Beware the Pink Panthers of Swindon

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Before you read on, I must beg for forgiveness, as it was written a good nine years ago when I was just a whippersnapper still in my 20’s and I wrote this account of the last time we went to Swindon of which there is a lot which I now slightly cringe at. It’s a chapter from my book “Let’s Hang On” available at Amazon

If anyone hasn’t got a copy and wants to buy one, your best bet, without going all JR Hartleyon you is at Amazon here

25.01.03

43. THEY’LL BE STOPPING FOLK FROM GETTING DRUNK IN PUBS NEXT

Swindon Away, Lost 2-1

 

We realise that all teams have to lose sometime, it would just really, really hurt to lose to such a bunch of horrid Southern inbreds. It’s an 8am start and a couple of us are recalling our previous trip to Swindon when four of us were harmlessly, if a little unsteadily, making our way onto the ground. A scruffy geezer with long hair and a leather jacket approached us with a camera. “Fancy having your photo taken with Cathy boys?” as he pointed to a gorgeous looking bird with huge breasts. Let’s weigh up the pro’s and cons: CON: We may miss the kick off. PRO: drool, wibble, wibble why, it would be rude not to! Unfortunately, as I took up, (as ever) a position at the rear, I didn’t get to see them in the flesh, until I bought the Sunday Sport the day after that is!! A quick search on the internet would undoubtedly reveal a great deal more of the p**n star known as Cathy Barry, but as this has nothing to do with football I’ll not direct you there. Fame at last, even if they did show her posing next to a copper for the main pic, with us “red-blooded Swindon males” (yes they mistook us for home fans) tucked away in the corner. Booo!!

 

As for the pre-match viewing well we have a rarity – a video recorder that works, and someone has brought along a copy of that award-winning hoolie film “ID” so we’re going to watch it. I’m not sure if there’s any law against this although I know that this sort of thing hit the headlines many years ago and could be construed as somewhat dodgy behaviour. As far as we are concerned it’s more a piece of comedy than designed to get us “in the mood” as many a court case would have it, scary in parts but also very funny in others. What club doesn’t have characters such as “Gumbo” amongst it’s support if it’s honest? We’re all avidly playing spot the grounds, although the producer probably should have put a bit more work in on the disguising of who the main team “Shadwell FC” are supposed to be, especially for the many of us on board who have recent memories of the “Beasts of Bermondsey”. And it is compulsory for Warren Clarke to turn up in EVERY film of this nature? It’s gripping viewing, I saw it yonks ago, but never since so have that sort of half-expectation of what’s going to happen. It helps the journey pass quickly to the extent that I never finish reading my paper and we barely acknowledge (i.e. abuse) a coach of passing Dingles on their way to watch Burnley at Brentford.

 

Our pub stop is so secluded that it isn’t even on the outskirts of nowhere, let alone in the middle, a place called Curney Wick,we’ve visited before in a previous Swindon trip. We arrive at ten to eleven, and getting a drink isn’t a problem. It’s not an ideal base – there’s nothing at all wrong with a country pub, but most of our mob like the basic small town creature comforts, a café, a bookies, a cash point, and a lapdancing bar. No, a few other pubs just enables us to potter about and stretch the legs due to spending much of the day stuck on a coach.

 

The ale gets flowing smoothly and apart from the match itself, this is arguably my favourite part of the day. Propping the bar up with the likes of Les Bagg, Dean Martin and Coopsy talking football whilst enjoying a few beers. One of the greatest myths surrounding these coach trips is that we’re all mates and it’s a bit of a clique, a closed shop so to speak. Complete rubbish really – we are mates of course, but we only become that way through travelling to away games together over the years, with the common love of a few beers and watching our football team. All are welcome, and there’s nothing that makes us all more downbeat than when a coach trip has to be cancelled due to lack of interest, something that’s only happened a handful of times in the five years or so that Arky has been running them.

 

This could turn into one of the classic days out if all goes to plan, there’s a great atmosphere rising. Whilst I’m sat on the bog, I can hear two Wiganers using the urinals when one of them breaks wind loudly. “Good aaaarrrrssse” his mate says in a comedy West Country accent. “Good aaaarrrrssseee” says his mate back. They continue this intense dialogue with increasing volume until I find myself joining in, shouting “Good aaarrrrsseee” from the cubicle as well for good measure. This is perhaps one of those “funny if you there” incidents, so I apologise for yet more unfunny toilet humour but ’twas hilarious at the time. The pub itself is slightly surreal (sorry still don’t know the name of it despite it being my second or maybe third visit). Two rooms are full of excitable football fans playing pool for money and talking shop, whereas there is a quiet restaurant part protected by glass doors which is full of grey haired grannies quietly enjoying a meal and admiring the view of the yachts on the lake. Dozens of them keep coming in, filing past us, aided by tasteful shouts of “Ey up lads, the strippers are here!” by yours truly.

