Thursday 8 February 2018

We Love You Iceland We Do - Merthyr Town FC Vs Weymouth FC, Evo-Stik Southern League Premier, Penydarren Park (03/02/18)

It’s 08:45, I’ve been up since 07:00 and I’m sitting in the car park of a desolate retail park, waiting for Tom to arrive. For once I have someone else to blame other than myself, for not being in bed still or being at home having breakfast with my family like the Walton's, instead of being half awake and eating some pineapple out of a carrier bag. 

I will normally happily hold my hands up and take full responsibility for why I’m up so early and why I’m heading off to another corner of the non league world, but today is a little different. I can firmly place the blame at the door of two very persistent Welshmen, as to why I’m waiting for Tom contemplating the three hundred and fifty two mile round drive ahead of me.

When Tom eventually turns up, he doesn't look totally sure he’s opened the door of the right car. It’s raining and he couldn't make out if it was me inside, so decided on a bit of car door Russian Roulette, which in this particular corner of North London could have had a regrettable outcome. He is relieved to say the least, that it is me smiling back at him, all chirpy and raring to go. Handing him a cup of tea in one of those Thermos’s you see organised people on the tube with in the morning.

West, west, west, we just keep going west. Tom enjoys his tea, not talking much, only to ensure that I brought my copy of FIFA 18 for him to borrow, Tom is not a morning person. His to the point four word message to me first thing about it, came before any hellos or how are yous.

I’m not sure how long we’ve been on the road when I turn to Radio 4 for company. It's not that the conversation has dried up, but that Tom is easing into the day in his own special way, occasionally tinkering on his phone, messaging his beloved or at one point I think playing some kind of golf game, but still not talking much.

It’s only recently that I became a regular listener to what is perhaps the most highfalutin of all the radio channels. Frequent long drives up to Manchester around Christmas meant I had to expand my entertainment options, the same CD’s I have getting pretty old, pretty quickly.

Bizarrely it was the Archers, something my Dad listened to, that hooked me. I don't know why an inner city boy from West London had any interest in the goings on in Ambridge, but the theme tune is one I remember growing up, listening to it on long journeys with him, so it feels kind of familiar and nostalgic, so I got quite into it, but I digress.

There are no arguments about Tumble Tussocks cider on this morning, but a show we listened to on our recent trip to Margate, The Kitchen Cabinet. The premise being a panel set in front of an audience, discussing food. However it’s not what you might call normal food, everyday sensible people food, but Radio 4 food.

Ever heard of a Bath Oliver or a Bath Chap? No me neither, not before today anyway. The first I now understand is a kind of cracker, the second a braised pig cheek. You see what I mean, not the kind of thing anyone is having after a day at work, unless your day at work consists of being one of the landed gentry.

The last straw is the woman in the audience, a teacher no less, asking if Jammy Dodgers are the scariest of biscuits. It’s at this point I hurriedly turn off the radio and decide I’d rather sit in silence. All the talk of food mind, has roused Tom and sparks a very apt conversation.

“I love Welsh Rarebit” he proclaims. Welsh Rarebit by all accounts is a lot more than just a bit of mild cheddar on a slice of bread, it includes mustard and all sorts. I admit I don't really even like cheese on toast, despite his Mum always giving it to us when I used to crash on his spare bed, in our more hedonistic days.

“Don't think we can be friends” he says, when I admit to what you would think was some awful crime. It’s just all too salty and rank. Give me a baked Camembert, four different cheeses on a pizza, soft and runny. But thick wedges of cheddar on toast, I’ll pass thanks.

Time for a pit stop, Tom needs the loo and I need a tissue stop for my runny nose. Tom takes the opportunity to “get some snacks”, returning with two bags of Hula Hoops, “I wasn't sure about beef” he tells me, and a pack of any road trips staple, Peanut M and M’s. The presence of a drive through Starbucks means I don't even have to get out of the car to top up my caffeine levels, and we continue along the road like a right couple of Jack Kerouac's.

For maybe the first time ever, the weather is improving, instead of worsening as we head close to our final destination. The whopping great Severn Bridge is our gateway to our first ever international non league match. The large red dragon perched on the roadside sign, officially declares “Croeso I Gymru”.

Other than the edition of another language on every sign, it doesn't feel like we're in another country. We’re still driving on the same side of the road. There is a definite improvement in the scenery, but I guess it won't really feel like we’ve ‘gone abroad’, until we see what kind of crazy flavoured crisps they sell.

