Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Parking Lot Blues.

Football Car Park Full., originally uploaded by mithering.

Gazza's tears had not even dried on Raoul Moat's discarded England flag when it was time to begin again with the first FC United pre-season friendly against Sutton A.F.C. of the Central Midlands League.  It was a trip which The Eldest and I did not think we'd be making given that first the FC United supporters' Boogie Bus had been cancelled due to lack of interest, followed a week later by the same thing happening to 'The Official Coach'.  In the end it was pointed out that we could take a train to Alfreton, followed by a bus to Sutton, from where we find a way to the ground.
A hiccup (i.e. the usual incompetence) with the Metrolink system meant no tickets at Heaton Park station, followed by ten minutes waiting around to be told that there were no trams, followed by a stop-start trip on the 135 and a dash up to Piccadilly for the train did not make for a relaxing journey.  Tickets, comic and sweets bought I went to the cashpoint. Not working. No cashpoint in Piccadilly Station was working.  All of which was compounded by the discovery, at Heaton Park, that my mobile had also decided to pack in for the day.
No worries, we would get some money at the station in Alfreton.  After a pleasant enough journey through Derbyshire and Yorkshire we got off at Alfreton to discover that the station was smaller than a garage forecourt Wild Bean Cafe, with nothing other than a window from which to buy tickets, and virtually in the middle of nowhere.  We headed up the hill towards 'Town Centre', which we eventually found half an hour or so later.  Having negotiated a High Street full of Shop-Mobility scooters and over-zealous born-again Christians we found a working cashpoint and headed for the bus station.  "Head towards Home Bargains, then go left".  Back on track we took the first of the three buses towards Sutton, the slow one as it turned out and a real locals' bus.
Having reached Sutton we needed to find our way to the town's premier Wetherspoons establishment, The Picture House, where I had arranged to meet my brother in order to get a lift up to the ground.  I scanned the faces outside the shopping centre and spotted three teenage girls with a buggy.  An established part of the Wetherspoons demographic. They quickly pointed us in the right direction and the next thing we knew we were sitting in there enjoying a plate of nachos and watching Sutton's finest brains attempt to negotiate with a 'Use other door sign'.  Oddly for Wetherspoons in a strange town there wasn't a sniff of an FC shirt or scarf. I slightly panicked and wondered out-loud if we weren't in completely the wrong town. It wasn't outside the realms of possibility given our journey and the auto-pilot way in which I'd undertaken it.  Naturally, just when I'd bought another pint, Our Kid turned up.
Love United, Hate Glazer.
At the ground we found out that there was a cricket match going on on alongside the football ground. Somebody had already been there with a black, white and red reminder as to why most of us were there in the first place.  For the record, the home side, Mansfield Hosiery Mills Cricket Club, lost to Caythorpe.
Roll Me Over In Clover.
Once in the ground (£5 for me, The Eldest waved in for free) we found the type of pitch which I thought we would have been playing on five years ago back in the Moore and Co Construction Solicitors North West Counties League Division Two, on a huge slope and covered in clover.  The crowd, as it turned out, wasn't bad with just under 300 there according to Sutton's own report.  The football was rudimentary.  Sutton had an extraordinary number of giant players, something exasperated by FC United's squad of shortarses, but they also lumbered around like they were carrying sacks of golden goose eggs so were easily manoeuvred around by the fleet-footed red shirts.  Our new striking dynamo, Mike Norton, missed a worrying amount of chances including the one above and looks a bit rusty.
FC went in at half time two up thanks to goals from potential new boy Martin Parker and last season's top player, Jake Cotterell.  (I say went in, but they actually all stayed on the pitch as the changing rooms were shared and currently being used for the cricket match over the road). Over the road, was also where you went to get a pint.  Out of the ground, over the road, into The Pavilion and up to the bar where they were doing a lovely guest ale at £2.36 a pint, then back out of The Pavilion, over the road and back into the ground.
I Don't Like Cricket.
The Pavillion was being readied for the innings break when we headed in at half-time. What you can see above is the childrens' party-like spread waiting for the Mansfield Hosiery and Caythorpe teams. It contributed to an overall sense of pragmatic Englishness of the day. Although that could have been the effects of the bitter.  FC ended up winning by four, with second-half goals from Norton (Penalty) and Roca (tap-in).
The Snipes.
I'd been intending to marry away trips with some birdwatching activity, which I was then going to post on here. As it is, I don't think we saw much of anything bar a large brown moth, so instead here's the mascot for Sutton AFC, the mighty Snipe.

Budget for the day for me and The Eldest (not including drinks): Bus fare from Prestwich to town and back again: £5.70, train fare to Alfreton and back: £15.65, bus fare from Alfreton to Sutton £4.05, big plate of Nachos: £4.29, ticket in: £5, lift back to Alfreton from Our Kid: £0.  Total cost for day: £34.69.

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