Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Brian was already in the pub by the time I got to the Quaker so I got my beer and together we made the first contributions to the DAFTS Beer Tax.

George, one of the 11am regulars at the Quaker, was a bit curious about our little collecting bottle and contributed £1 as well. Good man! Only another £299, 998 to go.
We then got talking to a guy who was a Sheffield United fan and who told us that the stadium had been bought by an Arab and would be dismantled and shipped over there. Cue incredulity from Brian and me - where do people get these ideas?

Tony and Colin then joined us - and so the contributions to the fund continued as we had more beers - before I headed off to Number Twenty-2. I found John and Bev hovering outside - she was itching to go elsewhere to watch the first-half of the Chelsea game. And so she did.

As I was about to get some snaps of the boys and our little DAFTS Tax bottle, I received a call from the Guardian football columnist, David Conn. David is an old chum of ours and was down at Feethams with a photographer, trying to find a way into the ground and see what was left of the old girl, prior to his doing a piece about Darlo's current troubles in the Guardian. I don't think he had expected the place to be quite as barren and flattened as it is.

Whilst David went off to do his research, we got back to raising some glasses - and more money for the cause. One of the barmen approached us to see if we wanted some takeaway pies. Apparently it was British Pie Week - I don't know how that slipped past me - but it seems they'd made too many and did we want to buy them?

Most of us had been to Taylors and were well provisioned but Brian and Tony were pastry-less and so bought a couple - and very nice they were too judging by the speed with which they were eaten.

I got a further phone call - again escaping the usual Number Twenty-2 mobile fine - this time from a Colchester fan, Martyn Stimson, who we'd meet earlier in the season before our game at Aldershot. Martyn and a chum had come up to make a groundhopping first visit to the Arena as well as visit as many of Darlo's decent pubs as they could.

After supping some wonderful stout (McConnells from the wonderful Thornbridge Brewery), we all taxi-ed down to the stadium - I wandered to reception and bumped into David Conn who was chatting with one of the administrators (who barely looked out of school!).

Reception looked a bit gloomy without the smiling face of Helen on reception - Karen from the Supporters Club was standing in for her and had a big collecting bucket so I deposited the tax we'd collected at lunchtime.

Thankfully block 11 seemed to be quite free of the West Stand hordes - Tony and Brian were down in front of us in their lucky seats whilst behind us we had my compatriots, the Darlo Tykes, in the executive boxes displaying their usual level of sophistication and wit.

The game was awful - we were poor, Macc were poor and the ref was poor - we suffered further injures and silly bookings and then the icing on the cake - a needless challenge by Clayton Fortune in the box on a player who was happy to go down.

Flag, Whistle, Penalty. Goodnight Vienna.

So the journey back promised to be a bit miserable for Martin and I but Martyn and his chum joined us and we had a good natter about football, grounds and pubs all the way back to King's Cross.

Over the road in St Pancras, the Betjeman Arms was having a beer festival so Martin and I wandered in - he likes the odd pint of real ale now and again - and before too long, we were joined by a horde of London Millers fresh from their sponsorship day and a nil-nil with Brentford.

I was quite surprised by the range of beers on offer, the majority straight from the barrel - a few I'd never come across before as well as some old favourites such as Woodforde Wherry and Oakham JHB. At least the day finished on a high as I savoured a beautiful pint of Naked Ladies, courtesy of the Twickenham Brewery...

David's piece on Darlo's current plight can be found here and go here to see some of the photos taken during his visit.

No comments: