The Surrey Himalayas
When I saw the draw for the semi, I was delighted. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not yet part of the hardcore travelling elite, so I’ve only done aways that have been reasonably local. I say “aways”, I actually mean “an away”. And I say “an away”, I actually mean “going to Raynes Park”. It was hardly an imposition to get to Colliers Wood United’s ground from Tooting for the quarter final of the Surrey Senior Cup. A bus and a walk. No worries.
So, when I saw that we were away to Banstead Athletic in the semi, I thought “a bus and a walk, no worries”. I live at the top of Figges Marsh, where Mitcham and Tooting collide, and a bus that says “S1 Banstead” goes from a stop about 5 minutes from my house. But TfL never gave it as an option to get to the ground. I discovered the reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, that bus- in order to get to Banstead- goes via every housing estate in Surrey and therefore takes 18 months to complete a journey. Secondly, Banstead Athletic’s ground is no more in Banstead than Tooting and Mitcham’s ground is in Tooting or Mitcham. Fucks sake.
So I met with two other Tooting-based terrors at the junction, took a train to Sutton station, and from there waited on a 420 bus.
“The 420 does stop here”, we were assured by a woman, who had obviously sensed our consternation at the lack of evidence for the service. The 420 didn’t show up on the digital information display. It was not spoken of on the paper timetable on the bus stop itself. “We aren’t in Kansas anymore”, I explained to Toto (Warren). Admittedly, Warren was more concerned about being recognised by any of the supporting players of his misspent youth in the Sutton area, than he was at the prospect of the 420 bus ever arriving. Pete and I referred to him as “Toto” for the rest of the trip, so as not to attract any attention.
Eventually, the 420 arrived. They come on the half hour, apparently, like I imagine stage coaches to gold panning towns did in the 1800s. Half hourly? For fucks sake. Imagine having to plan your life around one half hourly bus, instead of having a choice of four, each of which arrives every 8 or 10 minutes. Lord have mercy, no wonder the bike rack at Sutton station was bursting at the seams. People’s penchant for bicycles in the area became doubly clear when I got on the bus and got charged- hold on to your hats, folks- three pounds and seventy pence (£3.70)- THREE POUNDS AND SEVENTY PENCE for the journey to the ground. Deary bloody me. At least it seemed like value for the money, given that we were on that bus for ages, rattling around suburban Surrey like a bunch of tourists, cooing at the big houses and the German cars in their driveways. How the other half live, eh? In the middle of nowhere, with fuck all shops, public houses or public transport. Probably how they like it. Who said “hell is other people”? Me, I think, at Sutton station. I kept thinking we were about to drive off the cliffs at Dover we’d be travelling south east for so long but, mercifully, our stop was announced and I bounced off the bus and into the ground with similar kineticism as I’d been bounced around on the bloody thing.
The ground itself is smartly set-up- pool tables, a long bar and three staff who were highly efficient. I sense another TMUFC campaign in the offing, to picket the powers that be to get filled rolls behind the bar at Imperial Fields, as a number of our party were clearly impressed by the ham and cheese rolls that Banstead had on offer. You could have bought two for the price of the bus ticket to the ground. And had change. Three pound fucking seventy.
The travelling Bog End far outnumbered the home support, which seemed to consist of a couple of lads not long out of Ninja Turtle pyjamas who tried, foolishly, to compete with Tim Megone at singing. Decent effort, lads, but you’re literally wasting your breath.
It’s entirely fair and and completely reasonable to say that Tooting and Mitcham were the better side throughout, which is of course as should be the case, given that Banstead currently stew in 5th place in the Combined Counties League. Even without first team stalwarts like Peter Wedgeworth and Daryl Coleman, our young side dominated from the outset, bringing out the best in the Banstead ‘keeper on a couple of occasions. The Banstead pitch had more undulations than the singing voices of the home support. I’m sure once their voices break, they’ll be a decent choir, but as it stands they sound like the Mistletoe and Wine kids trying to audition for Green Street. The pitch, in fact, was Banstead’s best defender a number of times, and I feel it was lucky not to get at least a booking for an incident where it took out Danny Bassett on one of his marauding sojourns down the Tooting left. Still, Banstead managed to nullify us in the first half, but I don’t think the Tooting support were unduly concerned.
The Terrors were dominant in the second half, unless the competition is exclusively measured by getting at the referee for all manner of things. At times, Banstead were pretty agricultural in their approach. Which is ironic, because the only thing I imagine growing on that ground are lichens and mosses one would normally find on a Tibetan journey of self discovery. “The Surrey Himalayas”, someone described it as, in recognition of the truly unattractive microclimate there. In fairness, most Sherpas would probably have fucked off trying to find this ground at Banstead town centre. As it was, my full time piss had to be more or less snapped off it was so cold. I could have stuck it in the ground as a landmark to make finding the place easier next time around.
One of Banstead’s apparently trademark tackles resulted in a penalty for the Terrors midway through the second half. Of course, there was consternation from players and bench alike, but the penno was absolutely nailed-on. There was subsequently a David vs Goliath battle over who was getting the spot-kick, as sub Dan Summers and Danny Bassett both wanted the chance. David won the battle, and Bassett duly slotted the penalty in front of the Bog End faithful. (Check out the winning goal here … https://bit.ly/2K0Xji1)
The rest of the game passed without much incident. The home side did try to take something from the game, namely DMG’s legs, but for all their effort our intrepid young midfielder managed to finish the match on his feet.
Banstead 0 – 1 TMUFC
See you in the final, lads.