The gateway to glorious times

14 03 2013

Here’s a picture of my favourite football-related ticket.

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I know it’s a train ticket but I assure you that it’s a football-related ticket, I used it to get to places that were holding matches.

I’d forgotten about my favourite football-related ticket until I happened to be reading a book on the train the other day, This Sporting Life as it happens. At one point in the journey my bookmark fell on the floor. A millisecond after I picked it up a torrent of memories was triggered. I was immediately transported to that sunny week and half of 2 years ago, the greatest week and a half in my football supporting life.

Every glorious detail of that fabulous week and half is engraved on the part of my brain that stores happiness.

There were events that added to the glorious tapestry of experience. For example during the first of my three trips to blazing sun enhanced south Wales I went to at a Welsh Schools FA centenary match in Port Talbot with my mate Owen and witnessed a confrontation as a player lay on the ground. The player had obviously been hurt so the referee stopped play. The first bloke was disgusted ”Jesus man, it’s not a head injury. There’s no need to stop play!!!!” Consequently, a second bloke (seated roughly 10 seats away from the first bloke), a provocative fucker, retorted with “It could be a head injury.” Consequently, a third bloke (A mate of the first bloke) realised that his mate’s honour was at stake so he shouted at the second bloke; “What was that you fucker? Shut the fuck up!! blah, blah, blah” Consequently, the second bloke said something unintelligible. Consequently, the third bloke wanted to attack the second bloke. Consequently a fourth bloke told the third bloke to “calm down”. Me, My mate Owen and a fifth bloke shook our heads.

At the Cardiff match I was able to see a bloke veer between ecstasy when Cardiff were ahead and inconsolable despondency when they were behind. He went from looking possessed; singing, dancing, asking the QPR fans what the score was, to muttering, shouting and swearing at his erstwhile heroes. I thought this behaviour was a touch odd as he’d brought his family with him. Cheeky monkey see, cheeky monkey do so his kids were soon gesticulating at the away fans. Then other kids gesticulated at the away fans; one kid banged his seat like he was about to have a tantrum when any Cardiff attack failed; another kept shouting, with all the authority that an 8 year can muster,  ”GET TO HIM!!!!” whenever QPR got anywhere near Cardiff’s area. It was amazing to see osmosis at work.

I looked at the ticket and remembered that the glorious week and a half nearly didn’t happen, fate lay heavily on the glorious week and a half. Firstly it motivated the fixture re-arrangers into forcing Bangor to play two matches in south Wales, Port Talbot then Neath, over the Easter weekend. Fate then solved my Easter Saturday time-killing problem – Bangor’s match kicked off until 3:45 but my train arrived in Cardiff at about 11:05 – with Phil’s kind offer of his Cardiff season ticket. Then fate turned Good Friday into the Good Good Friday.

At the time the Neath away match was rescheduled it presented the beautiful prospect of a stress free afternoon of football celebration, it looked like the match would be the coronation of Bangor City as champions of Wales. Then Bangor hit a slump, then XXX XXX XXXXXX went slightly too far in front, then everything looked lost.

For the three or so weeks leading up to Good Friday there was always a chance that our greatest hopes would be fulfilled but this chance relied on XXX XXX XXXXXX dropping points. All we could do was hope and hope and hope but as much as we dared hope we knew that this wouldn’t happen. I was so convinced that my hopes were forlorn I forgot to check XXX XXX XXXXXX result until about 6ish on Good Friday (I thought they were playing at 3:00pm). I scoured the internet but couldn’t find any information. I checked the fixtures and found XXX XXX XXXXXX’s match had a 7:30 pm kick off.

I left twitter alone until about 8:30. I quickly found out that XXX XXX XXXXXX were beating Neath 1-0 at this time. That felt like it was very much that, no league title, no European Cup, the trip to south Wales would be flat now. I could only think of a Morrissey song.

Fate intervened. I went on Twitter at around 9:10 in the hope of hearing something positive. There was something positive; XXX XXX XXXXXX were now drawing 1-1. I had palpitations of joy, could it be possible? Could it really be possible? I checked again a couple of minutes later and hopes started to be fulfilled; XXX XXX XXXXXX were losing 2-1, then they were losing 3-1. At about 9:25 I assumed the match must be at an end, (they usually finish at around 9:15.) The situation was a bit unnerving as it felt like it was too good to be true, it was going our way again! I had been too hopeful; the score had become 3-2. The cold text on twitter was numbing. After a few minutes agonizing a kind soul let twitter know that the XXX XXX XXXXXX had lost 3-2.

