Are things back to normal yet?

Image by Alex Scott

Image by Alex Scott

Away adventures with the Shipley Bantams

By Anne Bell

We have been intermittent travellers to away matches since our Premier League days as far as work and other commitments allow. Last season I decided to give travelling with Shipley Bantams a try. It would mean I could be sure of not getting lost on the way and avoid the perennial “Where do I park safely?” question. Someone else could do the driving.

After a successful first trip with the Shippers to Deepdale to see a cracking match and Kyel Reid terrorise the Preston defence, we became members.

Since then we seem to have a talent for picking out either the dull and boring to watch (Walsall 0-0 anyone?) or the downright diabolical. Particular highlights were a freezing trip to Carlisle for a 1-0 loss last season, and this season’s specials at Oldham and Barnsley. Would our luck change with a trip to Stamford Bridge for the much awaited Chelsea tie?

The trip was different from the start. Instead of the usual one or two coaches there were four. There was a woman from the BBC taking pictures of us as we boarded. There were people who weren’t regular travellers with us on board, including one youngster making his first away trip. The talk was of how well we would do. I confided with those around me that my hope was that we would score a goal and not get thrashed.

We also didn’t have our usual stop off for a pub lunch. This is because we had to be in the vicinity of Chelsea early due to road closures. We had to make do with a quick stop off at Watford Gap services. We were entertained, although that is probably not the right word, with a melee involving Charlie, and made our escape past lots of police vans. As we neared the ground, the young boy on his first away trip could hardly contain his excitement as he saw the Wembley arch in the distance.

I have visited Stamford Bridge before, both as a fan, and at a corporate do, where I found it a bit disconcerting eating lunch overseen by life size cardboard versions of John Terry and Frank Lampard. I assume Frank is now in a storage cupboard somewhere. I had never been in the Shed End before, and I was surprised at how cramped and crowded it was in there. The Chelsea staff were all helpful and good humoured, and we were blessed with fantastic seats in the upper tier.

I won’t repeat what happened in the match, it is well covered elsewhere. Suffice to say that afterwards we made our way back to the coach in a daze. You didn’t need to be wearing claret and amber to be identified as a City supporter in West London that afternoon. We were the ones with a permanent fixed grin.

The coach was absolutely buzzing, with people sharing the youtube videos already appearing on mobile phones. We find it hard to say who is our coach man of the match, but when pushed, Jon Stead was the winner. We have the radio on, and when a City supporter starts singing “It’s The Bradford Boys making all the noise” on 606, the whole coach joined in.

The young first timer was phoned by his mother later in the journey to tell him she had seen him on Match of the Day too. We dared not tell him it is probably all downhill from here as he had already experienced the best footballing day of his life. Probably. We even didn’t mind the unexpected closure of the M1 and the detour this caused.

So a fortnight later we reconvene for a trip to Port Vale. Two coaches this time, so probably some Chelsea effect still to be seen (usually a one coach trip I think). For once the M62, M60 and the M6 are kind to us and we arrive at our stop off on time for a good pub lunch. We had a chat with Mary about her appearance on TV with the FA Cup and how heavy the cup really is. This pub was a good choice, with efficient service and good grub. My son pronounced the all day breakfast a success, although there were mutterings about preferring toast to chips.

We continued on to Vale Park. On the way I discover that I have won the raffle for a Chelsea commemorative mug. It is a splendid thing. My son is cross that he didn’t buy a second strip of tickets and thus I have got his ticket and also the mug. I tell him it’s only a cup.

Profits from the raffle go to the Burns unit too. We always have the guess the time of the first goal competition, but we don’t normally have a raffle. Still not quite back to normal yet then.

We arrive at the ground. Oh the difference from a fortnight ago. The stands can only be described as a bit ramshackle, all clearly constructed at different times and many still with large posts to block the view. The pitch is green though and the stewards and staff are friendly. The crowd is also a bit different, the whole of it still smaller than the 6,000 City fans who were packed into the Shed End.

I wonder how clubs such as this with such a small fan base manage to survive in League One. There is vocal City support, but not the noise and wild celebration of two weeks ago.

The team plays well. We think we are on our way to a consecutive away win until it is snatched from us at the last gasp (or thrown away depending on your point of view). It means everyone is a bit deflated boarding the coaches back home. Filipe Morais is our man of the match. It’s a draw not a defeat though.

It’s gone. On to the next game. We are back to normal

I wholeheartedly recommend travelling with Shipley Bantams. Trips are well run and reasonably priced with a friendly crowd. Thanks go to Steve Gorringe, Stephen Gratton and Phil Woodward who spend a great deal of time and effort running the club and the away trips.

Categories: Opinion

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3 replies

  1. Interesting article, good insight into a fan’s experience.

  2. Yes, great recollections of your Chelsea experience. Thankfully the obscene chants that a section of our “fans” came out with at Port Vale, were not aired at Stamford Bridge.

  3. “I tell him it’s only a cup”

    Great line Anne, and well done for championing the often unsung heroes who make this kind of experience possible. They are one of the many, many reasons to be a proud Bantam these days!

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