|They'd sold out of programmes by the time I|
arrived at The Shay. He's a picture of some
oldie worldie people standing round a
printing press. I hope Halifax see the
point i'm making here.
Nine hours after I got home from Wembley and seven hours after I think I made my national radio debut (see below), I was on my feet and ready for the second, and wholly more complicated, part of my football weekend.
Though in decent enough form, at no point in the three-and-a-half hour journey to Halifax (elongated by having to dodge seven lines of Underground engineering hell), did I think we’d come away with a win. Then again, I didn’t think I’d finally get back to my flat at half three the following afternoon and collapse on my bed from exhaustion, dehydration and too much booze, but life can be interesting like that.
And in that spirit, I’m going to tell the story by way of the beers drunk. Because we all like beer don’t we.
Pints 1-3: Timothy Taylor Golden Best, The Pumproom, Halifax
3.5%, Nice amber hue, mild, good session ale I’d wager
Early afternoon and I’m sat opposite Robert Sutcliffe, late of the Yorkshire Post, soon to be of the Huddersfield Examiner, currently doing household chores. Mentor, raconteur, unfailingly entertaining company, ale connoisseur. Nice gentle re-introduction to Yorkshire session drinking, three pints an hour blowing away the cobwebs and shooting the sh*t about what’s been happening in our respective lives and careers since we’d last met. Also in a pub funnily enough. Sutty had called me up with a tip-off on Thursday night and I’d said I was coming up his way on Saturday. He agreed to lend his support to Boston and so here we were.
Pint 4: Carlsberg, The Shay snack bar
5%, Fizzy, ubiquitous, not easy to down, crap
We make our way to the ground. There’s a good following from Boston and I make Sutty known to the regular faces. There’s no programmes, and a distinct lack of cooked food and supplies, as though they genuinely believed they had Vauxhall Motors and four away fans were coming. Disappointing effort from a supposedly “Big Club”. At least there’s some beer left and there’s always time for one more before kick-off.
Most of the Boston support has been on the lash and so the scarves are soon twirling and the anthems are bellowing. Like last season, there’s f**k all backing from the home fans, who sit there in studied silence despite their lads being in stellar form at the moment. United start brightly in the classic Yorkshire weather trick of intermittent sunshine and showers and have a surprise lead on nine minutes. Ben Fairclough tested goalkeeper Matt Glennon, who spills it and Mark Jones taps into an empty net. There’s absolute bedlam in the away section, the whole back row embraces and jumps around in a doolally fashion. That’s put the ferret amongst the pigeons.
What’s more, we’re excellent value for the lead. Halifax are producing nothing and it looks as though Gaffer Lee has conjured a game plan and it’s working perfectly. One-nil lead at the break and it’s down the steps to the bar with plenty of spring.
Pint 5: Tetley’s Smoothflow, The Shay snack bar
3.6%, canned but much easier to drink down
They’ve pre-empted the onslaught of thirsty fans and a second barmaid is filling the fridge with cans from a black bin liner. Sutty has his second pie - chicken balti this time - and thus consumed 50 per cent of the pies available.
Had plenty of beer now and the songs are in full rocking volume at the start of the second-half. Halifax have thrown on another striker but it’s United who are continuing to create the best chances. Wardy prompts Glennon into a save against the crossbar with a shot that looks like it might break something. Crikey, we have a game plan and it’s going quite well. Then, a moment of majesty in glorious slow motion - it’s Ross and then a ball over the defence and there’s Newsham, who lobs the goalkeeper and reacts with delight as the ball drops over the line. What wonderful scenes of joy.
The remainder of the game is a barrage as Halifax finally rouse from their slumber. United are well and truly penned in and Haystead is called upon a couple of times and is then beaten by Gareth Seddon. Nails start being nibbled, the drink has worn off. Then, in stoppage time, a shot from Johnson is bound for the top corner. Miraculously, Haystead gets in the way and it thwacks on to the crossbar. We celebrate as heartily as for the goals. Seconds later it’s all over - into the ritual victory dance ‘Singing in the rain’. Awooochchcha! Don’t know what Sutty makes of that.
Pint 6: Ossett Brewery Excelsior, The Three Pigeons, Halifax
5.2%, golden, hint of honey, slips down nicely
The best tasting beer I’ve had in a long time, made all the sweeter by the taste of victory. But I keep that quiet because we’re in the Halifax fans’ local and they’re none too pleased. Make the executive decision not to go home tonight. Big danger I’d doze off on the first train and get stranded in Wakefield or something. Best to keep swigging it down!
Pints 7 and 8: Something or other, Plumbers’ Arms, Huddersfield
We’ve now decamped from Halifax to Huddersfield by bus. A “purists” curry has been mooted. I don’t know what that means - another traditional Huddersfield welcome? - but since the curry house isn’t licensed, it is very necessary to get some nectar down before going there. We do, but I can’t remember what it was. There’s no charge left on my phone - definitely no going back now as I can’t look up any transport times. Nor check my bank balance.
No matter, the curry is gorgeous. “Purist” means you scoop up the spicy chicken dish with triangles of naan bread. It’s most welcome since the last thing I ate was a breakfast baguette at King’s Cross ten hours earlier. Head feeling boozy but remember speaking about cricket at length with a chap called Richard. As you do. Bizarrely, there’s a male voice choir in the back room. They’re singing Blue Moon and it’s the first time I’ve heard it performed tunefully. We go and talk to them, lots of handshaking. Inevitably Sutty knows one of them. They’ve been on an ale trail. Lads.
Pints 9-11: Various beers, The Grove Inn
The first couple were very nice, the final choice a big error. It’s left on the bar. Sorry I can’t be more specific.
I’m taken to a “hardcore” ale drinkers’ pub. My bank statement says it was called The Grove. Obviously I’ve paid for something on my card. I’m told a story en route of how someone was mocked when they ordered the wrong kind of hop or something. That’s worrying. We sweep through one of the two homely bars. I’m shown the menu - phenomenally large choice from all over the world. We stand in the crisp Yorkshire air in the beer garden. The stars are shining above and there’s already frost on the stone slab patio. It’s hard not to feel very content with life. Things very hazy by now. Still can’t believe we won.
Pints 12-13: Timothy Taylor Landlord (I believe), The Slubbers
All tastes the same by now to be honest
We stroll through the night air up the hill to Sutty’s house. It’s about half nine I think and I’m a bit pissed, a bit slurry and would happily settle in beside the fire. Oh no. “Shall we pop out to the local, then?” First a basket of cooked brekkie ingredients from Tesco, over the road and into the Slubbers. Very friendly locals and I’m introduced to everyone as “Adam from the Mail in London”. Soon I’m in a big discussion about how Huddersfield Town are getting on. I stand there and sway and listen mainly because I don’t really know how they’re doing. Meanwhile, Sutty has inadvertently insulted some woman and we quickly shuffle out to the beer garden. “What a stupid b**ch taking that the wrong way...” begins Sutty as the woman walks out the door behind us. Whoops. I laugh inwardly. They make up in the end and then it’s off into the darkness. Pisssshhhhhh.
Next Match: International special - Hamburg SV v VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga. Boom.