At 9:10 we were destined to finish runners-up but at 9:30 we were destined to play in next season’s European Cup!!! Oh what threads our joy hangs by!!!!! Was this the turning point we’d hoped for?

When I looked at the ticket it’s the glorious events on south Walean football pitches that I mostly remembered. The first match was special, the sun blazed and Michael Sheen was filming the Passion Play for BBC Wales nearby. I remember Port Talbot’s goal making us hope for a miracle.

Fate intervened again, this time in the form of a dust storm caused by a six yard box stampede. When the cloud finally cleared all you could see was a ball in the net, a cheering blue army and a disconsolate custodian. However our hopes still hung by the tenderest of threads. We still needed a goal, a single, solitary goal, one goal would be enough. When this solitary goal looked like it wasn’t coming people consoled themselves with the idea that at least we wouldn’t lose the league in the decider against XXX XXX XXXXXX.

Fate passed the ball to the magician Alan Bull on the left hand side of the pitch. He ran past defenders, mocking their challenges. When he was level with the middle of the goal he went past another defender, then another, then as he was continuing on the inexorable path across the area the magician made his foot propel the ball at such an outlandish angle it actually went behind him. The ball casually rolled over the turf, casually past the outstretched keeper’s hands and then casually into the side netting. Then the moment of glory was upon us, we were ahead!!!

Did I dare to believe that this was happening? Did I dare to believe this wasn’t the matrix playing a trick? I snapped out of my existential angst when I had to deal with a searing pain in my ankle; I had managed to twist my ankle celebrating. Unluckily for me this wasn’t the type of pain that Harry Palmer used in the Ipcress File to distract himself from brainwashing. It was dull ache that couldn’t disguise the tangible pressure. Port Talbot continued to attack and every attack was a potential nightmare, fortunately each attack was wasted. Unfortunately my time perception was rather acute, it just would not pass quickly enough. In the last five minutes Port Talbot had another chance, then another chance, then a few more. All I can say is our relief at the final whistle was all-consuming. Neath was calling.

Then there was that glorious Easter Monday. By this day I felt like I was commuting to south Wales. Easter Monday turned out to be a “Day for the Good Guys” but before the match it certainly didn’t feel that way, there was only trepidation. People were vividly aware that Neath created our possible League title by becoming the first side to beat XXX XXX XXXXXX at home, we all knew this wasn’t going to be easy.

Then…… Then……..

This is what happened;

“………Then all of a suddenly Bangor were ahead. Then it was 2-0. This was it, back in the groove. It didn’t even matter that XXX XXX XXXXXX were winning. We were winning 2-0, 2-0, it was 2-0!!!!! My eyes could see the scoreboard and they had seen Bangor score twice but my mind could  believe it. I had seen Garside score twice, I had seen a brilliant header over the advancing keeper. I had seen it but I couldn’t believe that it had happened. I couldn’t believe how easy it was.  This was like walking on air, there can’t be many moments when your hoped for plans come to fruition this easily. The rest of the half was a bit of a daze really.

The lightness of being continued in the second, the only dark cloud on the horizon was the intransigence of the cultured door staff at half time but that’s another unwanted story. The floaty feeling stopped when the enormity of what Bangor could achieve by winning dawned on me.

The world became horribly technicolour again. It wasn’t an altogether pleasant experience watching Neath as they could have scored. That they decide not to score only prolonged the agony. The scoreboard clock worked like a metronome covered in treacle. It dictated our mood, our feelings, our sanity.

