You couldn’t actually escape from Sunderland-induced misery at QPR; L’Equipe’s TV channel kept annoying Monsieur Salut by highlighting the game for no better reason than the former Marseille striker Loic Remy’s goal. Earlier Pete Sixsmith, gratefully playing truant to watch a rampant Shildon in the FA Vase replay at Ascot United, had been bombarded with texts on the grim proceedings to his east. He reckons M Salut’s late dad, the Shildon club secretary for several years, would have been as proud of the Railwaymen as we were aghast at SAFC’s labours …
It would have cost me at least £40 to watch yet another inept Sunderland performance, this one at Loftus Road, on Saturday. For some families that is the weekly food budget or gas and electric bill. Watching the meter tick round or looking for bargains in Aldi is far more enjoyable than watching Sunderland AFC at the moment.
My football fix took place in Coach Park 10 of Ascot Racecourse for this is where Ascot United of the Uh1sport Hellenic League play. They drew at Shildon last week in the quarter finals of the FA Vase, earning a replay on their well appointed patch of very expensive Berkshire soil.
I had hoped to make it a double, but heavy rain at Dartford on Friday meant that their conference clash with Wrexham was washed out. I was forced to spend a couple of hours in the company of the Reverend James from Brains Brewery in Cardiff and the Cardiff City correspondent of the South Wales Echo, who was covering Wrexham for The Western Mail.
A good quaffing night was had in which he was very complimentary about Gary Bennett and Fraizer Campbell but offered somewhat less complmentary thoughts on Michael Chopra . Having suffered at Chopra’s hands at Galway Races I couldn’t have agreed with him more. He was confident that there would be two Welsh clubs in the top division for the first time ever. I wish I could be as confident that there will be two North Eastern clubs there.
Ascot was reached by rail, passing through such areas of urban deprivation as Egham, Virginia Water and Sunningdale, where Pete Horan met me. We parked in the main street, marvelled at the cars on display in the local garage, the dearest Jaguar being £63,000 which was, as one Shildon fan said, “more than I paid for my first two houses”, and then a jaw dropping look in the estate agents windows. The million pound house was quite rare, whereas the three million pound house was as common as a £10,000 one in Eldon Lane. A different world!!
The racecourse is Ascot and dominates the small town that has grown up around it. It is on common land, so we took the opportunity to walk under the tunnel to the course and gaze on the splendid grandstand. It looks fine, but I gather that it is not universally popular because it has reduced spectator numbers in order to squeeze in more hospitality and up market food outlets. Some of the wannabe toffs even have to rub shoulders with the hoi poloi who frequent the less desirable parts of the course. Shame.
The ground, imaginatively named the Racecourse Ground is situated alongside the Straight Mile course. The game had been in doubt but the home team put in a brilliant effort to prepare the pitch and were rewarded with a decent day and a bumper crowd of 780.
They had hoped to take advantage of a long Shildon injury list and the Railwaymen were unable to turn out their regular team. But the lads who came in were splendid and played for the shirt, sending the 200 Shildon fans into paroxysms of glee.
Sam Garvie claimed a hat trick, with Jamie Owens opening the scoring. You can read all about it at the Northern League website or watch the highlights below. As young Garvie puts the third goal in, you may see a fat man behind the goal raise his arms. That, dear reader, is me.
The pleasure of seeing Shildon reach the semi finals was tempered by the appalling news coming from west London. Not one positive comment reached me from people either watching live or on laptops. The situation is looking increasingly desperate. I have no idea of what to do now.
In the meantime, we are on the road to Tunbridge Wells on Saturday 23rd for the first leg of the semi. Ascot and Tunbridge Wells are not the type of places that Shildon people naturally gravitate to. It could be another seismic culture shock when the Overlander bus arrives in the Royal Borough. Expect the mythical “Disgusted” of TW to be busy.