Sunday, October 17, 2004

September 16 (Thursday): Parisi. This is the stuff of dreams. I wake up however after the worst night going, with my back putting me in absolute utter agony. Oh shit, does mean that I am now officially old? Joking aside, my back absolutely canes and thoroughly worries me. I struggle to get out of bed and contemplate not going into work (and I never take sick days - note to future employers). I worry about the evening and will I actually be able to go to Millwall, how can I if I can't actually sit?

Wailing in pain, I get into some early morning MSN with Sara (as per usual) and after some groaning she tells me that she "loves me", which always annoys and winds me up when she says it. Some people are able just to toss off that term, without meaning nor care. I ask her, Bear At Bedtime style, "is that mummy love or dirty love?" Turns out, mummy love, the shit love.

I drive into work and park up, still hobbling and aching in pain, having regular back spasms with every change in motion. Wha' happened?

The day at work moves unbelievably slowly, it just proves an obstacle in my way to getting to Millwall and the UEFA Cup. In the afternoon, boredom overcomes me and I decide to annoy Sara and I text her "I love you." Whoops, she then texts back thinking that I am serious, her freaking out. Oh yeah, when she texts/tells it to me its fine but when I do so to her, she goes bananas.

Not before time, 5pm finally arrives and I run out on the dot and speed (as best as possible) to the train station, to Millwall. I drag Stevo along and give him a lift to the station (bare in mind, he is currently out of action due to his shoulder so he is catching the train to work). While I park up, I drop him off to get me a ticket. I get a plush parking spot and when I get to the station entrance, Stevo is shouting at me to get a move on. It seems when I gave him my credit card to get a train ticket, the machine wasn't working so he got me a ticket on HIS card. Stevo is too good to me.

We board the train excited, Stevo looking like he wants to go to the game more than I do. As we pass Marks Tey, I see someone in a Millwall shirt; there are more Millwall fans in the Colchester area? Excellent! Stevo gets off at Chelmsford and tells me to keep him updated on the game later. Around this point Sara begins texting me over the "I love you" thing again: "So you love me? Will you promise 2 give me all a girl can wish for and love and cherish me forever?" Heavy.

Good timing, the train arrives at Stratford around 6.15 and I hope of knowing I will get to the ground in good good. The Marks Tey Lions also get off her but whereas I head straight to my train on the Jubilee line, they don't seem to quite know which one to catch, so does that make me the more senior fan? Ho ho. On the way to Canada Water I exchange awkward glances with them and I wonder if they recognise the Millwall away shirt from last season that I have on under my jumper that is slightly visible. The problem is though, I don't really want them to recognise me nor buddy up, they seem to be proper chavs. And when I get off at Canada Water and they do not, I wonder "what the fuck?"

Canada Water turns out to be where I properly hook up with other Millwall fans, all on our way to Surrey Quays and by 7pm I am already at the ground. It is a great dusk evening, one of the few remainders of summer, a great red sky with a chilly air. As I near the ground, taking the Football Factory route (again!) it seems all I can hear in the distance are police sirens, it sounds like there is already a riot in place. When I reach the ground there are no worries, no problems, no trouble except that I buy a program and soon realise my little faux pas at wearing the green and white striped Millwall away shirt from last season, fucking Ferencvaros wear the exact same colours it seems. Whoops, so who will be the first meat head to accuse me of being from Hungary I wonder? I get paranoid I spot a policeman seemingly eyeing me up, I paranoidly suspect he thinks that I am a lost naive Hungarian. What to do? So I just phone home and make sure that dad has got the video right and ready for taping the game (on the tape over the awful Ipswich v Millwall game from Sunday).

