When the SOENISC was formed back in 2005, one of the potential meeting venues was Exeter, although at the time none of the club members lived there. Then on an away trip to Copenhagen to watch Northern Ireland draw 0-0 with Denmark, Richboy from the club met Tim Acheson. Tim Acheson was based in Exeter and made his SOENISC debut at the 2006 WAGM, and during 2007 we had promised to do an Exeter meeting, and most probably to watch Exeter City, who drew 0-0 with Man United away in recent years and had climbed back into the football league despite some time in the Conference. We pencilled in dates for late October and early November and the club committee decided on the best date. Tim Acheson had originally wanted the meeting to be in late October, the Saturday that Exeter City were playing Rushden and Diamonds. Unfortunately only me and Tim wanted that date – the other guys voted in favour of the first Saturday in November, so we plumped for that instead…
That Saturday we had hoped it would be FA Cup weekend and that we could watch Exeter City at home, however this was not to be, and in the run up to the day out, we realised that we would have to watch another football team in Exeter. We got our Exeter local Norn Iron man Tim Acheson to do the scouting and it turned out to be a very much unknown team (to us and to the football world) called Alphington AFC, as Tim knew one of the players. This was an intriguing choice of meeting, and we would be attending a match in the Devon South West Peninsula League Division One! The “stadium”, home of Alphington AFC (The Alphas) was called “The Chronicles” and we would be special guests for the home match with Okehampton Argyle. Tim Acheson also arranged the pub to meet in for the SOE NISC and this was to be The Bishop Blaize, close to the main train station Exeter St. Mary’s. The build up to the meeting was immense…
I had got in touch with the club initially via email and then over the phone to the chairman, and as such I arranged for us to appear in the club’s match day programme. Extras also included a half time penalty shoot on the hallowed Alphington turf, where SOENISC members would be split into two teams (Team A v. Team B). I sent many club emails asking for a big attendance as it was our first meeting since May’s double header of Gillingham and Bristol. We also appeared in the local Exeter paper, and indeed on their website, where it was noted that “Alphington will be the random surprise location for the next meeting of the Northern Ireland Supporters Club.” Too right – this was mental, and in the run up to the day out, that week the Alphington AFC main website featured us an an irish shamrock on its homepage. The caption fitted our club culture, it was an Alphington AFC player about to tackle an opposition player, with a colleague yelling “Simmon, are you gonna let him shoot?”, with Simmon thinking “No, I’m waiting for the SOENISC to arrive.” A true classic quote, uninspired by anything and that week I was round at Scott’s house and we looked it up over a cup of tea laughing ourselves down the back of his sofa. The SOENISC were hitting Alphington AFC!
The night before the Exeter meeting, I was alerted by my good Portadown mate Richard Richboy Ingram that Downpatrick band Ash were playing a gig in the Guildhall, Southampton the Friday night before the meeting! I’ll recount the exploits of that particular night on another post at another time, but it certainly all fell into place. Richboy also had two of his mates coming to the gig and the meeting, and I also brought my mate Dan Darch to both as well at a last minute decision in the Moon In The Square pub on Friday evening, when we realised we could get Dan an Ash gig ticket easily!
So early morning we were at Richboy’s old place in Southampton, and we ran quickly down to the train station, where we had all got out train tickets sorted and were soon on our way on a party train to Exeter St. Mary’s. The train wasn’t direct, and there was me, Dan Darch, Richboy, plus Brian and Bill, Richboy’s two mates. We were all decked in green as I ate pre-prepared sandwiches and drank a tin of lager on the party train.
Richboy had booked me, him, Bill and Brian on specific trains, which we had to make sure we caught, as our tickets were only valid on them. Dan had an open return so could get any train. The problem occured when the First Great Western connection at Bristol was delayed (yes…we had to go north to Bristol in order to get the cheap route to Exeter; Strange but true). At Bristol there was a brief stop off for a beer at the Train Station Bar, where I added extra green gel to my hair, and it came out like a bad mohican. It still looks ok in the photos and its all part of the fun on a SOENISC day out. We had time for this beer due to the delay of the trains, which we then boarded by having to run and as we approached Exeter a lady checked our tickets and moaned that they were for the earlier train, which we explained we missed. She wasn’t convinced, but we then got off and hopped into the next carriage to escape her wrath. I cant remember what the commotion was, but soon we were off at Exeter St. Mary’s and a 5 minute walk to the Bishop Blaize pub.
