The Football Neutral: Match Eight – Bristol Rovers vs Chesterfield

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This is now an edited version of the original blog… you can read the full one by downloading my Football Neutral 2013/14 season review on Kindle.  Well over 300 pages of daftness. Less than £2! Thanks!

It seemed seriously busy around the Memorial Stadium, and whilst I’ve enjoyed my recent excursions to smaller stadiums I realised this would be the biggest crowd that I’ve been a part of for a while.  Parking was oddly easy, a couple of hundred meters away.  I walked down to the ticket office and bought one for the Blackthorn End, which I’d been reliably informed was where the best atmosphere is to be found (thanks Twitter).

There must be something about the air in Bristol that strips the years away from my tired face, as just like my trip to Ashton Gate I was asked if I was over 21 when buying my ticket.  You have no idea what kind of spring that puts in my step, nice lady in the ticket office.

Most of the fans seemed to be crammed into a bar behind the Blackthorn End, watching Palace vs Arsenal on the TV.  The windows were steamed up from the sheer humanity pressed up into every spare corner, and drinkers spilled outside, their pints getting gradually diluted by the steady drizzle.

Once inside the stadium, as always I sought out sustenance.  I found a concession stand that had no queue because they’d run out of hot water and everyone seemingly wanted Bovril.  I’ve never ever met anyone who enjoys Bovril.  Do people only drink it at the football in social situations?  I bet nobody ever drinks it at home when they’re just sat on the sofa watching the telly.  They’re the hot beverage equivalent of a Mojito.

You can’t buy burgers or hot dogs at the Memorial Stadium.  You can only buy pastry, ideally in the pasty format.  I feel that I was being judged by the guy that served me for choosing a steak and kidney pie.  Even better, for a mere £5 I got said pie, a bottle of water (emptied into a cup, grrr), a massive bag of crisps and a huge twix.  Everything had started rather well.

The terrace seemed empty until about two minutes before kickoff, then the steamy bar emptied and all of a sudden we were all very snug.  A cacophony of noise accompanied both teams arrival, and it enabled me to see where the Chesterfield fans were – sat up the other end, to the side of the pitch without any cover.  The stand behind the other goal seemed to be topped off with the remnants of a marquee, but the rest of the ground seemed busy and certainly decent enough to host football….

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The Football Neutral: Match Three – Dagenham & Redbridge vs Exeter City

Pitchside!

Pitchside!

This is now an edited version of the original blog… you can read the full one by downloading my Football Neutral 2013/14 season review on Kindle.  Well over 300 pages of daftness. Less than £2! Thanks!

…Northern Line to London Bridge, Jubilee Line to West Ham, District Line to Dagenham East.  Londoners don’t half complain about the tube, but I bloody love it.  You can hear the tutting and sighing when the locals have to wait 3 minutes for a train, but where I live we only have two buses a week, and they stop in the middle of  nowhere and you have to ride a sheep to your final destination.

I was having to concede defeat in the whole coat-wearing saga, as I was now so hot it was making me feel faint.  I took it off and stood by a window vent on the District Line train, trying desperately to suck in a bit of cool air.  Then laughed to myself a bit, because when I went to games with my Dad as a kid he was obsessed with me wearing a coat, and I would do whatever I could to not wear one.

We’d leave for games and he’d do a check on how many layers I was wearing, and the only way I could ever avoid having to wear a coat over my City shirt (at the time it would have been a bright white Diadora managers jacket that was just hideous) was to wear two t-shirts, then a long sleeved t-shirt, then a jumper, then a fleece then my City shirt stretched over the top.  I’d struggle to get through doors.  And this was for pre-season friendlies in July.

I could see two Exeter fans in the same carriage as me as the tube got closer to the east end.  One was wearing an Exeter shirt, the other just a scarf.  As we approached Upton Park they both hid their stuff – shirt chap put on a hoodie and scarf boy tucked it away.  They talked about West Ham in hushed tones, shuffling nervously in their seats.  I can only presume – as they were only young lads – that they have been raised on a diet of Danny Dyer films and TV shows and think that the areas around the Boleyn Ground is a dangerous war zone where all away fans are taken to one side and beaten with socks full of snooker balls.

I went to a City vs West Ham game once where I went to the game on the tube, wearing a blue retro shirt, surrounded by West Ham fans and not a thing was said apart from one chap wishing me good luck.

At another station, three more Exeter fans got on the carriage.  I knew they were Exeter fans because despite not wearing colours or acknowledging their fellow two fans on the train, they had the accent and then proceeded to try and act tough by putting their feet up on chairs (THE HORROR!) and swearing.  A couple of tough looking Polish chaps got on the tube and the next stop and they immediately started behaving.  I’d get more annoyed about them, but they could only have been 18, once again there’s the potential Danny Dyer influence and more to the point, I used to act like that in my youth.  I was a proper prick…

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