POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM was there
Wycombe is one of my least favourite away days. The ground is stuck at the end of a large industrial estate with no pubs or anything else of interest nearby, unless you happen to be into lorries and forklifts. A bit like Chester City without the glamour.
You can’t get to it very easily by public transport, which leaves you no option but to drive. When you drive there, you find that you can’t park anywhere near it because every road within what seems like miles has double yellows on it. Even quiet little side roads which would benefit from a few parked cars on them to add a bit of colour and excitement are off limits.
It seems to me like the town fathers were a bit embarrassed to have a league football team, and decided that the ground would be best placed at the arse end of it in order to deter people from going and enjoying themselves. "The only bright spot on the trudge was seeing all the red kites circling and soaring above like a higher class of vulture."
I was looking forward to it nonetheless, as it was going to be my nephew Wilf’s first ever footy match. So me and eldest son Ewan set off for Leamington where he and the rest of my immediate family now live. My mam had decided that she would like to come along as well, and I was surprised to learn that it was her first game.
On the drive down the M40 I was filling Wilf full of Poolie propaganda, telling him how Pools were on the rise, having beaten Notts County 3-0 the week previously. Also that Wycombe should be a pushover as they were bottom of the league. Ewan joined in, backing up my enthusiasm with reference to the 4-0 victory over Carlisle which he had witnessed with me not long back.
We had no choice but to pay 3 quid to a gadgie in a high viz vest for the privilege of parking in a factory car park which was still a good ten minutes walk from the ground. The only bright spot on the trudge was seeing all the red kites circling and soaring above like a higher class of vulture. They are really bonny birds, even from a distance.
My heart sank when I spotted a Wycombe fan lumbering towards the stadium under the weight of something that should be banned at matches – a big sodding drum. I pointed it out with dismay to my mam, but she didn’t really understand how annoying they are. Come the final whistle she was definitely under no illusion.
We got through the turnstiles just in time for kick off. There was a healthy number of Poolies present, probably more than half of them ex-pats like us. We got a good spot right behind the goal, and settled down. It didn’t take long for the day to start turning sour though, Hartley doing a great ‘no, after you’ routine to let a Wycombe striker past him and in to score the first.
I was still explaining to Wilf how Pools would start playing better, when a simple header from a corner bulleted past Flinders for Wycombe’s second.
Pools were offering nowt – not managing to string passes together and struggling to keep up with the bottom-of-the-leaguers. I was looking forward to the end of the first half when Horwood took his turn to be a general big fanny and Wycombe were 3-0 to the good.
Cooper was as mad as a bag of snakes on the touchline, and at half time he appeared to bodily shove at least one Pools player down the tunnel towards the dressing room. I explained to everyone how he would inspire Pools to better things in the second half, which was true in a sense as we only conceded two more after the interval. Austin and Flinders wore the dunce hats for those. It could have been more, but a combination of poor finishing and the woodwork kept the score at 5.
I apologised to Wilf and my mam on behalf of Pools, trying to explain how Pools hadn’t played as badly as that for a long time without making them sound like Jonahs. If there was one good thing to come from the game it was that Wilf seems to have been bitten by the Pools bug. When I asked him if he fancied enduring something similar when we travel to Walsall in a couple of weeks, he nodded vigorously and affirmed his allegiance to the cause.
Some of the most diehard Poolies I know recall their first Pools matches with something like “It was terrible, but I loved it. We were worse than shit, but I was hooked.” Hopefully that will be Wilf in a few years, and hopefully he will never have had to watch a performance as bad as that one again.