Thursday, 29 July 2010

Gillingham 1 v Heart of Midlothian 2 - Friendly

THURSDAY 29th JULY 2010,
Pre Season Friendly

(Rooney pen 50)
Heart of Midlothian(0)2
(Novikovas 52,Bouzid 84)

Admission £10 (ignore what the ticket stub says)
Programme £2 (for Gills v both Hearts and Peterborough)
Attendance 2359 (inc. approx 230 Hearts fans)
Gillingham team: Julian, Sinclair, Nutter, Gowling, Bentley, J Payne, Weston, Palmer, Spiller, S Payne, Barcham.
Subs: Rooney, Jackman, Maher, White, McCammon, Akinfenwa, Essan, Aborah, Lough, Cronin.
Football needs more players with names like John Nutter.
Essex Hearts in the area. Heeeeere's Freddie!!!

Hearts team: Balogh, Barr, Wallace, Mrowiec, Bouzid, Zaliukas, Santana, Jonnson, Elliot, Stevensoin, Novikovas, Smith.
Subs: Kello, Templeton, McCowan, ThomsonI love it when a plan comes together.
Booking train tickets and accommodation in advance always saves a small fortune over the course of a season, but when the Millwall v Hearts fixture was announced, whilst my compatriots went ahead and got themselves organised I had to hang fire for a few extra days because I was sans computer and incommunicado with the rest of the world for a while ... it was quite therapeutic as it happens and I rediscovered the pleasures of actually reading books and walking for ten minutes without stopping to update my status on Facebook ... y'know the kind of real life stuff 99% of normal people do.
But, when I got back from that eerie dimension where they don't have the worldwide web and mobile phone signals don't work, I discovered that Hearts had added another fixture down south during the interim and whilst my mates all frantically tried reorganising their plans, I had all my party's travel, digs, transfers and 'added extras' sorted within 25 minutes.
Woo hoo!
At £190 for four nights (mine was £36 cheaper) in a London guest house, including 1st class return train travel from Edinburgh to London (obviously mine was from North Notts), return tickets from London to Gillingham, all London Underground travel for four days covered, breakfast every morning (for those who could get up after the excesses of the previous night) and pre organised social gatherings, there were plenty of takers, however being a bit of a snob I was fairly exclusive about who I could provide places for.
But through process of careful elimination I soon found a good few people for my entourage who fitted the requisite criteria.
AKA, must be willing and able to:
1) Drink lots.
2) Stand your round.
3) Stand your ground.
4) Drink lots more.
5) Repeat to fade.
Gillingham were perfect hosts, they even provided Hearts with an extra goal
to shoot at, it seems nobody had told them Christian Nade has actually left.

During the day I had a bit of a trip down memory lane around North London.
I lived in Tufnell Park (very nearly Finsbury Park) for a while.
Tufnell Park hasn't changed much over the years, but could do with a bit of TLC and a fresh coat of paint in places.
My 'reccy' included a look at Arsenal's old ground a couple of miles up the road from my former address.
Arsenal Stadium has now been redeveloped into a plush housing complex.
You aren't supposed to be able to enter the 'stadium' at Highbury any more, unless you are a resident with a swipe card and security number ... but there is always a way of getting in anywhere if you want to gain access enough, isn't there ;-)
Though getting out again proved to be a bit more 'awkward'.
It was slightly eerie standing in the ornamental gardens where the pitch once was looking up at the swish dwellings built into the stands.
I'd stood in more or less the same spot before (the corner where the North Bank and East Stand used to meet) in the early 80's when a knife fight between Arsenal's fledgling Gooners and West Ham's established ICF mob had spilled onto the pitch.
There was a massive cloud of orange smoke hanging over the corner of the pitch that day, when a distress flare had announced the commencement of a full scale pitch battle (a young Arsenal fan actually died that afternoon when he was stabbed in a street near the ground after the game), but today there were no police officers present shouting "Get off the fucking pitch or I'll arrest you!" (the alternative being to get back in the middle of a bunch of thirty and forty something meat-heads brandishing knives at anyone within arms length. Ah where would we be without the London Met. Police eh!?), but there was a fairly unfriendly looking security guy who wanted me to leave ... immediately!
It has to be said, with all due respect, that parts of Finsbury Park are going downhill fast and some of the area wasn't very nice in the first place.
I wouldn't really want to live round there nowadays.
NO ENTRY - apparently
On the outside it still looks like this
But on the inside - "Where's your famous ICF!?"
(Above) a fairly grotty building in mid demolition opposite the Emirates Stadium.
Left click and enlarge picture to see the maroon and white sign.
THE66POW on tour
Gillingham v Hearts

