And so to the bank holiday fixture against loathed rivals the Tudors (that’s Hemel Hempstead Town not the historical dynasty with big Henry the eighth leading the line against Pope United). Pre-match I’d already got the hump; it was a grey and rainy Monday and in recognition of recent holiday excess I was planning on a dry game plus Mr TLF had been engaging in one of his favourite sports – TLF baiting:
Mr TLF: so why does your team hate Hemel?
TLF: they’re just down the road. It’s a local derby thing.
Mr TLF: but why? Millwall and West Ham I understand, there’s a story there but just because they’re down the road?
TLF: you saying we’ve got NO history!?
Mr TLF: I’m just saying there might be local teams that don’t exhibit these sort of tendencies.
TLF: oh I suppose you think local teams have some sort of bromance going on you do? Some BFF thing? BlahRantBlahRantBlah You just don’t understand football. I don’t know why I bother telling you things etc etc.
[Exit Mr TLF knowing that his work here was done….]
Our Chairman’s programme notes had this to say about the match officials, “They are the third team on the pitch and we thank them in advance for the important part they will play.”
Who knew how accurate that comment would turn out to be? Maybe he could start picking my lottery numbers. Turns out the ref seemed to think he was not at Clarence Park but appearing in a budget version of Wolf Hall; that’s one without wives, palaces or beheadings. The programme said that his name was Chris O’Donnell but I think that was probably a misprint. The game was all about him and most of his actions seemed designed to wheedle his way into the affections of the Tudors so I am guessing that in actual fact it was one Thomas Cromwell taking charge of the whistle.
It started so well. The Saints were 1-0 up within the first minute. For the pessimistic amongst us that is I admit a tad early but always nice to put down an early marker or an Anne of Cleves as we don’t call them in a derby game. Then it all just started to go a bit Thomas Moore; bookings for clean and winning tackles, inconsistent decision making and then a killer blow from the executioner, in the last minute of the second half, right in front of the Saints faithful. A minor bit of jousting in the penalty box and Hemel were awarded a debatable penalty. And to add insult to an unjustified red card for our centre back Ian Gayle. If the crowd had been a bit quiet up to that point this incident saw the volume turn up a few notches as we all made our views known, questioning of Mr Cromwell’s parentage and IQ, liberally smattered with words that won’t get through most of my subscribers’ firewalls. Or as the SACFC official twitter feed put it, “Players, managers and fans express their disappointment.”
The second half saw a fantastic performance from the 10 men of St Albans and while it didn’t deliver the 3 points we all crave, it was for TLF a moral victory that might just kick start the season. We did go ahead again and we could have scored another, instead we hit the post with pinpoint accuracy and then with the cruelty of Ann Boleyn, a late equaliser from Hemel…Just as we thought we had the Tudors where we wanted them.
While no one from Hemel had the girth of Henry VIII (although our ex-striker John Frendo’s waistline did draw just a few, no doubt well-intentioned pieces of dietary advice from the crowd) the only real winner was our Cromwellian referee. But was it the Thomas Cromwell of Hilary Mantel’s book – pragmatic and talented?
Er most definitely not.
Or the Cromwell of Robert Bolt’s play, A man for all seasons – calculating and unprincipled?
Or the Cromwell of TLF’s mini-series “Fat king gets married a lot” – Just a pants referee?
St Albans City 2 Hemel Hempstead 2
Unlucky raffle tickets: 10
Snacks and lager consumed: None. TLF’s body is a temple (this may prove to be a brief interlude)