Chippenham – that was nice from Issue 53

Word by Chairman Mao.
The day started early in the Park View. The lounge was full by the time I reached the Brecon Road hostelry. The pool table was busy and there was a queue at the bar. It’s 9.30am. The Queen’s Park lads are there of course drinking in earnest whereas my colleagues all seem a bit jaded from the night before when the Glasgow contingent had arrived in the Pearl. Still there’s nothing better than a Merthyr away day to raise the spirit. The jukebox is banging out tunes, there’s a few tall tales being shared and the pints have started to flow. It’s almost eleven so it’s time to start the journey to Chippenham; pints are thrown back, everyone leaves and heads down the British Tip to the Travel Club rendezvous outside the Law Courts.

Two buses today. We’re going to Chippenham. They’re top of the league. We’ve a few injuries but we fancy our chances at Hardenhuish Park. Now we’ve not always been welcomed with open arms in Chippenham, there’s been a few issues, a little bit of friction but we’re not interested. Yes we are Welsh, you are English. Yawn, can we play football now?

But with two coaches, a QP weekender underway and the fact that the match will be a benchmark for our promotion hopes we need to be relaxed in our approach to the game. Mr. Bennett ceases on a plan. We head for Corsham Town where we once played in those glorious care-free Western League days. Only four miles from Hardenhuish Park and a club who would probably welcome eighty thirsty football fans appearing from over the border.

Two buses numbered 2 and 3 of course. Bus 3, a tradition since that crazy day at Hungerford, was lively to say the least, a decent CD mix by Mikey D had the bus rocking especially with Dougie from Glasgow’s brilliant rendition of Maggie May. I hadn’t seen bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 since the early nineties.

Soon we were at Corsham Town and to be fair they did us proud and made some pretty good income for themselves too. A lovely pint of Old Speckled Hen had me pondering whether to stay and watch their match instead of going to Chippenham, I did not choose wisely. The bar was rammed with Merthyr fans, playing skittles, drinking, eating from their tea bar and generally enjoying ourselves. We raised £102.00 for the Mia Chambers charity appeal and sang lots of songs plus both anthems of course. Sadly we had to leave. Both buses loaded and we headed towards our destiny.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in the article we’ve not always had the warmest of welcomes at dear old Chippenham. Always our fault of course so we were on our guard to be honest and the early moments were not good as a couple of their fans fronted up but I think the realisation that the first arrivals in the terrace were being joined by many, many more from Merthyr may have changed their outlook on the day. The biggest bonus for the match though was the actions of the stewards who were brilliant and really took the edge off the day; helpful, courteous and with a great sense of humour. It was after all a great afternoon at Hardenhuish Park and the only thing that could possibly spoil it would be the football.

Ah yes, the football, we lost. It was awful. If you’d walk into the ground as a neutral you would have had no clue that both teams were going for promotion.

Merthyr fans were pretty good though nonetheless with a mobile disco on the terrace helping ease the mood somewhat. A few dance tunes. A few new songs and some classic flags on display. We were colourful, noisy and daft.

We left with nothing but smiles. Good luck to Chippenham, they’ll do OK next season in the Conference South.

As for us, well we were good and it was a bloody good laugh.

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