SATURDAY 15TH JANUARY 2000; Don't We Love Public Transport!
The worst day of the Millennium so far. I discover that I have lost my season ticket. I can only imagine it fell out of my pocket in the crush to get a beer at the Forum last night. I have to go and explain at Sunningdale station. The guys there are very good and quite sympathetic, but I feel as if I have "IDIOT" tattooed on my forehead in six inch letters, particularly as I have only had the damn thing for one week.
A colleague has very kindly lent me his Arsenal season ticket so I can go to Highbury and watch Sunderland, whom I have supported pretty much since I was born in Sunderland general hospital in 1958. That was the year they were relegated from the first division for the first time in their history. Coincidence maybe, but I've always felt myself a bad omen. In the late 80's we had one season in the old third division. After an unbeaten run of about 25 matches, I went to see Sunderland play at Aldershot. We were 2-0 up after 20 minutes, coasting elegantly against a team of large, unskilled squaddies. Well, that's what they looked like.
We eventually lost 3-2 and were lucky it was only three by the end. I'm the kiss of death; I also saw the '98 promotion play off against Charlton when we lost on penalties after a ridiculous 4-4 draw. That match was, honestly, the most emotionally draining experience of my life excepting Ginny's birth.
Hence I daren't go to see them very often, but I am firmly of the view that you support the team you were brought up with, rather than changing allegiance in search of success or convenience. And when some sports quiz programme shows the Jim Montgomery double save in the '73 Cup Final, I still feel the lump in my throat.
After some deliberation, I decide to support Mr. Prescott's policies and use public transport, taking the train rather than driving. The journey becomes a perfect illustration of why people use their car, as it takes me over 3 hours to get from Sunningdale to Highbury. Within ten minutes of leaving, there is an ominous smell of hot electrics and we stop dead at Virginia Water station. After 40 minutes of hanging around, our train is shunted off and we get on the subsequent London train.
When I finally arrive at Richmond, I discover the North London line is closed because of a fire. Of course, if someone had told me that before I got off the previous train, I would have stayed on it to Waterloo, but no, that would be too much to expect. So I have to wait for the next Waterloo train, which then sits motionless outside Barnes for 15 minutes. I am beginning to think that all this may be a message from above to give up and go home.
Finally, and thanks to the tube working perfectly (to my amazement), I get to Highbury at 2.58 p.m, two minutes before kick-off. Collapsing in my seat, Sunderland then make it all worthwhile by conceding three goals in the first 25 minutes, eventually losing 4-1. I have to admit Arsenal are pretty impressive; Suker scores with a stunning left foot volley from 35 yards out and even I have to applaud. Ho hum. The journey home is better, but I won't be buying a season ticket to Highbury.