Without further ado ... on to the Medway town of Gillingham in Kent, 32 miles from London via the residential and 'lovely' outlying areas of the capital city and some caravan sites.
First stop is the Southern Belle opposite the train station for a quick couple of pints, then it's a short walk to the ground via the Livingstone Arms where t'internet forums have decreed the away fans will be meeting tonight.
I prefer the real ale bar round the other side of the ground myself, but it's always good to see a few familiar old faces at the start of a new season ... and indeed, make several new acquaintances, big up to the Purfleet Hearts ;-)
The other bar (I can't remember it's name) tries to accommodate away supporters tastes by putting on an ale from the area the visiting team of the day are from, i.e. Theakston's for Darlington, Old Bailey for Mansfield, Old Speckled Hen for Yorkies and Amyl Nitrate for Brighton fans, but I might have just made all of that up for purposes of telling a joke that Bernard Manning himself would've been proud of.
There were a few Rangers fans in the Livingstone singing silly songs about a foreign king called Bill and an O.A.P. who lives in the Vatican City, but they were ignored in the main ... we were here on a mission to drink beer, be sociable, watch Hearts and party.
We weren't here to give a toss about other peoples excess religious baggage.
On entering the ground we found bottled lager was on sale for £1.50, on discovering there were a couple of hundred more away fans in the vicinity Gillingham's caterers cashed in and the price of that beer doubled ten minutes later.
The first half was typical pre season, half paced, no hard tackles fare and passed without very much incident.
But the scores filtering through from Hibs Europa League game kept everyone amused.
This season Hibs are apparently (according to their forums) going to split the Old Firm clubs at the top of the SPL, trail blaze across Europe, win the Scottish Cup (for the first time since 1902) and show those 'Yams from Gorgie' who are the 'guvnors' in Edinburgh (we already know!).
Their 3-0 first leg defeat to Maribor tonight indicates that either, i) they are so confident of a resounding win the second leg they've let their Slovenian opponents have a massive head start, or ii) they're so deluded and completely crap they're just bigging themselves up for yet another inglorious fall ... yet again!
This annual declaration of intent followed by miserable failure from the green side of Scotland's capital city is so predictable it is hardly worth a cursory raising of the eyebrows these days, but it's still quite amusing never the less.
Bottom six at best beckons for you Hibees.
In the second half Gillingham went ahead from the penalty spot, there was almost a sustained murmur of appreciation from over their fans side of the pitch (neither end of the ground was open), but the goal seemed to wake Hearts up from their slumber. Novikovas had equalised within two minutes and Bouzid cemented a narrow win 6 minutes before the end.
Hearts had just about shaded the second half and deserved the win, but it was effectively a practice match with little at stake so though they were the better team and we'd all had a fun night, I don't think anybody was likely to get too carried away with the result.
We came to party ... and party we bloody well did!
A text message I received on the train back to London read - What do Heather MIlls and Hibs have in common? The second leg is just for show - now that wasn't very politically correct was it?
Back in London, I hopped off the tube a stop before my digs and ventured out into Finsbury Park for some supper before retiring to my bed.
I'd eaten in this very same establishment the previous night, but while I was queueing to place an order on my return, I saw two furry long tailed creatures run from behind the food preparation counter, while a young Greek guy attempted to stamp on a third one ... I kind of lost my appetite.
Hmm, some parts of north London are going downhill considerably faster than I had originally thought.