I can sometimes get a little anxious if travelling doesn’t go smoothly and I’m soon pacing the entrance to Piccadilly nervously as the clock ticks ever closer to 0855 and my mate Mark is still nowhere to be seen with the tickets. Gaz and I exchange worried glances and crude Anglo-Saxon about our mate – we love him really, we do! – as we wait. With the digital clocks on platform eight showing 0853, he casually strolls up to us. It’s like a rubbish version of 24.
There’s nothing to report on the journey aside from the train being perhaps startlingly free of Bury fans except us (well, me). Jonathan is waiting for us at Euston and after coughing up an eye-watering £7.70 for a zone 1-4 travelcard, we travel west via his suggested method of Euston to Green Park to South Ealing.
I’m fascinated by the Underground and pretty much London as a whole really. When I was younger this would manifest itself mostly in belligerence after a few pints wherever we went for a drink after the game (shouting, in an exaggerated northern accent, “It’s Amy Winehouse” at any girl with a beehive or “It’s Pete Doherty” at anyone in a pork pie hat) but I’ve calmed down a lot now. I could still never live in the place but at least I’m less rude about its inhabitants.
Our first port of call after getting off the tube is the bookies. The second is the Ealing Park Tavern, shortened to EPT. “We’re in-EPT!” laughs Mark as the first pints are ordered. It proves to be a grim prophecy of how the afternoon’s entertainment, the prospect of which being why I’m down here at all, will pan out.
After taking our lives in our hands by attempting to cross the slip road to a busy dual carriageway – it could be the Westway To the World for all I know, or care – we arrive at the first of the reasons why Brentford’s ground has a good reputation for a day out where the result often fails to matter; the first of the four pubs that sit on each corner of the ground. Here’s where, understandably, things start to go a bit fuzzy.
I can’t remember the order in which we “did the four” but we did them. As someone who only ever has a maximum of three before a game and who is ready for a snooze after four these days, there’s a lot of excited chatter with any Bury fans I recognise in any of the pubs followed by heavy eyes outside when the alcohol isn’t being topped up.
It doesn’t help that the football is so utterly lousy. Bishop starts up front alone for Bury while Jonathan Bond makes his debut in goal in what may as well have been a lions’ den. As I sit here typing a retrospective of my day four days later, it’s surely no coincidence that I only remember one poor Shaun Harrad effort from the entire game.
With the hosts having strolled to a three goal lead that won’t be caught up with, my friends – including Joe who trained it in from Ascot and Chris and Alan who we drink pre-match beer with – decide to a man that they’ve had enough on 75 minutes. Alan and I stay until the grim end upon which we retire to the others who are in the nicest of the four pubs, the Griffin. Chris tells us that he’s going to propose to his girlfriend that night; how rubbish must the football have been if it makes you make a life-affirming decision like that off the back of it? Only joking Chris.
I insist after three pints in the Griffin that we have to get the overground train from Brentford to Vauxhall followed by the tube to Euston, as my rubbish bladder won’t last the trip we made in the morning. Thankfully, my mates acquiesce so I can continue with the relaxed endorphins kicking around my head rather than slowly sobering up and feeling the fear whilst subterranean.
There’s no time to buy the usual good-food-purchased-while-drunk at Euston’s M&S so Gaz and I have to rely on Richard Branson’s frankly limited range of sandwiches, crisps and drinks. I plump for red wine which has a horrendous effect on my sinuses the next morning and a ready mixed gin and tonic in a can after thinking Gaz’s example looks sparklingly delicious. It’s not.
The night’s rounded off by gently taking the piss out of a couple opposite us who’ve been doing the hipster thing in the Smoke before heading home to Blackpool. They’re totally receptive to it and play the whipping boy role well, but chuckling at our own cleverness through the fug of too much mixed alcohol, the nagging worry that even if Brentford don’t go up this season Bury might not be going there next, refuses to go away.