Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday 29 May 2010

Dream: I am at the play offs semi final match.  It is Millwall and I guess the game against Huddersfield.  Regardless we overcome them and get through solidly.  From here I rush back to Colchester where they are playing Swindon in the other play off semi final.  I find myself pitching up behind the goal with Ben and the stadium looks weird, some kind of hybrid of Layer Road and their new ground.  We get weird seats on some kind of a pub beer garden bench with my back towards the goal.  Just before the game starts a couple of Asians turn up with a suitcase and squeeze in between us.  Ben knows them and they’re annoying wheeler dealers who are sorting people out for snacks etc.  Ben thinks they’re OK but I think they’re dicks.  The game begins and early Colchester take the lead against Swindon in the far goal.  Slowly though Swindon come back into the game and prove their class above Colchester and score an equaliser at our end.  My dream ends roughly halfway through the first half and Swindon are all over Col U.

I wake up early this morning.  Again its dull but muggy, the worst kind of weather.  Even though my window is wide open there is little in the way of breeze coming in.  The time is before 7AM and this is ridiculous.  At least though it is not my fear of sleeping through the morning and missing our train (and rail replacement hate wagon) to London.

Unfortunately arrival into the day comes couple with a slight headache.  Is this another one beer hangover?  What the fuck is wrong with me?

With this in mind I have to recoup some sleep because I was almost passing out last night and I cannot afford to bring this lethargy into today’s proceedings.  Eventually 7AM arrives and I figure I had best murmur.  I then remember that Gary Coleman sadly passed away last night and with that I feel I have to see what kind of coverage they give him on BBC News.  In the end it is fuck all.

The BBC News is also equally despicable as it barely mentions that Millwall are playing Swindon at Wembley today.  Instead the main news story is about Andy Murray, that waster that will never win anything at a sport that isn’t worth damn 50 weeks of the year.  This is the modern world.

Just after 8AM I head out to collect my Wembley tickets from the post office.  I worry that there will be hassle with this but all is peachy as I pick them up smoothly.  As I look at the golden nosebleed tickets I notice that they are both full price, they have not acknowledged my old man’s half price OAP ticket.  If I’d have known they were going to do that I would have ordered two OAP tickets and saved a buck.

From here I head to the Hythe Tesco instead of Asda this week just because it is convenient and represents variety.

Asda has a reputation for being the Chav supermarket.  If that is the case well then this has to be the pikey supermarket.  As I unintentionally follow a honey into the store her early grace proves misleading as from here I spot more than one variation of Cletus from The Simpsons.

The change in location also fucks me up as my mind goes blank as to what items I need to purchase on this fine day/morning.  There are other things on my mind.  As I slope through the aisles I do spot a few normal looking people but in the end I just try to get it all done and out of the way very quickly.

One thing Tesco does do though are large bottles of Lipton Ice Tea.  Why don’t Asda do these?

I get home just before 9AM where I listen to Danny Baker on Five Live and gear up for Wembley.  He makes a few mentions of ‘Wall at Wembley today but naturally (and sensibly) plays things down for fear of cursing proceedings.  This however is not made easy when Fraser Digby gets re-introduced to the show.  He’s Swindon, he can fuck off.

When the post arrives annoyingly I receive a latter from my property management company Countrywide.  They are kicking off (threatening on going heavy) over some admin/late charge that was apparently dated/due 13 August 2009.  What on earth are these people playing at?  It is not ME who cancelled the monthly direct debit when the company decided to change name and trading company.  Also if they made some kind of effort to deal with my neighbour at number 15 perhaps I might feel a bit more inclined and enthused towards paying off accounts on time.  Regardless this £25 plus VAT is totally bogus.  They can send as many photocopies of sections of leases as they want, I just do not feel responsibility towards such spurious claims from them.  Are they really going to issue a forfeiture of leasehold over £25?  Are they really going to incur thousands of pounds in legal costs over something so trivial?  I hope not.

Today I am nervous about the football, not up for it at all.  Unlike last year, this year there are expectations and loss today is not conceivable.  In preparation I quickly hop in the bath as outside a different kind of shower slowly begins to team down.

I arrive at the olds just before 11AM where I pick and up dad and we head to the train station to face rail replacement hell.  You have to love this country, you go to the train station, you buy a ticket to ride on a train and what happens they steer you towards a poxy fucking bus to wheel you to your destination at an infinitely slower pace.  Its as if the provider does not care about its customer.  Surely that is not the case.

We wind up on an 11.08AM train going to Ilford.  It is a piss streak train and these are never any fun.  Eventually we arrive at Ilford, my first time in one of Essex’s armpits.  From here we are supposed to catch a rail replacement bus to Newbury Park but upon arrival we are fucked if we can see the replacement bus we are supposed to be boarding.  In the end, without any assistance from rail staff, we find it hidden around the corner.

