Sunday, 24 May 2009

Sunday 24 May 2009

This morning I awaken very early, petrified of missing my train and subsequent rail replacement bus along with cancelled tube line in an enormous fear of arriving and turning up late to Wembley and the plays off final for Millwall. It almost scares me sick.

Today is a BIG day. I think a large part of yesterday’s impotence was the result of a fear of today going wrong.

The day opens with a panic. It was always obvious that the trains and their replacement buses would be causing one hell of a hold up/delay but when I realise I have messed up and got the wrong information from the station (next week) I find myself flapping as I pick the old man up for London.

One quick and speedy car ride to the station later dad and I find ourselves on the next train pointed towards London which is the 10.06 to Romford which will then mean a rail replacement bus ride to Newbury Park. Oh joy.

After a stunted train journey together we eventually hop aboard a bus at Romford and head to Newbury Park. I remember doing this journey at the beginning of the year for Szesze’s little girl’s birthday party and it is truly shit. The fact that National Express have the fucking neck/nerve to charge normal rates for this journey is truly offensive.

I feel bad dragging the old man onto a bus, this is fucking shit. And unfortunately under such bleak circumstances conversation has long since dried up. Instead we listen in on conversations from true hard nuts, without doubt some Essex beached supporter of some horrible premier league London club that ain’t gonna win the league again in a hurry.

When we finally arrive at Newbury Park it is as I remember it – still a long fucking way away from central London. After an excruciating wait the tube is pretty busy as I find myself perving towards an Asian girl with oddly dyed hair which seems to work for her whilst also looking as if the dye job was being done while she was being dragged through a bush.

Eventually the inevitable families get on with their whining snivelling kids. These units generally tend to be middle class people out for the day on some educational daytime disguised as fun but caked in misery. The dad sits to my left and as we slowly shudder towards Liverpool Street and real parts of London he pulls out a copy of The Economist to read. This guy is a true party.

Just after midday we finally reach Liverpool Street, it is disgusting and depressing to think that all that fucking about with rail replacement bullshit serves to add an entire hour to our journey. With kick off at 1PM I slightly begin to get a bit twitchy but hopefully once aboard a tube here it should be plain sailing to Wembley. In theory but you can never trust the transport.

As I perv over some other pretty Asian girl at the platform eventually a tube heading towards Wembley Park arrives and we board it and beginning playing spot the Millwall fan.

When the tube reaches Baker Street it makes an excruciating pause and some Scunthorpe supporters board the train. They front a little with their Northern accents but their shirts looking fucking stupid and their voices make them sound thick.

Eventually after a few worrying glances at my watch the train starts moving once more and as it hurtles past the slum areas of West London arrival at Wembley truly is an eye-opening exercise into just how poorly positioned/situated our national stadium is. That said in monorail transportation fashion all routes to the stadium remove any necessity to mingle with the locals or even look at the proles.

Now excited Dad and I get off the train and head to where the Twin Towers should be. The walkway to the station is rammed/populated by what appears to be almost exclusively Millwall – the buzz is in the air.

Happily we follow the masses and notice the sign that says “Millwall left and Scunthorpe right”. As we walk up the runway it becomes more and more apparent that I have no idea where our turnstile is.

On the floor it is caked in rubbish of bottles, cans and all sorts of other waste paraphernalia. Pointing this out I hear a woman say “they had better clean this up because if don’t win we’ll be well tooled up.” We are definitely with Millwall.

A little way little along the concourse we see a guy absolutely fucking wrecked barely able to stand and definitely unable to walk. I know that feeling. His mate is trying hard to get him into the ground for the game uttering the immortal words “come on, you’ll be all right once your inside” which is only met with staunch shakes of the poor drunk dude’s head. Dad amused comments “what a state to get in by lunchtime” and we laugh. Then a bunch of lads walk past cheering and shouting in an Arnie Pumping Iron accent “you can do it!” Never let it be said Millwall supporters don’t have a sense of humour.