The slight bit of traffic around Cardiff, people making their way to the rugby, means that by the time we are climbing the narrow winding street leading to today's ground, catching our first glimpse of Merthyr Town FC’s (MT) home Penydarren Park, which on first impressions is a lot more modern than I had anticipated, pay our £2 and find a space to park, we’ve been in the car dead on four hours.

Arriving just after us, the coach carrying Weymouth FC (WFC) must have struggled along the single file road here. Hopefully with the handbrake fully on, its quite the incline, we are effectively perched on top of a hill overlooking the town. The away teams kit is unpacked from the coach, along with the drum of one of the travelling fans.

It’s normally pretty clear not long after arrival, what kind of club the one we are visiting is going to be like. A friendly club, a not too friendly club, a music off all turn round and stare when we walk in the clubhouse kind of club. MT quite quickly earns the rarest and highest accolade we can bestow upon one that only a very few of the clubs we have visited have earn.

In a black t-shirt and ageing MT scarf around his neck, Phil, one of MT’s board members, who came to his first game in “1958”, is soon showing us around the most modern part of his teams home. One bar is closed today, rented out for a function, a wedding reception for one of their own players.

Beyond the glass, stainless steel and beige fire doors, there are little hints as to what a special club MT is, and what a rich history it has. One wall is covered in white ceramic bricks, each with a name of one of the clubs owners. Since their rebirth in 2010, their original incarnation going bust after over 100 years, MT have been fan owned.

Next to the new is the old and an insight into the depth of MT’s illustrious past, a few mementos from their foray into European football. A framed Atalanta shirt, programme and poster hang on the wall, from MT’s game against them in the the Cup Winners Cup, which they celebrated the “30 year anniversary” last year Phil tells us.

Carrying on past various offices, among all the fixtures and fittings which make it look a bit more like a new office block than a football club, is a Lego model of the ground and opposite and grandest of all, is the clubs award from UEFA no less, winner in the Best Club category in the 2015 UEFA Grassroots Awards.

“A draw would suit me” says Phil, when I ask him how he thinks MT will get on today. With the recent financial issues that reared their head in November, that have hit the club hard, causing a sizable exodus of players, it means the team is in a state of flux to say the least and results have been hard to come by as of late.

Talking to another member of staff, he tells us the Wales game in Cardiff, will affect the gate today, by at least “50/60” this despite him telling us “Merthyr is a football town. Football through and through”. With money needed even more than ever at the moment, the fact that MT are playing at home for “three” of Wales “five” Six Nations games, is really something they could do without.

Phil is spending the day in a corporate box, a treat from a friend, so he heads off to eat some prawn sandwiches, leaving us to it. We’re not alone for long however, its like some kind of relay, us being the baton, which is soon picked up by someone else equally welcoming. Mark and Mike the creator and editor of MT's fanzine Dial M For Merthyr.

Mark who must be pushing 6’4. His imposing stature and a wildlings red beard, making him a
fine example of someone who should not be judged by his cover, is warm and loquacious. He's more than happy to dive straight into a chat about the goings on at the club he has supported since “1974”, when his Dad dragged him along for a game, who he was “fucking pissed off with” because it was so “fucking cold”. Reminiscing about the weather, he tells us today, overcast but fine, “is a good day” in these parts.

Mike with his black hat pulled down almost over his eyes, a fan for “40 years” calculating that makes him stop for a second to process the fact it’s been so long. “Fucking hell” he says to himself, puffing out his cheeks. He talks at about million miles an hour, and like Mark is overflowing with passion.

Penydarren Park is a bit of a dichotomy. The contemporary frontage and functions rooms, sit side by side with uncovered concrete terraces and along the whole side of one side of the pitch an almost agricultural looking shed with a steep bank of wide long steps.

The pitch a 3G one only adds to that conflict, but it's been a Godsend according to Mark and Mike. One thing MT certainly can't afford at the moment is games being postponed, a “thousands pounds down the drain easy” says Mike when that happens. So at least the 3G gives them the security of knowing that games are going to go ahead.

What is abundantly clear, is both of them are not going to go down quietly, some might have seen what happened in November as the beginning of the end, these two I think just see it as a hurdle, one that can occur when the focus of the people in charge is off. As Mike puts it, it's not going to be the “ten of twelve” in the boardroom that are going to fix their problems. It's going to be the “four hundred’ people he says pointing to the terrace, the fans who can turn things around.

