This was a funny old week. I spoke to the Chairman before going to Finland, he was speaking to the “Owner” and it seems there may well still be some money available towards the playing budget…but what about everything else?
On Tuesday I flew off to Helsinki, happy to leave the woes of the club behind me; how ironic that our success on the pitch was now causing us the grief, even the Chairman confessed that it would probably help if we slipped up at Bashley on Tuesday and then failed to beat Weymouth on Saturday – even the most optimistic of optimists would have to then admit that our promotion hopes are looking pretty slim?
The Finland trip was business – honest, but there was a fair bit of joviality thrown into the bargain and quantities of alcohol that a 40-year-old should no longer be participating in. The two-hour time difference, the beers, the red wine and the Koskenkorva, on top of a sauna and Jacuzzi ensured that I was in good spirits by the time I did my first Twitter check and saw that we were 1-0 down quite early at Bashley. Bummer.
I remember also seeing that Simon Thomas had equalised and I have vague recollections of noticing that Effiong had put us 2-1 ahead, but by the time news had reached my phone that Chris Watters had hit a third, I was past caring…We were having a sing-a-long with a two-piece acoustic band in the hotel bar and consuming silly amounts of beer.
The morning felt a little rough, memories were blurred, though we all still remembered the moment the youngest lad of the party saw his drinking boast backfire, in a projectile kind of a way. I’ve always been a marathon drinker rather than a sprinter, but was suitably impressed when this guy reckoned he could down a pint, a shot and then another pint quicker than three of us could, in relay style, do a pint, then someone else a shot, and then the third person the second pint…In fairness he was very close to beating us…until the very last few drops when the glass started to fill up again with food and drink coming up the other way! Shameful!
A check of the phone confirmed that Chesham had indeed beaten Bashley 3-1, and our fine run of form was continuing.
Back in Finland we were off for a morning paper mill visit followed by Go-Karting (that brought out the mean streak in me! I picked up a silver medal out of ten of us…taking out at least three of the other cars in the process having spun off on the first bend and had to make my way through the pack).
After the Go-Karting we were off to a forest sauna and Jacuzzi where we would have dinner in a saunakota, an Arctic Finland House, cooking our dinner on an open fire, eating reindeer stew and drinking copious amount of beer, wine and Koskenkorva (again). There were also some hilarious drinking games for which you needed to be there, before the minibus picked us up to take us back to the hotel…where we stayed up until the early hours of the morning drinking.
Big mistake. Next morning, we had a two-hour minibus drive to Helsinki for lunch and then the flight home. The taste of the Red Bull from the Jager bombs was still very much prevalent in my mouth as I battled with the hangover and the normal travel sickness I can feel when in a bus. The journey was basically horrible, and when we arrived in Helsinki, the last thing I needed was an hour long guided tour of the city on the bus!
Most appreciatively my parents and the kids were at Heathrow to pick me up several hours later, Heather being away overnight with her own work. On the journey home I was hearing some more tails about where we are with the bar and some of the financial issues, particularly getting the money for players’ wages.
Partly because I was hungover and tired, partly because I had had such a good time that I did not want to think about it, I took all the news in my stride.
Friday back in the office was a slow day. Time went slow, I went slow and it was just, well horrible. Fortunately Ben had no rugby training that Friday (they trained Wednesday instead), but on Saturday his Wizards team were scheduled to play in the Saracens Cup over at Mill Hill, having to be there for 8.30am, and then that afternoon we had tickets for the Saracens v Harlequins match at Saracens’ new home – Allianz Park. The plan was good, if not a little hectic, particularly with Chesham playing at Weymouth the day before.
I was completely knackered, but a busy weekend lay ahead. Unfortunately the rugby festival had put an end to plans for a weekend away at Weymouth, it would have to be a day trip instead, with an early start. My only hope of getting some rest over the weekend was the weather…it was snowing! When I awoke Saturday morning I confessed to Heather: “I don’t mind which, but I hope that either the football or the rugby festival is called off”.
Despite the extreme weather around Hemel Hempstead and Chesham, down in Dorset the weather was fine – Game on.
I picked Dad up from home just in case he ended up snowed-in when we returned, and then we picked Mike Warrick up from Chorleywood at around 9.15am. The snow was falling, and by the time we passed Hook and Fleet on the M3, there were some serious blizzards and snowfall reducing visibility…. This is not what I had in mind when the fixtures came out and we were scheduled to play Weymouth on a Saturday in late March!
