A day in the life of an away fan….
7.00am: Get up early, feed the cats and make a packed lunch in preparation to leave my Nottingham home for the trip to London to watch my football team, Derby County, play at Millwall. My wife Karen has her friend Lucy staying with her and as they have an engagement in the Derby area they agree to drop me off at Derby County’s Pride Park stadium which is 18 miles away to catch a supporters’ bus. With two women in the house, getting in and out of the bathroom takes some organising, hence the early start.
8.45am: Arrive at Pride Park where I am meeting up with my brother John. His son Ryan lives in London and we are catching up with him later. The two women, both enthusiastic coffee drinkers, are aghast to find that the Starbucks café which is part of the stadium complex does not open until 9am!
9.00am: Starbucks opens, coffee purchased and my brother thankfully turns up on time.
9.30am: The two supporters’ buses, which have been chartered through the football club, leave the car park to set off on the 260 mile round trip to London. After speaking to the driver to get an estimated arrival time, John rings his son to arrange to meet him outside the Millwall ground at 2pm.
12 noon: A half hour stop off at the Toddington service station on the M1 along with three other privately chartered buses carrying Derby County fans. Our driver has informed us that the buses have to meet up with a police escort in London at 1.30pm to be taken to the ground.
1.15pm: We park up at a lay-by some distance from the ground, ready for the convoy to be escorted to Millwall.
2.10pm: After a frustrating 55 minutes sitting in the lay-by, we set off. Apparently one of the buses was held up and as we only have one police minivan escorting us, we have had to wait for it to arrive before we can depart. The Metropolitan Police don’t have a perfect record when it comes to decision making and the fans are pretty miffed at the delay.
2.55pm: After trundling our way through the congested London traffic we finally arrive at Millwall and manage to reach our seats just as the game kicks off. Because we have his match ticket, Ryan has spent an hour standing outside the ground as the minutes ticked toward kick off.
3.15pm: Derby County, unbeaten in the last six matches and 3-2 victors at Doncaster in midweek, are dismal. Outfought and out-thought by a muscular Millwall side, we go a goal down.
3.45pm: It’s half time and many Derby fans, especially those of the male species who like a pint or two, join a big queue for the toilets. Matters have not been helped by the fact that the toilet on our bus is not working.
4.09pm: Millwall score their second goal after appalling defensive work by Derby and the result is beyond doubt. We are clearly second best.
4.45pm: The whistle blows and we are put out of our misery but there is worse to follow. As we trudge downstairs we discover that the toilets – both male and female – have been locked! No explanation given and we have no choice but to get on our buses for the return journey.
5.15pm: The driver turns on the ignition and our bus leaves the ground, Let’s hope it won’t be too long before we have a loo stop.
7.30pm: TWO AND A HALF HOURS later after a nightmare, stop-start journey through horrendously slow London traffic we finally reach the M1 motorway. The mood amongst my fellow passengers is very subdued, little to talk about because the game was so poor and outside the image is one of rain and a never-ending sequence of traffic lights which are usually on red.
8.15pm: RELIEF! The bus pulls into the Toddington services and en masse we dash for the toilets. Along with many others I pop into the Marks and Spencer store for refreshments. There are only two tills open and as the queue builds up, one of the tills jams and is put out of order. The man in front of me feels he doesn’t need to inquire as to whether I’m a fellow Derby County fan, he just assumes it from the look on my face. “This day can’t get any worst,” he says with a resigned sigh. Little do I know it but it can!
9.50pm: Finally arrive back at Pride Park Stadium. My brother and I walk the 25 minutes back into the city centre. He continues on to his Derby home and I prepare to catch a bus and the trip back to Nottingham. Ring home and arrange for my wife to pick me up on the outskirts of Nottingham. She very kindly offers to drive the 18 miles to Derby to pick me up, but I decline.
10.35: My 10.20pm bus just doesn’t turn up. No announcement, no explanation just no bus. Ring Karen again to say I’m going to be even later, again she offers to come and get me, again I say no thank-you.
10.45pm: Bus finally arrives and telephone Karen with revised arrival time. Discover from driver that there has been a major accident on the road connecting Nottingham and Derby. If Karen had set-off to pick me up she would have been stranded in a massive traffic jam.
10.55pm: Bus finally leaves Derby.
11.20pm: Picked up on the outskirts of Nottingham.
11.35pm: Arrive home in a weary state and pour myself a very large whisky. Crap day, crap football match. However there is one positive note, never gave a moment’s thought to Wayne Rooney…..