The story of the season - Stevenage (a)
2010/11 season v Stevenage (league cup) at The Lamex Stadium, Monday 9th - Tuesday 10th August 2010.
No sooner had Coventry ended we were already thinking of Stevenage in the league cup, so by the time I had got home from Coventry, chilled out and unwound for a bit it was here!
'At least being relegated would mean a return to 'real football' and 'kick-off changes' would be fewer', talk about famous last words or what eh! Perhaps half of that statement is true but we have 'probably' seen as many, if not more so changes, and before a ball was kicked this season, than we did last time round already.
Sky, in their infinite wisdom, felt that the Stevenage game was ideal for an upset and as such felt a live Monday night game, hot on the heels of the Saturday away trip, would be ideal - that said the arranged England friendly, and other international friendlies, this midweek would have played a part in this too I guess...
An early start and a late, well technically 'early' return was expected here, but an inability to sleep, for some reason - perhaps it was the genuine excitement of a new ground and a 'proper' ground - and I am not the type of person that can just lay there when I am I awake, I need to get up, so waking around 6.30am was not ideal. That said with some Vital football work needing to be done I was able to crack on with that. Luckily I was able to have a 'proper meal' before leaving though as my meal from Saturday night, cottage pie and vegetables, was not eaten so this was saved for today. Having to scoff this down at 11.30am was also not ideal at all but needs must and all that.
The journey proper began just before 12noon when I walked up to the train station for my 12.15pm train to Exeter St Davids, where I would meet Ken, Richie and Betsy for the drive to begin. Having been delayed, due to the late running - surprise, surprise - of the train, which was jam packed as well, meant I came in some 10 minutes or so late to find Richie and Betsy waiting outside the station, but no Ken. It turned out that traffic, or road problems, had held him up - traffic issues would again cause us problems on this journey, as they had Coventry the weekend prior.
Anyway, a little after 1.15pm we were on the road and the first topic of debate was one about the worst Pompey players, as we tried to compile a side. The rules were not necessarily the worst players perhaps, although this helped, more 'disliked' players, for whatever reason, is how this ended up. Names that came up were likes of Chapman, Creaney, Chalkias, McGuire, Aloisi and Defoe, although it was not limited to just players, manager and even coaching staff were also touched upon - no guesses as to one name that came up manager wise, others were Fenwick and Gregory. The coaching staff selected, well this was mainly the lot that left for Scum in 2005.
The motorway was rammed solid so we had to take alternative routes, and literally went around the houses, and some - going to all manor of places I had never heard of and 'probably' would not remember and/or see again. My eyes were opened to the world of 'sheep racing', which was taking place somewhere or other this weekend.
Eventually, after the magical mystery tour, we arrived at Stevenage.
We had the choice of 'our mutual friend', which was about ½ a mile from the ground or we could park up across the road from the ground and go into the club house - the fact that this was literally moments from our seats made this an easy call and we met Tim (Pompeytim) inside at around 6.30pm, this was a little later than we had hoped to arrived but given the traffic problems encountered this was not bad, and gave ample time for a few pints!
Literally at kick-off we rolled in and took our seats, not that we sat in them again as we were able to stand for the entire 90 minutes. It was not the most memorable of games, perhaps it came across differently on the box, but main thing was we got the job done, and with some decent performances too, especially from the younger players - these youngsters that Steve Cotterill had said 'were not good enough!' Sometimes I think that thinking before speaking is needed as encouraging these kids is what we need, both for now and for the future, at the same time to be fair he does do this. Goals from Nadir Ciftci and Michael Brown, with a reply from the home side sandwiched in-between, saw us through 2-1 on the night. As for Stevenage I thought that they looked a tidy side, well organised and with a decent look about them. To be honest perhaps they will feel a little hard done by to have lost?
As for their fans, well they were fantastic! The best fans, other than us of course, that I have seen in some time. I just hope that the level of support shown remains the same the longer they are in the football league and/or climb up the tables...
After the game, as we made the trek back to Devon, finding food was a must although coming across a chippy would prove to be a problem we felt, even finding somewhere to get food 'could' be a challenge but having gone off the beaten track we found a metropolis that had all manor of food outlets, a pizza place, burgers and kebabs and a KFC, we opted for KFC and got a bargain bucket to share between us. After that the fun and gamers continued for the journey home with other unknown, and unheard of places taken in as we literally went 'everywhere' in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and more!
They say you join the Navy, or is it the Army or Marines, to see the world - I say just travel with Ken Malley for football and he will make this happen...
In the early hours of Tuesday, a little before 3am, we got back to Exeter St Davids, where Ken dropped off Richie and I, having already dropped off Betsy a few minutes earlier. Richie went off home and I just waited, not for my train at first merely to get into the train station as the doors were closed for a while, for whatever reason. At around 3.40am they were opened and my train, with a 4.12am departure soon came in and waited in the station, so I hoped on.
Now, any 'normal person' would get their head down for a bit, right?
Clearly I am not normal as I got the netbook out, connected to t'internet and checked my email, replying to any that I needed to - I then wrote a couple of articles in preparation for the day ahead.
I did 'powernap' briefly between Newton Abbot and Plymouth, some 30 minutes, arriving into Plymouth at 5.15am, next was the walk from the train station to the bus station for my X80 at 6am. Finally I arrived back home at 6.30am, I had quite literally, bar a minor powernap or two, been awake for 24-hours now. Again, and normal person would come home and get some kip, but as I would be off again at 9.30am to visit my girlfriend, although I knew, or at least hoped, that when Trina was working between 2pm and 8pm I could get some shut eye.
My anticipation levels, not in expectation of anything, started to grow early on Tuesday morning ahead of the curtain raiser at Fratton at the weekend - the first game at home of the 2010/11 season, against Reading, started to take hold of my thoughts...
PLAY UP POMPEY!