They've had bucket collections at “Cardiff and Swansea” on match days, they had a “Burns night” recently where they “toasted” the “haggis”, there's a Motown night booked in the bar coming up, anything they can do to bring that money in, as Mike points out, it’s about “reinventing” themselves, to make sure they can stay afloat. Most damning of all perhaps is the fact that the people in charge have “lost the support of the people” and that needs to change fast.

Although we’ve never met, only spoken via Twitter, and his selfie of a Twitter avatar is not the clearest. I having a feeling I know exactly who the person walking towards me is, with a broad smile, his MT shirt poking out from beneath his jumper and his arms full of folded flags. Kieran is 50% of the reason we’re here. “Most random place, up on the hill”, he says, his way of confirming we got here OK. However he’s not around for long, he's an arm full of flags to hang.

It's Scottish football on BT playing in the bar, not Sky Sports early afternoon offering, they had to ditch the Sky package, cost cutting. Kieran has finished with the flags and joins us at our table. He as most have been so far is forthcoming and matter-of-fact about MT’s chances “2/3 Weymouth” he thinks. Certainly a defeat whatever the score, he’s “resigned to that” he tells me, admitting in almost hushed tones, ‘’it's getting depressing”.

In the space of about five minutes the level on the nice'o'meter is nearly through the roof, in fact we might need a whole new way of how to measure just how nice people are, as the old way is just not sufficient. Tom is offered as am I but decline only because I’m driving some local whisky, the bottle plonked in front of him and he's told he can help himself. Not sure how much to take Mark tells him if it touches the “rim of the glass” there might be problems, other than that pour away.

Tom’s necking neat whisky, I’ve just had a football scratchcard thrust into my hand, I’ve handed over my £2 to the lady in the woolly hat and Hi Viz jacket as I scribble my name next to Tottenham, Tom tells me I should have gone for “Wolves”, the team who won me the cash at Taunton, but they’re not on there, don't you think I would have if they were. I put his name next to Ajax because of the lack of Arsenal.

It’s as if they knew we were coming. I’ve almost dropped £7 now, taking into account the two 50/50 tickets I got with my program, but how could I resist the two young ladies selling the raffle tickets. I’m not even sure what the prize is, one of the duo is holding up a home made poster with the details on, but I don’t read it, I just tell myself it's all going towards a good cause and hand over my cash.

Kieran knew full well one of the ways to get us here, was to tell us about the food, knowing Tom is happy to travel when what's on offer to eat is good. “Please try the cob and chips” he implores, Tom I’m not sure aware of what a cob is and I having lived with a Northerner for ten years translate for him, a cob being a bread roll. Kieran goes on to explain that they hollow it out and fill it with chips and cover it in curry sauce, it's a good thing Tom is sitting down.

“What else you do?” enquires Tom. “Ice cream” replies Kieran, “bit cold for that” says Tom half laughing, “not in Wales” replies a deadpan Kieran.

Being the exemplary host he is, and wanting to make sure I’ve covered all the betting bases today, Kieran asks if I’ve got my 50/50 tickets yet, I tell him I have. He takes a sharp intake of breath. “Don't buy them first thing” he explains, bit late now, “wait until 2-2:30pm” to get them he explained. He reckons you have a better chance of winning, if you get them then, FUCK.

Seemingly out of the running with the 50/50, and I think in an attempt to lift my spirits, he does the scratchcard in front of us, it's neither Tottenham or Ajax, but bloody “Manchester United” he announces.

I need to clear my head, and by the looks of it so does Tom. “Fucking whisky” he blurts out, once free of the free pouring clubhouse, the straight shot on an empty stomach may have been an error.

Having spotted a few people in the very stylish grey MT bobble hat, with the club's badge on it, a demure looking lady with a cowl on, pulling a bit of a Princes Diana Taj Mahal face, Tom is disappointed to find out the small club shop has sold out.

After filling us in on the mascot situation here at MT. That it used to be “shaggy the sheep” who the FA told them to get rid of and now its a very common animal in the Brecon Beacons a “zebra” after a competition in the local schools, “at least its black and white” comments a confused Tom. Kieran on finding out on Toms bad luck in the shop, offers to send Tom one he has at home. Does his generosity know no bounds, we only met him an hour ago.