Once on the bus we head upstairs and sit on the back row because (as I tell dad) this is where the cool kids sit.  At this point he pulls out a couple of chocolate bars and I pull out my bottles of water with rum and fizzy energy drink inside.  Breaking the law!  Despite the shitty travel arrangements and shitty weather suddenly this is cool.  Dad and I are in it together.  Today is going to be a win.

When the bus eventually reaches Newbury Park is suddenly transpires that the bus is full of rugby fans.  These bucktooths should get into a real sport, one where the participants do not spend half the game touching other men’s’ arses.  Then the fuckers appear to follow us onto the train – did I just say those things out loud?

Not before time we finally get to Liverpool Street where we swiftly board a Metropolitan Line tube to Wembley Park and finally we begin to spot fellow ‘Wall supporters.  Lots of them, more with each stop.  Compared to last year, today has a whole better vibe attached to it.

Needless to say it is an exciting ride up to grotty North London.  By the time the train is nearing Wembley our carriage is almost exclusively Millwall supporters.  And as the tube eventually emerges overground it is only a matter of time before the Wembley arch becomes visible and when it appears on the grey horizon.

As we arrive and exit Wembley Park station the roar begins as we go up the steps and it is deafening.  When we emerge out onto the Rocky steps all that can be seen is a mass of Millwall under the echoing confines of Olympic Way.  It is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.  This is the best way to be.

By now the grey skies have truly taken over as rain begins to piss down and the wind tries to blow us away.  Again as we trudge up towards the stadium Millwall are on the left side of the ground.  As I look around I cannot imagine that anyone is left in Bermondsey today.  At the same though where are all the Swindon supporters?

As we get higher and apparently closer to our turnstile the storm feels heavier as dad and I slowly get properly drenched.  It would appear the gods (like the FA) aren’t happy about Millwall being here today.  Royally like a twat I say to dad “it’s the wind of change”.

Eventually we get to our turnstile where the line is nowhere as long as I had been fearing.  As dad puts his ticket into the slot he doesn’t realise that he is OK to go in so I have to say “you’re all right”.  Typically begin all knowing as I step through the turnstile somehow someone manages to clip my heel.

I find myself offended when security doesn’t bother to pat me or the old man down as we enter the stadium.  On a plus note though it means dad gets to sneak his water in.  Win (on the smallest scale).

After a number of mind numbing escalators (there’s no escalators in football) we finally wind up with all the other Millwall supporters buying copious amounts of overpriced alcohol and shit food.  Today the atmosphere is incredibly loud, dare I say even better than last year, as the occasional bellow rips out and none of it is bad because we are all in this together.

When dad and I eventually brave our seats they truly are nosebleed.  If the alphabet stretched to 52 words these would be Row Z.  Yes, Row 52 means just what it said.  I didn’t even realise there were 52 rows at Wembley.  By the time I reach our seats I am actually feeling light-headed.  Truly the air up here is thinner at this altitude.  A few minutes later dad catches up as we pitch up for the afternoon, the highest of the high.

Today Wembley Stadium looks co-owned by Coca Cola, the branding of the place is truly depressing.  Then two giant inflatable cocks get dragged onto the pitch in the colours of the teams.  When they get raised they reveal the badges of both clubs in the most commercialised method imaginable or possible.

I am nervous today – did I mention that already?

When the teams get announced it is a weird line-up with Shaun Batt starting as Millwall appear to be playing 4-3-3.  That might work.

Eventually the teams emerge onto the pitch and for some reason Swindon are playing in white.  I know I shouldn’t care but if they were in red and us in white (instead of blue) I would feel totally aggrieved.

The game begins with Millwall shooting towards the Swindon end, which bodes well being the tactic as per at The Den where we usually shoot towards our own fans in the second half.  Also this is the opposite of last year’s play off, which in itself is a good omen.

Today the players look up for it.  As rain pisses down from above, Millwall piss all over Swindon.  Its not pretty but its effective.

The ‘Wall fans royally get on the case of Kevin Amankwaah, which perhaps goes some length to explain how/why he puts through his own net halfway through the first half.  As we all jump and cheer (even the old man) I feel I do so for longer than everyone else.  Quite frankly I embarrass myself as seconds later it is disallowed and I am the slowest realising this.  The hostile reception comes from some less than kind words Amankwaah said about Neil Harris and his battle with (and defeat of) testicular cancer.

Towards the end of the first half Millwall get a corner and as the ball swoops through a scramble it gets rifled into the back of the net.  Initially I think it is Steve Morison who has knocked it in but soon it turns out to be the work of Paul Robinson.  When they score even dad jumps up, something he didn’t do for either Gary Alexander goal last year.  Today is definitely special.

Quickly halftime arrives with Millwall thankfully in the driving seat.  As we get up to stretch our legs we look down at everyone heading into the crush for the toilets and the bars and swiftly we come to the conclusion that the trek is resoundingly not worth the effort.  Instead we just gawp at the Coca Cola branding of proceedings while wanting to get the second half started, over and done with.