This is what the last 35 minutes looked like in my mind………

55 minutes………..56 minutes ……… Tick ………. Tock ……. 57 minutes …………… 58 minutes ……………. Tick………….. Tock ………….. Tick …………… Tock ……………… 59 minutes ……….. Tick ……………. Tock ………….. 60 minutes …………….. Tick ………….. TOCK ………… TICK ………… TOCK…………………. High noon was approaching…………… 65 minutes …………… 66 …………………… 66 …………………….. 66 ……….. Wait a minute the bloody thing has stuck ……………… The man in the black hat was coming down the road …………….. 68 minutes …………………. 69 minutes ……………. Tick ………………. Tock …………. The hope the hope, the two-faced imposter known as hope, the spirit of christ compels you, the spirit of christ ……………….. It’s not the disappointment I can’t stand it’s the hope, that cruel mistress of a fan’s emotions  ……………… 72 minutes …………… Tick …………………… Tock …………… Another Neath chance …………. 73 minutes ………………. Another Neath chance ………………. LAUNCH IT, JUST FUCKING LAUNCH IT!!!!! ………… 75 minutes …………. 75 minutes …………. That fucking clock has stopped again …………… 75 minutes ……………. Trundle on the ball ……… Tick …… SHIT, HE’S STILL GOT IT ……. Tock ….. Thank fuck he missed  …….. 76 minutes ………………. TICK ……………… TOCK …………….. TICK ……………… TOCK ………….. TICK …………. TOCK ……………….. 76 MINUTES …………….. SEV-EN-TY SI……… NO ………….  SEV – ENN -TTTYYYYY SEV-EN …………..  ”SEE THEY’VE SLOWED TIME DOWN, THEY’VE GOT A MACHINE OVER THERE …………………. STEVEN HAWKING IS CONDUCTING AN EXPERIMENT” ………. 78 minutes ………… TICK …………. TOCK ………….. TICK ………….. TOCK …………… Trundle has the ball, shiiiiiiiiiittttttttttttt…………….. Thank Fuck he missed!!!!!! …………………… TICK ……………………. TOCK …………………………… TICK ……………………………….. TOCK ………………….. 79 MINUTES ……………………….. 80 MINUTES ……………………. TICK ………………………… TOCK ……………………. 81 MINUTES ……………….. TRUNDLE HAS THE BALL …………. SHIT TRUNDLE HAS FUCKING SCORED ………………………………. 83 minutes ……….  JESUS, A NEATH THROW IN  …………………………………….. 84 minutes …………………….. TICK ………… TOCK …………. TICK ………… TOCK ………. TICK …………….. 85 minutes ………………. CHRIST, NEATH HAVE A CORNER ……………………………. Thank fuck the ball went over …………… TICK …………… TOCK ………….. 86 minutes …………………… Tick ……………………. 87 minutes ………………………… Tock ……………….. 88 minutes ………………….. TICK,  TOCK, TICK, TOCK ………………………. tick, tick, tick, tick, tick , there’s a time bomb under Bangor’s season ………………….. There’s an unpleasant ending I can just feel it, it was all going too well ……………………. 89 minutes ………………. TICK ……………. TOCK ………………. TICK ………………….. TOCK …………………….. HE’S COMING OUT WITH THE BOARD …………………… 4 MINUTES, 4 FUCKING MINUTES, WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? ……………………………. TICK …………………….. TICK …………………… TICK ………………. TICK …………………. TICK ……………………… 91 minutes ish ………………………….. TICK ………………….. TICK ……………….. TICK ……………………… 91 minutes ish …………………………….. This bomb’s going to destroy everything, all our hope, all our dreams ………….. Not in the corner, DON’T TAKE IT IN THE FUCKING CORNER, NOT THE FUCKING CORNER!!!!!!! ………………….. 93 MINUTES ISH? ………. Jesus Trundle’s got the ball, Jesus, close him down, block the shot, BLOCK THE SHOT!!!!!! ……………………. TICK ……………………. TOCK …………. TICK TICK TICK TICK …………. GOTTA BE TIME NOW, GOTTA BE ……… The whistle’s in his mouth, that’s it ………………………… THAT’S IT WE’VE WON, WE’VE DONE IT!!!!

I had the nicest journey back from south Wales, everything was joyful.

It felt even better when I realised that a mere 72 hours ago XXX XXX XXXXXX were heading inexorably to their title and the message boards were in unison with Rhys Griffiths; we’d blown it well and truly after our mammoth lead. They were laughing, sniggering, You’ve Blown it, YOU’VE BLOWN IT. they said. It turned out the knobheads could be wrong. All we needed to do now was beat XXX XXX XXXXXX at Farrar Road and we’d be champions.”

I’m also reminded of the glorious feeling of the walk to Neath station and how gloriously refreshing the pre-train drinks were and not forgetting……the glorious moidering on the way home.

Of course the ticket also reminded me of “The Great Day”. This day was quite unlike quite unlike any other day, here’s what happened;

“In the hours before kick off there were good vibes, a righteous feeling, a hum of destiny, a crackle of tension, a fizz of excitement. There was a pronounced giddiness in the air.

