I must apologise for anyone heading into this delicious slice of Cans & Megabus looking for their usual dose of jovial japes about the life of an idiot travelling the country watching a rubbish football team.
This one takes on a slightly somber tone, but stick with it (honestly, please don’t close the browser - I need me some of those sweet, sweet clicks) and we’ll be back to our usual tomfoolery once I’ve calmed down a bit.
Cardiff is the longest trip of the season and arguably one of the best.
“One of the best?”, I hear you ask with that inquisitive tone I’ve grown to love so much.
Yeah, it is one of the best. Why? Three words, my friend - Arriva Train Wales. To have such an affinity with a faceless train franchise seems odd, doesn’t it (it is but that’s beside the point) but you have not experienced the joy of the Manchester Piccadilly-Carmarthen service on a Friday evening.
Embarking on long distance travel on the final day of the week, you pass thousands of faces all with their own story. As they stand frozen on a Stockport platform you ponder “where are they going?”, “who are they are meeting tonight?”.
Speed your way through the Shropshire countryside and you see friends reacquainting in Shrewsbury, lovers reuniting in Leominster, families embrace in the darkness of Abergavenny - all the while you take another sip of your shop-bought lager and watch on as they flicker out of view.
It is one of the simple pleasures that travelling by rail can bring. It’s these moments that do show that despite the absolute state our country is in, there is at least some beauty in the interactions people have with each other once the working week is done.
I *did* tell you this one was going to be a bit different.
My journey is almost at an end as I hop off Cardiff Central and onto a service to take me into the Valleys and have a few evening beverages in quaint settlement of Treforest. I did have to question a pal about where precisely I was in these great lands, but this was just laughed off as the type of craic that comes out of the mouth of a typical northern mug like myself.
Dawn breaks and I am armed with a coffee and a tasty snack from ‘Baguette Me Not’ (come on, it’s a 12.30pm kick-off) as we headed onwards to the Cardiff City Stadium. Now at this point I would usually go into some form of detail about the match but, as I said, we’re going to do things a little differently in this week’s illuminating C&M column.
In recent years, the level of apathy I have towards Sunderland AFC has made me adopt a kind of joking attitude and that nothing, in the grand scheme of things, matters about the match. This club doesn’t bring me any joy, it doesn’t bring me any sense of pride and laughing at these players on a weekly basis ensures that I maintain the upper hand. They don’t deserve to upset or anger me so I treat it as a big joke.
However, to thousands and thousands of other supporters this club is their life. They love every moment of following Sunderland and it physically pains them to see this once great club being the complete mess it has become. It breaks my heart to see almost 1,000 fans travel hours upon hours upon hours from the North East to be served up absolute garbage every week.
Saturday once again set a new precedent. Not only does half of this squad simply not give a single shit, the ones that do are so bad that even the worst team in this division roll us over with ease.
My heart goes out to everyone that still deeply cares about this club, those people that continue to sing their hearts out; continue to shout encouragement. I wish I was you.
Week by week it gets harder to care.
The cold light of Sunday morning brought a conundrum. As I sat in a pub opposite Cardiff Central station with an intense hangover and the prospect of a seven-hour Megabus ride ahead of me, I cracked. I broke C&M etiquette and forked out on a (surprisingly cheap) £20 train back to Manchester.
I broke character, rejected my brand and for that I can only apologise. I have let you all down.