By this point kick off is about fifteen minutes away and upon our first glimpse of the turnstiles the queues are still scarily way back looking as if they will take until halftime to clear. Still though the ticket is clear as fucking mud and I find myself having to ask a steward just where our turnstile is. She slurs something at me and points but I’m none the wiser but thankfully/fortunately the old man spots Wembley Club with no lines whatsoever as it becomes apparent that as part of the rip off price for our ticket one benefit is a quick turnstile resembling a cross between an Oyster Card system and getting into the BBC.

Ahead of times my boss at work had warned me of the facilities inside the stadium so when it comes to getting a drink before the game I find myself faced with stupid confusion over where the queue actually begins and as Millwall fans do half a dozen pints are being ordered at a time. As I attempt to snag a place in some kind of line I only find myself getting stressed up by some lowly Wembley staff member cleaning up some puddles with a mop. They guy would a prick at any time and with the mop is probably trying to wipe up the residue of his personality, career, life and existence. He can hate me all he wants and get in his small victories but I will always fuck him and his sort in the end.

With the nerves kicking in I run for a pre-match piss into some pretty spotless toilets although I do not see a stall (or stool) anywhere. When I head back to dad he points out the dozens of pints that have been left behind by fellow ‘Wall fans. This is because at Wembley you are not allowed to take the drinks to your seat (which is pretty much like most grounds). We begin to wonder if we are even going to be able to take our extra large Cokes to the seats. As I look out on the glass windows surrounding the section it just all looks like some grubby airport, a nightmare in modern architecture.

We head to our seats with barely minutes before kick off. Stepping out into the seated area is a stunning moment. Immediately my concerns about being seated in the corner are eased as the stadium and our view are truly amazing. For somewhere so large, so vast an optical illusion makes the venue look actually quite small.

Obviously people are sat in our seats, this is also the Millwall way and when I ask the first guy where his seat is he just looks and glares at me. This isn’t aggression, the guy is just fucking out of it. His mate acknowledges me and apologies as they move on. I pat him on the belly as he passes and all is good. This is also the Millwall way.

The players come out on the pitch and they look like ants. The sprawl of Millwall fans around the stadium is truly impressive, easily eclipsing the small token gesture of Scunthorpe fans at the opposite end of the ground. With support like ours and support like theirs there is no way they should go up.

This is a serious occasion, serious to the point that the FA lay on someone to sing the national anthem. I cannot recall ever having experienced this before (maybe at the UEFA Cup game against Ferencvaros) and it all seems pretty over the top. Regardless we stand up and observe the badly sung song.

The game begins to a dulled roar. It does not open confidently, immediately Scunthorpe (emphasis on the sCUNThorpe) look tastier and more up for it. I hate to admit it but they look bigger and more dangerous. This is in stark contrast to their performance against MK Dons where/when they look weak and tepid combined with basically knackered.

The worst possible thing happens after six minutes when they score. Some guy called Sparrow goes straight in on a chance Forde only managed to parry. A huge collective shrug and groan echoes around the stadium as suddenly it begins to feel like business as usual for Millwall.

Slowly however Millwall begin to get warmed up and start knocking the ball about nicely and begin to move forward. Unfortunately Scunthorpe also keep up with the pace as still look dangerous every time they go forward, there is some kind of spark to the way they are playing that Millwall do not seem to have. With them shooting towards our goal at the far end of the ground I say to the Old Man “do you think its an optical illusion due to the angle of our view that they always look so dangerous whenever they attack?”

Proceedings turn into a scrap and Millwall’s grafting appears to keep them in the game and manages to contain Scunthorpe and as the first half comes towards an end the greatest things happen.

With just under ten minutes left to go in the first half the guy sat in front of me decides to get up and have a piss. As a result it is perhaps thanks to this guy that Gary Alexander scores probably the greatest goal that Wembley has ever seen.

