The signs of a weird one were there from the off.
On The Buses
Get the R68 or R70 to Twickenham my butty Dav said. What turns up in Richmond High Street? The Groovebus from Groovyville.
Reg Varney, the conductor, on the step said: ‘No Oyster cards, cost you a quid,’ before grinning wider than almost anyone has ever grinned ever – like he’s got the lips of a sturgeon – at the three ladies clambering on ahead of me.
Beatles, Stones and classic hits belted out all the way to Twickers. The only bus I have never wanted to get off. Cancel all those trains. It should be the law that the Sixties Bus is the only way to get to Twickenham for future generations.
Gimmicky games now are all the rage at World Cup venues. Sponsors dream up something inane that if you made your kids play it, they’d kick you. Passes the time. Ups the excitement and, nearly always mindless, means the match is always an improvement.
I filmed this scrum machine somethingorother and when everyone stopped grunting after half a minute – it’s OK it wasn’t sex – realised one was my old football butty Alun, a fellow Welshman. He’s the one in the middle here. Al, your tush needs trimming compared to your svelte younger days.
Picked me way to me seat and the first person I saw? Gorblimey, strike a light, kiss me quick dahlin, stone the crows. Yeah, Ross Kemp/Grant Mitchell, that’s who.
‘Alright bruv,’ I said.
‘Wotcha,’ he said.
‘Who’s gonna win then,’ I said, winking.
‘England of coruse, it’s faaaaaamily innit?’ he said.*
He was two rows behind the in the ponce class VIP but hobnobbing with fans throughout the game, and indeed looked fit enough to be on the subs’ bench.
If like me you are a tight Taffy and fluked the cheapest ticket, U11 is where you end up.
Where the bats perch, two rows from where the metal roof meets the concrete carapace of Twickers.
Very high up. When the Welsh team emerged they looked like little red ladybirds scuttling across an enormous lawn.
If I ever get this section again then I am happy to team up with other seat-holders to hire a helicopter because a) I think it will take less time to reach my seat and b) it will take less energy.
It would be easier to get by jumping out of the copter and paragliding to your seat.
St John Ambulance personnel are often at games – at ground level. They should be stationed up here in the top tier with oxygen tents/defibrillators, cups of tea (no sugars please) and big smiles.
Put a sock in it
Welsh fans remarking on English booing of Gatland and our players doesn’t wash, given that we’ve been giving them the bird for years, if not centuries, and only as recently as February crassly tried to pathetically outpsych them in the tunnel by forcing them out early on to the pitch. That worked a treat didn’t it?
The booing was what, these days, passes for a mark of respect.
It was all over wasn’t it? No England fans were moaning or even looking mildly perturbed that us Welsh troggs could spoil their day. They didn’t have an inkling of what was to come. Neither did I, mind.
The two lads either side of me barely uttered a word the entire match, as if they’d been dragged unwillingly to the biggest England v Wales clash of all time. Like they were suffering it.
I can’t imagine Welsh fans thought we would amount to much in the second half. It looked sewn up.
Mental plans were made to leave after 70 minutes when no doubt we would be 15 points adrift and down to 14 men – one in the bin, my guess would have been Alun Wyn. No point witnessing every second of yet another ritual humiliation.
Out came the stretchers and the woe worsened.
The penny dropped. Warren Gatland, he’s the Marshall Zhukov of world rugby. It’s not rugby, it’s Stalingrad. Throws players on the pitch, they get hospitalised. Calls up another one. He gets pulverised, head nearly kicked off or bagsnatched to the point of expiring from scrotal pain. Look boys, says Zhukov-Gatland, this is Stalingrad, get out there, don’t worry the hospital bills will be covered – and it’s not as bad as that time I made you run up a sand dune in Qatar with a hungry goat chasing you.
The rugby phrase ”hospital pass’ has always struck me as being deliciously accurate and amusing at the same time. But Gatland-Zhukov has made it archaic.
Now we can add ‘hospital scrum’, ‘hospital garryowen’, ‘hospital ruck’, or maybe if Gatland/Zhukov is on the sidelines, it should be ‘field hospital pass’, scrum etc etc, with surgeons hovering at the pitchside, all gizmos and replacement organs, including kidneys and ears, available for on-the-spot serious injury treatment. Get ’em back out there, it’s only a ruptured spleen.
At this rate of player attrition we’re going to have to pull out by the quarter-finals and I’ve already called the old man (79, ex-captain of Milford Haven RFC) to tell him to switch his phone off for the rest of the week.
If we reach the final, unlikely as that sounds, we might well have to dig up Merv the Swerve (God rest his soul) and Haydn Tanner to get a team out.
Songs of Praise
And then the end. Woo-woo. Except it wasn’t round by me. Few Welsh fans in U11, they’d all died in the attempt to climb so high.
What with the football and this result, this is Peak Wales – it can only get much better than this for sport in our country if Uruguay stick 60 on England. We just spoilt a carefully organised World Cup for the hosts.
But yeah, a nice feeling – woke up happy this morning and have been serenading the landlord’s cat for two hours.
It’ll be a bit like England going on about the 1966 World Cup – we’re going to milk the dregs from this one for eternity if our hosts don’t get through.
For me, not the best Welsh win over England. I remember 1979. Six of us got in without tickets – you could chuck the guy on the gate a fiver to get in then – lower East Terrace, everyone drunk except us kids, everyone pissing where they stood at half time, great singing – much better than now – and four tries. FOUR tries, imagine that happening now, South Wales would shut down for a week. It was even better than 30-3 two years ago when we scored a measly three.
The only game for full back Clive Griffiths, who replaced JPR, AND who brightened up my school on his teacher training experience by being the first PE teacher to be seen smiling in two years (they only laughed at their own jokes) and also by not insinuating strongly that if you liked football – even at the age of 12 – you were a screaming homosexual.
Plus back in 1979 you got to run on the pitch at the end of the game and chase all the players off. They should bring that back. So, yes, ’79 shades it for me. I was young, full o beans – you got to chase Gareth Edwards off the pitch FFS. These days aII I want a cup of cocoa at half time and a natter about knuckledusters with Ross Kemp.
But this comes close to our Seventies swansong, which the 27-3 win over our neighbours proved to be.
I had £10 on a draw and Robbershaw’s decision to kick for touch robbed me of £250. Never trust an England skipper.
But it was a price worth paying.
It was, as my new mate Grant would say:
* The chat with Ross Kemp is a figment of my imagination. Vid to be added some time soon-ish