The Bishop Blaize was a very uncommercial traditional pub, nestled near a river and a car park, but it all happened very quickly and we didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy the views or to mingle there. Basically we arrived in there to find Scott Gordon, Alan French, Simon McCully, Squid Armstrong, Graham Johnston, Tim Beattie and host Tim Acheson all in there. Pints were ordered, a kitty was started and we discussed club plans for the next meeting (the WAGM watching Weymouth v. Farsley Celtic) and the plans for the rest of the day, to be led by Tim Acheson who also brought an old newspaper cutting of an Ireland’s Saturday night from years ago. At the meeting, the newest people at a SOENISC meeting were Brian and Bill (Richboy’s mates), Dan Darch (one of my mates) and new club member Alan French (who had been trying to make it to a meeting for some time!). We had some craic in there, a few photies and we watched some of the live match on SKY TV. Time got the better of us though…
And soon we had booked multiple taxis and were headed out of town a wee bit to the area of Alphington, and in search of the football ground, The Chronicles, home of Alphington AFC, who we would support for the day. I got a lift there with Tim Beattie who was driving for the day. The car park for the football club was very small, and there was no terracing, it was basically a pitch, with some side advertising boards, a nice wee clubhouse. There certainly was no turnstiles or frisking/searching on the way in. This was proper football, and on a hot sunny November day we were all decked in our green t-shirts ready for a game of football in the Devon Peninsula League. We had got a mention or two in the club programme, and the club chairman also came over to me and spoke about the half time penalty shoot out, which we had decided amongst ourselves should be two teams of SOENISC picked randomly, with host Tim Acheson as Team A club captain and guest Bill Johnston as Team B club captain. But that would be the half time entertainment, for now we had got our flegs up and were enjoying the first half of Alphington AFC v. Okehampton Argyle.
There were two extra club members waiting for us at Alphington AFC – Valerie Crute and Jono Crute from Bath. There was also an open bar, which meant getting a pint in which we could take pitchside to watch the football. It is certainly the closest I’ve ever been to a sporting arena while an event was on with a pint in my hand. And in November sun, them pints did the job! The match got underway and it was clear that the standard of football was worse than the Irish League. Okehampton were big favourites and in honesty Alphington AFC started off very poorly. Okehampton played in yellow taps and blue shorts, while “we” (Alphington) wore orange taps and black shorts. This made us think we were watching Carrick Rangers v. Bangor.
The jokes and the singing then started big time. The first comedy chant came in the form of “Stand up for the orangemen!”. Now I’m really not sure if the locals actually got the joke, being that an Orangeman in Northern Ireland is a member of the Orange Lodge and a Protestant who marches on the annual 12th July parades. We found it hilarious. Chants of “Alphington Alphington” also echoed through all four stands, plus a man and his dog. Soon though, Okehampton’s attacking had seen them get an edge and take a 1-0 lead. They were the better team in honesty, but we sang our hearts out for the “Orangemen”, before the “big penalty shoot out” at half time, which we were all looking forward to.
The first half ended and we applauded Alphington off singing something like “are you bangor in disguise?” to Okehampton before picking teams for the first ever internal SOE NISC 5 a side tournament (we had represented ourselves at the national 5 a sides in Manchester in July 2006 mind you). The teams were:
Team A –
Tim Acheson (captain), Simon McCully, Richard “Richboy” Ingram, Alan French, Scott Gordon, Squid Armstrong, Brian Cunningham.
Team B –
Bill Johnston, Jonny Blair, Tim Beatie, Dan Darch, Jono Crute, George Bush/Graham Johnston, Valerie Crute.
Alphington AFC kindly supplied the referee and the goalkeeper (Jason Warren) for the shoot out and the penalties would be taken at the famous “tree end” of The Chronicles. Scott Gordon, was especially kitted out in full NI kit! We posed for team photos and luckily Squid had a quality digital camera with him, which included a good video option, so we could filim it and relive it! I had actually brought my cameracorder with me, but stupidly hadn’t checked the battery…it was flat! So we assembled into teams at the far end of the “stadium.”