Usually there are only a few of us in Farrar Road 2 hours before kick off but today we were being overrun. It was all far from normal, there was a segregated section for XXX XXX XXXXXX legitimisers for crying out loud. The crowds started really filtering in about an hour and a half before kick off and we did a roaring trade in chequered flags. On the terraces the giant flags fluttered as the crowd built up. You know there was going to be a big crowd when people were sitting on the terrace an hour before kick off. Everyone was waiting for destiny to turn up, they were hoping for history, hungry for history. As the time passed the crowd became a monstrous size.

……..I’d like to thank the barechested  bodybuilder types that decided to walk past me after 40 minutes gone. The line of 200 beefcakes interrupted my viewing pleasure for the fully five minutes. With such a massive the crowd it was difficult to  remember that I was at a Bangor City football match, part of me felt I was at a carnival or something, so many people, so many people.

Despite the evidence of my eyes and my clear mind knowing that I was at a football match, I couldn’t feel like I was actually at a proper match  My isolation from the people that normally go didn’t help, nor did the fact that I couldn’t actually see the play properly because of the vast crowd. From what I actually saw of the first half, it was comfortable tension. If anything we had the better chances. Harrison (sans tights) made one really good save for XXX XXX XXXXXX but that was our clearest chance.

It was more of the same in the second half, an obscured view and more comfortable tension. Bangor looked more dangerous from what I could see. XXX XXX XXXXXX looked a little jittery and some of their players  were a little bad tempered. It looked like if we kept our heads we could win……….

……….The tension was so tangible I could almost taste it………………..

The goal we’d all been craving arrived in the 66th minute. This goal was probably the most important goal that I’ve seen at Farrar Road since the ninth goal against Carmarthen in 1994. I say seen but I didn’t actually see it; the crowd got in my way and I didn’t actually see the ball cross the line. All I had to rely on was the crowd reaction.

I definitely knew that Bangor had scored when I was being grabbed from behind by the people standing around me.  This felt like the single greatest moment I could remember being a Bangor City fan. I know that now, thanks to Sky, our sporting lives are a constant renewal of GREATEST MOMENT EVER, but this was the genuine article for me. The significance of this goal was just too important for it to be anything else.

The trouble with scoring an all-important, and decisive, goal in the 66th minute is that there is still 24 minutes to play. The last 24 minutes of the match was the most horrible tension. I must have been the only one worrying because I could feel the ground moving due to the hundreds of people partying to my right. Feeling the ground move was the most extraordinary sensation I’ve ever felt at Farrar Road and reinforced the idea that this was a very special day, it reminded me that we just needed to hang on……

70 minutes gone………75 minutes gone ……… 80 ……….. 85 ………… During this time XXX XXX XXXXXX brought on the speedy Berkeley 86 minutes gone………………….. 87 minutes …………….. 88 …………… 89 ………………………. “Full Time” …………………… 91 ……………………………. 92 ……………………………………………………….. 93 ………………………………………………………. 94 …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 95 minutes .

Then I saw the referee, that bastard in the blackest shade of black, had the whistle between his lips. I could see this but I was the only one to notice. For the briefest of milliseconds I was ahead of everybody else, for a millisecond I was the only person aware that Bangor City were the Welsh Champions. For the only moment in the match I had a clear an unobstructed view of something important. For a millisecond I was aware that our hopes had been fulfilled before everybody else. This was beyond odd, it was ethereal, I was omnipresent and omniscient, I could see the future, I had the power.

Then the hoi-polloi caught up and they were so happy with the event they decided to invade the pitch, an endeavour I felt compelled to join in with. I staggered around in a stunned daze, this was it, my hopes had come true, this was how it felt to be a champion!!!!!!

I continued in a daze as I took photos, as I bought the new Bangor shirt off Brian, as I walked to the Regency, as I chatted with Gary from Sgorio. I don’t remember much apart from the glorious sun.

After reaching the Regency I vaguely remember the songs, the hugs and laughter, most of all I remember the intoxicating sunshine. This really was a day for heroes and glory, for hugs and singing, hugs and laughter, hugs and selling merchandise at very strange prices.

I left the pub and forgot to get my train. I forgot to get the bus, I didn’t care, this was not the night for mundane world of timetables this was a night for walking around corners under the warming duvet of success.

At approximately 9:00 on 30th April 2011 I truly felt the glorious glow of glory, ’twas good to be alive that April day!!”

I see that ticket and I remember the glorious warmth of the great day; it will take something truly spectacular to eclipse that glorious feeling. XXX XXX XXXXXX may win every other league title for eternity but nobody connected with them will ever experience the ecstasy we felt in 2011.

It’s funny how I’d been using something so precious for something as banal as a bookmark but sometimes needs must.

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