There’s so much beauty that surrounds an early-morning Megabus - it is the true leveller of society. It brings together all classes, creeds and colours. For these next four and a bit hours we are bound to this blue and yellow metallic object of fun. We’ll watch the sun rise over the hills of the East Midlands, we’ll gaze upon the asphalt of the M1 and we’ll ponder the clientele that frequent the Days Inn at Watford Gap service station.
The 06:20 M12 service from Leeds to London Victoria has become the staple for my trips to the capital. While many of the bourgeois would opt for the comfort and convenience of Richard Branson’s tyrannical Virgin East Coast train, I consider myself to be in the Neville Southall school of thinking and feel more at home among my fellow proletariat on a coach.
It’s almost like being on a supporter’s bus, aside from the fact there’s no alcohol and there’s a middle-aged man falling asleep on my shoulder (there, there Alan we’ll be in the Big Smoke soon, my weary traveller). Add to the fact that it’s at least £70 cheaper for a return than getting the train, only takes an hour longer and doesn’t make Branson any richer - it’s the only way to travel for this awayday big dawg.
Today, was a novelty. It was a trip to London to face an opposition that wasn’t totally detestable (Fulham aside, naturally), it was also a new ground to tick off, it had a pub on each corner of the ground and it had terracing - boy howdy, it’s yer da’s wet dream come true.
I was braced for a defeat but when has that ever stopped the cocaine-like addiction that is following The Lads to every corner of this atrocious country? It was also a novelty that I would be joined by a Swiss pal of mine who was on a three-month placement in London.
He had only one previous experience of Sunderland AFC and that was witnessing them piss away a two goal lead at home to Crystal Palace in the glorious, glorious David Moyes regime. That day he quipped that the Sunderland home support were “the angriest he had ever seen” - I was quick to point out that things had gotten much worse.
Oh, how we laughed.
Despite his status as my guest into this foray to see how badly Sunderland could embarrass themselves, he had brought a gift, a gift that would serve us well into our journey to creamy west London - a bottle of Sainsbury’s finest £4 chardonnay. While my body had not acclimatised to the travelling and early start, he insisted we split the bottle on the Tube - remember, drunkenness is a state of mind.
As the clock ticked over to midday and we alighted at Boston Manor, the phrase of “white wine all the time” had become a feature. We navigated to find the Magpie & Crown pub through the leafy suburbs as he chanted Basel Ultras songs. The rest of our entourage were waiting and, sadly, conversation turned to Sunderland.
After hotly contested game of pool and several flagons of Spain’s finest lager we endeavoured to try and get into one of the fabled ‘Brentford 4’ pubs. And, as tentatively predicted, it was a pretty difficult task but, never fear, as we had a date with standing up at a football match - but this time we were actually allowed to.
The day of novelties continued as Sunderland managed to return from a goal down to actually score three goals away from home. It was most welcomed and with one being right on the stroke of half time, The Lads were roared (!) off the pitch - who’da thunk it. Us, Sunderland supporters, being absolutely buzzing with a first half performance - hey, maybe we’ll absolutely leather Brentford and return home with three points?!
We lasted 40 seconds. Then the doubts returned and inevitably we conceded an equaliser to bring back that toxic atmosphere that had been missing from the afternoon. You know the one, the one we all love. Fans fighting among each other, booing the players and management and that overall sense of dejection. Yeah - that’s what we like.
Anyway, we couldn’t get in any of the pubs near the ground after the match and had to settle for an Irish bar and then Russian beer on the Tube. I ended the evening stood on a layby in Rugby as a replacement Megabus driver was ferried from Watford Gap.
Still though, only a tenner.
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