Tom is not downhearted for long, how could he be with the distraction of the most incredible smell of food wafting around. It’s been there since we arrived, both of us like bloodhounds trying to work out where it’s coming from. Some people whose disappointment cannot be quelled by the mouthwatering aroma, are the couple looking for a seat in the main stand, who can't believe the rugby is being played over the PA. Having just missed a rousing rendition of the Welsh national anthem, they are gutted to hear the commentary begin, “oh no we’re recording it”.

“Think they’re going to play that during the whole game?” asks Tom, as the roar of the kick off from the Principality Stadium stadium reverberates around the ground. The egg chasing though is soon replaced by some grade A Dad music, which hopefully will mean the couples programming of their Sky+ box was not in vain.

Black Knight by Deep Purple, is followed by Sweet Child In Time by the same band. When all nine
minutes of that has played out and with the players ready to walkout, it's left to Thin Lizzy to welcome the teams onto the pitch.

On the opposite side to the black tunnel the players walk along, the decent turn out of WFC fans are stringing up their flags, whilst a silver dish is presented to one MT player for having recently scored his one hundred and fiftieth goal for the club. Instead of joining in with Phil Lynott and the Dublin six piece in their wisdom they have started belting out a rendition of God Save The Queen, and not the Sex Pistols version.

There is a minutes silence that’s well observed, people pay their respects to an old MT physio who had recently died. The silence is broken by the whistle of the ref and then the shouts of the home fans around me in the main stand, “come on Merthyr”.

One young MT supporter in his wellies and red Stone Island coats day doesn't get off to the ideal start, when he trips following his Dad, spilling his tray of chips. The two St Johns ambulance women he fell in front of are not exactly forthcoming offering their help, they are too busy chowing down on their sausage rolls.

With the game underway, the WFC fans are the first to start chanting, spelling out their name to the rhythm of the drum that we saw being unloaded from the coach. The home fans, just along from the visitors in the large covered terrace, reply with an airhorn. Starting the precedent of a near constant back and forth between both sets of fans for the whole afternoon, their off field antics almost render the match inconsequential. Which is no bad thing if you’re an MT fan, because its very obvious, from very early on, it's going to be a tough day for them.

The WFC supporters are certainly the noisier in the opening quarter of an hour, which is cagey, with little to no action. “We’re from sunny, sunny Weymouth” they sing, one fan is so happy that this is the case he is whirling his scarf above his head and doesn't stop, such is his ardour, when the song changes “claret and blue army”.

As I said anything of interest is going on in the stands, to our right the MT fans stand behind their own flags, their drum fastened to the railing, “come on Merthyr, come on Merthyr”. The visitors reply, telling us all they are “on their way” not to the National League or the Football League, but very modestly and sensibly, not wanting to get their hopes up, to the “play offs”.

The young girls selling the raffle tickets, are still doing so, but are struggling to get the attention of the MT fans singing along to the drum, so stand looking on patiently, waiting for a break to see if anyone else will by a ticket.

There are seemingly two custodians of the drum, Kieran and Wesley in his dark blue baseball cap, the other reason we are here today. When he gives me a knowing nod of acknowledgement, it's like the one people at my school used to give each other in the hallway, far to cool to trouble himself with a hello.

We’re all about constant singing, constant support regardless of what's going on on the pitch, and today both sets of fans are exemplary examples of this. With half an hour gone, the closest we've come to a chance is MT flashing a header wide. In the stands though, it's quite the opposite. WFC fans although loud are showing perhaps they don't have the most diverse of song books, nothing as eclectic as the Spice Girls or Mario theme song like at Clapton here, but just “we’re on our way” over and over.

We had been warned they only have “one song”, the same song they have been singing non stop for about about the last fifteen minutes.

MT’s fans are a little more diverse with their song choices, “I just can't get enough” and they have the horn too which mixes it up a bit. Watching on as two goal bound WFC shots are blocked nigh on on the line, the fans heads don't drop, if anything it motivates them to sing louder, “come on Merthyr, come on Merthyr”.

Edging closer to half time, the smell of curry sauce is verging on overwhelming, which I’m thankful
for, Tom stinks of booze. He ponders if he can “have a sausage in his cob?” because a hollowed out bread roll filled with chips isn't enough. On the pitch, the home team are growing into the game, but just don't look like they’re going at the same speed of the much snappier looking WFC side.

It was coming, it always felt like it was coming, so it's no great shock when WFC take the lead, with just over ten minutes of the half left.

