Saturday, 15th April.
Ice, ice baby
I can pack a bit into a day when I'm motivated.
Following last Saturday's stellar performance, I was invited to play for the Team Wearing
White Shirts again. Unfortunately I wasn't able to turn out for the full 90 minutes because
me and the lads from the Dawes Road Palace were going to see Fulham play at 3pm. I made up the numbers to eleven for the
first half, and while I was getting changed I was joined by the captain in the change room.
He had been sent off moments after the restart for the second half. So the team was playing
with nine men, against a team from the division above (it was a cup tie) and they were already
3-0 down in the first half.
Before the match I had zipped out to Tufnell Park (I didn't know the quirky off-spinner was
so revered over here) to collect a couple of parcels that had been sent to Bonnie's place.
The reason for my haste to collect them was that one parcel contained my mouthguard. When you
have teeth as well aligned as mine, you have to take good care of them.
The trains were absolutely packed on my way back to Fulham, and running late as well.
As I emerged from Fulham Broadway station I had a call on my mobile. It was Jules wondering
where the hell I was, kick-off was in 50 minutes. So I belted back to the Dawes Road Palace
as fast as I could. Well, not really. I sort of jogged until I was in sight of the flat and
then I ran as fast as I could, so it looked like I had been sprinting along the length
of Dawes Road. Just as well, because Jules and Simon were hanging out of the windows carrying
on like a pair of galahs.
Craven Cottage is about ten minutes' walk from the Palace. We arrived in good time before
the kick-off. Through the turnstiles we went, and stood on the terraces with the home supporters.
I bought the programme (not on a par with the Footy Record, it must be said) and we watched the
two teams warm up on the ground. There was a steel drum band at our end of the pitch, as you
would expect. Before the match the incoming manager of Fulham was introduced, and Mohammed Al
Fayed walked around the ground waving his Fulham scarf above his head like a severely dehydrated
man marooned on a desert island trying to attract the attention of a passing aircraft.
Kick-off was delayed until 3:06pm. Today was the eleventh anniversary of the Hillsborough
disaster, and 3:06 was the time that the game was called off back in 1989. 16,000 people stood
in almost complete silence, broken only by the chimes of mobile phones going off at all corners
of the ground.
As for the game, well Fulham dominated against a piss-poor Sheffield United team, sticking
four past them. The atmosphere? It wasn't a derby, so the fans weren't exactly going off.
There was a rousing chorus of "You can stick your blue flag up your arse" during the second
half. (Chelsea aren't popular round Fulham way.) The fans went home happy. Except for those
decked in red and white standing at the opposite end of the ground.
And the highlight for me happened during the first half. One of the Sheffield United
strikers went down in a screaming heap after an innocuous challenge. "GET UP YA CREAM PUFF!"
I yelled, safe among the Fulham supporters, "YOU ARE SOFT!" At this point just about everyone
standing between me and the fence turned around to look at me.
After tea, Jules and I went round to his bird's place. There were five of us there altogether,
and we played a game of "Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire - the boardgame". Despite my head for
trivia, I was well and truly slaughtered. Working against me were the facts that the game was
biased towards the British market, that I've only ever watched the show once and have no idea
what all this "lifeline" business is about, that I couldn't exactly "phone a friend", and that
I had to convert everything from pounds sterling to Australian dollars.
When I returned to the Dawes Road Palace I was all pumped up because there was a bit of
footy on Sky. Alas it was Collingwood vs Dogs, a tight game but a game that didn't really
interest me. Late in the first half I discovered that there was a documentary on Vanilla Ice
on another channel, and having been completely hooked in by that I managed to miss the highlights
of the Carlton match. But it is good to see Vanilla Ice back on his feet again, doing what he
does best, which is being creative.