Margate – Saturday November 14th 2009 (!)

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"There's some doubt that the club's 'Make Away Fans Feel Welcome' initiative will have the desired effect..."

I’ve got a bad feeling about this one all week. I want to get to Margate before the dodgy weather sets in for the Winter, but as the day approaches, it looks like Winter is beating me to it. If everything can go wrong on the day then it does. Even the bus to London – normally reasonably busy – is chocka, and when we leave Milton Keynes there’s a 20-minute delay while passengers fight off a desperate armed militant insurgent gang intent on changing the new world order whilst – and here’s the real bummer – somebody sneaks on without paying! The driver is on his phone trying to establish why he’s got two passengers standing up (shocker!). Excuse me, but wouldn’t a simple ticket check reveal the miscreants, or is that not for me to say? Twenty minutes later we get the ticket check and the villains are revealed.

The Willow Walk is busy. The breakfast takes an age to arrive, and I’m busy on the I-Phone checking today’s weather casualties. Harrow Borough is on AND they have a beer festival! It’s a no-brainer except – and here’s the next bummer – I’m on the coach with driving to do later, so best stick to Plan A. Margate is showing as ‘playing’ as are Chatham and Whitstable, so if Margate IS called off later, I’ve got options.

I make the train with seconds to spare and within two hours – including the bus replacement service between Herne Bay and Margate (I’ve seen that bus on Heartbeat) – I’m in a very blustery Kent seaside town. Boy, this wind IS strong, as I take three steps forward and two back. I head straight for the ground, even though it is only 1.00 o’clock, as I still have time to detour to Whitstable if the game is in doubt. The pitch is fine, says the steward at the gate, but the safety officer with him sounds less enthusiastic. “If it was a pop concert I’d call it off,” he says reassuringly. If they were X-Factor contestants, I’d applaud him.

I decide to check in early and head for the bar. No beer to talk of and the snack bar offers no cheer, either. The ref and his assistants are on the pitch, the wind is howling but nobody’s being blown over. The sun is shining, the players are kicking balls about and I start to relax. It goes dark about 2.15 and starts to rain. SOME. People are getting wet but that happens with rain. Half an hour later and the buzz goes round the bar that the ref has called it off. The weather – evidently relieved by this decision – relents and within five minutes the sun is shining and the wind noticeably calmer. Which is more than could be said for the fans, who are not impressed, especially those who have travelled from Wealdstone. And Nottingham, come to that!

The gateman says the club don’t do refunds, but directs me to the bar where a club official – a Mr Piper according to the Margate forum – is trying to weigh up his options. The referee – who in my humble opinion clearly doesn’t fancy getting any wetter when he’s going to get paid anyway – sneaks in and becomes the subject of some light-hearted (!) banter as a section of the crowd swamp the bar politely requesting a refund of their entry monies. At 3.30 the entry monies are duly returned and I shuffle off towards the rail station, faced with an early return to London and the agony of a seemingly wasted day.

Having said that, the best thing about doing a football blog is that you still get to write stuff without a ball being kicked in anger. Like today, in fact.

Programme: From a hut inside the turnstile. £2 and a reasonably good read.

Floodlight Pylons: 4

Parakeets: The one highlight of the day. Fifteen of the beggars swooping low over the ground as I make my way home.

Toilets: In the bar

Club Shop: In the office block behind one goal.

Tannoy music: overly loud soft rock (The Final Countdown, that sort of crap)

Player’s with the quirkiest name: The referee, Mr Lee ‘B*st*rd’ Venamore

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