Job done, I bite the bullet and go into the ground. I know I'm in the ground a fair bit earlier than usual but it still does feel/seem really subdued, lacking the atmosphere of usual. I go to get a drink and there are cups on all the beer taps and they're turned off, its UEFA does not allow the selling of alcohol at their games. What a sobering thought. I check my pockets to see if I have enough money for a "Match Day Special" (chicken tikka on top of chips) but sadly I don't, so I just plump for chips and a coke and wish I had a mixer. This is probably the first food I have had to eat all day and soon I have polished it off, fat bloater. With the time only about 7.15, I take my seat ridiculously early.

Out on the terrace, it is fucking freezing tonight, the sun setting of earlier is now a long memory and the wind is has started to bite and kick in. I look around the Den, mainly towards the Ferencvaros end and they haven't actually brought too many fans with them but they have however brought the most enormous banners I have ever seen and god only knows what they say. I am not alone in thinking all this as when the Hungarian fans move the banner around, the Millwall fans just sing "what the fucking hell is that? What the fucking hell is that?" The Ferencvaros fans also do this weird arm gesture when chanting prompting me to text Stevo "did the Hungarians just give a seig heil?" The ground is slow in filling and pretty empty from the off and it never really fills up fully, it soon becomes apparent there are loads of empty seats and Stevo, amongst others, could have really got in easy. As kick off neared, the crowd announcer/PA reads out the team in English and then promptly hands the microphone over to a woman who reads the teams out in Hungarian and suddenly there is all a very Eurovision feel to things.

Tonight I have primo seats and once more I actually recognise people I have seen here before and actually wind up sitting next to some guy I sat next to last season at the Sheffield United match. The game kicks off with excitement and soon it becomes evident that the Hungarians are much more skilful than Millwall but Millwall pull out all the stops and for the best part play the game of their lives. At times they seem lacking in ideas but on the whole Wise runs the game soundly and the returning Muscat is generally solid as a rock against a very fevered and tempered foreign assault. The real player of the match ultimately turns out to be the fantastic Marvin Elliott who plays the game of his life in midfield, flying in for everything and quite often winning everything (well, most things). Up front, various chances are made as Millwall attack the North Stand in the first half and Neil Harris has (probably) by far his best game of the season. Stefan Moore on the other hand is pretty terrible. The early scrap is pretty fired and Jody Morris appears to do his best in sticking up to the Hungarians but only manages to wanker himself in the process and has to hobble off after about 20 minutes. In his place, on comes Barry Cogan, another youth player who plays out of his skin and has his best game I have ever seen. And the Canadians Simpson and Serioux do their usual thing of running around, losing the ball and scaring the life out of the Millwall faithful. Ferencvaros really do try it in the first, rough housing and then diving and Millwall only live up to their reputation by matching up to them culminating in a minor brawl late in the first half, seeing Muscat cop most of the blame (and get booked in the process). As we neared half time, Ferencvaros put on a hell of a lot of pressure on the Millwall defence with corner kick after corner kick and mercifully (and probably wrongly) the referee blew up for half time mid way through the Hungarians best opportunities/openings.

After no kids' penalties at half time, the team came back on with as much vigour as the first half and Ferencvaros began to look a bit more livelier. By the second half, the Millwall faithful (Bushwhackers and none) really find their voices singing "En-ger-land! En-ger-land! En-ger-land!" and "where were you in World War II?" The second half turns out to be infinitely harder work than the first but when in the 66th Millwall got a free kick on the edge of the box, I just knew if Dennis Wise took it, it would be a goal. And so it was, as Wisey fucking place that motherfucker in the back of the net and everyone erupted as Millwall got a goal we rightfully more than deserved. I don't know, I just knew it was going in and was probably so eagle-eyed and intent, I was the first in the ground to see it hit the back of the net and get up out of my seat and lose my shit. I turn to the to my right (from Sheff Utd last night) and we exchange Fucking-A! glances of recognition. At this moment Stevo phones me on my mobile and I can't hear him and he can't hear me for screams of "oh Wisey! Woah!! He's only five foot four, he'll break your fucking jaw." So with the lead, Millwall now found themselves under more pressure than ever as Ferencvaros pressed them hard. That said, when they took off the terrible Moore in the 77th and brought on the returning Planet Paul Ifill, it only looked optimistic. As I found myself texting my hope to Stevo, Ferencvaros got their own free kick on the edge of the box, which I just had a feeling was flying in. I don't remember bothering to see the kick go in, just looking up at the wanker celebration of the Hungarians in the 78th minute. Around me, the fans started picking holes in and blaming Stack in goal, who otherwise has been really consistent this year. Before the game, Stevo has been ribbing me that if Millwall give up an away goal in this leg, then they are fucked. So there you go. With time running out and me shaking my head with the guy next to me, a seemingly unfit Dichio came on for the optimistic Harris to charge through with Ifill. Very few highlights occurred during the remainder of the match as the Millwall fans found themselves getting more and more fucked off and coming up with the chant of the game aimed at the Hungarians: "you're only here for asylum, you're only here for asylum." The game ended 1-1, which could have been better and could have been worse but all in all equated to yet fantastic match in an amazing year.

