Our friends in the North

“We’re all going on a summer holiday
No more worries for a week or two
We’re going where the sun shines brightly..”

Except we’re weren’t. It was not the summer. It was day trip. There was no converted London double decker bus, although I accept that the A2B coach we travelled on was probably more comfortable if less iconic. Nobody (thank goodness) looked like a young Cliff Richard and was bursting into song. And it was raining.

Ever since my slightly less than glowing reminiscences with (dis)respect to Skegness as a seaside destination, the footballing Gods were just waiting to have a laugh at my expense and team up with the Gods of North-East Lincolnshire tourism. Their opportunity came with the the draw for the first round PROPER of the FA Cup as we saw the Mighty Saints drawn away to Grimsby Town FC.

While not the dream draw we had hoped for, Grimsby are a National Conference team and had, in their time graced the Championship and it was the FA Cup, so it had its attractions. There was even a supporters coach at the bargain price of £15. I did waiver at that point (Mr TLF if you are reading this then obvs I really waivered at the thought of devoting a larger chunk of my weekend than usual to football and not you. Honest). Years of school trips had left me mentally scarred – the sickly aroma of barley sugars, the badly timed loo stops, the panic of ending up sitting next to whoever was unpopular that term, or worse being the kid no one wanted to sit next to, the travel sickness, the…..THE TRAIN TICKET IS HOW MUCH!?….Well it’s always good to revisit your youth.

And so I find myself on a coach at 9am, Cleethorpes bound and full of FA Cup hope. We are a motley crew and our very own Lesta boy David Attenborough would have had a field day, “See as the pack leave their usual territory and begin the long trek North. While some have stocked up on supplies through the preceding days, there will be those who will be reliant on their ability to capture a pork pie on the wilds of the A1M. Their yellow and blue camouflage warns off other predators who may otherwise underestimate the group. Once underway the pack engage in typical Satday travel activities, the female TLF has only the sports section of The Guardian to focus on as the dominant male TLF refuses to let the the rest of the cub newspaper leave the lair. While she reads the wider group engage in the traditional pack activities of badinage and football predictions, masking their fear of travelling into uncharted Northern Territory.”

Back in the real world, I find that I really am revisiting my youth and getting back into the swing of the long coach journey. Home made cobs prepared for lunch eaten by 11.30am? TICK. Excess Jaffa cake and jelly baby consumption. TICK. Top up with service station salty snackage. TICKETY TICK.

While the road into Cleethorpes is far from welcoming, the boarded ‘Fun Palace’ neatly summing it up, the good staff of Grimsby Town are the complete antithesis. They want to know how our journey was and they seem genuinely pleased to see us. Clearly it is a law of Grimsby physics that the level of friendless is indirectly proportionate to the level of competence. Our attempts to enter the ground and also the promised Shangri-La that is the away fans’ bar should have been accompanied by the Benny Hill chase theme tune as we are sent to various gates and then find ourselves kicking our heels as we find ourselves so near and yet so far as we come face to face with a locked bar door.

It is worth all that however as we finally make it into Scotty’s. It is not fancy and indeed it has the slight whiff of church youth club 1980 BUT it is festooned with scarves from various teams, the staff are brilliant and they do a fine line in two pint glasses. The beer, pints of wine (good effort Helen) and chat flow freely until it is time to brave the terraces.

An away fans bar in the ground - paradise

An away fans bar in the ground – paradise

Our team are brave, we are loud and proud, the flags are out in force but playing against full-timers is never easy. The mighty Saints do pull a goal back to make it 2-1 and our celebrations are HUGE but as we chase an equaliser we tire and before we know it, it is 5-1. We never stop singing, “I’d rather have sushi than haddock” and “We’ve got the hardest firm in the Conference South, but they’re not here today”, being TLF’s particular favourites.
At the final whistle it's gone a bit Mordor....

At the final whistle it’s gone a bit Mordor….

We board the coach for the long haul home, with fine Twitter words from our hosts and quiches and sausage rolls, courtesy of, yep, Grimsby Town FC.

The journey home is much longer when you are tired and have lost. Lee and I find a brief diversion at the Grantham Services as we query the lack of charcuterie selection and cheese broad (I settle for Mini Cheddars) with the tolerant man at WH Smiths, but really we all just want to get home and so we do by 9pm.

I discover I have missed Jamie Vardy scoring a ninth goal in nine Premier League games, as Lesta win again but I don’t care. I have had a grand day out.

Bracing Fox

Match Stats
Grimsby Town 5 St Albans City 1
Attendance: 2,263
Losing goalden away goal tickets: 1
Pounds not saved by not buying my ticket in advance: 2
Road trip fuel: ALL THE MAJOR FOOD GROUPS – 2 corned beef and red onion cobs, 1 packet bacon wheat crunchies, 1 packet mini Cheddars, a lot of jelly babies and Jaffa cakes, 1 sausage roll, 2 cans Stella, 4 pints Fosters

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