I may not have been bitten by the Commonwealth Games bug, but I was more than happy that it had caused our first home to be moved to the Friday. It meant that I’d the opportunity to take in the first ground hop of the season. The first fixture that sprung out to me, was Aldershot v Solihull Moors. An old ground that I knew to be fairly close to the train station and town centre. Off I went, and purchased advanced train tickets to London. The leg down to Aldershot, was cheap enough to buy on the day. Then I discovered a couple of things. Firstly, I found out that Aldershot is awful for real ale, and secondly, it was to be the very first round of the F.A.Cup. Plans of going down to Aldershot to watch the Moors, went out of the window. The F.A.Cup Extra Preliminary round conjures up all these different places, you’ve never heard of. I poured over the fixture list, until I settled on around half a dozen viable games in London. Then, with the help of the GBG, I whittled it down to this one. With it being gloriously sunny and hot, it was T-shirt weather. It was only when I was waiting for the bus into town, that it dawned on me, that my choice of T-shirt, might not have been the wisest. You see, Fisher play their home games not far from the New Den. I was heading into ‘bandit country’. The T-shirt is maroon in colour, a similar shade to claret. The motif is similar to the West Ham emblem, and even the legend underneath could be mistaken if you read it too quickly. I guessed that my accent, might actually be the one redeeming feature. Looking around at the other passengers, it was obvious that everyone else were going to work. If it wasn’t the varying uniforms, it was the disgruntled expressions, that gave it away. Why is it that people think it’s socially acceptable to put their bags on seats that could be being used by passengers who are having to stand up? It’s simply Inconsiderate selfishness. OK, rant over. Although I’d gone home straight after the game, the previous evening, my body was screaming at me, for not getting enough sleep. I am definitely getting too old for all this. Getting off the bus, I’d given myself enough time to go and see the Commonwealth Games bull.
I was still feeling like I’d been ran over by a fully laden articulated lorry, as I touched down at Euston. At least I’d got time on my side, so didn’t need to race. It really wasn’t the weather to go racing around for a start, and like I’ve said, I’m feeling far too old for all that malarkey these days. I hit the Tube, and headed down to Victoria. It was too early for anywhere else to be open, so I dropped into The Willow Walk, Wetherspoons. It might be one of their more nondescript shop conversions, but it’s still in the GBG. After a pint, I started to feel rejuvenated. From Victoria, I caught the Overground to Eltham. It was still fairly early, so l ducked into another of the Wetherspoons chain. The Banker’s Draft is a Wetherspoons that has taken over an old pub. Although more of a traditional style pub, it’s never going to make the GBG like The Willow Walk has. The Rusty Bucket is a great name for a micro pub. It is actually an old pub, but except for the frontage, you wouldn’t have been able to tell.
I got chatting to the bloke running it, about how he set the place up. I must admit, although it lacked that eclectic feel, you could tell it was well run. From the new, it was back to the traditional.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the wine bar feel of some micro pubs, but they’re too bland for me. The Park Tavern was much more my kind of scene. Perhaps it’s just the dinosaur in me. I do struggle with new and sparkly. In fact, there’s times when I think I was born in a museum. After the Park Tavern. I was back on the train to London Bridge, and then I made my way back on to the Tube. It’s strange how away fans are ushered straight between the Tube and the Overground, when going down to Millwall, or is that just Blues fans? I honestly thought flashing blue lights, armored hiviz and barking dogs was standard procedure. It is for us lot anyway. I got off at Canada Quays and went in search for that last pint before the game. Whenever I see a pub on the telly, I’m always trying to scan the bar for real ale pumps. If I see the pubs name, I’m straight on the Whatpub site, to read up on it. The Mayflower is one such pub. I’d seen it in an episode of ‘Death in Paradise’. Coupled with it not being far from the Fisher ground, it was a no brainer. Now usually, I find myself being disappointed when I visit a pub, I’ve seen on the telly, but I wasn’t with the Mayflower. In fact, I can understand why it had been used.
I had to peel myself away from the place.
No doubt, in 9 months time, the final will see at least one of the top four Premier League clubs. Chances are, it’ll see a hyped up contest between two of them. It’ll be 43 years since then, Second Division West Ham turned Arsenal over with an extremely rare headed goal from Trevor Brooking. They were the last club outside the top division to do it. With the way football has evolved, I can’t see it happening again in my lifetime. Even if I was to live to be 100. (Don’t worry, that won’t happen.) My interest in the competition wanes when Blues get knocked out. (Usually the 3rd round.) These days, I’m much more interested in the qualifying rounds, than I am with the latter rounds. Doesn’t help with the Semifinals now being played at Wembley, and it doesn’t help that there’s no replays either. I used to love the almost endless replays before they brought penalties in to decide ties. The Premier League hype has had a lot to do with why the competition has gone out of fashion. Gone are the days when winning the F.A.Cup had almost as much reverence as winning the First Division Championship. Pre-Premier League, everything stopped on F.A.Cup final day. It was a race to get everything done for midday, so you could settle down to watch the build up to kickoff at 3 o’clock. I’m not going to get all sentimental and go into details. I could, but I won’t. The Premier League’s influence has now filtered down the league so far, that even the clubs believing they’re in with a chance of gaining promotion out of League One, play weakened teams. The competition has been devalued so much, that if it was to be abolished, it would only be the dinosaurs like me, that would shed a tear. I miss those halcyon days when each round had an electricity about them. Anyway, I’d better get on with the game. I’ll start with the ubiquitous ground hop photos.
“A future World Cup winning England captain? Wouldn’t be the first”
I honestly thought it was a made up name. I even remarked to the nearest bloke, who confirmed that it was indeed, real. Being the player’s Granddad, he would know. A West Ham fan that by coincidence, shared the same surname, he was responsible. A fitting tribute, if ever I was to see one. One thing I didn’t do, before heading down to London for the game, was research what level the two clubs played at, and what divisions they were in. In affect, I was watching it without the prejudice of knowing who were supposed to be the underdogs. In the first half. Sutton Common had the upper hand. Just into the second half, they even hit the bar. It was the wakeup call that the ‘Fish’ needed, and they took the game to the away side. The chances just kept coming for Fisher. It would surely be just a matter of time before the Sutton Common net bulged at least once. After one particular chance had gone begging, I started chatting to a bloke who seemed to be on first name terms with several of the Fish players. Apparently, Sutton Common were in the Division above Fisher. It looked like it was the other way round, such was Fisher’s dominance. The Sutton Common keeper was excellent, stopping everything that was chucked at him, and the one time he was beaten, the upright came to his rescue. Unfortunately, the referee had to bring the spectacle to an end, because as 0:0 draws go, it was thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable. I never once saw a goalless stalemate on any of my ground hopping travels last season, and first out this season, I’d seen one. Fingers crossed. It won’t set a president for this season.
I retraced my steps back to the Underground, and headed up to Charing Cross, and The Harp. Yeah yeah, I like the place. So what if you think it’s boring. It was its usual Saturday night busy in there, and I indulged in some people watching, as I supped my pint. After, I continued back up to Euston, but instead of doing the usual thing, and visiting the Euston Tap, I ducked into the Doric Arch. See, I’m not that boring.
Pint drank, I went in search of the train back to Brum.
Postscript:-Fisher were to go on to win the replay at Sutton Common, 1:0. A very early ‘giant killing’. So can The Fish be called minnows, or is that too much cheese? Oh come on, I couldn’t let that one go.