‘TT Groundhopping’ returns and this time it’s the turn of Hayward Junior, or Matty as we like to call him (amongst other things):
Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
FC HALIFAX TOWN (A)
Aside from being one step closer to the Football League, the biggest joy of getting promoted last season is that we get to go to proper away grounds, on proper away days that are – crucially – close to my second home in York. I say “second home” – I’m not a Russian oligarch or a Conservative Member of Parliament – it’s a shared student house.
And it is in that fair student house where we lay our scene. Unlike most Gulls fans who had to set off at the crack of dawn for this fixture, I was able to wake up at the leisurely time of 9:04. Shower. Toast. Set off. Despite the slight drizzle in the air, this was a much warmer and sweatier walk than I had anticipated; to the extent that by the time I arrived at York’s beautiful railway station I was stripped down to my Torquay shirt (and jeans!) and was carrying a Tesco Bag For Life full of layers which had been dispensed with on the Hull Road.
I boarded the 11:12 Northern Rail service to Blackpool North with the sense of trepidation that only an away day against a team you might beat gives you. My only real concern at that time was the social acceptability of cracking open a can, alone, on a train surrounded by children.
This fear was rapidly allayed. Quicker than Jeremy Corbyn could explain Labour’s fairly simple Brexit policy, the family in front of me (which included two young babies) had clipped open their bottles of Corona and I was reminded of the beauties of a Saturday in the United Kingdom.
The rest of the train journey was largely quibble-free, and I had a decent chat with some dejected Sheffield Wednesday fans who thought they were hard-done-by to have only drawn to Leeds the previous weekend: “If it were a boxing match the ref would’ve called it off after half hour”, quipped the wittiest member of the lively group.
At the station I met my increasingly bald father who had got to Halifax via Manchester Airport that morning (sorry environment, sorry Greta, sorry my own children). Apparently, there was some other sporting event going on earlier that day – he had watched it in a pub – something about eggs and springboks and sweet chariots? Don’t know. Don’t care.
Sometimes, especially as football fans, we expect a lot from a pub. In Chippenham, for example, some fans expected the pub to be able to withstand a smoke bomb being let off. Last Saturday, all I wanted from a pub was a roof, a radiator and a toilet.
Fair play to the Three Pigeons, it delivered on all three fantastically. It also served beer and pies. I’ve heard it getting a bit of stick lately – mostly from those soft Southerners on the TT pod who I reckon are just scared of any accent from north of Bristol – so I’d like to express my huge gratitude to a boozer which is admittedly pokey but is otherwise very solid (and warm!).
After a few pints of Carling (sorry, me) and Yorkshire Brunette (yawn, dad) with the legend that is @Torquayfanstats, a smattering of TT contributors, and a bloke who – like almost literally everyone from Yorkshire I’ve ever met – has “been to Torquay a few times on holiday: lovely place, long way away”, we made our way to the ground.
For a stadium that the Beatles famously played at in 1966, The Shay isn’t particularly imposing. Depressingly – with only two stands in use – it is now a classic of the “Your Ground’s Too Big For You” genre.
I think I’m right in saying that the Football club in Halifax (which admittedly has had two names, but to all intents and purposes is the same club) have spent the same number of years in the Football League as Torquay United (82). Forgive me if the maths is slightly off on that, but the point here is they can reasonably be described as a Proper Football Club and it is a shame that their current position doesn’t reflect that.
I doubt Ed Sheeran, who of course was born in Halifax, would be in love with the shape of the club at the moment. Although, he’d probably just say “I don’t care, take me back to London” (Yes, that’s a trio of Ed Sheeran jokes in two sentences, I’m soooo young and trendy).
After one of the best first half performances I’d ever seen from a Torquay side, I popped downstairs to delight in a) some fairly ropey but hole-filling chips and b) the Exeter score. There was more delight to come as Reidy remained prolific, Vincent and Buse continued to dominate and Janneh reminded us of his great energy and skill. There’s simply nothing one can do after a 4-2 away win other than going for another pint.
We would have made the return train with ease, via a trip to Tesco for cans and food, were it not for our (dad’s) forgetfulness in leaving his rucksack in the Three Pigeons. I sprinted back to the pub, picked up said bag and made it to the station three minutes early. I met dad on the bridge just as our carriage home pulled in – his dodgy Achilles and general old age meant that he never made it much past an amble.
Dad was to stay at mine that night, and it was only half seven, so the pub beckoned again. Once in the Kings Arms by the Ouse, we got discussing politics (I won the argument, obviously) and then, more interestingly, which of the current squad we’d like to go for a beer with most: The Pint Test being the best judgement of a person’s character.
We concluded on the usual candidates: Shaun MacDonald, Liam Davis, Asa Hall, and a wildcard of Armani Little (just because my cousin’s boyfriend used to play football with him and he said he was a good lad). I have a feeling there’s a TT discussion point in there somewhere.
So ended another away day. Another three points on the road. Another four goals scored. Another Reidy brace. Another step towards a gut-wrenching end-of-season play-off defeat. Yellows.
AWAY DAY RATING: 4.5/5