I really should, rather than travel the 709 miles from my house to the Allianz Arena in Munich every other week, support my local club. My annual travel-card allows me free travel within Zones 1-6 and so Colston Avenue, where my local club, Carshalton Athletic plays, is a mere 4.5 miles away. Roger Bannister could run it in 20 minutes (probably a bit longer these days).
However, I have tried. In the Bundesliga they have Winterpause (Winter break – see, you’re nearly fluent) because before Al Gore talked about global warming, the weather in Germany from mid-December to the end of January was treacherous. Despite this not being as severe as it was, there is a still a break (nearer three than six weeks now) and there are no trips to Bavaria for me.
Therefore, to stop me shaking, I feel I should go and watch some live football. Mid-December in southern England can be just as vile, so my trip to watch local team Carshalton Athletic in the southern division of the Unibond Paint Truck Veterans Milk league was probably not seen at its best. It cost £9 to get in. I thought to myself, “If I’d have brought my plimsolls, I might have got a game” but I parted with a tenner and received two ten-shilling notes in return. Curious as decimalisation had happened in 1971 and this was 2011. (Although there are elements of Carshalton which are still in 1958).
As I was always packed away on holiday with a ten-shilling note from me Nan I came over all nostalgic and wonder how many 99s I could buy with that? As I approached the ice cream van I discovered the answer. 33%. As it was winter I decided against the extortionate 99 and went for a cup of tea. It took me several minutes to realise how they got the spoon to stand up in the mug. Tea bags used from the 2008/09 season was the answer. Like being on an episode of Brainiac. I settled in my seat – with only 200 people there – I could not only have had a choice of seat, I could have had a choice of stand.
Music blared out before the game, which sounded like someone’s old cassette player held against the microphone. Not everyone in the ground liked Petula Clark. When the game started – against Hendon (I assumed everyone in the opposing team was a trainee copper) - a small throng of people stood behind the goal. People who’d made the long trip down the Northern Line to Modern (therefore witnessing at first-hand the longest tunnel in Europe) and got on a 157 bus to Carshalton, stood at the other end. Each little behind-the-goal throng (clearly watching a different game to me) shouted at every ostensible misdemeanour against their team. 0-0 at half time and a rush (if you can have a rush with 16 people and a Jack Russell) headed to the tea hut which was now serving chips. As chips go, these got ten out of ten.
If Katarina Witt had been there she’d had given these chips a maximum six and said something Teutonic, which no one understood, but she thought funny, into the bargain. Shortly after half-time a Carshalton player got sent off. Good, I thought, that livens things up. However, the handful of myopic supporters behind one of the goals thought otherwise. This was the antithesis of an early Christmas present for them. Sadly, the game continued at 0-0 until the end. Nine pounds poorer, no goals, cholesterol heightened.
However, I did ponder, what the chances of Carshalton Athletic playing Bayern – in the Champions League – or even UEFA Cup (or whatever it’s called this week)were if Bayern had had an off season? What were the odds of me, listening to the radio, tuned into Radio Nyon for the CL draw, to anally-retentively writing down on a scrap of paper that Bayern Munich. Dramatic pause. Would be playing. Further pause. Carshalton Athletic. Impossible.
Unmöglich, as we say in certain parts of Epsom. But could it happen? Could some rich person – whose agent was desperately trying to get them onto Secret Millionaire – come along and invested in a side until they were competing at the top level in Europe (and not just in the top level in the London Borough of Sutton)? It would have to be someone with a relationship with the area. Laura Ashley lived near the ground – so the soft furnishings in the changing rooms would be top notch; Cliff Richard lived there briefly, so there’s your half-time entertainment; David Bellamy went to school near there, so no excuse for dodgy pitches or places where the grass doesn’t grow and Jack Warner lived there too, so security would never be a problem. But you really need an oligarch who had a pipeline running between Sutton and Archangel. This is not dissimilar to Hoffenheim, who play in the first division of the Bundesliga. The bloke who established SAP computers (local lad – to Hoffenheim not Carshalton) invested into his local team and they won promotion after promotion (and had very small IT bills).
Whilst you can see the attraction to players like David Beckham with the lure of Los Angeles, I cannot see the attraction of living in Carshalton (the local Disneyland’s a bit rubbish). Saying that, there is a good working men’s club near the station so if your potential player loves his snooker, darts and pork scratchings, then happy days. Sadly, I fear this is going to be the deal-breaker. Apart from the aforementioned club, the ponds are vaguely picturesque, the sleeping policeman very effective and there’s a Lidl nearby. But Manchester United, City, Arsenal, Barca, Milan (AC and DC alike) etc fans, worry not.
I don’t think you’ll be sitting in your local pub in a decade’s time looking forward to a Real Madrid/Carshalton Athletic Champion’s League final. Unless they dispense with the English club who came fourth gaining a place in the competition and the ground which sells the best chips gets a place instead.