“Fuck off” shouts one MT fan towards the now bouncing WFC ones, who are understandably cheerful. Once they’ve told their team that they love them “we do”, they decide that post goal is as good a time as any to let us all know their thoughts on the town of Dorchester, “wank, wank, wank”.

The response from the home fans towards their players is not to boo, tut or gripe. They don't turn on them or all become little Mark Lawrenson's, sour and miserable, it’s quite the antithesis of that. It’s all very new age, in the best possible sense, positivity is the key and is the only way they are going to overcome the slump. Conceding the goal just prompts them to sing louder, not shrivel up and moan, “come on Merthyr, come on Merthyr”

There does though seem to be a few definite cases of comfort eating among the MT fans, I know it when I see it. There isn't one of them that isn't tucking into something, all this gluttony makes Tom’s mind up for him, no cob, its “sausage chips and gravy” for him.

A goal up, and watching a shot from one of their players almost decapitate an MT fan in the stand behind the goal, the WFC supporters declare it's time to go “fucking mental”, but their arranged mental-ness is not for long, and they are soon singing about “how they do love to be beside the seaside.

I suppose it had to happen at some point, I kind of wish they'd just kept with repeating “we’re on our way”, but I was sure we were going to hear one ovine related chant before we left. “Sheep shagging bastards”, sing the WFC fans, which is neither very imaginative or particularly shocking. Quite tame in the vast gambit of football chants, it's just a bit passe. The response though from one MT fan is priceless, “jealous” he shouts back. Before the whole group do a half turn, raising their arms above their heads they all sing back, "we know what we are”.

I’m happy to report that MT have a shot on target with five minutes left to play.

Just before the whistle, one WFC fan gets very animated, verging on the hysterical, berating one MT player for a poor cross or something equally inconsequential, “you should be ashamed” he yells with a strained high pitch voice. One MT supporter next to us, sums up the feet firmly on the ground, and level headed attitude of the home fans we’ve met so far, “ohhhhh calm down, its only football”.

The voice over the PA confirms the score, and the fact I haven't won the 50/50, when he reads out the result. Kieran, who knows just how invested I am in such things, thinks he’s helping when with a grin, he lets out a playful ‘booo’, but really I would rather suffer in silence and work through this on my own thanks, some sensitivity would be appreciated.

Tom returns with his grub, no cob, they had “sold out”. Not wanting to offend our hosts, Tom thinks he has been the victim of discrimination, “racism” even, he was sure everyone else in the line before him got two sausages, but he only got one down to the fact of being English. Not wanting to cause an international incident. I tell him to keep quiet and concentrate on not spilling what looks like about a pint and a half of gravy his food is swimming in, all over himself.

I’m interested to know what Kieran and Wesley make of all the Margaret Thatcher, national anthem, sheep shagger stuff, does any of it cross that fine line between banter and just being inflammatory, I guess some might even say racist, and proper racism, not sausage racism like Tom thinks he encountered.

They both just laugh it off, each with a look of ‘you don't have to be offended for us’ on their faces. “We’re a Welsh club in the English pyramid” explains Kieran “what do you expect”.

‘’Let's make some noise” says the announcer like an operator on the waltzers as the team's return. He also makes sure the salt is fully rubbed in the wound when he confirms my hattrick of failure, when he reads out the raffle ticket numbers.

For the homeside the second half is much like the first, a struggle. They do have an early freekick in a good position but its a limp attempt, on target but limp. They also send a header wide once more, which gets an “ohh” from the fans. However unlike the start of the first half, there is none of the noise and fervour, its very “subdued” as Tom puts it, and I think I know why.

Carbs or carbohydrates, are to blame I’m sure. If you fill everyone up with half a loaf of bread each or a mountain of chips, then you can't be surprised that everyone is a little sluggish. It’s therefore at least a full ten minutes in, when the away fans break the silence, “oh Weymouth” they sing. One of them bleats in our general direction, but has forgotten that the MT supporters are going to give as good as they get, and get a wall of “we know what we are”, once more.

2 - 0, sixty five minuets gone, game effectively over. The visiting fans have fully woken up now, “Weymouth” they reply to the der, der, der of the drum and again they sing of being “on their way”.

The mood around us certainly doesn't dip, in fact if anything its lifted by watching their team almost grab a goal back straight away, “ohhh” they all cry as one, before singing the loudest they maybe have all day, “Merthyr, Merthyr, Merthyr”.

