The morning after the day before. As I sit here in SW19 Towers, I feel a strange sense even now of elation mixed heavily with deflation. Elation because this was without doubt THE best WISA protest ever done (nice one Si), deflation because I really felt that in a just world, we wouldn’t have needed to do it. That and the fact that I really ought to stop drinking Guinness before it turns me into a grumpy old man…
Anyway, where shall I start? At the beginning, I suppose, and without the assistance of any note taking or camera…
Arriving there at 1115am or so (with about 2000 of those white leaflets you may have seen yesterday, bloody heavy there were as well), there was a smattering of people about. Overheard was “I’m really worried about the turnout”. By the OWFF meeting at 12pm (which I left at about 1215pm, when they passed the two motions required, and I don’t mean the ones you do in a WC either), some more people turned up. Then some more. Then some more again. Things were, as they probably say, building up nicely.
By 1250pm or so, I decided to wander up to where the players coach (the vehicle, not the employee) would be coming in. Aye, the Franchise decided that their precious players couldn’t be trusted to come individually, so they bailed them out with a team coach. Wonder how much that cost then? Walking round, there were quite a few Gills fans, frankly as much as I would have liked to seen them boycott, they just aren’t going to do it. And why should they? After all, it’s not like anyone helped them when they were extremely close to going under.
I noted that some barriers had been erected by a van from Eve Construction. A company that used to be based at Plough Lane with now flattened HQ delivering crowd control barriers for a company that used to be based at Plough Lane with now flattened HQ. Truth is stranger than fiction. At 110pm a coach was seen pulling up to the increasing demonstrators (totally about 100 at this time), turned out it was Gills. Needless to say, everyone started chanting “Gillingham” to them. I guess they must have not known what to think. Hell, even now it’s a situation I just can’t quite get my head round. Cheering the opposition? Sorry, keep forgetting that these days, anyone who plays MKFC are our second favourite team. Even Palace.
(speaking of Palace, you know those aforementioned flyers? Well, I didn’t know this until yesterday, but similar sort of leaflets are being sent out to Palace fans (I presume PISA members, and I don’t mean the Stella-induced breakaway Womble faction either) which may explain at least one CPFC fan turning up yesterday).
Then, the big one. The MKFC team coach. Despite some attempts by the local coppers to keep us behind the hastily constructed barriers, some were on the other side of the pavement (those there will know what I mean), the team got treated to a rather passionate rendition of “SCUM”. I really don’t know what they made of it all TBH. I understand that they’re all employees of the club, and I am fully aware why none of them will (publically) speak out, but how the fuck can they remain there? KC has gone (thank fuck), Neil Ardley is following TB around (guess he’s still got the negatives of TB then) at Watford, I bet that David Connelly’s taking his time whilst he’s injured finding another club. What about the rest? More on that later.
Oh, and Steve Allen was caught smiling. Guess his private surgery is paying his mortgage….
After that, we basically had an hour to kill before the game started. I was first asked to man (sorry, I forgot – in AFCW speak this would be person) the turnstiles for any scragglers sheepishly entering the ground. After about 15 minutes or so, I would have had more joy at people spotting at the local Friends Of Charles Koppel society so I went for a bit of a wander. By then, I’d noticed the crowds outside the turnstile (on the pavement, natch) getting decidedly larger and larger. This was one helluva picket turnout, and it surpassed everyone’s expectations. Including mine.
Some things I noticed inbetween this time and before the minutes silence. Every car – and I mean, every car going in – was being roundly booed and “scab”-ified. Now, a lot of these people were actually scouts for other clubs and were supportive of us. Everybody – and fuck, I mean everybody – going into the Holmesdale was getting the “scab” treatment. Even kids, which I thought maybe was going a little too far. Coincidentally, wasn’t the idea yesterday to get people going in yesterday to get them to follow AFCW? Fat chance of that happening now. Interestingly enough, you may have seen that pic of those three gimps in 88 Cup final replica shirts looking like they were watching a porno between Bella Emberg and Russ Conway. Well, these aforementioned gimps were seen entering the ground, and decided to kiss their shirts as if to say “we’re more loyal than you”. Beaten wife syndrome, anyone? Hope they enjoy their pics in the papers. Cunts.
Also, I was doing my good deed for the day and did a bit of leaflet handing out, and I noted how generally supportive the Gills fans were. Guess hanging around the Clifton Arms works wonders. And spotted going in was one Mr S. Coppell – but that’s another story……….
A few more scabs turned up, including a well-known caledonian travel co-ordinator who allegedly sneaked in through the barriers two minutes before the kick off. He won’t watch non-league football, apparently. Get used to it. Then at 3’o clock, on the dot (time to cruise for 8th graders), the minute silence was signified by a blown whistle, and to my (pleasant) surprise, it was observed very well. So well in fact that as a coppers phone went off, he immediately turned it off.
The silence ended and the conga started. Well, actually, not everyone joined in. Instead, I decided to play the miserable git. This is when the whole situation hit me. During the minutes silence, I was fidgeting like fuck. By the end of it, I just wanted the ground to swallow me up. If you’ve ever seen a wasp sprayed with furniture polish act, that’s basically how it was (seriously, next time you’re doing pest control, spray your nearest flying thing with a little prick with some good old Mr Sheene and observe. It’ll get your room smelling nice as well). Why did I feel like this? Well, in general I hate minute silences. I find them generally pointless and TBH over-used beyond belief. This one was different, it DID signify the end of of something that had swallowed my money and my time and my energy and all it did in return was expect me to swallow its muck. Everyone else felt jubilant, I just slumped down and pondered for a while. That fucking hurt, probably more than anything that has happened for a while bar the 5 minutes after hearing the Ryman told AFCW to fuck off. I hope anyone who saw me there will at least understand why.
