You know when you do something without thinking? At the time it makes sense and it’s only afterwards you realised you messed up.
When I am not travelling up and down the country in the name of the good old claret and blue, I enable others to do it. (Enable them to travel, not follow West Ham). My life as business travel consultant is tiring and stressful but overwhelming rewarding, a bit like following West Ham really. A perk is hotels like us to stay with them, mainly so we can sell from experience rather than theoretically. One such hotel agreed I could stay with them for cheap, during a weekend in their low season. Brilliant. So after a lot of toing and throwing, the last weekend in March was agreed. Perfect no five am start for the Chelsea game.
It wasn’t until weeks after I had a sinking feeling that I had messed up somewhere and sure enough I had. Because as any child between the ages of 2-9 could tell you, thanks to the enforced craft making they had to endure, that weekend was Mother’s Day.
Cue the extensive grovelling I was about to do. I had a whole speech planned how we would do a make up weekend the following weekend ( international break, i.e no football mamma raised no fool 😉).
Turns out the grovelling wasn’t needed as my mother was very understanding and agreed to the make up weekend, in fairness she created this monster so she didn’t have much of a leg to stand on.
With that I set about finding a friend to buy my ticket. Not because I was hard up but because I refuse to give Chelsea my money. Yes I am that petty, I was however not having much luck.
Crick thought I was being ridiculous and refused. Ed thought it was funny and refused even though he was buying some anyway and is a season ticket holder because he still hasn’t forgiven me for Yeovil. My mother also said if I truly wanted to go I would give them my money.
I found salvation in my non football loving bestie Fisch who agreed to do.
’ I will buy you a pint if you do’
’yeah no problem’
’ I can’t buy it beforehand as that’s still giving Chelsea my money.’ Cue the eye roll but she still did it.
Saturday was a leisurely day, exploring two of the Royal parks, Brunch with Crick and watching the West Ham men ( though I wish I hadn’t bothered with that one) had led to a day well spent.
I had worked out on my trip back from Everton this trip would be my 5000 mile travelled supporting the team, well this is as the crow flies. I have to go into and out of some randomass places to get these grounds. 5000 miles and my betting about 4500 of those were via the M6. However 5000 miles shows some dedication if I do say so myself.
Well so did my club who showed me some love back.
Worth missing mothers day for. I would say so (sorry mum). I have on the other hand realised I have become like one of Man City friends who missed his own sister’s wedding because there was a match. He didn’t want to break his streak of never missing a game,I get it. However I hereby promise not to do that, mainly because I am an only child and have no siblings whose weddings I could miss. (my proof reader has advised I should not miss his future wedding, though odds on him ever getting married are very low. He wrote this, I am not being mean. As he is a football fan, I doubt it would be in season anyway).
After some last-minute London exclusive present shopping for my long-suffering mother (no sarcastic shop assistant , I did not forget it was Mothers Day). I was on my way to Kingsmeadow.
This was the second time this season I had been to Kingsmeadow after my jolly boys outing for the opening game of the season with Man City. I am hoping for something a little more thrilling then the 0-0 we had back in August.
(Though that was the game where Crick both loved me and then disowned me INSERT LINK TO THE RIGHT BLOG. )
Whilst on the bus from Surbiton and yes I did go via that station because of the Good Life I had a very uplifting moment. A young lad sat with his dad watching football on what I am assuming was his dad’s phone, looked like Arsenal. Paying no mind I went back to editing a previous blog.
’Birmingham have to beat Arsenal dad’
My head shoots up, that’s the early kick-off in the Women’s game. Right on little dude! Birmingham indeed did need to beat Arsenal ( Spoiler they did not).
Off the bus and walking down to the ground I pass the place of my baptism, for it was here that I was christened by my Man City family.
Let me tell you a story of yore. On one winters night, in a cold January, Manchester City did taken on Chelsea in the league. The brave heroes had battled fearlessly through London traffic whilst our navigator was indisposed ( I.E Dazzler was glued to his phone) Arriving early we fearsome travellers went on the hunt for food. In our midst we see a chippy, a proper southern chippy.
I divulge this information to my fellow wanderers (city wanders, not Wolves fans) that we had found the holy grail of food.
Haguey ’how you figure that.’
Me ’ it’s got saveloys in it’ ( not I would eat one dear reader. I have been veggie for 13 years)
And thus a nickname was born. It has since been shortened to Sav or Savlar however it is a moniker I wear proudly.
Kingsmeadow had decided to do a family fun day before the game which I caught the end of. Ah shame maybe I should of actually brought my mother.
Part of the entertainment was a Q&A with players past and present, I recognised Katie Chapman and Fran Kirby and a third unknown player (well unknown to me).
As they finished they all were taking selfies with the crowd.
One young Chelsea fan looked most upset that Fran was here and not on the pitch.
’ Are you not playing Fran’
’ No not today, sorry I am injured’
Ever the cheeky Cockney I joked back.
’As a West Ham fan, Can’t say I am sorry about that’
Luckily Fran has a good sense of humour and laughed. Slapped me on the back and told me could at least support her in the England squad.
