If ever there was a great day out ruined by the football, then this was it.
It started well – a beautiful sunny day in Milton Keynes, lots of coaches lined up outside the Arena (AKA the Semi-Colon) and lots of Dons fans milling about. The wonderful people at Piglets’ Pantry had laid on free brunch for all (not sure whether that was a marketing exercise from them or if it was funded by the club – probably a bit of both) so having grabbed a sausage roll and a Coke, we climbed the stairway to Coach 10.
Coach trips are never the most entertaining thing, but twitter wars can raise the boredom threshold a little – #CoachWars and #CoachWarsSoundtracks kept us going a little, spread to Facebook and at one point had representatives from about half of the coaches, all talking bollocks about how great their coach was, and the rubbish/cool/odd music they were listening to. Coach 10 won. I love being a grown up 😉
For those of you who aren’t up to speed with the charitable element of the day – we had nine people who had walked the entire way from Milton Keynes to Fulham, and two who had Kayaked, all raising money for Willen Hospice. The original plan was to raise £1,000, which then became £3,000, and then £5,000 as donations flooded in. All along the journey, we were getting updates through Facebook and Twitter of the progress that the Walkers and Kayakers were making, with each group making the final stages of their three day journeys as we relaxed into our air-conditioned seats. Everyone was due to meet at the statue of Johnny Haynes at 2:00pm, where the participants could receive our applause, meet Winkie, and the rest of us could bask in the reflected glory of those who’d done simply amazing things to get there.
Winkie was late (as usual ;-)) but not that late – much applause was applauded, great photos were taken, and many hugs were hugged. It’s quite incredible what some people are prepared to do to raise money for others, and I applaud each and every one of you.
So into the ground then – nice and busy, and there was an atmosphere building, both in the bars and up in the stand. The stewards were insistent that everyone went up the right stairway for their ticket, which in my experience never bodes well for a nice relaxed afternoon. If you’ll allow me to rant for a while, this sort of stewarding ‘control’ always seems to be more than a little futile in a football environment. The aim presumably is to ensure that everyone sits in their designated seat, but unless you’re in an environment where every seat has been sold (and I think we can safely say that’s not likely to happy very often for us) I honestly can’t see a single point in it. It’s not the theatre, where you’re able to choose a specific seat – you’re given the next one off the top of the pile and you have no choice in where that seat is. If everyone did sit in the seat randomly allocated by the order in which they bought them, you end up with friends separated, people wanting to sit in with those wanting to stand and vice versa, people wanting to sing in with those preferring not to and vice versa. There are no security implications either, because no club has the faintest idea which tickets are allocated to any individual. Frankly it’s all a bit daft.
Anyway, the atmosphere rocked – we were on good form in the stands, though almost nothing could be heard from the Fulham crowd except for the sound of 10,000 cardboard ‘clackers’. I should point out that while a lot of people were loudly proclaiming how plastic the clackers were and how we’d never do anything like that, we would and we have. The Morecambe game at the end of the JPT/Promotion season was awash with them, and plastic as they are, they were rather good on the day, and when accompanied by pretty continuous chanting they sounded great. On their own though? A bit crap really.
Football-wise, we weren’t good. We looked like a side that was low on confidence and low on ideas, and we were lucky to go in at half-time on equal terms. Fulham hit the post, and while they didn’t force any/many saves from Cody in the first half, they had enough opportunities that they should have. It was good to have JFK back in midfield, but he looked a little sluggish, which wasn’t too surprising for his first game back.
Halftime entertainment was provided by the daft racist behind me who, when asked by another fan to rein in his ‘Abdul’ related shouts at the steward got all hot and bothered. His insistence that the rest of us who were taking an interest should ‘turned round and watch the game’ seemed to be unmoved by the fact that as it was halftime, there was nothing else to watch. To be fair, his mates seemed a little embarrassed by him, but weren’t able to or interested in calming him down (which is always a sign that perhaps you’re hanging round with the wrong people 😉 #justsaying). One of their group suggested that it was none of our business, and that we were ‘grasses’ which was the first time I’ve found myself in the middle of an Eastenders episode at a game ;-). Another of their group very politely suggested that I shouldn’t do anything to ‘wind him up’, but to be honest, if being asked politely to calm it down and stop being racist towards the stewards winds someone up, then fuck him. A storm in a teacup of course, doesn’t mean anything in the wider scheme of things, but an indication of something that we’ll have to deal with as a fanbase. I’ve got a lovely photo of the guy in question if the club are interested.
Second half – we conceded, then woke up a little bit and looked more likely to score for a while. Then we did. Then we looked more likely to concede again. Then we did. We did look more threatening in the second half, but the same old defensive frailties that have haunted us all season were on hand to make Fulham look like world-beaters. The lack of goal threat that has haunted us all season was again on hand to make Fulham look like defensive masterminds. No idea how that bloke who scythed George down stayed on the pitch – a straight red in any other game I’ve seen this season. Wouldn’t have had a bearing on the game in any way though.
Robbo suggested in his post match interview that we deserved a point from it. We didn’t. They could have had three or four more in the second half, were it not for a great performance from Cody, and we very rarely came close to threatening their goal. We’re not psychologically strong enough to win games against the teams that we have to be taking points from. We look lost.
It’s not all over of course – the teams around us are down there for a reason, and while some (well almost all) of them are having some form of resurgence, it might not last. We’d still have to produce the sort of consistency over the remaining matches that we’ve been unable to muster up at all this season, and I can’t see us doing that, but I’ll remain positive until it’s mathematically impossible for us to stay up.
If we do go down, we’ll brush ourselves off, whinge for a bit, then get back into it and enjoy league 1 again.
The one really sour point (other than the football) was hearing that some of the walkers had been denied entry into the game, having walked 54 miles to attend it. I can’t quite imagine what that must feel like for them, and I really can’t understand what Fulham FC are doing to let something like this happen. Complimentary tickets that were provided to the Walkers by Winkie and Andrew Cullen were said to be fakes by the stewards on the gates. Personal intervention by Andrew Cullen helped out with some of them, but others ended up back in the pub, missing the match that they’d put so much into attending. Poor show Fulham – very poor show. Something significant needs to be done to make it up to the fans in question, AND something significant needs to be done to support the charity in question.
All in all, a great day out, marred slightly by an angry racist and the Fulham stewards attitudes to the walkers.
Feeling down, but not out.