... AND IT WAS A BLOODY GOOD LAUGH
The phone rang at 6. In the morning. The call was coming from Merthyr to get up and get ready. Glamorgan were at Lords and the whole of South Wales seemed on the road. The DMFM crew were set to join them. Around 45 minutes later, the peace of my Cynon Valley haven was shattered by the arrival of our charabanc, whether this mini-bus would reach London seemed doubtful, it seemed to be held together by sellotape. I climbed aboard, all were present, only RTB to be collected at Quakers Yard to make up the nine selected to represent Merthyr Tydfil FC, having the dubious pleasure of delivering us at the home of cricket.
The length of the M4 seemed to be full of all manner of transport transporting Glamorgan supporters eastwards, even the sight of two Gloucestershire coaches sparked weird celebrations as cars, vans, mini-buses and coaches tried to flag them down to share in the vast cider lake that was heading towards London. Wingnut had started his sesh at 6.30 am outside the Norton, he was to last until 2.30 am outside some club in Camden Town. Our only diversion was to find our hotel near Paddington, it was to be my first stay at the infamous "Conti", a regular haunt for Merthyr boys enjoying a sesh in the English capital. I was not to be disappointed, it took all my strength to find my room with my every step sticking to the carpet. There was no need for a key, just push the door and in. I'd drawn the short straw and was sharing with Little Dai and Typey, no peace for me then but I'd avoided Hulby's snoring (who had kept me awake for three days in Prague).
The mini-bus was parked at a friendly office near Lords and off we set on a trek to see Glammy bring home the Cup. We arrived at Lords 15 minutes late to be met with sight of Welsh fans hiding flags about their persons, flags were being confiscated upon entry no matter what the size, a few teatowels were lost to the stewards. Wingnut put the famous DMFM flag under his hat and we were in, how he managed to get his mobile off-licence in must remain a secret. Typey had managed to get his hands on some Mound Stand tickets, the price was the same as nine Merthyr matches, the ground looked superb and seemed full everywhere except our stand which had some empty seats.
I think the Mound Stand is set aside for the neutral observers but today it was full of Welsh supporters intent on a party. The day will go down as one of the best sporting occasions ever, the Glamorgan support was without doubt the best that Lords has ever seen. The singing started at 11.15 and lasted all day, you seemed to know everyone. There was a family from Newport in the row in front of us, they were tidy lads, it was that sort of day. Matthew Maynard's innings set the tone for the Mound Stand, every score sparked goal-like celebrations, one of shots flew for a four right in front of us, the DMFM flag appeared spontaneously and so did the stewards who seemed to swarm towards us in an attempt to confiscate our flag. Eventually, I accompanied one of the stewards to the Head Stewrards Room on the ground floor. They seemed confused by the huge spanish flag, I was given a receipt for "1 very odd large flag" and told to get it after the game.
Meanwhile, Maynard and Powell seemed to be setting Gloucestershire a tidy target. The stand were singing, Wingnut had opened the bar and seemed to be serving most of South Wales. Jack and the Newport boys seemed to enjoy the white wine whereas a couple from Worcester had the dubious honour of sharing a bottle of cider & black with Hulby who was commentating on the match. The corks on our aussie hats danced as the runs kept coming and then our wickets starting falling. Maynard's century kept the dream alive but to be honest even we knew, in our relaxed state, that were 20-30 runs short. The break was spent touring the ground, meeting old friends and stocking up at the bar which was rumoured to be closing. The tractor drivers started well, and were soon on their way to victory which seemed to change the mood around us to the more bizarre. Hulby, stripped to the waist, was the centre of attention, the whole stand asking "Who ate all the pies ?". Guilty as charged.
It had to happen I suppose, one of my cohorts who shall remain nameless (to protect the innocent) suddenly appeared standing on his seat, naked, the Mound Stand went mental. Immediately, there was a tap on my shoulder and what seemed to be dozens of the boys in blue waited to eject the hero of the hour. A couple of the coppers were from South Wales, up in London to help out the Met, and one from Swansea was tidy enough to allow us down to the holding cells before our now fully clothed friend was taken to Marylebone police station to rest awhile before his rescue by his fellow countrymen. Back in the Mound Stand, we were visited by streams of well-wishers who offered all kinds of support if our hero was charged with anything, drinks were swapped and the party continued although Glamorgan now were doomed to another heroic failure on the field. I was eventually handed our flag, our friend from Swansea intervening during some petty bureaucracy, and soon we were all on the field celebrating our nationality and having a bloody good laugh.
If Glamorgan ever get to Lords for a Final again, you just have to go. It was the KFC next to Marylebone police station that witnessed the emotional reunion of the 'Lords 1' with the rest of the DMFM contingent. Back to the Conti, a quick change then out to the Worlds End pub in Camden Town which is a favourite starting point for all Merthyr/London weekends. The tube ride across London enlivened by a Tom Jones karaoke session, we arrived at the Worlds End to find that Foreign Legion, my favourite Welsh band, had just finished a cracking set downstairs. The pub seemed full of Merthyr. My liver was beginning to struggle so I headed back to the Conti, leaving a few of the lads to head for a nightclub, I am the elder statesman after all.
I awoke to a filthy hangover and to the fact that one of the lads was MIA (Missing In Action), our youngest colleague had failed to re-appear for the trip home. A few hours later and we were on our way back west with our little lost friend asleep in the back of the bus, he had forgotten the name of our hotel and had spent the night walking around the streets of London, narrowly avoiding being mugged, being driven around by the Met and finally getting in touch by mobile phone with RTB. At Reading services, we met the Glamorgan squad returning home, most of the players seemed happy enough queuing up for Burger King, but Matthew Maynard seemed genuinely gutted and having signed a few autographs told the lads that we'd get back to Lords soon. I couldn't take any more booze so declined the offer of a Baili Glas session and headed back to Cwmaman for a warm bath and an early night. Martyrs !!