Dom Roman – @DomRoman
Dom talks about his day out in London!
Such is my lack of ventures away from the South West these days, contributor Matty Orton suggested I was tagged for a day out in London (just in case I was lost) and followed this up with a hilarious ‘have you got your passport’ message, what a joker! In my defence travels were far more frequent before I had kids. Since then any trip over half an hour with the family can feel stressful and tiring, meaning summer holidays have been spent in exotic locations such as Woolacombe and the slightly more far flung Newquay. But I digress, away days hat back on – “fancy an away game Rich?”. “Yes Dom why not”. A couple of texts later and train supremo Chris Wade was kindly offering cut price train tickets. The trip was on.
Chris showed his keenness by creating a Whatsapp group and offering to buy some Caffreys from Morrisons for the journey, he knows how to win my favour. A 9.16 train at Exeter St Davids was the first port of call, I decided to walk to it (yes I do live in Exeter, keep this to yourself). Around 2.5 miles, but my lack of faith in public transport to get me there and a mostly downhill trajectory made my mind up for me. I arrived on time, but Chris, tickets in hand, built up anticipation by arriving slowly from Starcoss….on a train I may add. With a whole 3 minutes to spare we made it to platform 5, allowing us time to engage in conversation with a Plymouth fan, me adding some sarcastic “You poor chap, being top of League 1” comments and lamenting his choice of NFL team (Eagles).
Soon we were amongst other Torquay United supporters, with Travel Club kingpin Harry Lovering surprisingly taking a different mode of transport. Rich decided to take the extra legroom next to Harry, leaving his proper seat empty (something he’d regret later when a standoff ensued after someone sat in it). Doughnuts offered by Harry and gleefully accepted, we were on our way, on our way. Chris delivered his promised Caffreys…though with shortages (probably a Brexit a thing), these were mixed in with a slightly inferior Boddingtons (put a flake in it). They were served in Surrey CC plastic glasses (glasses that never made the journey back after I left them in the pub) by Chris proudly wearing his Surrey top – time to move onto the football season big man!
The train was busy and bustling, and the drinks went down rather well. An England rugby supporter asking who we were….and where we come from…we told him…we’re the…oh forget it. But he was clearly envious that we were enjoying the delights of National League football at Barnet, whilst he was slumming it with £120 tickets at Twickenham to see England face some big chaps called the ‘All Blacks’. Other banter such as asking Chris for a sing song on his return from the toilet, social media malarkey and more saw out the remainder of the 2 and a half hours. We’d arrived, time to make a dash to the pub? No the toilet called first, no charge at Paddington you say, well that’s a relief.
Chris then led a transport merry dance to meet his friend Dav and get that next drink in, with a few different tubes worked through, and a decent walk, I was starting to miss a beer in my hand, so the joy when we found our destination was tangible. Buckley’s is a pub about half a mile away from the Hive, and only housed one other person when we arrived. This meant there was seats, tables and quick service though, plus a little known team called the Grecians were playing on the telly. More pints incoming and more Gulls incoming, as we were joined by all-round good egg and fellow YouTuber Tom Kelly, resplendent in a new beetroot shirt he has been wearing continually for weeks. A few beers, a few pics and with time ticking, better head to the Hive.
Arriving at this new looking ground, we entered past security (briefly discussing NFL again with a Dolphins fan this time) and eventually entering through the turnstiles after Rich had toiled with our online tickets. Trying and failing to get in at the same time was Danny Stevens, co-commentator for the day to ‘nicest man at the Beeb’ Harry Salvidge. Still looking very youthful after all these years we should have grabbed a photo with the diminutive ex-Gulls legend, but he moved too quickly, Chris didn’t rate him at United and we were getting thirsty.
Inwards to the large open bar (just a big space really, perfect for a gaggle of people to mingle and much easier than the cramped Gulls Nest) and some post-match refreshments were supped. Included in the gaggle were a large number from the ‘Tom Lapslie Appreciation Society’. It was immediately nice to banter and mix with people who were full of character and personality, people who had been familiar to me online but not in person. A variety in company is always welcome, the Gulls comradery was a joy and before long I was learning their Gulls back stories, why they support this silly club, and why they loyally follow them all over the land. Face to face conversation is always much better than social media chat, no doubt about that.
My senses were clearly weakened by their friendliness as an expensive round was purchased, but sometimes you just have to go for it. At 7 minutes to kick off a pint was offered in exchange, usually I’d decline, but momentum was there, and the offer was accepted. A quick dash to our seats ensued at 2.59, Chris and Dav had already picked a spot towards the front and with drinks kicking in, ‘we are winning today’ optimism was in full cry. Well for the first 10 minutes at least…
The game itself? I won’t dwell on this too much. There’s only so many times you can repeat phrases such as ‘THEY TRIED, NO LACK OF EFFORT, NEED PACE, MISSING QUALITY, FINE LINES, TIRED SQUAD” and get away with it, even if they are all true. Heck we even looked like we could defend for most of the game (apart from the goal), and cliche alert, on another day we’d have snatched at least a draw from the high-flying Bees. Game over, another defeat and more despondency amongst the Yellow Army. Applause for the lads (well I did say they tried) and time to leave, pondering a team bottom of the table and facing another season of struggle to add to my collection. Acceptance on the way out with the likes of Joe and JJ that we are in the s##t, and a heads down, hurried, hands in pockets walk to the station.
After a defeat the journey home never matches the arrival and having succombed to a rather expensive pasty at Waterloo station we jumped onto a quieter and more subdued train to return to Devon. With the Paddington train cancelled, the Waterloo one was an hour and a half longer, stopping at what felt like every station humanly possible and testing my weary patience fully. Gulls fans sat across from us playing cards to pass the time, whilst we charged our phones, bemoaned the enduring slowness of Brett McGavin and debated how the Yellows would get out of this mess. I promised the card school that we would not go down, and I still believe that to be the case. A silly old fool supporting a silly old club. An away day that was still full of enjoyment and laughs, drinks and fun banter, despite a sobering 1-0. I’ll be back for more, don’t you worry. See you at Plainmoor.