I headed up to Piccadilly Circus to start on the itinerary I’d got for Soho. The Star and Garter was first. Not the biggest selection in the world, but it was well kept. The Old Coffee Shop though was a huge disappointment. True, the decor is still right up there with the best that you’ll ever come across, but the selection was that bad, it was pathetic, it had been reduced that much. Not a shadow of what it once was. I stuck my head round the door of The Crown, but that was even worse. I was just grateful for The Lyric. Now this place was brilliant before Covid, pretty much ignored all the Covid restrictions and measures that were imposed. With no table service rubbish and an extremely laidback attitude to social distancing, it had been an oasis in the desert. Calmness in the eye of a storm. A voice of reason in a world of chaos. I could go on and on with the analogies, but I’d run out eventually, and chances are, anyone reading this rubbish, would lose the will to live. I know I would. Either that, or I’d smash whatever I was reading it on, till it was nothing more than dust. I think you get the picture though. No? How about a photo instead?
I went from the Lyric to The Queen’s Head. Not as good as the Lyric, but still good though. With time moving on, I went back to the station.
Getting back to Marylebone, I was to discover that the train back to Brum was cancelled. And the next one was. I decided to do the only thing that was sensible and went to the pub. The Allsopp Arms was to be graced with my presence. I say graced with my presence. The place was going to have to put up with me. I wandered back to the station to find out the latest news on the train situation. The next wasn’t cancelled, but it was delayed and not stating which platform. Cancelled is bad, but delayed is worse. Especially in this country, because they never actually tell you why it’s cancelled or delayed. They just keep you hanging on. Dangling there. Waiting for that vital piece of information. Finally, we were told what platform the train was departing on, and it was then a race to the train to get a seat. It’s in these times when I’m glad I’m able to walk as fast as I do. It’s no Daryl kind of speed, but it’s fast enough. Once on, I stuck my phone on to charge, jammed my earphones in, and promptly fell asleep. I was abruptly awoken by a guard at Moor Street. the train was empty, and getting off, I noticed the station was being locked up. It was close to 2 o’clock in the morning. I forlornly looked to see if I’d missed the last bus home. Of course I had. I would have to walk home. That’s what nightshift does to you. Least I was on holiday.