At the bottom of this post you will see the full penalty shoot out in its glory, as filimed by Valerie kindly. The banter was great, the tension, immense and the rivalry extreme. There were no nerves from the two captains however, with Bill and Tim A both slotting home their penalties with ease (Bill’s somehow was missed by our camerawoman, meaning the video starts with Team B already 1-0 up). I was up next, the pressure of having to hold my scarf as I shot a right foot effort into the right hand side of the nets. We were 2-1 up and singing “stand up if you hate team A.” Then Simon McCully’s shot for Team A was saved, meaning Tim Beattie had the chance to put us 3-1 up and almost clinch the shoot out. But Beattie straddled up, nervously (and he was driving so had consumed less alcohol!) and fluffed a weak effort too close till the keeper. It meant that Richboy had a chance to level the scores at 2-2, but amidst jeers, Richboy’s was the first shot “off target” as it sailed agonisingly wide of the left hand post! “what the fucking hell was that?” we sang! Dan put us 3-1 up, before Alan French cooly slotted a penalty into the top right hand corner making it 3-2 to our team. We all agreed after the shoot out that Alan’s was the best penalty of the day. For us, Jono Crute then made no mistake, hard and high into the net to make it 4-2, then up for Team A came “the joker” as Squid confessed. Scott Gordon all decked in his NI kit, looking like a mixture between Jake Burns, Mr. Tayto and Jim Magilton, then cranked his penalty to precision right into the bottom corner. No nerves from the Gordon who celebrated in “Billy Hamilton Austria 82 style.” He probably didn’t know it then, but if he had of missed then it would have clinched the shoot out for my team. However we decided to finish off the penalties and everybody could have a go, so Graham Johnston dressed in a white shirt with green jumper and poppy, plus sporting my George Bush mask, missed and bowed down to the ground in despair. It was a moment of true comedy seeing George Bush miss a penalty at Alphington AFC.
Squid had the chance to make it 4-3, but cracked his shot at the bar, before cracking a joke about wanting to go to the bar! It was 4-3 to us, but we let Brian hit his penalty anyway, he missed, Valerie didn’t take hers and it ended 4-3 to us. Actually looking back, we should have let Valerie take one to make it 5-3 and sweet…I was part of the SOENISC winning team that day, Team B, and along with Squid Armstrong was the only person to appear in the national 5 a sides and the internal 5 a sides. As we finished off and enjoyed the laughs, someone had visited the bar again and got us the pints in just before the second half kicked off and we stood by the touchline hoping to inspire an Alphington comeback. We started singing “Robbie Vaughan’s barmy army” and “Robbie give us a wave” to the manager. The other team were getting wound up by our chants, but they were on top on the pitch, scoring a 2nd goal to put Okehampton 2-0 up after 70 minutes (in hoesty they could have been 4-0 up by then, but weren’t. To be honest, that was when we conceded defeat…
The Alphington players looked down and out, and weren’t competing. We started chanting and cheering them on, and the guy who had done nets at half time for our shoot out, Jason Warren was the inspired substitution, as he came onto the field as we sang our hearts out for the Orangemen, hoping for an unlikely comeback! Jason Warren’s impact was a goal straight away! The deficit now was just 2-1, and we tried to spur on the Alphington players, even shouting abuse at the Okehampton bench and their full back who tried to take throw ins in front of us, while we asked him where his boyfriend was! They hadn’t banked on such a welcome! The cracks started to appear in the Okehampton defence, midfield and temperament. A few free kicks were give away, and suddenly Alphington were all over them. At 2-1 down “we” were the team now on top. The tables had turned and we pressured them until Danny Tyrrell ran through and squeezed the ball home for a sensational equaliser. We went nuts!! IN what was probably the loudest crowd at The Chronicles in years, we felt our singing and lunacy had spurred the Alphas to this dramatic late equaliser. But the match wasn’t over!
The Alphas almost won it after that amidst SOENISC chants of “2-0 and you fucked it up” to the bench of Okehampton. They took the huff, and as the referee blew the whistle we celebrated the point. This was a great match of football, a proper match and as we cheered the Alphas off the pitch, the Okehampton team looked disgusted! We then posed for photos with the Alphington AFC team on the pitch, it was a joyous atmosphere and it was straight to the bar after this, where Dan and I were particularly interested in seeing how the Cherries had done, away at Bristol Rovers. We had won 2-0 and in the Alphington AFC bar we watched the results come in, Scott Gordon did Irish jigs on the dancefloor, and there was some kind of speech on a microphone from the chairman of Alphington who thanked us for our support. We then all signed a SOENISC polo shirt and presented it to them in the bar.
