FtF goes to Derby

Having a young family – and all that entails – means that away trips are a rare luxury these days, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

The team’s perilous league position makes it vital that as many fans as possible follow them on the road. So with that in mind we set the alarm for 5.30am on Saturday for the long trek to Derby.

Living on the south coast meant catching the 7am train up to London Victoria, then a District Line tube to Putney Bridge. Then it was a 20 minute stroll through Bishop’s Park – always guaranteed to put you in a good frame of mind – before arriving at the Cottage in time to join one of the 14 coaches laid on by the chairman.

A three and a half hour trip – including a half-hour stop for lunch at a service area – saw us arrive with about 20 minutes to go before kick-off. Thankfully, someone had brought along a DVD of Al Murray, Pub Landlord, which succeeded in calming our nerves on the second leg of the journey.

For those who have never been, Pride Park is a pretty impressive stadium. Set on an industrial estate – the type filled with the usual selection of outlets, such as Halfords – it is clear of local residents and the usual noise gripes, and has the benefit of a huge car park used by season ticket holders and plenty of space for away coaches.

After walking through that annoying, drizly rain, and going through the turnstiles, we were met with a wall of noise. It may be a cliche but our fans were in very good voice and there was a real feeling of optimism. Would it last?

We took our seats in the upper tier and sang all the way through a rather hit-and-miss first half which consisted of that sinking feeling of seeing a deflection past Keller for their opener – and then the unconstrained joy of Joe’s equalising header. Here we go. Plenty of time to snatch the winner.

Half-time arrived with the scores level and it was off to scout some food. The gates were actually opened allowing you to buy burgers from outside stalls, have a smoke and stretch your legs. The stewards and police were courteous and chatty. All we needed now was three points and a happy trip home was guaranteed.

Despite a scrappy start to the second 45 we were sent into delirium by Hameur’s messy, deflected goal. “We’re winning away…how sh*t must you be we’re winning away” we sang to the home supporters. Needless to say we hadn’t sat back down before their equaliser came. I didn’t even see it. Soul destroying.

Chances came and were squandered; Keller pulled off some great saves; but there was a feeling that this just wasn’t going to be our day…or season for that matter. The away faithful were getting restless. Calls for Roy to “sort it out” and make some changes were finally answered with the arrival of Eddie Johnson and Danny Murphy, but it was too late to have much effect.

As the minutes ticked down, Derby fans stared singing: “Going down, going down, going down” to which we responded: “So are we, so are we, so are we”. At the final whistle there was a mixture of applause and boos with most people resigned to the fact that the Great Escape no longer looks likely. The guards, it seems, have discovered the tunnel being built and there’s not enough time left in which to build another.

It may have been a draw but it felt like a defeat and the mood on the coach was sombre. A three hour run back – including a five minute break on the hard shoulder while the driver relieved himself! – meant we were back at a rain swept Cottage shortly before 8.30pm. It was then a walk, tube, mainline train and drive back home which saw us through the door around midnight.

A disappointing day, full of what-ifs and what might have beens, but we felt proud to have been part of Roy’s Army for the day. Even if we do go down we can take heart from the fact that we couldn’t have had any more fans at recent away matches, nor been in greater voice.

The tickets for Reading and Pompey away have already arrived. If this is going to be the last hurrah! in the Premier League – for a year or two at least – we at FtF are determined to enjoy it. Roll on next weekend.


Opinion: Derby v Fulham

It was a late decision – 6am Saturday morning, in fact – but we were at Derby yesterday afternoon to see what must surely be the final nail hammered into our coffin. Not being able to secure three points against a team already doomed to relegation or even hold on to a lead for more than 30 seconds tells you all you need to know about our woeful season.

The performance was pretty poor and disjointed; changes were made too late in the game to have much effect; and worryingly we didn’t even look like we knew what to do when we had the ball. Shocking stuff all told.

The result was made all the worse by both Sunderland and Birmingham winning – the latter, of course, being the team we had an outside chance of overhauling. They’re now six points ahead (seven if you count goal difference) which makes it look highly improbable that we’ll be playing Premier League football next season.

I shall be on later with my diary for our day trip to Derby plus player ratings.

Derby…this really is a MUST WIN game

Apologies for the lack of posts this week. Our house is having major surgery which means I’ve been unable to get online as much as normal, and even more annoyingly, this is putting my trip to Derby in serious jeopardy. Aaarrrggh!

My ticket has been purchased, the seat has been booked on the coach from CC and the itinerary for the long haul up from the south coast has been planned. Whether or not I’m there at kick-off, however, remains to be seen.

Thankfully, there will be plenty of us there even if I don’t make it as we’ve sold out our allocation and that is fantastic news. It just goes to prove how a crisis brings everyone together. And it needs to because tomorrow really is a MUST WIN game if we want to stand any chance of retaining our Premier League status. This really is the most important match of our season.

Derby may only have 10 points on the board but they are no push-overs – as they proved with their draw against us earlier in the season (which they were unlucky not to win) and even against title chasing Manchester United a couple of weeks ago.

Good luck everyone…we’ll need it

The way it stands

Not a great set of results for us with Sunderland recording their first away win of the season at Aston Villa and Bolton managing a draw at home to Man City. Cheers Sven. Reading also beat Birmingham which, according to my calculations, leaves the foot of the table looking like this.

  • 15th. Reading – 31 points
  • 16th. Sunderland – 30 points
  • 17th. Birmingham – 27 points
  • 18th. Bolton – 26 points
  • 19th. Fulham – 23 points
  • 20th. Derby – 10 points

It doesn’t change things greatly. A couple of wins and the whole picture will look different. At the moment we are still four points from safety with Birmingham needing to be overhauled. Sunderland and Reading, meanwhile, have managed to put some daylight between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack. We can still survive – but we’ve got to start winning to do so.

Chin up…it’s not over yet

As I write there are less than 15 minutes left at St James’ Park and things are looking bleak. After falling behind to a Mark Viduka goal in the sixth minute it was always going to be an uphill struggle. With Keegan’s links to both sides maybe it was written in the stars that he would break his duck against us…

However, this result in isolation won’t determine our season. We have a string of winnable home and away games coming up and they will prove to be the deciding factor so don’t get too downhearted. Focus on the next match, then the one after, and we’ll see where we are come May 11th.

UPDATE: Michael Owen makes it two with minutes left…game over for this weekend.

Saturday is for football

Already slightly irritated that I left it too late to buy Newcastle tickets, I ventured into town this morning to buy Easter Eggs. It was heaving. People shoving, fighting for car parking spaces and stomping around with miserable faces. It was grim stuff and made me realise something: Saturdays are for football. Whether we win, lose or draw this afternoon, those hardy souls that have made the trek up north will have missed out on the shops. And that’s a victory in itself.

Something to make you smile