 

As time and alcohol passes through us, the inevitable singing starts, with Freddie and the Dreamers to the fore strangely, as the whole pub, as per usual led by Caddy, Rammy and Shannon lets rip with “How do you do what you do to me, I wish I knew, If I knew how you did it to me, I’d be doing it to!!” Followed up by a few verses of “Please Release Me” sung with all the compassion of a wounded coyote. Marvellous. And totally irrelevant to boot. The locals are losing patience with our Sixties medley, and the landlady starts banging on the bar and gesticulating wildly with a LADLE!! This provokes nothing more than hilarity from the masses who carry on unabashed. “If you’re going to carry on singing and being disruptive, I will have to ask you to leave and get back on your coaches”. Now at first I felt a bit sorry for her here, but shortly after changed my tune – b***ocks to her, she knew what was coming, there’s probably 50 odd of us here spending (say) £20 each, that’s a grand earned in her till between the hours of 11am and 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. We’re noisy and boisterous but aren’t causing any trouble whatsoever. She certainly won’t be complaining when she cashes up at the end of the day.

 

I have resigned myself to the belief that this place is going to get trashed if she carries on being authoritative with us, but she seems to chill out and is all smiles ten minutes later. I was talking football with her at the bar the last time I went and I think she knows her stuff and has realised that we probably won’t be back next year, as do we. Just weather the storm luv, until we get back on the coach and business will arrive at a satisfactory close for all parties.

 

The coach sets off for Swindon about ten past two, I fail to notice whether the landlady asks us to “Come again next year” but even I’m getting pretty co

cky now that we won’t be playing down here again. Twenty minutes later, and after the obligatory wrong turn, we are passing through some dogsh*t council estate on the outskirts of Swindon. The houses are probably still worth a hundred grand apiece. I am wittering some b***ocks about “Southern council estates not having the aura or menace as their Northern counterparts, take Wythenshawe or Kirkby for example, they look intimidating to even look at!” Not for the last time today, people are looking at me like I am a bit odd.

 

We arrive a good fifteen minutes before kick off and I am mooting a visit to the pub on the corner despite being a good four cans and six pints to the good already. There are surprisingly few takers, as we alight from the coach to chants of “Shadwell Army, Shadwell Army” the fascist pigs that masquerade as Swindon’s stewards look nervy. As we make our way around to the away end, there are no topless models lying in wait this time, just a bunch of moody stewards, not overly impressed with our singing of “We are Shadwell, the Kennel is our home”. As I approach the stand, they are harshly manhandling a Wiganer I vaguely know, to which I shout “Leave him alone, you t**ts, he’s only come here to watch the game”. This tactful suggestion amazingly cuts very little ice with the stewards who then divert their intentions to manhandling me:

“Have you been drinking, sir”. (Actually I very much doubt that these oafs called me sir but I digress)

“Well, you know, just a couple, it’s not a crime is it?”

Fear overtakes me and I realise that unless I engage in some fast talking, I ain’t going to see this game. I’d be well prepared to go around to the home end to gain umbrage but I guess these stewards would simply notify their brothers and sisters (they all look like they are from the same family, if you catch my drift) and I’m in deep s**t.

“Look it’s my birthday, if I can’t have a drink on my birthday, when can I?”

And so, as it turns out, it is my birthday, as after a quick search and a flash of my £19 ticket I’m in.

 

As the game gets underway, it becomes apparent that there are absolutely loads of people missing, both off our coach and amongst those who have travelled by train. We estimate that around 20-30 have been refused entrance to the stand, what a sad, sorry state of affairs. Reeling off the names, I can concede that some of those mentioned might well have been plastered, but some of the others, well they are as placid as anyone you would care to meet. They travel nearly 200 miles across the country spending hard earned cash to watch their team just to get turned away by some d**khead in a pink jacket. It’s only 3pm, how drunk can a person be? Are we expected to go a s**thole like Swindon and remain stone cold sober throughout the day, not blooming likely in my opinion! It’s a long day, personally I left the house at 7.40am and got in at 4.40am via Coops Building, which is another story, but Swindon is so far away that we’re always likely to make a day of it, where’s the harm in having a drink? We’re not working, just because they are, there’s no need to try and make our day miserable as well. The current theme being dictated by the Wiganers of “We’ll never play you again” will hopefully not only be fact, but a genuine emotion from the Wigan hordes present. All in all, we have been made to feel about as welcome as George Dubya Bush at prayer time in a mosque, and unfortunately for us, that sentiment is also being echoed in the only place where it really should apply, out on the pitch.

