Could there have possibly been a better weekend draw? I'm not convinced. The prospect of having an August in Torquay had the pulse racing the moment it hit our screens when the fixtures were released. Thankyou fixture computer, after all the silliness you have dealt to us in years past (that's Grimsby, Chester and Hereford midweek, for example) You have finally pulled your finger out and given us this wallet-busting weekend at the perfect time.
Ideas were formulated immediately. By 1200 on fixtures day, train tickets were booked, and by the end of the day, fourteen of us were on the list to do the weekend. Lovely stuff. We'd almost certainly be joined by many more Barnet down there, after all, for the Friday night game in 2005 there must have been a good 50+ out in the town after the game and on the Saturday. It's not easy to find a hotel that will take a group of football supporters that large, so we ended up split into two hotels a stones' throw apart.
Another idea was added to pile on the cost of the weekend. Fancy Dress. Well why not? We're on holiday! Beach wear was a standard idea, but some wanted to push the boat out. I was looking around for parrot costumes, or maybe a phone box costume, but then I was alerted to the notion of Morphsuits. If you didn't click the link, it's an all in one lycra bodysuit, in a plain colour. I could only ask the question of "Will you be doing them in Amber?". "Yes, Orange will be in our next batch" was the wonderful reply. That's close enough, the club seems to insist we play in orangey-amber anyway as it makes us "unique". Hmmm. Regardless, I bought seven.
The weekly countdown was already well underway. It always seems so far away, yet it came around very quickly. We had four competitive matches to play before we could even think about the actual Torquay game though, mind you, but we all knew where the main focus of attention was, especially based on those infamous previous trips to the Riviera. The local bars and clubs were sure to be blessed with our wonderful presence.
It had been over two years since our last visit. It was a shame that they got relegated in the first place, but on our part it was with celebration that their return to the Football League was greeted. On arrival in Torquay, it was a quick rush to our respective hotels to dump our stuff, get changed and take a stroll down to the beach, for some pre-planned beach football. Perhaps it was an omen that outside one of the hotels was a pub called 'Albert's Bar'. They would surely be enjoying our imminent business.
In the spirit of the ongoing Ashes however, the football turned into beach cricket, with most of the group participating. A questionable wicket provided plenty of uneven bounce, but wickets were few and far between. This reporter managed a respectable 21, with a number of glorious shots into the sea producing four runs. I was victim to a very dubious LBW decision however, as I felt I was hit outside the line of leg stump. The stumps were about a foot high, but that's neither here nor there! Hawkeye was unavailable in this case.
A devastating spell of pace from Rupert Remington followed against the new batsman before everyone decided they'd had too much, and wanted to watch us continue to smash the Aussies as they were 111/7 at that point. We all headed to our first pub, Appleby's, a short walk away up a nice steep hill. Torquay has a few of those to be fair.
It seemed the pre-requisite for females working in this pub was that they had to be very attractive. Fine by us. Drinks and food were well underway as Australian wickets, then soon English wickets began to fall as the afternoon wore on. Soon a blonde barmaid appeared, preliminary discussion revealed she was a Torquay fan, loved football and would be going to the game tomorrow. Collectively we were all in love, perhaps myself more so. Though she hadn't seen what we were going to turn up in yet...oh and it wasn't Helen Chamberlain.
Once the cricket was over, we began to think about moving on. Not before someone decided to buy a round of shots for everyone however, and with that quick livener we were on our way back to the hotel.
Before you knew it we were back out again, no messing around here thank you. It was about a fifteen minute walk into town where we started at a bar called Mambo's. A great start this, it was 2-for-1 on all drinks on a heated roof balcony type arrangement. Lovely. We were joined by a few others who had travelled separately so there were over twenty of us now. The pace here was swift and we moved onto a familiar venue in Bar Med. To show how hard we all are, the boxing punchbag machine game (I think it was called that) was well in use. For such a weakling, my third place score of 814 was very pleasing. One unidentifiable member of the group scored 005 with a massive mis-hit, causing much laughter.