The walk back to Surrey Quays is bleak and chilled, with every fan saying what could have been and boasting of their plans now to hit Budapest in two weeks time. When I get on the train, I once more get paranoid about my green and white shirt as I overhear mention of three thousand people that are heading to Hungary on cheap flight deals etc.

I bounce off the train at Canada Water and wait for a train to Stratford to carry me home, hoping that there will actually be one. After a nervous wait as some kind of brief track failure occurs on the Jubilee Line and some random woman asks me the result, I get on a train headed to Stratford. I see a man who has just been to the match with his son in his wheelchair covered in Millwall stickers eating chips and he looks the most miserable person ever. I look at my own reflection in the window and the depressing feel of late night train journeys on your own hits me and the moment at which you, for some reason, feel at your most loneliest (well, it gets that way for me). Riding the train at night on your own really is quite solemn.

Upon arrival at Stratford, I take my platform and have an endless wait of seemingly the longest fifteen minutes in history. While waiting I bump into Justin Bad Hand Records (home of The Blitters) and it is really scary now how I can just bump into people in London, I really should be here NOW! Me and him converse for a good time and he tells me that he lives quite nearby, which sounds a pretty exciting life to me. He tells me he has some more filmmaking stuff coming up, mainly with the guy from Rothko which all sounds really cool and exciting.

On the big train home to Colchester, I am astounded when I see a girl that looks exactly like Sara on the train reading Jordan's autobiography (ho ho). It is frightening just how much she looks like Sara and she is very smart and business-like and I wonder if catching such a late train (10.45) is all part of the job. For some reason I jump to the conclusion that she is an accountant and is going to be exactly like Sara. I gawp too much but luckily don't get clocked (I think) and then even luckier she gets off at Romford, so from there it becomes out of sight, out of mind. I listen to Mark Radcliffe on my phone radio on the ride home and it is so comforting to listen to him at this hour, a kind of returning to the womb music style and reliving FM radio 95 to 96. And his guest tonight is Noddy Holder reviewing TV including NY-Lon (which apparently I like and he doesn't). Today sadly however has been the death of Johnny Ramone and Radcliffe commemorates this by doing a heartfelt spiel before playing Ramones songs (which he can play a couple of because they are so short). However, song highlight of his show tonight is Ian Brown's new single guesting Noel Gallagher (go figure).

When I get back in Colchester, I am knackered and it is a swarming Thursday night in Colchester. Today I have eaten very little so I contemplate many options in the foodery department but ultimately I want some unhealthy slop like chips and/or kebab. I drive down North Station Road checking out the options and the road looks like carnage, the good kebab shop is gaggling with pissed up looking men hanging out outside. Be avoided methinks. I then look to Bodrums on Crouch Street and one glance at proceedings just appears to echo the state of the union, so I decide to duck out and make the most out of any scraps I might be able to muster at home (which ultimately turns out to be nothing).

Tonight I go to sleep hungry.

np: Ian Brown - Keep What Ya Got


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