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Groyne Strain

Oct 24, 2003
The Crane
18 hours of hell, 1 moment of ecstasy .....

4.00pm - get up from bed (I work nights), showered, breakfasted, watch greedy tart crying because she only won a tenner on Deal Or Sod Off, Noel.

5.00pm - can't afford the bus fare to Billericay station, where Chipper is being dropped off from his drama school, so traipse from Whitmore Way, a lovely little 5 mile trek.

7.00pm - Chipper eventually turns up. heigh ho, heigh ho, off to the match we go.

9.40pm - the usual misery. I take Chipper back home.

11.00pm - I head back towards Basildon station. I just can't afford to take the risk of Chipper missing out next week.

11.45pm - get to the ticklet office. A good 50 people already in front of me. Fall in with a decent set of lads, faces I've seen at away games through the 80's and 90's but never put a name to. Big Ginge, now looking not so big but a lot healthier, is in front of us. He already has his ticket but is queueing up for a mate who couldn't make it.

2.00am - queue has extended to the back of the car park and is now coming back on us. It is truly freezing. Burger van doing a good trade but all I have is ticket money. It's useless in any case. I'm shivering so much I can't hold the can of drink or min-box of cereal I had in my bag.

3.00am - guy in front of us gives up. We encourage him to stay, of the ticket he'll miss out on, but he just says "I don't care, I give in." It is by far the coldest night since last winter - and a good deal colder than a lot of those nights too - so I don't blame him. Shivering so much I can't say what I want to, my mouth is just twitching because of the coldness. It's now mind over matter. "I'm not cold, I'm not cold, I'm not cold" I keep thinking to myself.

3.30am - the only place of warmth is the North Bank toilets. The smell of p**s is more than counterbalanced by the warmth. George Michael would think he's in heaven with all the men in there. I take a quick peek of the pitch from the North Bank - it looks quite eerie in the dead of night.

4.30am - now so cold I've lost the feeling in my toes, feet and back. Am shivering involuntarily. I still keep thinking over and over in my mind "It's not cold, it's not cold, it's not cold" and of the look on Chipper's face when the teams come out next week. It works, but barely. It's a fight to keep conscious.

5.30am - We're regaled with tales by one of the older 'boys' of days out in the 70s and 80s - not only when they 'ran' other supporters but also the hidings they received. You can tell he's genuine by the names, places, and honesty - a hoolie wannabe bullsh*tter never talks of getting a beating.

6.30am - Holy Moly, the sun's up! It's now the run-in. By this time the queue is hundreds and hundreds long and increasing minute-by-minute. A lad pushing in just behind us is suitably rebuked, told forcibly of how long we've all queued and of the consequences of him staying where he is. He skulks back down the queue.

7.00am - the radio and media arrive, taking their pics and soundbites. My only comment is "It's not cold, it's not cold, it's not cold ....."

8.30am - ticket staff arrive to loud cheers. Another pusher-in is forcibly ejected by the stewards to a huge roar. Purgatory is nearly over, heaven is upon us. Those arriving now, though, are seeing the queue and turning back.

9.00am - confirmation that it's 2,000 tickets on sale, which casts further doubt as to whether the whole queue will get their tickets. The pre-midnight start now seems nearly worth it - only nearly, mind.

9.30am - OPEN! A feeling of intense joy and relief, shared by all the lads with me. More tales of being surrounded by Nothampton fans, Lincoln skinheads, etc. I can feel my toes again.

10.00am - Heaven is a place on Earth! 2 tickets safely ensconced in my wallet for the West Stand - and positioned so that Chipper will be one of the first in the ground to see the teams come out and therefore give the first ear-splitting yell. I ring back the good news. I almost cry with joy at the prosprect of seeing the happiness in his face.

11.00am - back home, courtesy of a lift from Guy, a fireman who, like me, queued up for his lad's sake. Via Sainsbury's when, tired, hungry and thirsty I buy half the store out. Guy has his car parked at the local fire station so we crawl across the road, crazily waving our tickets, much to the amusement of the passing police van. We even give the Camp Blingers a toot of the car horn.

12 Noon - fed, bathed, tired, weary, body battered but spirit intact, to bed I go. It was Hellish, it almost put me into casualty. It dawns on me the insanity of what I and scores of others have just done. Would I do it all again, knowing now of what I'd have to go through? For me, no way. For Chipper, too bloody right I would.