The club kindly provided us with free chips and we had quite a few beers in there, also at one point I broke their curtain rail trying te put our club fleg up! Then a boy came over to me and said it was already broke. Alphington was quite far from the centre of Exeter and we decided to dander back towards the hostel we had booked, which was on the other side of the river. That journey took in a Toby Carvery style pub (the name of which I’ll never recall). In there we had some food, yet more drink and did a bit of singing. We also chatted up the barmaid who was hot and pretended she was called “Sammy Bob!” Hilarious. We also played Connect 4 in there and it mustve been near 7 pm…
From that bar, we decided to walk back till the hostel and get checked in. There was a long walk past a river with no alcohol and I was getting tired to be honest. We finally made it back to the hostel and there was a problem with Scott’s booking and he bailed out of there fairly sharpish, I really cannot remember what the issue was, but me, Dan, Alan, Richboy, Simon, Brian and Bill all shared a room in the end. I decided I was too tired and so I went to sleep in the hostel at around 8 pm, saying I would join the others later once I had my energy levels up. In the meantime everyone headed to Walkabout in town, while I rested my head and showered and settled in at the hostel, which was called Globe Backpackers, Richboy had found it online I think…
I got my two hours sleep, a greasy Exeter burger and ran to meet the boys, on the way I bumped into Brian who was now on his way back to the hostel for the night. It took me a good while to find the boys, they were now in the Transport Club, a cheap wee club which a boy from Alphington had invited us to. Once in there I was soon on the beer then quickly Gin and Tonics, which were great value. Tim Acheson was loving it as host, and we gave a few songs of rendition to the English crowd in there. There was also this random Polish dude who kept talking to us!! And then there was also the fit fit barmaid. We played some pool, and the barmaid whose name escapes me, also joined in. Me and Simon then decided we needed to do a gay disco behind the bar! Tim Acheson hated the idea but Simon and I started it anyway…even if nobody joined in. By this point loads of people were wrecked, and Squid particularly looked tired, and Scott had already left. Mind you, Richboy and I were thinking of clubbing!
Locally based Tim Acheson was the key to finding a club open that would let us in in our Northern Ireland taps. Simon McCully had also spent some time living in Exeter, and the bar we were in, was pretty much just across the road from Arena Nightclub, a trendy, busy, student type club. We then split the SOENISC in till two groups – those who were staying out and those who wanted to head back to the hostel, or home…
Those who stayed out, as I recall were myself, Simon McCully, Dan Darch, Richboy and Alan French, with everyone else heading home after the transport club, that must have been around midnight. I remember on the way into the club the bouncers told us we couldn’t wear football shirts in there, which would normally have ruled all of us out. But I was actually wearing a polo shirt, yes it was a SOENISC one and had the Northern Ireland badge on it, but it wasn’t a football shirt, so that was bizarrely OK to wear! The others had some jumpers etc that they put on over their taps, and we all got in Ok and formed our own wee section at the far side on the right, where I kept ordering gin and tonics.
Richboy had turned his NI tap inside out, but the bouncer kept asking him to take it off or wear something else! This was sheer lunacy as we weren’t causing any trouble. We did some stupid dancing but generally weren’t even acting drunk. Its actually quite hard to believe that Scott Gordon and Tim Acheson didn’t make it to the club at the end of the night, they normally would, anyway we were all pretty shattered, and the only real thing I remember about Arena nightclub was meeting some of the Alphington AFC players in there and getting a random photo with the bouncer. Soon we had left and were chatting up girls where we also met a boy from Newry on the main street. Then in a bizarre drunken SOENISC end of night moment, we climbed into a digger on the way home, and pretended to be diggermen. It was relatively surreal, but I think it happened…
Next morning in the hostel we all woke up at various different points, and I recall a large queue for the shower in the gents, so I decided to use the one in the ladies. I hopped in there whipped my kit off and a random hot Australian traveller walked in as I walked nonchalantly nude past her “Did you have a good night?” I asked as she struggled to wonder whether there was actually a naked guy in the ladies. I quite in enjoyed that, as I did my shower which freshened me up no end – amazing how a shower does that in life. I also cleaned my teeth in just a towel and told the other boys to head to the ladies showers to see some hot chicks. They did, we also did a quick breakfast (cornflakes maybe?) and headed back past some ancient ruins and a bridge where we displayed our club fleg from until we found Exeter train station and the train back till Southampton.
