Do you remember that advert for Andrex? The one with the chap sat on the loo, watching helplessly as the toilet roll disappears from view courtesy of that loveable little pooch? I reckon you’d have to put that down as a nightmare scenario. A bit like trekking across the moors on a bleak winter’s day, only to find the pub doesn’t open at lunchtimes.
For a time this season – and it might yet happen – one of my nightmare scenarios looked likely to unfold. For all the time I have been a Forest supporter – 36 years and counting – they have never, ever, been in a lower division than close neighbours Notts County. And although the rivalry between the Tricky Trees and the Pies doesn’t have the intensity of the one we enjoy with the Shaggers, at least from a viewpoint on the red side of the Trent anyway, it would be a fate worse than death to have 5,000 Sadpies crowing at us from a loftier perch.
I’m heading for Aylesbury today and I’m presuming that the elevation of Aylesbury FC to a higher division than arguably the more famous Aylesbury United FC must have been the latter’s fans’ nightmare scenario come true. All those legendary cup runs putting United onto the non-league football map courtesy of TV F.A. cup highlights – remember the line of waddling ducks goal celebration – consigned to history as they slipped into the South Midlands League, while close neighbours Aylesbury FC have steadily climbed the ladder, shedding names along the way.
This season the latter are plying their trade in the Southern League Central Division, and while not exactly pulling up trees, are confident enough to be able to use the legend ‘The Home of Football in Aylesbury’ on the front of their programme. Must be like a dagger to a homeless Duck’s heart!
I’m driving south again today, having dropped the temporarily disabled missus at the in-laws for the day. Having negotiated the maze of roads which make up the borough of Milton Keynes, I arrive in Aylesbury to be instantly bemused by their road network too although I eventually find myself at the town centre end of the A41 Bicester Road, whereon lies the Hop Pole public house. Owned by the local (Brill) Vale Brewery, this pub now sports its own mini-brewery, and amongst the ten or so microbrews on the bar are the home-brewed Weigh Anchor, a 4.4% traditional bitter, and Black Path, a 5.0% stout, which is a tasty drop to be sure. As is the latter day trend, the Hop Pole also stocks a good range of bottled and draught European craft beers and I suspect you could spend many a long hour here without needing to venture anywhere else.
The Haywood Way ground of Aylesbury FC is about a mile and a half up the A41, on the edge of town. Set in a residential area, car parking is limited but you are encouraged to park on the grass verges. The clubhouse is situated outside of the ground, and though modern and reasonably spacious, is not enlightened enough to stock any cask or bottled craft beers. They do, however, offer a selection of pre-prepared cheese rolls at £1 a throw, which is not a bad deal, given the price of cheese. The stadium itself consists of a modest main stand straddling the halfway line, some covered terracing behind one goal, and flat standing elsewhere. A person in a mole costume – the team’s nickname is the Moles – wanders round scaring the kids. Some bloke dressed like Sherlock Holmes has the same effect on me!
Today’s game is a mouth-watering (!) relegation cruncher with Fleet Town, who are four points adrift of their hosts. Only lost-cause Marlow are keeping these two teams clear of the bottom of the division. I suppose that, given their league positions, it would be hard to expect too much good football from these sides, but to be honest there is very little of any quality for the first 75 minutes of the match. The only highlight of the first half is a straight red given to the Fleet No7 for a two-footed lunge. At half time I write in my notebook ‘..two teams of no apparent finesse…’
20 minutes into the second half a rush of blood from a home midfielder sees his head butt rewarded with another straight red – rumour has it the 5th Aylesbury dismissal in as many games – and we are all-square at 10-a-side. The tedium has to give and we are finally rewarded with a goal with 15 minutes to go, a Fleet forward latching on to a speculative through ball to loft it over the home keeper. But they don’t have time to celebrate before Aylesbury are level as a thunderous cross-bar strike is knocked in from the rebound. With just three minutes to go we have the only real bit of quality of the whole game, as a home forward collects the ball in the box, swivels and blast beyond the keeper, more or less in one movement. His gymnastic celebration alone is worth the entry money.
So Aylesbury FC take a small but significant step towards preserving their Step 4 status for another season, whilst local rivals United look destined for another year in Step 5. My iphone Sky Sports Ap tells me that, back in Nottingham, Forest have picked up another point towards securing their Championship status, whilst County’s promotion drive in League 1 seems to be faltering. So my own Nightmare Scenario looks very likely to be averted. Phew!
Programme: £1 at the turnstile. Not much else you’d need to ask about Aylesbury or Fleet after consulting this!
Floodlight pylons: 4
Parakeets: I was half expecting to see a solitary sqwarkster exploring the northern limits of its south-east English domain, but I am to be disappointed.
Club shop: None evident
Toilets: To be honest, I can’t remember!
Music the players run out to: Some funky music from Michael Jackson was playing, but this might just have been a bit of DJ over-run.
Kop choir: a couple of dozen local yoaths with a big loud drum, but only really livened up when a clubs-lady ran across and implored them to up the ante.
Away fans: One or two but not the vocal type.
What’s in a Name? With a Craig Davies and a James Taylor in their ranks, singalongs on the Fleet Town team bus look likely to be a musically diverse affair