From the right flank he gets stuck in and gains possession and out of the blue he has a pop, pounding the ball and as it comes sailing in our direction it goes over the Scunthorpe keeper and suddenly the net bursts and unbelievably he scores an equaliser. There is almost a delayed reaction and as ever I feel I am ahead of the roar as all around me everyone explodes. In front of me the old guy turns round and understatements “what a goal!” To my left the Old Man appears to be loving it.

Suddenly the noise is deafening. After a half where/when it really wasn’t possible to see where a goal was going to come from this served as a true turnaround.

As the fans started to get behind the team a belief felt born and a couple of minutes later Dave Martin sent in a cross that Alexander headed and their keeper appeared to spoon. When the ball passed the keeper it appeared to take forever to cross the line in slow motion and once it was finally there another deafening scream wailed out over the stadium.

For the first time in the game Millwall found themselves with the momentum and the unfortunate thing appeared that with half time only a few minutes away this would unfortunately be snuffed out just as soon as it had started. And with that the referee blew his whistle.

At halftime the old man and I looked around in amazement. This had been the best half of football I had seen in a long time and dad was having a good time with it. With the way the first half had ended we just wanted to get the game going again, to get the job done and finished.

During halftime things turned incredibly corporate once more as everywhere you looked in the ground appeared to be an advertisement. On the big screen in between replays of the goals came videos of gibbering idiots from both teams talking feebly how their team is going to win today. I don’t really think a real Millwall supporter would talk to camera in this way.

Stood in front of us was a shaven headed man in a Dennis Wise number 19 shirt and this truly was the most exciting time since that era.

Eventually after the longest wait the second began and the game resumed. I am sure halftime now lasts for 20 minutes – which is pathetic.

With the heat being stifling predictably the second half restarted without the urgency and pace that the first half ended and once more Scunthorpe appeared to be back in the game, regrouped and subtly menacing. They still looked bigger than us and with more spark but the second half initially proved pretty even as the countdown to 90 minutes and defence of the lead started for Millwall.

Gradually things appeared to be swinging towards Millwall and just over ten minutes into the second half the miss of the game occurred as Gary Alexander met a cross with his head that looked easier to score than miss. All around me people could not believe he managed to miss such a sitter. Suddenly the luck looked like it was running out.

As the pressure switched towards Scunthorpe pressing Millwall an unfortunate equalizer went in at the 70th minute from that Sparrow guy again.

With this a sudden suspicion and realisation that extra time was inevitable came and to be honest with a game this entertaining the idea of another thirty minutes was appealing although Millwall really needed to shut up shop and get the winner as soon as possible.

Scarily now though Scunthorpe once again looked the more dangerous proposition and again every time they were coming forward down in front of us and having an attempt at goal the Millwall defence were not filling the supporters with much confidence.

As the clock turned into the last ten minutes it was worrying to notice how much of the game was now Scunthorpe and as the latest attack came in and I shouted “get it out!” a true mess up in the box saw the ball go across to an unmarked Woolford who knocked inbetween Forde’s legs.

The goal went in at the 85 minute mark, the worst possible time. Some Millwall players dropped to their legs as the Millwall collective’s heart sank. A last ditch effort chant from the fans started up but the way things were going it wasn’t looking likely Millwall were going to snag a third.

When the referee eventually blew his whistle it came with a depressing resignation that today Scunthorpe were just better than Millwall. The sad truth was that it was impossible to even build up any anger, it was just a depressing defeat.

Afterwards the old man says to me “do you want to wait around?” and I said “no, lets get out of here” half fucking despising Scunthorpe and half realising the shit the lay ahead getting on a train.

Outside the ground everyone looked some kind of distraught. A few people made jokes but the majority just sighed. The rubbish had indeed been cleaned up to there were no “tools” but after all the momentum coming into the game, the additional support that had suddenly appeared out of thin air and generally a pretty great season and performance by the club/squad in the run up we had really come round to believing that this was going to be our day, our return to a position in football that better suits and represents a club such as ours.

Staggering through the masses out of the blue some kid says to me “looks like Division One again next year” which cuts through the silence of me and the old man. I just nod in resignation, the kid was obviously able to see the misery in my mind.