Continuing in the opposite direction, we headed to the well hidden Yates', where another great team photo was taken, as per 2007. Things began getting silly in here, Sambuca's were lit and loved by the younger lads who had joined in the fun. Jagerbombs were soon purchased and knocked back before we got the change and more shots were throw in for good measure. We just like to drink, really. There was a football match occurring at some point soon but it really was in the back of our minds.
It was time to move on again soon after, and the local obligatory Wetherspoons' was the next stop. Another two turned up to join us with some serious catching up to do on the drinks front. They did very well by the end of the night to be fair. As is seemingly the case with every Wetherspoons in the country of a weekend evening, the place was a mix of old people who had been in all day, still finishing off their real ale and youngsters who were stopping in for a cheap few before moving on elsewhere.
Still, the music was loud and with the bloodstream being suitably affected, silly dancing was now in order. Strangely though, some of the old people broke the trend by joining in with the dancing. One member of the group immediately approached a lady of perhaps 65 for a very intimate dance. It had everyone in stitches for literally minutes.
Some had moved on earlier, but we stayed for another before heading to another familiar haunt in the Venue, just round the corner. Half of the group had made it inside, it was about 2330 at this point I think. It was a tenner to get in, with drinks paid for all night, good deal really. However it applied to the most woeful, sickly alcopops in town. As if we hadn't drunk enough though, mind you.
Having started quietly, the place began to fill up well. Mostly men though, but the girls who had joined in made up for that with a superb average level of attractiveness. Drunken, chauvinistic pigs, that's what we are! Good music in here, a good mix of all the genres but the insistence on playing that ridiculous Fratellis song made me unhappy for the three or so hellish minutes. Having been up since half seven, we did well to last the distance with all the dancing. I put that down to the previously consumed Double Vodka Red Bulls. Magic drink.
It was one of those nights where people disappeared and no-one even realised. The morning would surely be spent piecing together memory fragments from the evening in trying to work out just what had occurred. Most of us left at around 0245, embarking on the stagger back to the hotel. Some were already back and misbehaving, so much so w e were able to hear them shouting in their top floor room from outside the hotel. I simply got into my room and got some well needed kip.
Sunlight brought the difficult task of awaking from the slumber. It would have to be a 0900 start to make breakfast, and it wasn't easy with the frail state of many heads in the hotel. Other guests however did not find the activities so funny at nearly 0300 in the morning. Oops! That was an awkward situation. After breakfast we strolled down to the front to freshen up somewhat. Attention soon turned to the impending football match and just what we would be doing with the aforementioned orange attire. Some went for some retail therapy while most of us met around the centre again outside Vaughan's for a morning pick me up in the form of a nice pint. Others amongst opted for the soft drinks, still suffering. The nearby joke shop enjoyed plenty of business as we stocked up on inflatables and various accessories for the football. Some of us, i.e. me, were more excited than others.
With everyone now vastly more awake, we headed back to the hotel and slipped into these frankly ridiculous outfits. Though as I had to reiterate to some who were still having doubts, this was not about looking good it was about looking very very funny. That we did.
As soon as I stepped out the hotel with a non-Morphsuit wearing accomplice, attention turned straight in my direction. Kids laughed, adults pointed, cars honked their horns. Brilliant I thought. It was only a short walk to nearby Albert's where I was joined by two more Morphsuits before heading inside. Nobody knew quite what to make of it, they'd never seen such a thing. Eventually, all seven Morphsuit wearers were in the pub, plus a fantastic looking banana. What were we doing??
Some still stuck with the soft drinks, although others required a bit of "dutch courage" by ordering every flavour of shot behind the bar to accompany their pints. Cabs were ordered for the short trip to the ground.
