A hot, sunny day in leafy Chessington. End-of-term atmosphere. Hundreds of Wombles wombling down Chalky Lane to watch their heroes. What could possibly go wrong? Well, in Zoo Time 3 Animal Magic 5 just about everything. But even at a princely Â£8 entry charge, it was still better value than the rollercoaster rides you get over the road.
First shock of the day was the pitch — green and verdant like a newly-mown cricket pitch, and totally at odds with the mudbath we had encountered last season. I say “we” — I wasn’t there, as I was exercising my pinko-liberal tendencies on the anti-Iraq war march in Whitehall (Disclaimer: The views of the contributor are entirely their own, and are not to be confused with those of Robert Edward Peter Dunford Esq.)
[SW19 note: I’ve got no problem with such marches, I do genuinely believe in free speech. Even for our crypto-communist middle class liberal subservient fanbase who feel the selfish need to satisfy their guilty consciences at every turn. Big winky smiley and all that]
Within 28 seconds of kick-off, C&H scored. Apparently (your humble correspondent was at the other end) it was offside but the referee allowed it. Three minutes later, they scored again. By this time it was already obvious that the referee was Not One Of Us, as Mrs T. might have put it. Opinions were divided as to whether he was trying to show he could stand up to the leagueÂ¹s big boys, or was simply weak. Anyway, things went from bad to worse. We pulled a goal back, but five minutes before half-time, Nicky English was sent off for foul language. As the ref left the pitch, Ginge was shown the red card for the same offence. Now, given that no-one claims to be able to understand what Ginge says, that might seem a bit unfair, so I am sure with a good lawyer, he’ll get off.
Second half, and with eighteen minutes left, they made it 3-1. That unbeaten record was about to go. Then a Ryan Gray goal from a SSK cross started to turn the tide. Minutes later, Coops chased the ball to the by-line, barged into a defender and was inexplicably given a penalty, which he slotted home. After that, things passed in a blur — the decider (ours), another goal, more sendings-off, and, er … can it get any better?
Them: Unfazed by playing the champs-elect — and rightly so. Kept on going much longer than we expected.
Us: Nice to see that never-say-die attitude still alive, with nothing to play for, and a referee who was blatantly useless.
The referee’s a…: Silly little man, or their No 12, depending who you listen to. But see below.
Most tempestuous love-hate affair in the history of AFC Wimbledon: And worthy of a Bogart-Bacall movie. I am of course referring to the relationship between our fans and the referee, Mr M. Phillips of Bracknell. For the first seventy minutes, there was nothing but unbridled contempt for him. Then, after Coops was blocked by a defender and a blatently undeserved penalty was given, the tide of passion turned. All of a sudden, people discovered deep wells of affection — which they never knew they possessed — for the man in black. But drawing a discreet veil over some of the more ardent language from behind the goal, we move briskly on to …
Bizarre sighting of the day: Roy Capell seen heading in the direction of the pitch and away from the beer tent just before kick-off.
Fashion watch: Anoraks were the order of the day for some, showing yet again the irrepressible pessimism of our fans when it comes to the weather. In contrast, however, one individual sported a panama hat with natty striped ribbon, and a sleek grey jacket and trousers — doesn’t he realise that Henley isn’t till June? But easily winning the sartorial stakes was the intrepid soul who turned up in full Arab headdress. His reasoning — that he’d been musing on WMD and suddenly thought that AFCW was his very own weapon of mass destruction — seemed a bit suspect, to be honest. Be that as it may, his red-and-white towelling looked enviably comfortable in the heat.
There is apparently however no truth in the rumour that he was later found in possession of a match ticket for Old Trafford and mumbling that he’d thought he was travelling Virgin West Coast because of the engineering works.
Quotes of the day: 1) “We want five-a-side!” (as the sendings-off steadily denuded the pitch) 2) “Oh look! The main stand has got worked up!” (when a couple of people in the corrugated iron lean-to started to utter mild abuse
at the ref) 3) And, as the score stood at an ominous 3-1: “We can’t lose to a bunch of zoo shit shovellers!”
Junk mail watch: No idea whose bright idea it was to hand out dozens of copies of a local newspaper article in which the C&H manager said that AFC Wimbledon should have started in the junior leagues, his mother could have clinched the championship on the money we had to spend, and we’d got given everything on a plate. Bit irresponsible, IMHO, to give our fans something which was calculated to wind them up. After all, the referee did it so much better.
Plus points: The result, the weather — oh, and I managed to escape the clutches of the Dons Lottery market researchers. I wish the project well, but I just hope they factor into their results the likelihood that the beer, the sun, and a natural human desire not to appear stingy to the interviewers might mean that people’s willingness to part with their cash could be *slightly* overstated.
[SW19 note: I filled in one of these MR things for the Cove game, and what struck me was that there was no obvious way to say that you weren’t going to put anything into it – as though it was a presumption that everyone would buy one. I wasn’t, I don’t really do lottery things anyway, and I know a couple of other people who were a bit miffed at this as well, which considering the work put in is hardly a good omen. I thought the idea of MR was to see if something would be popular and workable, not assume that everyone is going to get involved and plan accordingly. Doing this would distort the results. Obviously, any money into the club is a good thing, however, it looks like the club have now based their entire business plan around assuming that the fans will ALWAYS shell out – they won’t, especially after a draining share issue. And I can’t help thinking that they’ll find that out the hard way]
Minus points: None, unless player bans carry over into next season.
Was it worth it?: Are you kidding?