On Friday night, with my regular driver Sean out of commission for the weekend I made the decision to travel to Portsmouth for our game the next day. Having missed the FA Cup tie earlier in the season I didn’t want to miss a second opportunity to visit Fratton Park.
So off I went to ticket booking website to sort things out. I was faced with a nine hour roundtrip, that would leave me by the end of the day needing two buses, five trains and one tube connection. And all for the affordable rate of a few pennies shy of £90. The price didn’t put me off in the slightest – all worth it as far I’m concerned.
Tickets booked, fast forward to later in the evening and there are the first whispers that all might not be well with the weather as Josh posts on Facebook the weather forecast. By the morning though, little else has been said about the conditions – aside from a tweet from Portmouth a little later which would say no inspection was planned. Déjà vu, we ourselves have been here plenty of times before.
Head firmly (and admittedly) buried in the sand though, it’s not until the club kitman Steve Cross tweeted just before noon that things appeared to get serious. His tweet that an inspection was planned for in five minutes time (later confirmed as 12.30) gets the alarm bells ringing. But somehow, the pitch is playable – but there will be a second inspection in half an hour’s time. Basically – the match official was stalling for time for whatever reason. Any Notts fans making the trip were already long en route to Fratton by this point. Some had even arrived.
Of course, the second inspection would render the surface waterlogged. By this point I’m already on train number three so the decision makes little or no difference by this point – I’m all in, and looking to make the most of a bad situation. Obviously this is going to involve alcohol at as close a drinking establishment as I can make it to. And preferably without drowning or getting washed away – such was the ferocity of the rain lashing it down by the time I get off my train at Fratton.
I make a beeline for Wetherspoons where Jacob tells me there’s a Strongbow waiting. It’s not a bad start to our attempt at salvaging the day! Some Jaegerbombs, Sambuca, Strongbow…and a bottle of straw-syphoned wine later and spirits are certainly high. A few altercations with a mardy table of Portsmouth fans (who feel free to take shots at Notts at will) later and the day is a success on every conceivable level. Make no mistake – had Notts played we almost certainly wouldn’t be going home this content!
The journey back home to Nottingham is eventful in it’s own right – yet not for reasons I’d choose to publish here to the dozen or so people that will read it. But if you’re concerned, yes I did get home safely, thank you for asking. I’ll likely share the gorier details in issue four of Black & White. Cheap plug, I do apologise!
Come Sunday morning, I’ve been contacted on Twitter by The Daily Mail asking for my take on the postponement. I’m not sure I’ve come across many bloggers who have ever turned down work for a national publication, of course I said yes. Putting The Daily Mail on the list of websites and publications that have used me in the past is a big deal as far as I’m concerned.
I’m asked to produce 200 words “looking for detail about train cost, coach cost, how you found it, how frustrating it was, what the club are going to do to help etc”. Anyone that’s read my work knows I can waffle on, so 200 words was going to be difficult. My initial piece was 400 words long prior to me cutting out a few of the minor details (Sean if you’re reading, your name was featured in the first draft!).
Overall I’m content with what was sent over – though in the context of the report it was published in, maybe not so much considering the criticism that has come my way in the immediate aftermath. Sadly, much of the anger seems to stem purely out of a lack of comprehension, and set to a backing track of violins.
I don’t blame Portsmouth – as I’ve already said, County have been here enough in recent weeks. We know better than most right now that this is down the official’s decision making. I’ve said I’m not bothered about the financial loss and that’s very much the case considering the memories we took from the day on the south coast.
To suggest that myself, or even The Daily Mail are trying to kick Pompey when they’re down is ludicrous. I stand by what I’ve said in the piece, that the playing surface could in no way at all have been playable one minute, and “waterlogged” half an hour later. But this was the official’s decision, not Portsmouth’s – it would be nice if the Pompey supporters could read a little bit further than a headline for which I had no responsibility for.
Ultimately, and with the benefit of hindsight I don’t believe putting Saturday’s events succinctly into 200 words is possible. That I submitted nearly 250 would only confirm as much given the reaction.
I do hope that fans of Portsmouth will take five minutes to have read this, and to have made it this far in. If you have, I hope you’ll accept my take on events as they appear here if they can’t agree with what The Daily Mail has printed. In truth, it’s only really the headline that they’ve got wrong!
A Fat Samantha Brick