From one end of the Northern line, to the other is how I start my day. Tom is prompt as ever, seeing an old friend you might expect a “hello”, a high five, I’m not even averse to a fist pump, but Tom decides to inform me “they have a Wimpy”.
‘They’ are the people of Morden, no not the place that the ring must be tossed into, and as lucky as they are to be able to enjoy square burgers and novelty of crockery in a fast food restaurant, we don’t have time for a milkshake as there is a bus we need to catch.
The usual things greet us at the entrance to Gander Green Lane home of Sutton United FC (SU) a board telling us the next fixture and kick off time. Tom is quick to notice a small sign advertising the nearby ‘Boom Boom Club’, inspecting its upcoming events he is sad to learn that “we have missed ZZ Top” but his mood is improved by reading it’s “Mods tonight”.
My own raffle addiction is well documented it’s a problem I live with day to day, and I’m not one to shy away from talking about it, you might call me the Tony Adams of the raffle world, but SU are not helping the problem when almost instantly on arrival the friendly man on the door or as I call them ‘pushers’ is on me, he can sense the loose change in my pocket.
‘Welcome to SUFC’ is written above the door as we walk in the bar past the club’s hall of fame. Whilst everyone else is on the pints, Tom and I are on the tea.
The most interesting feature by far of this impressive non league stadium are the two curved banks of uncovered concrete steps, with yellow railings on two of the four corners of the ground. They have a very “European” air, it’s not hard to imagine seeing a Tifo display or some coloured smoke pouring off it at kick off, the Curva Sud of Gander Green Lane.
Both of today’s squads sit in their respective dugouts, their kit bags littering the ground. From behind they all look very similar, each with almost exactly the same hair cut, Tom a barber himself ponders if they are “sponsored by Brylcreem”.
The noise of change dropping into the float of the girl on the turnstile, the clunk as she unlocks it, and the click as it turns can mean only one thing, the fans are starting to arrive including those of today’s away team Dartford FC (DFC).
Today is the 400th club appearance of who I think is fair to say club legend Craig Dundas, this milestone along with it being 3rd vs 4th in the league means that the main stand and the rest of the ground are filling up nicely.
Dundo uses all his experience and size to shrug DFC players off the ball and on the half hour mark SU have the best chance of the game so far, and it’s wonderfully crafted. The creativity is appreciated by everyone, “United, United, United” rings from the main stand.
It’s a fan rather than a player who shows the first skill of the second half. In his black and yellow bobble hat, he volleys a clearance back on to the pitch, with his half time snack still intact, he raises his hand, and gets a cheer from the crowd.
It’s all SU early doors, with just over a quarter of an hour gone there mounting pressure finally culminates in an exquisitely assisted goal. A cross from the right is timed perfectly, the SU attacker controls the ball and pokes it in on the half volley from close range.
“Attack, attack, attack, attack” demand some fans in the main stand, they are thirsty for more goals, and it’s not long until the team oblige, but not before Tom asks me one of life’s important questions “have you ever had Bovril?”
About five minutes after the first goal SU get a second, and it’s the least that they deserve.
We are lucky that Paul Doswell, the SU manager gives us few moments of his time, escorting us to the media room, where quite by accident we end up chatting in front of the media board, with Tom taking pictures, for a brief moment it all feels very ‘Match of the Day’.
His assessment of the match is bang on, “first 15 minutes of the game Dartford had more of the play”, but after that there was a noticeable shift in “momentum” and SU “pinned them back on the ropes”.
The park is now dark as we make our way home, a large full moon hangs in the sky, and Tom who is always good for a quote sums up the day perfectly, so perfectly some might wonder if he is at home practising,“good game, good club, good victory”.