 

An unchanged side on offer for Latics against a Swindon team, who in all honesty, were one of the poorest I’ve ever seen at the JJB only a few weeks ago. Only one winner here then!! Swindon, to use a Northern term, are like whippets, the two lads up front, Parkin and Invincible, are running De Vos and Jackson ragged. Although we’re very much in the game, Swindon look a totally different proposition than the team who visited the JJB on the 28th December. We can tell from the fact that they should be two-nil up within the first ten minutes that we are going to have our work cut out today.

 

The first goal arrives on the 23rd minute following a move on the right hand side, during which a blatant offside is ignored. The nasty, horrible, Swindon loving swine of a referee chooses to ignore this, not to mention the linesman who is stood inches away from the incident. While the Wigan players and fans are disputing this, Danny Invincible fires home a beautiful volley to put them 1-0 up. Aren’t Swindon the team who have been found guilty of corruption in the past, I wonder?

 

Ten minutes later, and Swindon win a free kick on the same far side. For what I do not know: The referee, it seems, has backed Swindon on the coupon. The ball is swung into the danger area, and with no determined attempt to clear it, Swindon captain, Andy Gurney fires home to put the home side two goals to the good. Gulp! Wigan are shellshocked, both the fans and the players, and whereas both the goals had a dubious nature to them, there is no denying that Swindon are playing superb football and are absolutely battering us, a credit to the division and no mistake. (That should make them call the lawyers off)

 

Having a leak at half time, I am looking up at the wall, as most blokes do for fear of the embarrassment of getting caught looking downwards either side. I am deep in thought, because I can’t actually remember the last time we were in this position, OK so we were at Stoke, but I didn’t really give a shit to be honest, this is different. I quietly mutter to myself, “Come on Wigan, we can do these men”, probably not the best words to come out with in a public convenience but a surefire sign of the confidence that the players and fans have got this season. The bar isn’t open, and the food queue is long, so I stumble about at half time chatting to various people.

 

It is no surprise, and to their credit that Wigan come out fighting in the second half. We absolutely batter them – Liddell has two or three clear chances which he would have buried on another day. Keep playing like this and we’ll be 3-2 up in no time. I am stood on the seat bawling my head off, and there’s a few people looking at me shaking their head a bit. It’s another one of those Luton days, where the singing and vocal encouragement doesn’t really get going. The Swindon lot offer forward the somewhat predictable taunt of “Is that all you take away?” to be met by my solo drunken retort of “NO IT F**KIN ISN’T THE REST ARE IN THE PUB BECAUSE YOUR W**KY STEWARDS WOULDN’T LET THEM IN THE GROUND!”

 

Gary Teale goes agonisingly close, hitting the angle of post and crossbar with a fierce shot with ‘keeper Bart Griemink nowhere near it. Swindon then break clear and Invincible goes one-on-one with an opportunity to seal the game but Filan makes a great, brave save to deny him and keep us in the hunt. The game’s tempo increases, real end-to-end stuff. It has to be said though, Swindon are now relying on chances on the break more, Wigan are pushing forward and look like the home side. With this kind of pressure being exerted, something’s got to give, and on fifty-five minutes, Nicky Eaden sends over a beautiful far post cross which is met by a superb diving header from Lee McCulloch. 2-1 and Swindon aren’t so cocky now. We are as good as back in the game, and patiently await the second (and third). Swindon again have chances to seal it, one shot hits the base of the post and rebounds back goalwards off the grounded John Filan, it looks for all the world like 3-1, but it isn’t. This reinforces our view that we’re going to get at least a point out of today.

 

There are several scrambles in the Swindon goalmouth which are so close that I’m in half a mind to run on the pitch and kick the b**ger in myself, but I don’t. Because I’d miss. As a result of each of these a Swindon player takes turns to lie p

rostrate on the ground. The game is halted for a few minutes whilst one player has his head bandaged up in the penalty area. Get him off the bl**dy pitch, his legs are OK aren’t they!!! Timewasting is, as ever, a heinous crime when the opposition do it and you’re losing but “good gamesmanship” when your own team are at it. However, whatever type of bang to the head this player had sustained, clearly affects his judgement, as minutes later he decides to take a corner ball off Jason De Vos’ head by punching it clear. The distinctive white bandage makes it all the more luminous and a more blatant penalty I will never see. With De Vos already having scored three times with header from corners this month alone, we have every right to feel very hard done by, and the players again spend several minutes remonstrating with the incompetent man in the middle.

 

De Vos stays put up front, but the injustice of this incident knocks the stuffing out of Wigan, and our attempts to claim an equaliser (I’ve given up on 3-2 now) are to no avail. Despite the fact Swindon have been doing as much timewasting as is humanly possible, basically taking it in turns to lie down and roll over, the added on time put forward still takes less to fulfil than your average J-Lo marriage. We applaud the players off, appreciative of their second half efforts and in neglect of their poor first half, which had they been a bit sharper, they would not have ended up chasing the game. Nevertheless, we’re dejected, so are they, but they have done us proud as we make our way out of the ground.