Anyway, I bucked out of it (I guess seeing an Eircom shirt did it for me), and joined the rest of the (approx 2k) crowd. No conga though, I have some self respect. I even payed a fiver for one of the anti-franchise t-shirts (now lovingly stained with Guinness), and like everyone else made my merry way back to the “protest area”, not before I harrassed a steward for asking him how many were in there.
By now, things were starting to get surreal. Firstly, we shut Sainsbury’s, purely because of our numbers. Damn, I wanted some shopping. Secondly, we were frantically trying to find out the goings-on of what was occuring inside the ground. No, not the score, but the crowd. Rumours were flying about that only 500 Gills fans and 100 MKFC gimps were in the ground. Phone calls were made. Then came the ultimate of ultimate symbolic gestures. Up until then, it had been a bright sunny day. For the protest, conga etc, it had been pleasantly sunny. Even I got a bit sunburnt as per usual. By the time the game started, the heavens opened and everyone (bar one or two nutters) made for the canopy by Sainsburys. Actually, it was quite nice rain – all you people worried about getting wet obviously never heard of the times when I was in Belfast, or Drogheda, or Florida, or Washington DC. Weather was weather then, none of you would know what a rainstorm was if it hit you in your Dons Trust pac-a-mac. Ahem.
Thinking about it, if yesterday was your last time you would be in SE25, and you pissed off early to the pub or wherever, your last memory of SP would be an empty stadium in the pouring rain.
The waters subsided, and the bizzare practice of trying to find out how Gills were doing whilst not being in the ground took place. Doubly bizzare for me, because I could write a report at a game without mentioning the game itself with some legitimacy this time. Apparently. It was really strange with us listening out for whenever Gills attacking, because all those who have made noise for WFC in the past were now outside. And when Gills scored, fuck me, that was strange. We all cheered big time. Grown men weeping, complete strangers embracing each other, caps thrown in the air. Well, sort of.
Then came the big news – the attendance. Officially, and from the Enron school of accountancy needless to say, the amount of people in there was about 2400. The amount of Gills fans is open to debate (ranging from 500 to 1800) but the figure of 668 MKFC fans led to serious questioning from the BBC upwards. Leaving aside that everyone from bar staff to stewards to those who wanted refunds and given their dough back (plus a free ST to boot, I kid you not), then that figure doubled, having your attendances queried in such a public manner is never a good thing. Koppout tried to spin it afterwards by claiming it was the holidays and parents would have been intimidated by such protests. Yeah, you know all about intimidation, eh? Apartheid South Africa anyone? Surprised he didn’t try and build a shanty town for us yesterday.
The game went on and so did the hoardes milling around. Coppers tried to push us back to keep the emergency services clear (though it was all agreed that had an ambulance been called for Koppout, nobody would get out of the way). Actually, the police were very nice to us, turns out that they’re from Kingston and will be dealing with us all the while at Ks. Well, I guess it’s a hands-on approach to breaking the ice.
The game ended, 1-0 to Gills. Don’t ask me who scored or what the game was like, but apparently Gills could have had 6. How the players could perform in that environment I just don’t know, but according to a Gills fan, MKFC players really looked like they didn’t want to be there. Shame. Then came some more “scab” type abuse. OK, I don’t like having kids involved in this, and TBH I think they were generally left alone. One well known supporter (who happens to be THE biggest pain in the arse going) was given major league abuse. Two Brimson brothers lookalikes passed, and one of them subsequently dropped his trousers at us. No doubt, he believed that by doing so, he was committing an act of defiance with a mix of misplaced superiority. Personally, I think he was demonstrating where exactly Koppout had been distributing his infected poisoned spermoza just moments ago. And really, that was that.
Afterwards, milling around the MKFC club shop and the shrine, it was really a bit of a strange sight. Torn shirts, few posters with some choice words (including one of P Winkelmann esq being described as a “slag” – come on, nobody is THAT desperate) and even a discarded MKFC clock – broken, no doubt. And then we left, maybe never to return…………..
Remember I mentioned what the rest of the players felt earlier? Well, get this. In an act of stupidity rivalled only by Montague Koppel not wearing contraception 35 years ago, the MKFC team coach decided to drive by the Thomas Farley. This time, unlike Swindon, it did manage to drive straight pass. Patrick “Wu Tang” Agyemang was seen smiling. One player – not named purely because I don’t know who it was, anyone who does know please supply details – gave an offensive gesture. Charming. Wonder if nice Mr Policeman would be interested? After all, Mr Taxcollector will be interested in the attendance yesterday so I doubt if our supergrass mood is passed yet. But here’s the strangest thing of all : not on the coach was MKFC captain Neil Shipperley. Not too sure how true this story is, but apparently one Womble was in front of his car at Morden and immediately showed an AFCW flyer. Shipperley gave the thumbs up, and reportedly even chatted to this fan wishing us all good luck. I’ve probably cost him his job now, and to which I apologise profusely to him, but in situations like these, we need some support from those quarters.
I didn’t spend too long at the Farley, I get the impression not that many did. Sad, but maybe it was inevitable. I’d had enough, I needed food and Thornton Heath gets more horrible each day. And so I left
Strangely, the Cannock branch said to me afterwards, “I could do that every week”. I couldn’t, I’m glad I couldn’t. It wouldn’t be as much fun as it was yesterday, but I still haven’t got THAT closure. Who knows what might happen next?
Now, as for Sandhurst….