Clive Hayward – @byehorse
There is a bit of a thing on Twitter this time of year called called #Whamageddon. I honestly don’t mind Wham’s massive hit “Last Christmas” but many have taken against it, and there is now a mass annual attempt to avoid hearing the song at all costs. If you fail, as you inevitably will, you have to tweet #Whamageddon to let people know you have been eliminated.
As sure as Santa Hats on Yellow heads, Saturday saw an outbreak of the annual Gary Johnson #Whamageddon variant. I didn’t want to sing it. He isn’t, I’m afraid to say, getting a Christmas card from me although I don’t advocate a seasonal sacking. So when people started singing about giving him their heart this year, mine sank somewhat. If we had lost today, I think Gary may have been on borrowed time. I travelled to Weymouth more in hope than expectation, but ultimately this was a day to warm the cockles of my cynical old heart and to rekindle the absolute joy of watching your team away from home.
My mate Roy earned his living for 40 years fixing cars. I often feel he could have made more money racing them. A swift drive to the far end of Lyme Bay saw us arrive safely in the outskirts of Weymouth well before 2 o’clock and we passed a happy half an hour people-watching in the car park. Fans of both persuasions arrived, generally well-muffled and with big smiles on their faces. I don’t know what it is about the bottom half of the National League that gives people such joy, but football is still a cherished part of many peoples weekends.
The Wessex Stadium is an eyesore. It is a mercy that King Alfred the Great and Thomas Hardy didn’t live long enough to see it built. It is just big enough to be properly ugly, with a backdrop of brutalist electricity pylons. It’s (mainly) covered terraces on three sides and a grandstand that is taller than it’s wide, advertising the dubious delights of the Marlboro Restaurant. I suspect they erected that sign in 1978 and haven’t attracted a new sponsor since. Stalin would have shot the architect and the Luftwaffe should have used it for target practice.
The body searches we received on entry were also (I promise you) more thorough than I experienced on a few visits to Portland nick a few years ago.
But none of it matters now. Because just for once this season the team managed to deliver. The pre-match atmosphere was mixed. People were generally cheerful, although one chap I spoke to told us that he thought we were crap and he was questioning his choice to spend his 74th birthday watching Torquay. But the youngsters had travelled in numbers and made a magnificent racket all afternoon.
Roy and I found ourselves well and truly in the “Bounce” section. We loved every minute. We discovered early on that: “If you’re not bouncing you’re a Grecian”. Generally we weren’t, but we sang, we chanted and we fretted that first half Torquay pressure, with the strong wind at their backs, hadn’t brought a goal.
But it didn’t matter.
Having failed to capitalise on the favourable elements first half, Torquay finally converted a set piece, then recovered from a quick equaliser to get rapidly back in front- substitute Sinclair Armstrong doing the business to further quieten the barely-audible home fans.
Regardless of the score, the away supporters were a force of nature all afternoon. Singing, bouncing and willing this poor side to the result we so sorely needed, they were a credit to the town and the division. We sang on our own, we sang on our own, we were Torquay United, we sang on our own.
Even better, at least two of us got home before 7 o’clock. Seldom has haddock and chips been so good. Sweeter still had been my first taste of away victory since The Shay on November 2nd 2019 (I looked that up).
Please don’t leave it so long next time lads…
COYY – Clive