The end had come at Edgar Street and we headed away from the stadium and back to our cars. There was no “Hurrah, a final match victory for Ulster Cherry”. There was no “post match pint for old time’s sake”. There was no “golden dream”. Whatever dreams I had when arriving in Bournemouth in 2003 had been dented for ever.
Dan and I chatted in depth, for the first time in months on that car journey home. We talked about everything. Football, love, women, work, money, travel, beer. All the things that effected both of our everyday lives. I knew in my head it would be a long time before I would see him again, somehow it totally felt like the end. I’m not sure he would have believed it though no matter how much I said it to him at the time that night. In a way, if I hadn’t left Bournemouth when I did, I would have wanted to end things there. I had no reason to go on. Even my close friends and family couldn’t save me. Only I could save myself.
Dan had seen me fall from grace dramatically. I was once a man who wanted to be the life and soul of these away days yet I had been reduced to not even following the results on teletext, or not even aware that we had stayed up and formed a truly great escape. And I had no logical explanation for it. Sometimes life doesn’t even give you the answers.
Sat curled up in my comfy Bournemouth bed listening to the Manic Street Preachers latest album (at the time) “Journal For Plague Lovers” with a hot cup of Earl Grey tea had been my savior in the last few months prior to Hereford. That, and the fact that I workled every conceiveable hour of every day. Indeed I did nightshift for a week on the cross channel ferries, on the way home I popped into the beach huts to do a full days work, then back on the ferries for a night shift. It was utter madness. I had finally had a beer in the UK again by the end of August 2009 (it had been 6 months off the stuff, the one time in life when I wasn’t really myself).
Yes this Hereford trip report may not be your everyday away day experience following your beloved football team as I’ve thrown my personal life into it, but at least what I’ve written is reflective and real. I couldn’t have written about it just after it happened. I felt like shit most of the time. And pretended I felt amazing. In work I was the joker. At home I cried my eyes out to nobody.
Dan and I swapped stories of selfishness, downheartedness, women and memories. We probably both had a cry that night. It was emotional.
So we stopped at a motorway service station for a bite to eat and a hot coffee to keep me awake. It was there that Dan Darch photographed me, wearing a white fleece leaning against my car, grasping a coffee, looking tired and done with my England experience. The photo was uploaded onto Facebook and I pondered on it many times while in Taiwan, Australia, Uruguay, everywhere really. The photo and the day out had contained so many vivid emotions and memories and I often wondered if I would see Dan again…if I didn’t at least I had that photo. A real end.
Day Trip In Summary:
Who Went – Jonny Blair, Dan Darch, Richard Rowland, Austin Sheppard, Tom Dowthwaite
Transport Used – Rich’s Ford Fiesta, Jonny’s Hyundai Accent
Miles Travelled In Total – 322 miles (includes all driving on the day – would have been less if we went direct to the match and direct home)
Countries Visited – England, Wales
Inflatables – Red dragon, pink microphone, black Magners cooler, black and red guitar
Final Score at Edgar Street – Hereford United 2-1 AFC Bournemouth
Key Song –
MANIC STREET PREACHERS – JOURNAL FOR PLAGUE LOVERS:
Book closed. Book re-opened. Thanks, Hereford