Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Elvis Ain't Dead

Peterborough United were once again in town last night. Their third visit to London in a week. As reported previously on this blog, I was at their victory at Barnet a week ago with POSH mate, and he also saw them win (3-2) at Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday. Last night, they won 2-1 at Brentford and being the sucker for punishment that I am, I was persuaded to spend another Tuesday night in the entertaining company of the POSH fans. The game was very similar to the Barnet match in that Peterborough didn't play particularly well but came away with all three points. Darren Ferguson, their manager, described the performance as "resilient". They once again sit at the top of the league having won eight league games in a row and have won seven away matches on the trot. An impressive record.

Last night's excursion to Griffin Park - famed for having a pub on every corner of the ground - serves to illustrate the appeal in going to watch football games at all levels. It was by no means a classic, but entertaining nonetheless. I have touched on this subject before when I wrote up the match report from the Camberley Town v Dartford FA Cup tie when I said that "I'd rather be at a bad game of football than dozing in front of Eastenders." I always find the whole experience of attending a game, not simply the football alone, enjoyable. And last night was no exception.

Here are some random reflections from my evening at Brentford.

1. Elvis Ain't Dead. On three separate occasions I heard someone do an Elvis impersonation. The first in the pub before the game; not obvious whether he was a Brentford supporter, a Peterborough fan or hired entertainment at the pub. I do hope it wasn't the latter, he wasn't very good. The second a guy in the gents toilet at the game ("I'm all shook up") and a third walking away from the ground. Why? Was it "National Impersonate Elvis Day"? I felt as if I had missed out on something. All very strange.

2. It's not only the players who get injured. Supporters do as well. It's a tough sport. I left the game limping. When POSH scored their first, I jumped up and whacked my left knee on the metal safety barrier. Not very safe if you ask me, but that's another story. Woke up this morning with a bruised knee and a throbbing sensation. And talking of injuries, there was a young girl stood at the perimeter fence on crutches. Her left foot was in plaster. She spent the majority of the game booting the fencing with her good right foot, in time with the away supporters' chants. I wondered if that was how she got injured in the first place.

3. These are hard times at Brentford. I know that Brentford FC are going through a tough time financially but I limped away from the game sensing that times were really hard at the club. The whole game was played out in what can only be described as gloom. See picture at the top of this post. The floodlights seemed very dim and any action at the opposite end of the ground was difficult to make out. The stand lights in all parts of the ground were extinguished when the football started, just like the cabin lights on a flight. An attempt to reduce electricity costs perhaps? And the home support was sparse, attendance was a little over 4,000. Empty seats and empty terraces in the half light of Griffin Park gave the whole place a rather morose feel.

4. Fans are so passionate about their clubs that they will do crazy things. In an attempt to raise money for the Supporters Trust "Bees United" a number of Brentford fans will be walking to Stockport where Brentford play their last away game of the season. A total of 176 miles. Just like Brentford, Stockport County Football Club is also owned by its supporters so the destination is fitting. It is great to see a community getting behind its local football club (and vice versa). The most telling quote in the match day programme about this walk game from Natasha Judge, the Fundraising Director at Bees United. "Together fans can make a real difference to the way football as an industry treats its customers". Regular readers of this blog will know how close to my heart that sentiment is. A massive "hats off" to all the walkers.

5. Opal Fruits and chips don't mix. Or should I say "Starburst" rather than Opal Fruits, as the chewy sweets have not been called that since 1998. I prefer to call them Opal Fruits, but that's another, different, story. I went to last night's game straight from work and managed to grab a limp pasty from the ground. By the end of the game I was so hungry I could eat a horse. The traffic away from the ground was heavy, mainly due to road works between Brentford and Isleworth. As I was sat in the jam edging forward a few yards every few minutes I remembered that there was a bag of Opal Fruits left over from the Middlesbrough trip. The long journey to Teesside on Sunday was bearable due in no small part to the Jelly Babies, Wine Gums, Liquorice Allsorts and bags of Doritos that were devoured throughout. We couldn't quite manage the Opal Fruits bag which was a relief for me as I didn't want anyone to be sick in my car. So last night, in the traffic jam, I started to tuck in. Once out of the jam I decided to stop for a bag of chips with lashings of vinegar and salt. It wasn't until I got home, having already pulled over to eat the chips, that I realised how many Opal Fruits wrappers were covering the passenger seat and therefore how many I had eaten. About twenty. Laying in bed trying to get to sleep on a stomach full of Opal Fruits and chips is not a pleasant experience. They don't mix well. And my car stank of stale spuds and acetic acid this morning. If you are ever tempted, just say no.

Last night proved once again that teams can play below their best but still grind out important results and that, sometimes, the actual football is a side show. As for Elvis? He's left the building. Thank you and good night.

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