WHATEVER day or time the football is I’m itching from the time I wake up. Rob Gutmann says it’s called a match day for a reason, and he is right. It consumes the day. Not just the football, of course, but how you are getting there. Who you are meeting and when. Everything else just falls off the radar.
This is fine if it is a Saturday. What are you doing anyway? Bits of washing in the house. Maybe wander aimlessly round a supermarket thinking about Joel Matip. It’s more of an issue when it is a supposed work day.
No one thought about the productivity of whole cities when they brought back Friday night top flight football. Sitting in meetings pretending to listen to talk of strategy, when the only strategy you care about is whether it should be Roberto Firmino or Daniel Sturridge up top.
It’s even worse when your best laid plans go to waste. I had booked a train to London for 4pm in the pretence of doing a full days work first. Unfortunately some rain down south had caused a train to derail meaning serious delays likely to last all day. It looked like I might be watching the match on my phone just outside Watford.
I do what I do in any emergency and ring Craig Hannan. He’s booked on the 1:47 but he’s worried about the derailment cutting into his London drinking time and reckons he can get to Lime Street for half 12. By now, Virgin Trains have announced that you can basically get any train you want as long as you stop tweeting them asking what’s going on. I pretty much just shutdown my laptop and walk to Lime Street to get the 12:47.
The official announcement from Virgin is that tickets are now “unrestricted”. Me and Craig look at an overcrowded train and take this to mean that we can sit in first class and it’s fine. It’s funny bunking into first class. You spend the first part worried about getting thrown out, the second part quietly enjoying the free food and drink and the third part loudly complaining that they haven’t brought any wine round for five minutes.
We didn’t look like we should have been there at the start. By the end we stood out even more as we talking loudly and drunkenly about other times we had bunked into things while the other man on our table tried to do business deals (he wasn’t prepared to do it for any less than £65,000) and the man on the other side politely drank three cans of tomato juice.
We rolled off the train at Euston bang on time and outside to meet a friend of Craig’s. He was running late so I rang Martin Fitzgerald as I hadn’t spoken to him for ages. He asked where I was and then said “hold on a minute” and then walked round the corner. I have no idea how he did it. I can only conclude that Martin Fitzgerald is magic. Don’t say his name three times in front of the mirror unless you are prepared for him to appear.
Me and Martin talk about music and the beauty of life until a man and his nephew appear, who I am reliably informed are the people Craig was waiting for, and then we leave for the match and Martin goes back to whatever it was he was doing. We get a taxi to someone else’s work place for a complicated bag drop off I don’t quite understand and then get a tube to meet Phil Blundell.
As we get off the tube we see Kate Forrester who is doing the same thing. There is nothing like seeing someone completely sober to realise how drunk you are. We soon realise that Phil has changed the location and we have got off at the wrong tube. But this is absolutely not Phil’s fault and instead everyone else’s who went to the tube we were told to. We realise we can still walk so stroll past the expensive estate agents and Ferrari garages that litter the West of London whilst Kate humours my drunken ramblings about how the other half live.
To be fair to Phil he has picked a lovely pub with a cracking rooftop garden and a surprising amount of change (i.e some) out of a tenner for two pints of lager. Neil Atkinson is there dressed as Brian Clough. James Cutler arrives, probably without socks. Paul Senior and Steve Graves arrive tired and thirsty after a four hour drive that had turned into eight. Andy Thornley arrives after I realise I haven’t told him the pub moved. Everyone reckons the Reds are going to win.
The Reds do win. You saw that bit. It was one of those aways where you just storm in and find a place and sing. I have no idea even now where my seat was meant to be. We were here, there and everywhere. Rows fluid, never mind seats. We sing and dance and nearly break our shins celebrating. The last 20 minutes was excruciating but we get there. I commentate the last few minutes to the steward facing us who turned out to be a Liverpool fan.
Afterwards you just want to see and hug everyone. Neil has brilliantly arranged to do The Pink in a Lebanese takeaway that has a Karaoke bar downstairs so we head there. I don’t want to talk I just want to listen and maybe crowd surf. Karl Kennedy/Alan Fletcher turns up with Wayne Scholes just to add some showbiz to proceedings. I end up outside talking nonsense to Sutty and ordering random things off the takeaway menu, but kept getting cheesy garlic bread.
After The Pink is finished we sing, dance and laugh until they kick us out. I can’t remember what I sing but I assume it was brilliant. Me and Thornley end up in a techno pub in Brixton round the corner from his flat. It seems techno pubs in London have taken off. He still gets up at 6:45 to walk me to the tube station because he is the nicest fella in the world.
I then get a very tired train to Cheltenham where I don’t win a brass band contest.
Up the Lebanese Karaoke Reds.