Initially I was quite worried that the ground staff would not take too kindly to our attire and the vast amount of accessories we bought with us. Balls, trumpets, cakes, bananas, the lot. Four of us got into the ground with no questions asked and were immediately stared at by the Bees fans, who seemingly couldn't quite believe what on earth they had just seen. It was brilliant. Everyone pulled their cameras out for this ridiculous fancy dress, including a press photographer whom we'd met on our England C travels. That photo now appears in Monday's Daily Mail, page 74. Fame!!!
The rest of the group soon arrived, as well as two other Morphsuit wearers who can be attributed to the original idea. So there were nine morphs in total, plus a banana and an unexpected appearance from Scooby Doo and the Pink Panther as well as people in wigs, big sunglasses and generally stupid accessories. Fantastic. Who says you can't have fun at football anymore? We were very keen to appear on television, so positioned ourselves directly behind the goal in the hope that someone would score at our end of the ground.
Torquay's goalkeeper immediately spotted the brightness of the away end and had a good old chuckle. He enjoyed it and got a bit of banter back for his troubles. To be fair to the guy, he gave as good as he got and took a joke well. Top work. The game started slowly with little goalmouth action of note. Disappointing that, it was getting a little boring. On 25 minutes though, Albert Jarrett was sent into orbit by a horrendous challenge by a clumsy Torquay defender. Sensing our opportunity, much excitement preceded this free kick. Two people even predicted the ball would fly straight in. Who knows?
The ball sailed in, bounced over everyone and was on its way in. It was a moment where everything pauses. We were right behind it, we knew it was going in, but we just had to wait until it hit the net. It did, and we were off on a superb stack and terrace run. We danced around like a bunch of raving lunatics, this would surely look brilliant on the telly! Fantastic stuff. Great work by Albert Adomah, happy days.
Ten minutes later and a fine move cut the Torquay defence to pieces and Adomah coolly finished under the advancing 'keeper to make it 2-0. This was even more crazy than the first, a fantastic terrace run as Albert stood in front of the onrushing orange morphs, a banana alongside many others who had sprinted to greet the goalscorer. My burger, which I had taken one bite out of, went in the shake up in the ensuing melee, that was £3 I would never see again. It wasn't the biggest problem however, I turned around with a big grin on my face, 2-0, gotta be on the TV again haven't we? Just as the smile couldn't get much bigger, I spotted the linesman's offside flag. It must have been up for about thirty seconds.
At this point though we were still buzzing. The footage of this was bound to be superb and I wasn't concerned at all about what the scoreline could have been after that! The game quietened down as we headed into the break with our lead.
The second half was a different story however. Torquay had our backs against the wall and were pushing strongly. There were odd glimmers of attacks, but it was thanks to resolute defending from first time starters Clovis Kamdjo and Ahmed Deen, along with the whole side that kept Torquay at bay. That said, Jake Cole deserves a huge mention for his performance. Aside from a string of great saves, including a fingertip save at full stretch to touch a Nicky Wroe shot onto the post, his all round command of his area and excellent distribution were part of a match winning performance from Cole. A quality performance.
The last ten minutes were hellish. Suddenly the result really did matter. It would be the difference between a good night and a great night. With resilience and grit, we dug in well and kept Torquay out. 1-0! Superb stuff. The players saluted the fans' efforts and still raised a smile at the sight of our cracking clothing. Cabs were waiting outside to take us away in case of any unwanted attention. However the Torquay supporters ambled past quietly, still unsure what to make of it!
During quick change, the local news was carrying updates on the football and lo and behold, they were straight onto the Torquay goals and there we were in our bright orange glory, the classic celebrations for both goals there for all to see and admire. This only heightened our mood further and we strolled into Albert's with our heads high for a toast to the goalscorer. An omen it was indeed! Soon we moved to Appleby's to watch the end of the cricket and grab some more decent food. Beautiful Torquay Fan Blonde Barmaid was back behind the bar having been to the game. Banter was shared. It was love. However, that was broken temporarily as we got on with it and headed back for another change and kick off the celebrations properly.
Proper clothing was finally found and adorned. A third visit to Albert's, where another great team photo was taken with the whole group of fourteen ready for a big night out. We visited Appleby's AGAIN, where the magic drink (DVRB) was again knocked back at some pace. It had become a lot more lively, with a band playing and the place packed out. No time to be wasted however and we were off towards the town by about 2100. Vaughan's was another place that had livened up, albeit a little bit more extremely.
From a breakfast place, it had turned into a bar playing outrageously loud and horrific trance music. But it did serve drinks so there's its redeeming feature. Fifteen shots were lined up on the bar and dispatched quickly along with another magic drink and things were progressing very nicely! The group split into two here, some heading up in the hill, some staying down. In Blu Cargo, the most expensive round of the night fell on the skintest member of the group. Bad luck Max Bygraves. The next place must have been good because I don't even remember what it was called.
Walking back down the hill, we were hailed by a busker who kicked off a brilliantly impromptu rendition of Oasis' classic Wonderwall with all of us singing nice and loudly. Other random locals enjoyed this and even joined in, well why not? After we dropped some change into the young man's bucket, we moved on past Venue, deciding that we wouldn't end up there twice in one weekend. Instead, we moved to what seemed like a quieter area, a little bit out of the way round the corner, having swerved through youngsters offering us shots in their bar with a silly amount of leaflets being waved in front of our alcohol induced eyes. No thank you.
Getting away a bit further, we entered Studio 52. It literally seemed the size of a studio flat, was very dark and unwelcoming. But never mind, there was a fantastic air conditioning machine for us to stand next to. And that was the best part about this venue. Hmmm. Moving further down to a place that had been recommended called Play.
This was more like it. Busy and very pleasing on the eye. And I'm not talking about the interior decor, y'know what I mean? We hit the dance floor immediately and Max was straight onto the stage signalling 1-0 with his fingers and throwing some stupendous shapes. Naturally I thought I would join in on this activity, having refrained from partaking in drinking the oddly coloured beverages on offer, instead preferring the water option. Suddenly out of nowhere, the rest of the group who had split from us earlier arrived in a very merry state and in that instant we were all back together celebrating a fantastic win with a lot of dancing and singing. Fantastic stuff.
Some had already gone by the time I left at 0130, but a few of us called it a night there. We returned to the outside world with our heads still held very high. Texts soon came through informing us of our appearance and clear mention on BBCs Football League Show. Even more fame! Whatever next! A happy stroll home it was then, and a distinctly quieter return into the hotel.
Sunday is always a complete write off. It doesn't help the lie-in tactic when you get people knocking on your door at half three asking about "the caper". Yes Max I do mean you, again! I will let him explain later this week as to what circumstances brought him to the room in the state he was in, it was very funny to be fair, but it certainly wasn't at that time when you've been woken up from a deep sleep whilst repeatedly asking the visitors to "fuck off!". When we did eventually wake, only two of us out of the seven in the hotel made it downstairs to get some breakfast, before getting some more sea air. This was it, the end of the weekend. Having bundled everything back into the bag and dragged it down to Appleby's for the fourth and final time to catch some more cricket, we were on the 1400 train back to our regular lives.
It was a time to reflect you might say. The football was brilliant and the weekend was incredible in every way. We owe Torquay a fair bit, it never lets us down and never fails to live up to the expectation. Whilst it may seem that football takes a backseat sometimes on these trips, it's always there at the heart of everything we do. Even during the lowest days following this club there is still the memory of amazing weekends like these and anticipation of the next one. You would be going some to match this one, however.
Back home at 1800, everyone said their goodbye's and I imagine everyone felt the same as me when they hit their beds. Utterly exhausted but in a state of bliss with the weekend just experienced.
Albert Adomah, 1-0, Torquay away. Magic.