A few reflections at a few football grounds (10 grounds in 3 days)

20 Apr

Last week, out of sheer boredom more than anything else, and perhaps having been inspired by a facebook group I’ve recently joined about football grounds, I thought I’d go on a little tour of a few grounds. This also gave me a good excuse to visit the ex girlfriend, and also, with restrictions being lifted earlier in England, I would be able to sit outside a pub and have a pint. Perhaps the mission was also an exercise in demonstrating my personal freedom of movement.

First stop was just down the road Newport. With the front being used for Corona testing, I found a suitable spot round the back. A few people did walk past, and I found myself erming quite a bit, but I didn’t bother to do another take, considering the one take to be just about good enough, and headed off for Bristol.

First thing I did in Bristol was in fact to visit the Rough Trade record shop. I’ve applied for the job of in-store events manager, and thought I’d show my face. They have had over 400 applicants though, so the chances of me getting the job are pretty slim. I then visited both Bristol Rovers and Bristol City. Bristol Rovers was possibly the most fun ground to visit of all of them as I spoke to a few people, including one guy who I suspect from the things he was saying was a Jack.

From Bristol, it was quite a long drive down to Exeter where I met my friend Tim. Short little journey on to Torquay. It was easy enough getting about with a sat nav, and of course plenty of CDs to listen to on the way. However, maybe I hadn’t checked in advance, but it was in fact then still another two hour journey on to my final stop where I would be staying in the spare room of my ex, who lives in Poole. At least I got to have a drink when I got there, and Christina also kindly had bought various Chinese dishes from nearby Asda for herself, boyfriend Tom, friend Anthony who is also staying at the moment, and me to tuck into.

The following day, I first of all made the shortish trek down to Portsmouth. An approximately fifteen mile stretch with an average speed limit of 50mph did prolong the journey.

I’d originally hoped I might get to meet up with an old Uni mate, Toby, who still lives in Portsmouth, but he was tied up with work.

Wasn’t really sure where to stand at the Portsmouth ground, but eventually elected for the front entrance. There is housing very nearby, and one or two people did pass by, but I avoided speaking with anyone here.

On to neighbouring Southampton. Again, I could have filmed at the front, which would have made a more impressive backdrop, but ended up going near to the away supporters’ entrance. Walking back to the car, I spoke to a couple of drivers of some minibuses. I wondered if they were driving players, but they said something about the buses being used for educational purposes.

Back to Poole. We were thinking of going for a drink in either Bournemouth or Poole, so I thought I could have filmed at these locations on our way to the pub, but as Christina and Anthony weren’t ready, Tom obliged in accompanying me down to the Bournemouth ground, and then to Poole’s ground, where I sourced some info from Wikipedia to speak about. I had not even checked how Poole had got on in the last season, which I should have done really as in that case I’d have mentioned that they were unbeaten after seven games and top of their league before Corona meant the league was abandoned, so I expect the few loyal Poole supporters, and the team itself can’t have been very happy about that. Although not certain Poole would have been entitled to be promoted as in a previous season when they topped the league, they were not allowed to go up due to the ground’s capacity being insufficiently big.

That evening, we found a nice enough little pub with a fairly busy beer garden. We met quite a nice woman called Aniska who was keen to talk to Tom, and particularly Christina about their music taste. It’s only since Christina has started going out with Tom that she’s been converted to industrial metal music, and like Tom, wears black a lot. So this woman, Aniska wanted to ask her all about her music taste, but I don’t think Christina really wanted to talk to her too much. Aniska was possibly slightly drunk. But anyway, they did end up swapping numbers.

Back at Chris and Tom’s, we stayed up quite late that night. Was quite good fun. Christina had actually acquired some Corona home testing kits so we all did them for no apparent reason. We were all negative, hurray! Other than that, we listened to a variety of music, tending towards tech-house before I retired to bed, leaving the other three still up chatting.

Despite a late night, I was up, showered, and packed by about 2.30pm, and headed off for my final destination, Reading, with just the one intended ground to visit this time, this being the place Cardiff were actually playing that evening.

I got to the ground by about 5pm. There were a couple of coaches outside, and some staff nearby. They said the players had already gone in, and fortunately were then not too bothered about me doing another little video. I again chose to stand by the away fans’ entrance.

I asked them about pubs for away fans nearby. I was reminded of The Bull in Theale and was fairly sure I’d been there before, so I set off there for a pint and to watch the game.

They were still being a bit funny about restrictions, still insisting on using the absurd track and trace nonsense. You also really needed to have booked a table, but because there were a couple of free tables which weren’t booked until about 6pm, with it now being around 5.40, I assured one of the staff that I could happily consume a pint in twenty minutes, and he brought me a pint of Guinness.

I had thought there might be some pubs actually showing the game itself, especially with it being on Sky, but of course, we weren’t allowed to patronise the indoor area, so it would have meant a pub having the ability to broadcast outside. The Bull not having this facility, I went back to my car to watch the game on my phone there.

Because it was on Sky, you couldn’t watch the game via the Cardiff City website. I fiddled around trying to find a free stream for a while, before eventually electing to pay £10 to watch it on Now TV, the same price that the Cardiff site charges if I ever go for that option.

Not a classic game, although a shame we didn’t win after Moore’s 86th minute penalty was cancelled out by an injury time goal for Reading. A draw for us meant it is now completely beyond any realms of possibility that we can make the play-offs – a shame cos it looked on the cards for a while during our superb run when McCarthy first took charge. A draw for Reading also means the play-offs will be a tall order for them.

Christina suggested I should take a gander at a pub in Reading called The Purple Turtle, which was a favourite of mine in my student days (though it’s moved since then), and one I’d recommended to her one time she happened to be in Reading.

Reading at night

So I drove there, parked nearby, only to find that all the tables at the outdoor seating area were booked. I continued to wander through the town, heading towards the very attractive quite recently done up area by the river. All the bars and restaurants were all very busy, which was nice to see. I didn’t especially feel like just sitting at a table alone though, so I headed back to the car.

At least I did buy a nice steak and egg roll from a street vendor. It really was absolutely delicious, with extra ham, cheese, salad and sauce, and I was really glad I didn’t go for the lazy option of a McDonald’s.

Well, that was my little trip over. I had contemplated spending the weekend in London and visiting a few more grounds before the Brentford v Cardiff match the following Tuesday, but I decided that would be a little bit too much, and off I headed home again. Had been a nice few days, and driving home in the late evening did afford me the chance to listen to Pete Tong for the whole journey.

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