Yesterday I went to my first Walsall away match since September 2019. My God, that time has flown. We were going to Stevenage away in 2020 just before the lockdowns started, but that match got called off which led to our legendary pub crawl of Bedford instead. What a blog article that would have been.
I went to bed on Friday night in a bad mood, and woke up still in it and at that first moment I wasn’t really feeling the day. But it was a chance to spend time with great people and it was our first chance to see what new manager Micky Flynn is about so I quickly warmed to the mission. My team Walsall were away at table toppers Forest Green Rovers, and at the time of purchasing my ticket it looked like this could be a 9th straight defeat but we had finally broken the losing streak by beating 2nd in the table Tranmere Rovers the week before.
I met Woza, one of my absolute best friends whilst walking down the market. He enquired what was in my bag, “pork” was my response. I wasn’t lying. Forest Green are an eco club with vegan principles so I had stocked up on sausage rolls and a mossiv pork pie to eat on the way knowing that no meat products would be on sale in the ground.
First port of call was Jack & Ada’s Cafe. It was doing good business with a lot of my fellow minibus travellers already there. I pondered the vegan hot chocolate to get me in the mood for the day but panicked at the last second and ordered a full English breakfast with a mug of tea instead.
We set off and were soon on the motorway. I don’t like the M5. I have trust issues with it but the traffic was flowing and we were making good time. Soon the services were calling and off I headed to the toilets. Although it’s well known that I don’t do technology but I couldn’t fathom out how to release the toilet seat. Honestly if it was a Crystal Maze game I’d still be there now.
It didn’t take long for us to reach Stroud and we headed straight for the Wetherspoons this one called The Lord John. They had a special offer on, standard procedure in Spoons to check the bar for the A4 special offer page be it food or drink, and this time it was Bud Light Seltzer at £1.49 a can. I’ve always wanted to try this so I had a quick can of the lemon and lime variety. Woza insisted on a picture to prove that I was being a ponce again. I don’t think I’ll be buying it again.
We had a decent hour, and a few more Walsall fans turned up which added to the atmosphere but soon it was time to move on and we headed to The Ale House.
From a quick mooch around on the https://www.pubsgalore.co.uk/ website Ale House seemed to be he pick of the pubs in Stroud so it was good to visit this place. The beer selection was superb, and they had spicy pickled eggs at 90p so they had to be sampled.
After a visit to the toilet where I got lost trying to find them and saw an instruction not to use the urinal trough, I returned to find out that there was a pitch inspection planned for 1.30pm with a chance that the game might be postponed or “delayed”. A discussion was already underway as to what to do in the event of either. I voted to drink regardless.
It was pissing down as we left Ale House but we stopped at a market stall for excellent hot samosas. We had a pint in Jul’s Bar which was a bit upmarket but a decent pint and then we headed to the ground as the game was on.
I’ve had something of a soft spot for Forest Green since they were in the regional division of the Southern League although said spot hardened somewhat when they dicked us 3-1 at home on the first day of the season. It’s a nice compact ground although it does come with one of football’s main irritants, someone with a drum.
I’m a bit of a tightwad and when my mate Mase suggested I bought the £18 uncovered ticket as the £20 covered one still got you wet, I dived in. It had been raining since the moment we touched tarmac in Stroud, but now in Nailsworth where the Forest Green ground is located it was dry. And it stayed dry through.
I’m delighted to announce that I witnessed what turned out to be our winning goal, and also did my usual trick of trying to miss a large portion of the game. This was by queuing for food and we’d started doing this well before half time. I went for the vegan chips with gravy which was good.
At full time there was much rejoicing. After 7 straight defeats it was now back to back wins against the top two and it was ace to see the players looking happy as they walked off the pitch.
I must give a mention to our minibus driver who was an a star driving down a very narrow hill, with a super reverse movement to get us to The George for a celebratory pint. Normally our drivers keep themselves to themselves but this one joined us in the pubs and even came to the match when a spare ticket was discovered.
The George is a very friendly pub with decent ales on and the outside toilets have been decorated with an array of Chelsea stickers, with a sole Forest Green one for company. I noticed upon departure that a Walsall FC one had joined the party. Right at the highest point of the cistern. I’d have been needing a double step ladder to get that there.
The journey back was very jovial with a sing song going on, I think Wonderwall figured 3 times and my request of Ça plane pour moi by Plastic Bertrand also going down a storm.
We ended up in the Walsall Arms where more drank flowed and Walsall songs were sang, which capped off a wonderful day. Big thanks to everyone for the great day and to Ian, Jayne and Sean for organising it.
I might not leave it so long before I go away again.