Hereford Road Trip – Part 9 – The Finale – The End of The Road…*

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.

I began to tire from driving as it neared 1 am, and we had by-passed Salisbury and the like (choosing to avoid Wales on the way back and head a more direct route to Bournemouth).

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.

We changed car passengers back to the way we began in the morning after this point, so the emotional moment wasn’t yet over. Dan and Rich headed in Rich’s car. Austin and Tom re-joined my vehicle to be given a lift home.
Now came the emotion with Austin. Austin and I had been mates for about 6 years, almost to the day. Our friendship was based on football, beer and loyalty. Austin is a totally reliable and loyal guy, if indeed he does turn up late on occasion. I am not quite the loyal man that Austin is. I didn’t share my emotions with Austin as our lives have always been private to each other. He’d met a few of my girlfriends though but had no idea I was at the end of my tether. I didn’t drag things out any longer. I just dropped him and Tom off.
For Rich and Austin would see me in 2 days time at my leaving drinks party in Bournemouth anyway, so the emotional end was the chat with Dan.
And now I write this in the year 2012. Three years on from the Hereford match. Safe in the knowledge that Dan and I shared many an emotional moment that night and are better guys for it. Of course the beauty is that we have since met up again, in Bury and Manchester, England this very year!! In April – a few days which were the best times ever, again.
Hereford was a lot of fun and I closed a book that night. Thanks to the lads for making the day so incredible. And now the book has been re-opened ready for the next adventure.

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 –


Book closed. Book re-opened. Thanks, Hereford
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