Football Memories: The Away Day Stinkers

When I think about all the matches I’ve been to as a supporter or a neutral over the years, there is always a game now and again when you ask yourself why the hell you bothered going along to a match that turned out to be absolute dross.

I think we all accept as fans that for every classic that lives long in the memory, there will always be an encounter that is destined for last on Match of the Day.

Two matches spring to mind for me and they both happened to come at games in the Midlands. Now I have nothing against Midlands Football, after all my first United game was at St Andrews, but these two particular games were piss poor to put it mildly.

The first was a Premier League match between Aston Villa and Everton back in October 2003. It wasn’t all bad I suppose as the tickets were free (sort of!), but I still somehow felt short-changed after wasting 90 minutes of my existence that I will never re-kindle.

I was at University at the time and there was a pub me and a few house mates would congregate at during the week when we should’ve been studying. We were still studying obviously, but not necessarily anything related to our respective courses.

Anyway, on one such visit we were watching a live game (can’t recall which mind) and our drinking establishment for the evening was offering a deal whereby anyone purchasing four pints at the bar would be entered into a draw for the prize of four match tickets to Villa v Everton.

This was a right result as not only was there four of us out for the night – which meant a raffle ticket on every visit to the bar – trade was unusually quiet too. With the draw (after the live game) being taken in by a significantly less than capacity crowd, surely we were quids in!? Low and behold, our number was drawn out!

The only potential stumbling block we had now was that there were five of us living in our student house, but only four tickets. The other member of our quintet didn’t join us at the pub. I’m guessing he was still saving civilisation on Call of Duty or leading Donny Rovers to the Prem title on Football Manager!

Anyhow, we still felt he should be offered the opportunity to come with us, so we set about getting another ticket. Fortunately we were successful in our attempt to secure a fifth ticket and by either a pure stroke of luck or the fact that nobody in this particular section of Villa Park ever wants a ticket – he ended up in the row and seat directly in front of the four we had won!

Apart from the fact a housemate was a Villa fan meaning we visited a couple of local haunts before heading to the ground and that Wayne Rooney was playing for Everton that day, I don’t have too many memories of the game itself.

We were sat quite high up near the halfway line with the famous Holte End away to our right. All I can really recall other than that was a lack of service for Rooney and the game being a bore 0-0 draw. At the time of writing, they have met a further 26 times and none of them have been goalless!! Oh well, at least it only cost me a train ticket and a few pints!

The other game in the Midlands that proved total garbage was a goalless draw between Wolves and Stoke in March 2003. This was another episode in my Football following existence where events off the pitch turned out to be more entertaining than those on it.

The Birmingham City fan who got me a ticket to my first United game, was living in University Halls adjacent to the Molineux at the time.

Back then I couldn’t drive, so I got him to come and pick me up from my Campus about half an hour up the road. Looking back this must’ve been a pretty bum deal for him considering he could just stroll across to the stadium on foot. He is a top lad though!!

After collecting me later than planned due to traffic, we parked up back at his Halls of Residence just after the match had kicked off. Frantically scurrying across the Car Park, we made our way to the Ticket Office.

“Two tickets please” I said to the Female Ticket Office staff member who looked about as interested as I was being asked to read Jane Eyre over my school Summer Holidays as a kid.

“Are you Wolves fans?” she quizzed in a tone to match her look of interest.
“No” I replied.
“Are you Stoke fans then?” she responded
“Umm…no” what is this the bloody Spanish Inquistion, I thought – I just want a ticket love pronto!

She looked at me as if to say “Then why the hell are you here then?”. I was asking myself the same question by the end of this tepid midweek encounter. All she could offer us were seats with “restricted viewing”. God, she was really selling us the big time here and her lack of haste (and our timekeeping) had seen us already miss the first 15 minutes of the game.

We needn’t have worried (or bothered for that matter!). It was an absolute shocker although the “restricted viewing” could’ve been worse. I remember Paul Ince turning out for an experienced Wolves side that night and he was probably the pick of the players on show.

I also recall the Stoke fans, who were in the bottom tier down our side of the pitch, singing “We are Stoke, We are Stoke, We are Stoke…” for most of the night too. When your memories of a game are as insignificant as that, you know you’ve witnessed a poor spectacle.

There was to be an amusing twist on an otherwise dull evening though. My poor mate, who had not only driven an hour’s round trip to pick me up, missed the start of the game, watched an absolute shower for 75 minutes before another hour round-trip to drop me back again, discovered that he had lost his phone when he had got back to the halls.

He called me on the landline asking if I’d seen it. I said I hadn’t, but suggested he go back out to his car for another look as that was the last place he had seen it. He phoned me back a few minutes later.

“I’ve found it” he said.
“Great” I replied “Where was it?”
“It was by my car. It must’ve fell out of my pocket when I got out”.

What was not so great was that he had somehow managed to run it over too, so whilst it might have survived being dropped, he completed the job by destroying it with great aplomb!

My mate is a top, top guy and he is part of a number of stories I have to tell from following Football, but he has a touch of calamity about him. So although this particular game was crap, his latest mishap made me chuckle.