Sucking heartily on life's half-time oranges

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Brighton vs Wycombe, September 5th, 2009/10

Taking advantage of a) the ebbing summer and b) my last Saturday fully free before back teaching at Junior Trinity, Andy* and I decided to train it to Brighton to shop, have some beach time and watch WWFC, back in business in League One. We've had a sorry start to the season, losing three and drawing one, AND getting pummelled senseless by Peterborough in the League Cup.

How I wish, once we'd had an hour in Brighton, that we'd had a Sliding Doors moment: one in which we miss the no. 27 bus by seconds, decide to forgo the match in order to make the most of the sun, and happily potter around the Lanes, purchasing trinkets from the fleamarket and munching, ruddy-cheeked, on vegan delights, before sinking down onto the pebbles for a couple of hours' reading hefty historical crime novels whilst getting a face full of seaspray. Instead we made the bus, teetered up and down the hills to the ground, and spent two hours watching some sort of drunken pub kickabout in the shittiest stadium I've ever been in. Gillingham's jagged concrete terrace surrounded by crack dens, even Leyton's half-finished (two terraces, two ends of rubble) were like royal boxes compared to the shambolic Withdene Stadium, apprently voted the second worst ground in the country. Which can only mean Luton house their fans in a couple of sheds as they attend to affairs on a slagheap. For the Seagulls' home is a soulless and rickety athletics track; we away fans sat baffled in one of three thoroughly uncovered ends, 20 metres away from the touchline and no-one more than 10 rows high. From our perspective, the pitch was concertina-ed to a squat 10 metres long, the ball disappeared from our view for vast stretches, and to see half the pitch we had to look through the goal netting. Any ardent fan-noise made immediately dissipated into the gulf between mouth and pitch. And we paid a grand £20 for the privelege - the scoundrels! I was probably the only WWFC fan thinking of how I could be watching Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre at the Coliseum for a few pennies more.

I'd probably have forgiven Brighton's shanty-town hostelry had we slaughtered them 5-0, but they were that little bit quicker and stronger than Wycombe, who, even though I thought we didn't defend too badly for the most part, decided to play stick-in-the-mud at the key moment when Brighton scored. Curses. It was for the most part such a desperately dull match that the gulls started circling above us, waiting for us to die of boredom. The only highlight was the return, after a couple of seasons away at Bristol City, of a player I actually know, Kevin 'Heavens To!' Betsy, coming off the bench to little avail near the end.

There's one explanation for us being so poor: we fell over rather a lot, and the ground was being sprinkled by three blank-faced groundsmen seconds up to kick-off (including, during the cringe-making cheerleading routine by -ye gods! - Gullies Girls, possibly in an attempt to turn the entertainment into a wet leotard competition, all of which doth not a happy feminist make). I suspect sinister work afoot: Brighton have been ferreting away the dosh they've charged away fans to sit shivering in a ground fit only for a primary school sports day and manufacturing special 'non-slip' boots, so they continue to stride manfully ahead whilst their opponents crash haphazardly to the ground. Hhm. Well, either that or we're just freakin' rubbish.

Andy: husband, 32, lives in East London, into books and bass-playing
Place of birth: Cambridge
Team supported: None, though is nice about WWFC and has considered supporting West Ham, given its proximity
First football match ever seen live: Leyton Orient vs WWFC, 2004/5.

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