They also make sure the WFC fans don't get a big head, pointing out they are “nothing special” because they “lose every week” and showing off some of that trademark never say die philosophy, their response to the latest WFC goal is simple, “we're gonna win 3 - 2”.

Their next song I can't quite make out, but there is a line about “finding a rat” after “looking in a bin for something to eat” and the person who found it thinking its a “treat”. We’ve been to a lot of football, and I've never heard that before, it must be a Welsh thing.

With just over seven minutes of the game left, I’m happy to report MT did something, they had a shot that forced the WU keeper into a save.

Into the final five minutes of normal time and age old rivalries boil over as the back and forth intensifies. The MT fans bluntly explain that “they always shit on the English side of the bridge” which is lovely and referencing the troubles at the recent Euros, start singing about “England running from Russia”. This gets a chorus of “England, England” back at them, which in turn gets a few lines of “we love you Iceland we do”. This final dig at our frankly embarrassing national team calls for only one thing, the second rendition of the the day of God Save The Queen, and again not the Sex Pistols version.

3 - 0, eighty five minutes gone. “Can we play you every week?” ask the WFC fans. Who certainly have committed fully to going “fucking mental” this time, as a small mosh pit has broken out in their
corner of the ground.

In extra time MT go the closest they have all day, when a free kick is hit low and straight, and comes back off the post, what you might call a daisy cutter. The shout of “second ball boys” just before it was taken really should have been taken notice of, because the rebound was primed for a tap in, but no one gambled, much to the annoyance of one fan, “second ball and no one there!”

“Weymouth till I die” sing the ever increasing rowdy away fans. As loud as they are being, they fail to drown out the fact that the announcer has confirmed that the 50/50 has been “claimed” and any hope that a mistake was made, that I had in fact won and mine were the winning tickets is kiboshed.

“It's just too easy” grumbles an MT fan, as WFC look to add to their lead in the dying seconds, one player skipping past the statuesque MT defenders and almost finishing his excellent run with a toe poke finish, but it goes just wide.

The voice over the PA wishes the travelling WFC fans a “safe trip” home, just after the final whistle. The WFC players and staff make sure to applaud the fans, who although some of their topics to sing about were slightly questionable, they really have been quite the force today. One coach, so delighted by the three points, does a small jig in celebration, punching the sky as he does so.

“Told you it would be 3 - 0” says a still smiling Kieran. He’s a rare breed among football fans, one who is still able to be chipper, when he's just watched his team lose by three. Although I’m not as bad as I used to be, I’m generally a bit of a grump in the hours following a Spurs loss. As he reminds me again, there is a certain amount of being prepared for the defeat, it's the “usual thing now”, but he doesn't let that get him down, “we go again”.

Mark also makes sure we had a “good day” when we see him in the the bar afterwards, “apart from the score” of course. He sings the praises of both the home fans who “kept the noise up” and that of the WFC fans, who he is very complimentary about.

As we prepare to leave, a montage of Arsenals recent fuck ups play out on the big screen, and Kieran is counting today's donations made in support of a small group of MT’s fans who are climbing the Pen-Y-Fan the highest peak in south Wales, one of their many fundraising activities. With a hefty amount of cash in his hands, I ask him when they are doing it, Wesley one of the climbers is standing just being him with a pint his hand, “tomorrow” he tells me, fucking hell.

Mark is the penultimate well wisher, making sure we enjoyed ourselves, he's minus his hat now and is wearing a very fetching Juventus shirt, few better things in football than black and white stripes.

It seems fitting Phil is the last person we see, as he was the first. Down in the bar from his corporate experience, he echoes the sentiments of everyone else. A “shit result”  of course but first and foremost making sure we know that we are “always welcome”.

I'm not sure I have any words left to describe just how friendly everyone was today, we didn't meet a single person who didn't smile back or didn't want to ensure we were having a good time. I can only hope that the fine efforts of Mike, Mark, Wesley, Phil and Kieran, and everyone else is enough to to keep MT afloat.

If the football Gods are listening, I haven't been to confession recently, so I might not be the best person to ask, but please, please, please let MT be OK, the world would be a poorer place without them. We don't want Mike or anyone else to have to "bankrupt" themselves to make sure they are, he admits as many others would, they're "stupid enough" to do so, and that's the beauty of the place.


For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE 

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