Although the meeting ended there, the weekend didn’t, and me, Dan, Richboy, Bill and Brian browsed shops in Southampton, visited a memorial garden and popped into “the parrott pub” (The Red Lion) for a sunday lunch. The day was fading, my weekend came to an end as I went back to Richboy’s house before driving back to Bournemouth, and suddenly SOENISC had done Exeter, and even got a mention in the match report from the Alphington AFC website…
The afternoon started very well with the introduction of the South of England Northern Ireland Supporters Club to the Alpha’s supporting posse and with the initial chants and dance to “Stand up for the Orange Men” it was a case of “it really didn;t matter if the football was no good” as the touchline entertainment would be.
For the first 5 or so minutes the Alphas looked the stronger side with some great footwork and passing play that resulted in several early near misses. Argyle began to take control and around about the 20 minute mark they took the lead which came about after some great defensive play was sadly let down when the Alphas appeared to stand still allowing Phil Evans to tap home from close range. Football-wise very little else happened in the first half but it was nice to see the home linesman, Mr Atkins, reciprocating with a wave when requested to do so by the Irish contingent.
The second half started with the Alphas being clapped on to the field by the Irish who, at half-time, had showed their footballing proess with a penalty shootout against the “the Kitten” Jason Warren, as “the Cat” was busy elsewhere. (It was quite apparent why the young Mr Warren plays outfield!). The Alphas were fortunate not to go 2 more behind early on in the second half with the Argyle having 2 free-kicks that narrowly missed the target. The Alphas did have a short spell where they launched an attack and it looked as if they would be through on goal, only for Lawrence Khoo to be pulled back for an offside decision!!! Around about the 70th minute mark the Alphas’ Nick Gott gave away a needless free kick just outside the penalty area that resulted in Chris Wills firing into the danger area or Matt Mortimer who headed home unchallenged.
With less than 10 minutes to go Robbie Vaughan made an inspirational substitution by bringing on Jason Warren who had an almost immediate impact when he put the ball in the back of the net after Nick Gott headed back across the goal from Gary Hayes’ corner. Less than a minute later Irish eyes were smiling as Danny “Dorothy/Chewy” Tyrrell levelled the scores after been fed the ball by Leigh Atkins.
For the remaining few minutes of the game it felt as if Okehampton would be glad of the point as it appeared there was only team who could be winnng the game and that was the Alphas.
It would be fair to say that on the balance of play Okehampton would have been deserved winners but the girtty determination and experience shown in the last 10 minutes of the game prevented that happening.
A great thanks to all the Irish supporters for their encouragement and making a good day even better (what are you doing next week?)
Eds man of the Match: Shaun Lyne-Ley
All first team reports are written by and are the sole view of Russ Murch, they are in no way endorsed by Alphington AFC
Who Went – Tim Acheson, Tim Beattie, Jonny Blair, Richard “Richboy” Ingram, Brian Cunningham, Bill Johnston, Dan Darch, Valerie Crute Purchase, Jono Crute, Squid Armstrong, Simon McCully, Alan French, Scott Gordon, Graham Johnston.
SOE NISC PENALTY SHOOT OUT, 3.03 PM, The Chronicles, Alphington AFC, Exeter, Devon, 3rd November 2007:
Team B took first:
Bill Johnston SCORED 1-0
Tim Acheson SCORED 1-1
Jonny Blair SCORED 2-1
Simon McCully SAVED 2-1
Tim Beattie SAVED 2-1
Richboy MISSED 2-1
Dan Darch SCORED 3-1
Alan French SCORED 3-2
Jono Crute SCORED 4-2
Scott Gordon SCORED 4-3
Graham Johnston SAVED 4-3
Squid Armstrong HIT BAR 4-3
Brian Cunningham SAVED 4-3
Valerie Crute Purchase DIDN’T TAKE 4-3
Team A 3 -4 Team B
Bars Visited – Bristol Train Station Bar, Bishop Blaize, Alphington AFC Bar, Toby Carvery, Wankabout, Transport Club, Arena Nightclub.
SOENISC PENALTIES AT ALPHINGTON AFC: