Authored By Max
The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. It’s not the most exciting is it? However, after a good result in Round One, beating Millwall 2-0, we had the privilege of being Charlton Athletic’s first ever opponents in the competition. Being drawn away, not much chance of a ‘shock’, but a trip to the Valley certainly appealed and the £5 tickets for all sealed the deal.
Most Barnet fans will have probably done a full day at work, or school, or whatever and then gone to the game after with it being in London. However, being the student layabout that I am for another year, my journey was a bit longer than most. Nottingham to Charlton on a Tuesday, bit of a trek, but with a few of my mates taking half days a day in London with several beers seemed a plan.
I left Nottingham at half eleven and promptly cracked open a can of Foster’s on the train. Yes, I was sat alone, reading the paper, listening to my iPod and drinking at half eleven on a Tuesday morning. I know what I looked like and I couldn’t have cared less. This was a football day, basically a Saturday on a Tuesday and had to be done properly!
After a bit of a delay I got to London just on half one, having arranged to meet my mate at Kings Cross. This managed to go tits up after his phone decided to die and I couldn’t contact him to find where he was. Kings Cross isn’t small. In the end we made our way to The Globe pub in Moorgate separately, to meet initially three others, although those numbers were added to as time went on.
By about three we’d all had a few pints and a few seemed well on their way. I’m not sure where the idea or suggestion for the next place we visited came from, but it added to the day. Amusing to say the least. We jumped on the tube and went two stops to Farringdon. After a bit of a walk we arrived at The Griffin. I’d heard about this place, but this was my first visit. Honestly! The word ‘seedy’ springs to mind to say the least. Basically, it’s a strip pub. The girls (of varying quality looks-wise) come round with a pint glass and each person puts a £1 in. A few minutes later they get on the stage at the back of the pub and take all their clothes off and dance naked for all the men in there. I can’t take anywhere like that too seriously, although it was funny watching some of the old blokes, one in particular right at the front, just standing there ogling these girls. The first pub also that I’ve been in that only had a gentleman’s toilet and not a women’s one too. Sums it up really. After a very funny half hour in there and four ‘dances’ later, we headed off in the direction of London Bridge. For some reason getting a bus. I was hammered by now, to be fair.
First things first at London Bridge, a bit of fuel for the engine and a swift McDonalds was consumed, before going to the Barrowboy and Banker pub opposite the station. I can’t say it’s the best pub I’ve ever been in and with the drinks prices for city boys and not poor students; it was a bit of a hit to the wallet too. We plotted up in there for about an hour and a half, knocking back a fair bit of beer and by the time we made our way to London Bridge to get the train to Charlton, there was quite a few of us.
We got the 19:02 service to Charlton and the train was heaving. Plenty of Barnet fans there and everyone generally enjoying themselves, until a rather unfortunate argument between two of our lot. This was funny for a bit, but then dented the atmosphere just a touch. It’ll be fine, I’m sure.
It didn’t take long to get to Charlton and most of us were not in a great state. So why it seemed a good idea to get some vodka from the shop near the ground, along with some Coca-Cola and quickly consume these outside the ground, I don’t know. On the walk to the ground I managed to fall over, but not due to alcohol. The phrase ‘banana skin’ in relation to a slip up definitely has some context to it. Whilst no one likes falling over, even I had to laugh at managing to slip on a banana skin in the middle of the street and land flat on my face. We finished our vodka just near the entrance and were told by a pretty stern looking officer that we wouldn’t be allowed in if we were too drunk. Luckily they deemed we weren’t and about two minutes before kick off we paid our bargain £5 and entered the Valley.
What a nice ground. A bit surreal and a shame that it was practically empty, but it just showed that Charlton really are a team playing below where they ought to be. The stand behind the goal opposite our end was shut and most of their fans were packed into the lower tier of the stand to our left, with a few to our right as well. Barnet started the game brightly and gave us something to shout about after just eleven minutes. John O’Flynn banged one in to fire us into an unlikely lead. Most of my mates were sitting right down the front, whereas I fancied a sing song so was up at the back with some of the younger lot. It was fairly mental up there when we scored, just a shame it didn’t last. Four minutes later and The Addicks were level through an Izale McLeod goal and just before half time they took the lead. Both goals were a bit unlucky, but we weren’t being out played and still had every chance of getting something.
Half time saw another unnecessary pint consumed before returning, this time to the front of the stand. We pressed a bit, Jarrett did a lot of farting about with no end product as per usual and it’s his fault I lost my not at all gay bracelet thing I got on holiday, as in a moment of frustration where I flung my arms in the air it came off and I lost it. Thanks Albert. Leach had a chance to level but didn’t take it and then you got the impression we weren’t too bothered about losing when both Mark Hughes and John O’Flynn were taken off, presumably with Saturday in mind. With about fifteen minutes on the clock Charlton got a free kick just outside the box. My mate said “If this goes in, I’m going.” Wallop. Nicky Bailey formerly off the Bees hit an absolute belter. So, up the three of us got and made our way to the exit, not without giving Bailey an applause after he didn’t celebrate and applauded our fans, fair play to him. After we left Charlton added a late fourth and it ended up 4-1, not really a fair reflection on Barnet, though we were beaten by a team simply a lot better than us.
After a bit of searching, we found a pub about five minutes from the ground. When we got there, there were police outside and the door was locked, as there were a few lads down there they didn’t want to let in. We told them we had no interest in any trouble and the landlord came out, agreed with this and let us in. Fair to say this is where things began to take a real turn for the worse. Two more pints seemed to push all three of us right over the ‘edge’ as it were. We didn’t leave Charlton until nearly half eleven, having a chat with a friendly Addicks fan on the train after taking it in turns to climb all over the Charlton sign at the train station. I don’t know why.
What I really don’t know though is why on earth we did what we did next. We got to London Bridge and it was about quarter to twelve. Both of the other lads had work in the morning and I had to be up at a reasonably early time to get the train back North. However, without mentioning any company names or anything, my friend happens to work near London Bridge station and had the keys to his office. So off we went there. In his office they had bottles of wine. Clearly they seemed the best idea in the world at the time and before you knew it, it was 2:30am and we’d drunk two bottles. It was a lot of fun to be fair, running at filing cabinets with hard hats on, spinning on the chairs and sitting in the boss’s chair. I know, all really mature. Anyway, by half two, tiredness began to creep in and with it being a Tuesday night (well, Wednesday morning by then) it was decided it was full time. My mate whose office we were in decided not to come with, instead he slept on the sofa at work! Still, at least it meant he turned up in the morning.
Me and my other mate left, not really with any idea of how we were getting home. We were quoted by a cabbie that we’d be looking at at least £40 to North London, which was too steep for me. In the end, after a stroll across London Bridge, admiring the sites around, we got to the bus stop and saw the 43 route was still running from there. Thankfully this made life a bit easier, a bus came quite soon and it didn’t seem to take too long. My mate got off in Highgate to get an N20 home from there; I went as far as Muswell Hill before having to get a final bus home, stumbling in at about 3:40. What an absolute shambles. I didn’t even bother to get into bed; I just dived on the sofa in the front room and completely passed out. I missed my alarm in the morning and purely by luck woke up just in time to rush to Kings Cross to make my train home.
Ok, so we lost 4-1, but we didn’t play badly and it’s only the JPT. More importantly, we had an absolutely superb day out around London. A strip pub at half three in the afternoon? Drinking wine in an empty office in London Bridge until half two on a Tuesday night? These away days aren’t cheap, but for the things we get ourselves into and stories they create, it’s worth every bloody penny!