When the teams finally re-emerge for the second half Swindon suddenly look a team possessed as they begin at times to run circles around Millwall.  During the halftime break Danny Wilson (that Jim Davidson lookalike) has plainly given them a bollocking that has sunk in.

Unsurprisingly it turns out to be a very tense second half but at least Millwall still look dangerous when going forward, especially every time Morison begins a run at Swindon.  In contrast worryingly after Tony Craig goes off injured just before halftime this adds a degree of vulnerability and doubt to our defence.

The big moment of the game comes late on as Robinson fucks up and lets Charlie Austin through who only manages to fluff the best opportunity of the game knocking it over the ‘Wall, a mistake that may or may not have been down to a divot in the now infamous shit Wembley pitch.  It’s a howler.  Later on when watching the miss on video it is evident that the pitch caused the bobble.  Shame.

As the game flies to the end David Forde remains terrifying on crosses, making movements that hardly inspire confidence.  In the end the second half flies by and come the last ten minutes it is with Swindon still looking dangerous and a threat, if now contained slightly better.

Eventually we reach 90 minutes and with it the announcement of four minutes injury time.  As ever, where the fuck did that come from?  Right at the close Forde comes through as he tips a late effort around the post, not exactly looking confident in the process but effective all the same.  In other words it is the save of the game and then a few seconds later it is all over and the place explodes.

In an act of total cliché Swindon players genuinely drop to their knees as Millwall players run at each other in victory.  Soon “Let ‘Em Come” begins ringing out and Wembley turns into The Den.  With the song ringing out I begin singing along like a spastic.

Dad and I stick around to watch them collect the trophy.  It is obviously so much more different than when you see these things on TV.  I think this, the more natural way, is better.  As Neil Harris comes over and signals to the crowd we all begin singing “fuck ‘em all” which accompanies the team as it leaves the pitch.  When it all comes to an end I say to the old man “so that’s what its like to win at Wembley”.

From here dad and I head down from Row Z and towards home.  There is a weird defiance in winning this year, it is more out of relief than exuberance.  As I step down a guy looks at me, clenches both fists and goes “YES!” while elsewhere we all delight and giggle as a little three year old lad in a Millwall shirt kicks at the Wembley seats.  He is literally the future.

Exiting Wembley turns out to be something of a war of attrition.  Firstly as I stomp down the stairs I find myself keeping having to turn and wait for the old man to catch up.  Then once outside the ground many are cheering, some are singing but most of us are standing surprisingly patiently as we get held up trying to get to Wembley Park station.  This wait feels as if it takes forever.

Eventually we get onto Olympic Way where the mounted police sit atop their horses.  Again this year pissed up Millwall supporters take joy in patting them on the nose as they pass while the more sober of us put more attention into avoiding the horseshit that has dropped behind them.  As we near the steps of Wembley Park station when I approach one horse it freaks out and almost head butts me.  The old man finds this hilarious.

After another wait the police finally let our group into the station where it is unsurprisingly a total crush.  Despite this though most people act OK, in the end it is actually the locals and natives that turn restless.

The old man and I manage to board a Metropolitan Line train relatively comfortably.  With this we make a plan to head to Liverpool Street and get a McDonalds.  Dinner of champions.

It is on this journey that I discover on my iPhone that Dennis Hopper has died.  In the episode of Entourage where he appeared as himself he was watching English football.  I wonder if under different circumstances he would have been watching Millwall today.  Its sad to hear that he has gone, he was an amazing character.  Not every day can be perfect.

By the time we get to Liverpool Street the time is 6.45PM.  Somehow it has taken two hours from the final whistle to get here.

The food is the usual as McDonalds proves the typical freakscene.  Inside there are fellow ‘Wall supporters, Japanese tourists and fat people with no shame.  We don’t take long to eat up, the old man even gives me the rest of his fries and soon we are back on the tube heading to Newbury Park.  When we arrive there thankfully we don’t have to wait long for the replacement bus to begin rolling and drag us to Romford.

As we near Romford the old man asks me about my Facebook status this week regarding the date I had and how “all women are bananas”.  I try to shrug it off, pretend I am over such things now.  I wonder if my parents worry about me still being single.

When we wind up at Romford station it is with a twenty minute wait until the next train.  Unlike last year though this is OK, this year we are returning home winners and feeling quietly smug and upbeat for it.

Things improve immeasurably when we find a coffee kiosk and the old man buys us a couple of lattes.  Quite frankly being here with my old man at this time is a pretty good place to be.  I will always remember this moment in a great way.

Finally the train home arrives and at this point we are still just about with other ‘Wall supporters.

In the end it is past 9PM by the time we get back to Colchester and with the day/night still just about light I drop the old man off at Balkerne Heights before I head home where Eurovision is playing out on TV.

As with most events in recent memory Eurovision sucks this year.  Promotion to the Championship however is the bomb.

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