 

Swindon Town have thankfully refunded tickets to the few dozen who have not seen the game. I reckon the actions of their stewards have cost their club around £500 today. Considering Swindon were in administration a few months ago that’s particularly galling. I don’t want to see any team go bust, no not even Carlisle, but if Swindon did, they would only have themselves to blame, that £500 might have paid Ruddock’s wages for a few days. Those who have spent the afternoon in the pub (those fortunate enough not to have been nicked as well as turned away) are now returning to the coach. They are now, directly thanks to the actions of the stewards, even drunker than they were before the game and are baiting them.

 

We catch up with Caddy and Doc who were turned away, not for being drunk this year, but because they were drunk on their visit here LAST year, the pair of them are now teetotal of course (er, that last bit might not be true). So being drunk on entry to a football ground is now a life sentence is it? What a shambles. On discovering the final score, Caddy once again turns on the unimpressed “Pink Army” to say “Thanks for that boys, you’ve just saved us twenty quid”. Rightly so.

 

There’s a nasty atmosphere in the car park and we’ve certainly not created it. The stewards are as hostile as a bunch of tie fighters and are actively seeking confrontation. They don’t like us and the feeling is mutual. We’ve had just about enough of these bullies for one day and there is a suggestion from both sides that if the Police weren’t present, we’d both be delighted to get down to business. One lad, who shall remain nameless, is having a spat with one of them and before you know it the pair are squaring up to each other. The Police intervene – by nicking him, not the steward of course. We watch the Old Bill haul him off by the throat and take him away only for him to re-emerge ten minutes later following a spot of Wigan police intervention. The insinuations and allegations that he has “bought his freedom” doesn’t stop until the coach arrives in Wigan three hours later!!

 

The coach finally leaves Swindon a good half an hour after the game has finished, and the general opinion of this place is that if we do have to ever play here again it’ll be too soon, and we’re not coming. Why the hell should we? For all the talk of complaint letters of protest against the heavy handedness dished out, we will simply vote with our feet next time and not visit this s**tty little part of Wiltshire. One final call off point, Sainsbury’s in Cirencester for our munchies. Jimmy had:

Dairylea dippers Pizza Flavour

Brunch Sandwiches (2)

1 bag of Walkers Posh “Sensations” Crisps (Roasted Chicken & Thyme flavour)

1 Mars Bar

1 large bottle of Smirnoff Ice

1 large bottle of Red Square (original flavour)

NB: Yeah I know it’s wrong drinking alcopops before 1am but there are never any fridges in these places and there’s nowt worse than warm lager.

 

When everyone’s calmed down, the video is put on for the journey home. Which video shall we watch this time? Why “SCUM” of course!!! I’ve never really been impressed with this film, it just seems like endless scenes of youths milling about and being shouted at by the screws. Most of the back seat boys however, feel quite differently, especially about one scene in particular and are re-inforcing this with constant chants of “Potting shed, potting shed, potting shed!!!” Sorry boys but the public needs to be made aware of these character traits!! The front v back singing competition gets in full swing although, as per usual I struggle to remember much of the madness that goes on during these journey’s home. All I know is that it very rarely bears any resemblence to the result of the game earlier on in the day. One lad is fast asleep and has p**sed himself. A sympathetic ear? No chance, as the whole coach comes down to have a look, the digital cameras come out and a chorus of “Where’s your Pampers gone?” is aired for good measure.

 

On arrival back in Wigan at ten to nine, I decline a few drinks in the Swan with the rest and head to the Pagefield to meet up with a 20-strong crew in the local who are embarking on a p**s up around Wigan. Just for a change, I’ve got my drinking head on and we go around all the usual sad pubs like Jumpin’ Jaks, Ibiza Bar and Walkabout. On two separate occasions I bump into two women of my age who I know from years ago, both now married and enquiring why I myself am not married. “You just never grew up did you, Jimmy?” a sentiment which I cannot argue with bearing in mind the day’s events thus far. I get home in the early hours after somehow combining a good day out (only partially marred by stewards) and a great night out. A costly day as I have a fiver left in my pocket from £100, after finding myself that £20 down which many Wiganers seem to find goes missing on a Saturday night these days. It’s even more impressive when you consider that I had already paid for my match ticket and coach fare. I couldn’t give a s**t about the cost any more, or our rough treatment, all I wanted was the three points off Swindon. We’re still nine points clear, but a new threat is emerging from the pack – the total football geniuses, those train driving titans, those maverick Brazilians from Gresty Road. The team who bought the title versus the team that plays beautiful football and bring it’s own youngsters through. We’re screwed if we think we’re the good guys in this one!!

Here’s hoping for a better result (if not day out) on Saturday!

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