I now go to take my seat, surrounded by Chelsea fans. As I make my way down I see Tess Middag standing by the tunnel, I take this chance to talk to our Dutch superstar. We spoke about her rehab when she was most likely to be back, and how she likes East London.
’A bit different from Manchester City eh’
She laughed ’ Claret is more my colour no’ nice diplomatic answer there Tess.
We also talked about my travels and Tess seemed very excited that I was the girl the club tweeted about.
’ Where are the West Ham fans. You need to bring a bigger group.’ its good question Tess and I am trying.
We were also joined briefly by Julia Simic who seemed confused why I would be up at half 5 before most games.
’ Do you get nervous, is that it ’ Tess and I laugh before explaining what my commute normally is.
I take my seat the lone claret voice in a sea of West London voices.
Out the gate Chelsea were pushing. They needed the win in order to keep the pressure on Manchester City for European football next year. Beth England and Maren Mjelde both having very clear cut chances within the first 20 minutes, both chances denied by fine keeping from Moorehouse. West Ham did have some of the ball and looked to make a few chances, Chelsea however were definitely running this game. Their break came just before half time, in the 39th minute. Moorehouse had done well to deny England with a save with her feet after a hard low shot, the rebound bounced up and with a stunning header at close range England beat the diving Moorehouse.
1-0 to the girls in Blue.
Just before half time, Ramona Bachman shoved over Leanne Kiernan in an attempt to get the ball. She got a stern talking to from the ref for her trouble.
One of the dads next to me laughed ’ nothing wrong with that challenge.’
I glared at him ’ just because her missus plays for us, doesn’t mean she can do what she wants’ he laughs again.
The first half ends 1-0.
Half time I take a moment to actually look at my surroundings. I am completely fenced in by Chelsea fans. Like the only claret and blue I can see is over behind the tunnel where our injured players are sat. This could get interesting.
I also noticed there were lots of children around me I could antagonize. This could definitely get interesting.
In the second half Chelsea seemed to take their foot off the gas peddle, a little sloppy in midfield which we could take advantage of. Matt the coach had also put on a bit of firepower with by bringing on Kate Longhurst and Raff. With a little more control of the ball we looked more comfortable and crated an early chance, Jane Ross tore up the field only to have her shot pushed away by England ‘Keeper Carly Telford. The save resulted in a corner for the Hammers. Although cleared by the Chelsea back line the ball only fell as far the left flank and quickly gathered by Leanne Kiernan, a pinpoint cross allowed Gilly Flaherty to rise above her old teammates and smash the ball home with a fearsome header on the right.
1-1 even Stevens with last season’s champions.
I jump up cheering, till I realise I am the only one. A very long voice surrounded by silence. OOPS.
I look around and luckily I am surrounded by families. The dad from earlier caught my eye.
’ It’s Gilly, you’re alright. Anyone else and you might be done for’.
The rest of the game was frantic. Chelsea couldn’t drop points against us and we desperately wanted the win. Lots of end to end football with Chelsea having more dominant possession. My nerves on tenterhooks in the dying minutes of added on injury time. Erin Cuthbert taking three quick shots at goal with Moorehouse expertly saving all three before pushing the final one out for a corner, which was subsequently dealt with by Raff.
The final whistle blows and we both take the spoils and split the points.
As I was clapping the players off I felt a tap on my shoulder.
’Made it down ok then’ a familiar voice asked.
Standing there was Pauline, Raff’s mum, and Mollie, Rosie our number 16’s sister.
Mollie hugs me and comments that I am at least wearing a proper coat now. Seriously, what is everyone obsession with me having the proper outerwear? 😂.
So I stayed a little while longer to catch up with Pauline. Like Kate’s family, Pauline is one of the nicest people you will meet and gives the best hugs. Always has a kind word and is fiercely protective of both her children. As showcased when Charlotte ( who plays for Bromley) rang to update her mum on her game. Apparently, some parents had mouthed off at her after a particular challenge. Pauline quite vehemently told me they wouldn’t have done that if she had been there. Having seen the look on Pauline’s face, I have no doubt that would be true.
Standing with Pauline, both Chelsea and West Ham players came over to say hi. Through this I found out something extraordinary. Some Chelsea players are actually really nice. Specifically Erin Cuthbert who came over and was just super sweet, even though she was getting some off the cuff medical advice from Pauline. Huh, maybe I should have given them my money.
Gilly also made a point of coming to see me before doing her post-match interview which I am sure made me super popular with the Media Guy at West Ham.
Before Pauline left she hugged me goodbye and then proceeded to make my year.
’It’s good by the way. ‘ I look confused
The blog its really good’ I think blushed as hard as when her daughter called me her biggest fan.
So thank you, Pauline, for giving it a read.
With that I made my way back to Victoria. Well I tried, with a major fault on the line back to Clapham it involved multiple changes and serval false starts till I made it to Worcester Park where I had wait a whole HALF AN HOUR for a train. Goodness me this is London not Dorchester, again.
Soon I was back in the coach and dreaming of my next adventure.
Next time I travel for the Semi final, try and find the West Ham fans and almost have a heart attack.