Its not about the apparent “glamour” of playing at a higher level in the championship its about sustaining the club and I really do not know how much more longer the club can put up with third tier finances bankrolling a club far above that level.

Walking towards the station the police riot horses are out in force and it is pretty funny to see Millwall fans pat them with affection like puppy dogs as they walk past. As I make sure dad and I don’t get separated in the masses I look over and see an amazing looking Oriental lady leaving also. This is so typical of me, as we all walk in tandem to the tube I keep looking over and perving at her. In times of such shit it is still my dick that dominates my thought process/pattern it would appear.

Getting on the tube is surprisingly easy, hats off to the old bill these days they do have their crowd control methods down and very organised. The old man even manages to snag a seat and I am embarrassed when he asks me if I want it. How bad would that have looked if I had kicked him out of his seat? I would have been rightfully lynched.

Eventually the train gets back to Baker Street and the carriage clears. For some reason on the opposite platform are a few people wearing Rangers shirts. We all wonder what the fuck that is about and I half hope the ‘Wall start shouting some kind of abuse so that it is possible to unleash some steam. Then however we notice a Millwall fan already at Baker Street station looking lost. The impression everyone gets is that they are trying to get to the game.

When we finally get back to Liverpool Street we head up to McDonalds for some food. An original plan was to go to the restaurant in St Johns Wood and snag some grub while showing dad where I work but with the Jubilee Line in tatters today that was looking possible.

At McDonalds I get us two huge meals as we sit outside and drown our sorrows. For the entire time we sit at our table we keep seeing Millwall fans all the way out in East London.

By this point conversation has all but dried up between us. Had we won things would have been different but once more when football should be the thing between dad and I to bring us together quite frankly once again it only serves to stunt proceedings.

As I head to the toilet for a piss the old man almost gets into something with some French tourists who just start to take my seat. I sense someone else would be happy to kick off at this time.

Today is a gorgeous day, one of the best to which visit London but with the tube and train lines in tatters neither of us feels like doing much else than facing the long, annoying trip home.

Eventually we take the bull by the horns and take a seemingly never ending ride from Liverpool Street to Newbury Park on the Central Line.

This is a pure family and tourist train and I watch as a baby stares at dad and he gives the little ‘un a big smile back. Damn I really should have given my parents grandkids.

When we get to Newbury Park it is back onto another crappy replacement bus which takes us only to Romford to where we arrive to the knowledge that the next train to Essex will be another 25 minutes. This is Sunday public transport in action. And this only serves to compound our misery.

With the heat making us thirsty we spot a vending machine and I run to it. Like a Transformer it kicks us in the balls by being out of order but thankfully on an opposite platform there is another one that appears to work.

After I get drinks for us I follow some Millwall supporters up the stairs who discuss “the worst thing is going into work next week and having people take the piss for losing. Its different, we’re used to losing.”

Finally the train back home turns up and arrives and we sit pretty much in silence all the way. I guess the old man is now getting a glimpse of what I have to put up with daily. I wish we had more to talk about but I guess the misery is manipulating what the subjects and sources can be.

Once back in Colchester the time is 7PM. The reality is that our day has taken 9 hours for an hour and a half of football. Fucking public transport, fucking National Express.

When we get back to Balkerne Heights the dog is really happy to see us having had to endure a day at home with mum. On Sky is the game and I watch the first half wanting to see Gary Alexander’s wonder goal and just how long it took for his sitter to cross the line. Seeing his missed sitter again, that I can live without.

Back at Bohm Grove I finally get around to watching my download of Synecdoche, New York. This turns out to be the only time this weekend that I feel inspired to write.

The movie is a head trip assisted by the lightheadness coming from smoking a Cuban cigar. Big mistake, what have I got to celebrate?

When Hesh from The Sopranos turns up in the movie briefly it begins to feel like a Woody Allen film before resuming the wreckage of a Charlie Kaufman.

After a long long day I go to bed feeling drained and wounded.

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