Quiet, B, Shop, D, E, F, U, G, Quiet, J, K. The respective carriages on a Virgin Pendolino. Non are particularly outstanding in their own right. Individually, in footballing terms, they’re a Kevin Richardson or a Darren Fletcher maybe, but they are part of a collective that is an essential ingredient in going to the match – the train.
I was staring out of the southern-bound Pendolino at the frost-laden countryside and thought, “this is class.” Frost and frozen things are class anyway but when coupled with a two hour match-bound train journey, your mates, and pre-match football stuff, it’s even better. I do a lot of my thinking and writing on the train as it offers solitude of sorts despite the public nature of the travel. The Pendolino is my favourite train and I use it more than any other, hence, for the next five minutes, I won’t give time to the Voyager or the ironically named ‘Super’ Voyager. That would be the equivalent of writing a piece on individual creativity and allowing Tom Cleverley to be on the same page as the rejuvenated Juan Mata. Admittedly though, you can’t have a team of Matas, so sometimes the odd Cleverley is palatable.
The Pendolino? It’s got more carriages than the others, guaranteed shop (rather than a flustered trolley dolly doing all sorts of damage to elbows and knees down the runway), and decent first class. The attached pic shows a wine and cheese picnic on the way to Fulham. I was tempted to get a few more lads involved and ambush Spurs on Euston Road with some brie and wensleydale (with cranberries). Proper nawty, but I’d got word they’d stocked up with cheddar (extra mature) and double gloucester, so naturally we swerved it.
With the signifcant exception of the Swansea party train, as I’ve got older I’ve started to prefer the ‘quieter journey.’ If my life was on a graph, this would be a key milestone along with ‘not going to clubs anymore’ and preferring the roaring fire and chatty atmosphere of a traditional pub, rather than a disco bar. I’m quite content with a table seat, the usual trimmings and just the four of us including ‘trivia man,’ (every group has a trivia man), providing the usual headache inducing questions. EG. “Name an England player with over 60 caps that has never played in a World Cup?” When I first saw The Shining, and the look on Jack Nicholson’s face as he famously uttered “here’s Johnny,” I thought he’d finally succumbed to the frustration of an excellently posed football trivia question and the door hacking was simply his stress relief.
The train takes you to a city, rather than the ground, as you know. I love city life, maybe because I don’t live there, but the ability to hide away in a self-contained part of town means you can do what you want, when you want. The anticipation of train-match-day arrival at an away hasn’t left me in all the years of going. Football can be quite draining these days given the number of numpties that now flood the airwaves and social media outlets. The old school and, in particular, the old school of thought has all but gone. ‘Modern football’ is, well, exactly that, littered with pink balls, half and half things and rent-a-quotes on rent-a-channels. So the fact I still get a little giddy, as the train slows and the away destination draws near, is comforting. Surely not even Sky can ruin that!
Even on London trips for work, the journey has got a buzz. On the stride down the platform (it’s not simply a ‘walk’ that’s for sure) to the pre-concourse ramp, I can easily drift off like Walter Mitty to a previous visit for a match. The hungry commuters bedecked in formal attire become a plethora of lads in winter coats and Dassler (football’s better in winter right?). The only exception to this is if I’m firmly focused on a secretarial type business woman in knee length boots and short-ish skirt, which is understandable.
The train forms a third of the key elements of the match ritual. Along with the ale and your mates you have the perfect attacking triumvirate, but unlike the faux loyalty that a Premiership contract offers, none of these will be available for a transfer anytime soon.
This article was written by Duts @theunitedway78 and first appeared in Stoke City magazine – Duck; @Duckmagstoke
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