BILL THE BIRO on the Orient business

My drinking mate asked me if I would be going to Orient the following day. I told him I wouldn't.

In previous seasons he wouldn't have needed to ask, because he knew that I would usually go to any Pools Saturday match within 100 miles of where I live. But as usual, it takes a few weeks of a new season for the football mentality to kick back in with me - especially when the pre-season omens (followed by the first few matches) aren't inspiring. And with the Olympics having just finished, who could get inspired by third-level footy anyway?

So it was that I found myself shopping in town just before 3 o'clock, smart-phone in hand, being a nuisance to pedestrians, as the strange story unfolded. Pools match would be delayed because they were stuck on the M11... the match would now start at 4... the match is postponed.

The irony was that Pools had stayed overnight near the M25, not risking any holdups on the long jaunt down the M1, so it was only the 'home straight' that caught them out."I set off once more for MK, assuming that there was little chance of Warwick races coinciding with the match again. Wrong!"

This all reminded me of my days selling the old printed Monkey Business, when I would set myself a deadline of being at the ground an hour before kickoff, in order to catch as many Poolies as possible. That meant adding an extra hour to allow for the traffic on longer trips like Brisbane Road, or whatever it's called now. Yet I don't remember too many problems anywhere with that strategy. Certainly there were holdups, but the planned buffer always allowed for them. There were occasional interface problems when a bag of magazines for me to sell had been sent from Hartlepool with a (usually arm-twisted) volunteer, but that's a different story.

This time buffer meant I was hardly ever late for a match, but the two I came closest on were both at the same venue, and in consecutive seasons. MK Dons were still playing at the National Hockey Stadium at the time. This is one of my local matches, at a mere 64 miles, so I didn't worry too much about allowing for the traffic. Unfortunately, I'd never experienced the traffic chaos that is caused when there's a race meeting at Warwick. I lost an hour in it, meaning that I arrived at the Milton Keynes ground almost at kickoff time, unable to sell a single Bizz.

Moving on a season, I set off once more for MK, assuming that there was little chance of Warwick Races coinciding with the match again. Wrong! Again I arrived just in time for the kickoff. Just goes to show you should never assume, and if your arrival time is critical, you should check the traffic situation before setting off.

I'm not sure what I conclude from all this, except that in the above MK example the only loss was the sale of perhaps half a dozen fanzines, whereas at Orient thousands of people were inconvenienced, many having shelled out a lot of money on travel. Perhaps making teams stay at hotels within walking distance of the ground is a bit much, or allowing three times the normal travelling time for the final leg of their trip, but it seems bizarre that a team stays overnight fairly close to an away venue, yet still misses the match.