Our mates at Scooterworks (Charlie & Nat) asked if I'd write about a crap experience I had while on holiday for a new magazine 'ting they are putting together. I said yes and this is it...
The first game of the new Premiership season was always going to be a crap experience. I support Fulham FC (as I never tire of telling all and sundry) and our first game was away at Arsenal's space-age Emirates stadium. I visited the new stadium last season and we lost 3 - 1 after briefly taking the lead. There's nothing quite so gutting as singing your heart out at the Emirates while North London's prawn sarnie brigade text their mates, yawn and gaze at all the lovely advertising while waiting for the team they "support" with such a total lack of passion to wake up, assert their superior talent and put your own band of gritty battlers to the sword.
Well, I suppose it's a little bit like what happened to us on the first day of last season when we played Man Utd (the original prawn sarnie bunch) away. We found ourselves 3 - 0 down just fifteen minutes into the season and eventually lost 5 -1 following a truly awful display.
So all in all I was pretty sure to have a crap time. To make matters worse I was on holiday in France with no guarantee of being able to watch the match at all. The great day arrived and we went to the nearest small town in search of a bar with Canal + Sport. The previous day we had attempted to watch Sunderland VS Spurs with my Tottenham supporting brother-in-law. We found a bar, it had a telly, it had Canal + but not Canal + Sport. Poor old Will had to make do with hanging out on the beach with his Spurs gear on waiting for text updates. I was diving off a bunch of oil drums that served as a diving platform when I noticed Will collapse onto the sand. Spurs had lost 1 - 0 with the last kick of the game...
I think you'll agree that the omens were all pointing in one direction.
The first bar we tried was full of French bikers (middle-aged, office managers clad in pristine leather jackets) who noted our arrival, bad French and the mention of the word football with a comical array of sneers and thinly veiled insults. Luckily they were all French insults so they kind of lost their power. But the answer from the bar man was clear enough - "Non - Pas de Canal +" He went on to say that we would be lucky to find anywhere in town showing the football on a Sunday.
We strolled over the road to another bar. They had a telly. They had Canal +. They turned it on and we sat down. Kick off time came and went. Adverts. No footie. A round of "No, you go. No, you go." ensued over who should use their dodgy French to find out if they had Canal + Sport. By the time we worked out that they did have the correct channel Fulham had done the impossible and scored. Naturally we had missed the goal and it later turned out to have been a bizarre Jens Lehmann error that led to an easy first Fulham goal for David Healy. But we were in front...
The beers were in and the nail-biting began.
A series of brilliant saves from our second-choice keeper Tony Warner followed. They should have had a penalty, we should have had a penalty and both sides had further chances. At half-time we were still a goad up. Canal + showed a top ten Premiership goals sequence. At number 2, above superb goals from Wayne Rooney and Ruud Van Nistelroy, was a strike from Collins John (a bit-part player at Fulham for the last few seasons)
The omens were looking a lot better!
I went to find the bog. This turned out to be no easy matter. Eventually I opened the door to what I was sure was a cupboard and found a urinal inside. I relieved myself and wondered what I could write about now if, as I now allowed myself the folly of believing, this was not set to be a crap experience after all but a really rather good one. I should have known better.
Having wasted two clear chances to go 2 - 0 up and survived a series of Van Persie free kicks from the edge of the area we conceded a penalty on 85 mins that the Dutch brat scored with some style.
Our players immediately got involved in some schoolboy antics over who could run back to the centre circle with the ball that led to a lot of pushing and shoving and several yellow cards. On 89 mins some truly awful defending from the now clearly knackered Fulham lads let Hleb through to score a cool winner.
There - it was crap after all.
A text from my mate Toby who was at the match put it very well.
As he trudged along the Holloway Road with a crowd of Arsenal fans loudly congratulating themselves on how great they are for supporting such a great club I found myself drinking home made cider of superb strength and quality at a Breton country fair. As men and women dressed in bizarre outfits danced and sang and played bagpipes I drifted into a sunshine/moonshine induced haze and began to think of how I now had the perfect crap holiday experience to write about again...