By the time we reached Weymouth the weather was fine. We parked up at Dad’s flat and headed down to the harbour for a drink and a bite to eat. I ordered a J20 – it was a long drive home, and I was still recovering from Finalnd. We sat down at the table at The Old Rooms Inn, and I took advantage of the Free Wifi to check my emails:
“URGENT – CANCELED – U9 Alan Day VW Cup – Saracens vs Quins still on!”
“Please see the note below, the Saracens tournament has been cancelled….”
Ah, so I do not have to be in Mill Hill early tomorrow morning. I could have stayed overnight in Weymouth and had a drink after all. I could have?
I still could, surely?
A quick word with Dad and Mike, we all sneaked off to ring our respective partners. Five minutes later the J2O has been replaced by a beer and the lads were away for the evening! The car stayed at the flat and we got a taxi up to the game.
The bar at Weymouth is not good, it is about the only thing about the ground that is not. I love the stadium, I like the people and I admire their commercial activity…someone must have really ballsed it up for them to be playing in our league. In fact, Weymouth had been on an excellent run that had seen them climb up to fifth in the table, though they did have a massive blip at Stourbridge last weekend, losing 5-0…we know all about that having lost 5-0 there ourselves earlier in the season.
By all accounts the Weymouth manager had watched our game at Bashley, and been impressed, particularly concerned about our to big guys up front – Simon Thomas and Inih Effiong. In the end, I think this scouting mission was their downfall. They were obviously so worried about us and came onto the pitch like a side terrified.
Chesham totally outclassed their hosts. JP found space in the box to put us 1-0 up on 18 minutes, 20 minutes later he was in a similar position, and the outcome was the same. 2-0 to Chesham. Fantastic.
It got no better for the home side after the break. Simon Thomas made it 3-0 and then in the dying seconds one of their players was red carded for a nasty tackle on JP that looked awful, and the video Weymouth later produced showing the tackle backed-up the horror theory. The incident caused a bit of a kafuffle, whilst JP rather worryingly laid out on the floor clutching his ankle. However, JP was fine, in fact talking to him in the bar after the game he did comment that with so much commotion going on he thought it was better that he stayed on the floor whilst it all went on!
That 3-0 win saw Chesham replace Weymouth in 5thspot. A play-off spot. Wow. Who could honestly have foreseen that at Christmas time?
Once the Chesham players and supporters had departed on the coach back to Chesham, Dad, Mike W and I stuck around for a couple more pints, particularly intrigued when they brought out the DVD onto the screen in the bar. We were keen to see the goals, but they were looking at the red card incident (all their players seemed to agree it was a bad tackle and worthy of a red). They were also looking at an incident that had wound Rob Bartley up, accusations of racist taunts; though I must confess, the singing in question I am pretty sure was aimed at the Physio when he came on to treat Rob – Yes, it was definitely “you FAT bastard”.
I remember back in my student years how fantastic Bognor Regis Town used to be with their hospitality and treating away fans to the extreme extent that on one occasion when myself and a couple of other fans asked them to order a taxi for us back to where we were staying (Butlins!), when we arrived at our destination we had nothing left to pay as the club had paid the taxi in advance for us – amazing…or more likely they wanted to make sure we did actually leave the bar!
That memory has stuck with me for the twenty odd years since, one of those moments that I thought would be a complete one off in terms of going beyond the call of duty with away fans…until last Saturday. Having belatedly turned the trip into an overnighter, three of us were left in the bar talking to the Weymouth Chairman and one of his fellow Directors. The time arrived when the Director was due to give the Chairman a lift to the train station, at which point we asked for the number of a local taxi company…Incredibly, and most appreciatively, the Director instead offered to come back and pick us up after having made the drop-off at the train station – what a superb gesture? Particularly when your side has just been played off the park and had their play-off spot taken by Chesham.
Having a few drinks down on the seafront the discussion revolved around how amazing it seemed that a little club like Chesham could go to a massive club like Weymouth and look so superior, I know they have had some tough times of late, but they are still a huge club and it must be a good sign of how well we are doing, the fact that we can not only compete, but out-do, such clubs.
After a good nosh-up at my favourite Chinese on Weymouth seafront, we headed back to my parents’ flat where we stayed the night…absolutely freezing! When I said it was a last-minute decision to stay overnight, we did not decide until we were already sat in a pub by the harbour, which meant that the flat had no heating on…it was freezing.
We left Weymouth at about 6.30am on Sunday, getting back home before 9.00am.