9.08am – What a fine morning. I don’t even notice the drizzle outside, it’s matchday. Stalybridge Celtic away – rearranged from the end of last month. And even more superbly, I’ve got a day off. An actual day off, what the hell am I meant to do with myself?
3.40pm – Phone call from Mr. Broughton. This can only be good news. He must be making the effort and driving up for the game. “Basically, here’s what happened,” he begins....
3.51pm – Ten minutes of sordid tale later, I establish through drunken recollection that he took out his frustrations on a Henry Hoover last night which now lies pretty useless on the dining room floor. “I always thought that Henry was a smug cunt anyway. Deserved everything he got,” I sympathise. His house had also been decorated with kebab meat and the least said about the old ladies’ trolley the better. But on the plus side, he’s driving up to Sheffield where we will meet Andy and drive to Stalybridge – not a long trip, just 50 minutes over the Snake Pass.
4.37pm – Mr. Broughton on the phone again. He’s on the move – barely – but has misplaced his debit card so requires funding. Suddenly the conversation turns blue – “Fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK, FUCKING DUNHAM BRIDGE!!” He’s gone insane, I assumed. Maybe if I get him sectioned, he could vent his frustrations at bridges and other engineering projects in a controlled environment. Maybe he’ll be cured and return into society. “It’s a BLOODY toll isn’t it?! I don’t have any change!” Nonsense, there’s enough change amongst the detritus in his car to extend a loan to a third world country.
5.15pm – Run out in the teeming Steel City rain to get some cash. I’ll be the one needing the loan if these away days keep coming. Flatmates are off en masse to Doncaster Rovers against Ipswich Town. I was going with them until this fixture got rearranged. Ipswich won 6-0. Can’t decide whether it would have been better to go with them or not.
6.05pm – Standing outside Firth Court in Sheffield waiting for Andy to pick me up in the Rover Sauna. Rain is lashing down and I’m getting sprayed by the annoying frequent buses. No report from JB for a while. Not unusual, but pretty disconcerting with 1 hour 40 minutes until kick-off. He could be just down the road. Alternatively, he could be rummaging round the glove compartment at Dunham Bridge.
6.58pm – Really should have set off by now. Yep, definitely should have departed Sheffield by now. Instead, me and Andy are casting anxious glances at one another while playing FIFA. We play AC Milan-Tottenham, which was another of the football fixtures available on this particular night if you so desired. Milan win. Turns out FIFA is not an accurate forecaster of real life.
7.01pm – I face down the hill, Andy faces up the hill. Every ten seconds we tut and swap positions. Where the fuck is he? Last report was he was within a mile but stuck in traffic soup. Had moved 500 inches in half an hour or something.
7.05pm – Still waiting. Sat in the car. Five Live are already building up to the Champions League game. Not a promising sign.
7.11pm – GO GO GO! The blue Corsa swings in behind us and we’re away at last. 44 minutes until kick-off. It’s foggy, rainy and we’ve got an hour’s journey on Britain’s most dangerous road to negotiate. Gonna be a doddle.
7.35pm – Up on the Pass. Visibility about five metres in this nightmarish Dickensian pea souper, the rain arrowing down onto the windscreen. Aggressive white van driver behind making the nerves jangle. If we brake too hard, he’ll push us through the barriers down a ravine and we’ll all die. If we speed up, we’ll misjudge the next corner, go through the barriers down a ravine and we’ll all die. Good choice.
7.59pm – Approaching the turnstiles. We made it. I don’t think any human soul has been so grateful to see the twinkling lights of Glossop as Andy was. The steward takes our money and we click through. A roar goes up. They’ve opened the scoring. What perfect timing. Phil Marsh was the scorer for those sad enough to care.
8.07pm – GOAL GOAL GOAL!!! The equaliser and it’s Anthony Church with the aid of several massive deflections! Still, who gives a flying fuck? This night might not be so bad after all. The 40 or so Pilgrims might be rewarded for their sterling after-work efforts.
8.14pm – I’ve spoken too soon. Put my foot right in my mouth. Shaun Pearson has done it. A magnificent header which actually curled past the goalkeeper, leaving him no chance. Beauty. Unfortunately the goalkeeper is Dan Haystead and Stalybridge are back in front. Still, if you’re going to score an own goal, might as well do it in style, eh?
8.23pm – 3-1. I don’t like this. I want to go home because it transpires that Stalybridge is also a shithole. Not as much of one as Gainsborough and it doesn’t quite fit in the song so well but I’d still like to go home. Conner Jennings has scored, United’s defence split asunder like a fleshy grapefruit under a cleaver.
8.31pm – PIE, PIE, PEAS AND GRAVY. Singing PIE, PIE, PEAS AND GRAVY....
9.02pm – United playing well in the second-half. The silky passing game is back, the one from last season that delivered the silverware to make the trophy cabinet break. Heavens have opened. I manage to stand under the one square inch of roof that drips.
9.10pm – Danny Davidson has been sent off. Raised his elbow in a challenge. Had only been on the field five minutes. Amazing comeback not looking likely now.
9.25pm – United still coming forward. We’re having another one of those fuck-it sing songs, like the time we were 5-0 down at Nantwich or 4-0 behind at Droylsden. Several shirts have been removed. Nipples are erect. Drum is booming out. Scarves are twirling above heads. D-I-S-C-O.
9.33pm – Full-time. Stand in the rain and applaud the players. Chins up. I can’t feel too disheartened to be honest; we played some good football and generated a good atmosphere.
10.14pm – It occurs to my mind not to bother going to Workington on Saturday. It is over four hours on the train, and that’s from Sheffield. It could be six hours back if I twattishly miss the train I need to get. I purge such unthinkable thoughts. We may lose, yes, but not go to the next one. Never. JB snoozes on the back sleep. Henry the Hoover can sleep in peace tonight.
Next Match: BUFC @ Workington on Saturday. Will be epic.