The denouement of the St Albans City act of the two act (well two club) tragi-comedy that is my 2014/15 season plays out away against Hayes and Yeading. That doesn’t involve a trip to Hayes or even Yeading on the grounds that the club is currently well, Er, groundless and so tenants at another ground. And for that reason the St Albans hordes make their way over to Maidenheadstone. Not a location you have come across before? Well clearly your geography and memory are better than that of your average TLF. The temporary abode of H&Y is not one that seems capable of lodging in my little TLF head and so I spend the week in the run up to the game looking up my train journey details to Maidenhead one day and then to Maidstone the next and wondering how the journey time and departing London station can change so much in the space of 24 hours – honestly the railways in this country!!!
Eventually Maidenhead does stick, if only because I discover that Maidenhead United’s ground is the oldest continually used football ground in the world, with the first game taking place in 1871. That convoluted little wording does have a purpose. Technically Bramall Lane is the world’s oldest ground because it was built in 1862 but hasn’t been continually used by one club. Bosh, one in the eye for Maidenhead. Stone. Head!!!!!!!!
It was hard to imagine that the last day of the season could be a patch on last years, involving as it did a winning play off final on my birthday. But I should know by now that even when there is nothing to play for, except pride and maybe a goal bonus, the players and fans of the mighty Saints will bring the yellow and blue curtain down in style. Not only is Maidenheadstone an historic ground, it’s also a nice quirky one with Stella on draft, which our joint manager Graham Golds managed to incorporate into his pre-match routine.
The boys had done the team proud. Not only were they fantastic FKWs (full kit somethings… I leave the ‘w’ to your imagination) but they were also in kitman homage mode. A whole set of Fenners masks is an unnerving sight.
But possibly not as unnerving as Gaz letting it all hang out.
While there was a game going on out on the pitch I confess I was distracted by serious conversations on the terraces. In the first half I finally got to speak to Julie; midwife, mother, genius shopper, music fan and football supporter. While I don’t do midwifery or motherhood I do all the rest and so you can imagine it was quite an animated non-stop chat, which for some strange reason seemed quite disturbing for the steward stood in front us; poor sensitive little lamb.
Apart from chat there was another distraction. I have never let the woes of the Foxes distract me from watching the Saints but things had taken an interesting turn recently and it was hard to pretend the game was not happening. Particularly by the time of my fifth beer. I was stood next to Ray and I couldn’t resist so I took a sneaky look at the twitter. The Foxes had just scored! Now all they had to do is defend that lead for the rest of the match. All I had to do was worry. And I am good at that. I whispered the news to Ray. He was delighted for me (am guessing that the common factor here might be beer consumption….).
And so his bonhomie and general happiness beguiles me into a confession. Under my Saints away shirt I am wearing my Lesta polo shirt which has been worn and not washed for every game since we beat West Ham. Fortunately this is not a turbulent priest hearing my confession. This is Ray and Ray gets it. Because Ray knows that the reason Chelsea won the Champions League was not down to tactics or Didier Drgoba. It was down to him, persisting with the kebab pizza, even though he had to go to Marshalswick for every game and also the 12 cans of 440ml Budweiser, initially attractive because they were on offer in Morrisons, but then just plain expensive in the local off licence, and also plain essential to ensure European glory. Like I say, Ray gets it.
In amongst all this sharing of deepest, darkest secrets a football match was still going on in front of us and the Saints see us off in style scoring 3 goals in the last quarter of the game. There is a handy ledge behind us on which to rest our pint glasses, ensuring celebrations can be suitably enthusiastic.
As is Ray’s fine chorus of, “We love you Lesta we do.” Although he does warn me that all bets are off when Lesta play his beloved Chelsea the following week. Fickle.
The final whistle goes and the players come over for their curtain call. The fat lady in yellow and blue has sung her last for this season and left the Saints in comfortable mid-table position. By Tuesday the season ticket renewal form is on the website.
Where do I sign?
St Albans City 3 Hayes and Yeading o
Away raffle tickets, sold in a very convincing fashion: 1
Lager consumed: 4 Stellas, 1 over-priced craft lager
Snackage: 1 packet bacon flavoured wheat crunchies,1 M&S pulled pork and coleslaw wrap and a pale shadow of a bacon cob
Sneaky checks of the Lesta score: a LOT