BHAFC 1 – Burnley 3

There is a beer-and-pie feast
in the bar-fed anticipation
in the echoing East Stand –
high on the Upper Level
with the buzz of line ups
and incoming league results
in other parts of the land –
but by half time the sense
of dread has resurfaced
and is not pissed away
by one more pint and bogs –
instead we then succumb
to the gnaw of raw nerves
as the clocks stop at ninety
and extra time is not enough
to pull us up a place above
where we were the last time
we were here and hungry

At Anfield

The scouser outside
the pub gave a stare
at our unashamed
blue and white colours

from behind
his circular eye glass –
with it’s stretched froth
and shallow backwash –

he spied our short cut
through the car park
and called out –
Six-Nil !
before he dragged

his fag into his lungs
to chase his beer
into that strain
of shirt and buttons

On our return
to the parked car
the only difference
was his demeanour –

that and the fresh pint
and a virgin cigarette –
Ey! One-nil –
Not bad –
Good on yer!

His beer was held high
above his thinned hair
as he tipped a glass
to the Albion’s lost game

Into the Season

We have yet to see
our exhaled breaths
as we avoid the burn
of the cold handrails
on our expectant ascent
of fifty-odd concrete steps
to our fixed tipped seats

We have yet to inhale
that repeated wide view
of our floodlit pitch –
re-lined in the week
into a restart of hope
against eleven men
in an unloved strip

We have yet to sip
the bitter hot drinks
that we will queue for
in the muted half-time
of slight disappointments
as old rivals are set to win –
according to media streams

We will fear the descent
which others will take
before the hard blast
of whistle and biting winds –
to then exit The Amex
for seats on misted-up buses
which will take us home.

Falmer

It is drizzle

almost

the fine rainfall which is fixing
as the mass of coats and hoods
pass around the stadium
in an unholy circled attendance
at Saturday’s Mecca

Pies and chips

washed by beer

and kids swigging at bottles

now weaned from their mothers
to attend this mainly male church

Here to learn the hymns
and repeated mantras
passed down

No matter

Brighton 1 – Watford 0

This concrete and steel
oozes last week’s freeze
where I sit with my pint
high in the East Stand
having travelled with my boys

but they are already perched
on the folding seats
as I wait for my beer to push
me there via the toilets

where scarfed men shuffle
and queue in silence for urinals

there they unwrap and rezip
after pissing a few quid
before the match
on to others’ left pubes

these gents hope beyond hope
for a home result
as they wash down those hairs

We Few, We Happy Few

I could steal a line from Henry the Fifth,
but his battles were not with himself,
(he fought the French, which we can’t,
or else we’ll be fighting Knockaert).

Instead I’ll offer you my crass words
at this last phase of our season’s churn:
From Falmer’s low dip in our rolling county
The Albion will lift that long lost trophy.

Nine battles left in our thirty-year war,
nine matches, each, an Agincourt:
our long balls will let fly into the box,
to be buried in their hearts by a swift Baldock.

From the sure ranks of our mighty defense,
led by Bruno’s unwavering strength,
with Stockdale’s saves and domination,
we see Chris’ matchless machinations –

his tactics and plotting of every battle,
needs his foot soldiers to win every tackle,
across the pitch, from Dunk to March,
Houghton’s orders are: ‘Keep your guard’.

Our final throw in this season’s thriller,
is a match away at Aston Villa,
but ‘Gulls please win the Championship,
‘gainst Bristol City, here, at The Amex.

Miracles

Upstairs, steam-dripped
by every breath,
becoming condensation
it sticks, a vertical film

on the inside of the windows
of the fan-packed top deck,
aboard the lane-swaying
Number 29 to Brighton:

I sit, as usual, with too much
of the bus-shift-and-tip;
meaning that my forever
poorly-travelled nausea

threatens, from somewhere,
to become a public thing,
to be my fellow passenger
(Otto’s) thrown-up problem;

so I roll my eyes inwards
to cheat my tilted brain,
and by the time we reach
the stop called Earwig Corner

I am away, off in another place,
to stored recall’s sinking edges,
inside the most private
of our human experiences:

So holding back the vomit,
with this old-time trick of closure,
of not looking out to half distances,
but instead by looking within

my journey is thus managed;
sight is restored by the push of mud
underfoot as we step off the bus
to witness miracles at The Amex.


 

First Home Game, Brighton

Our team’s flags rattle,
pegged vertically
into the Landie’s wing mirrors,
a parade-worthy sight
on Uckfield High Street:

Yet,¬†there’s still cricket to be played,
summer holidays to be taken:
That slow countdown
to term time.

Equally slow on the Lewes bypass
“Sheer weight of traffic”:
We park in the ten quid garden,
and follow the path to the ground,

down through the  brief woods,
there, returning to The Amex,
with sun bathers on the banks
outside our East Stand!

Nottingham Forest?
One of the boys asks
about Clough, the Senior,
and their lost glory-days.

Twenty one stripes
cross the pitch,
every white line
rolled out crisp.

Seats slow-warmed
by our returned ars*s,
for the re-run return
to Premiership chances.

Post Match Report

All square, one-one,
but, still a loss
for The Seagulls:
An in-equal result
of stripe-painted
kids’ faces, briefly,
unable to pull a smile,

whilst we parents,
post-match gathered,
rolled, barbecue-fed,
with cold beer-wash,
struggled, in the sun,
with the enormity
of the task ahead:
Banoffee pie.

‘Four-hour’ Dave
puffed and laughed,
whilst Nicci smiled,
distant recall.
Mike R was forced
a second helping,
a second goal,
he’d preferred.

Such heat off
our rare-seen sun,
knocking Andy flat,
laid, but sober –
a low wall, on another,
as Charlotte gave
striped-Fred, returned,
an over-glasses warning,
his first yellow card
of the barbecue season.

 

From The Stadium

Ahead of me – one empty sat-down seat,
centre-back, in this well-attended free bus,
cushion dipped by time, worn by re-visits,
and other weightier-trips across Brighton;
first leg of our return home from the stadium.
We left five minutes early, off wind-groomed pitch,
to get my old boys’ seat, back to the racecourse blow.

Five-a-side, a match before me, no kicking-off;
two bus-faced rows of old men on bench seats,
aged choristers, wearing no wings, winter-wrapped,
and, my guess, a combined span of seven hundred years,
taking me, quickly, to the birth of The Renaissance,
and to Jan van Eyck – not a football manager.

My two boys, lost in the standing coats, look so young,
bus-jolted, but enjoying life, beyond these grim choir stalls.
Just one of the five, down the left, singing aloud now:
‘One goal, should have been three!’ grimly thrown.
I look again at the aligned church-shined toes,
brogues, Clark’s boots, and other comfortable soles.

Steamed up, under-powered, as we climbed over Falmer:
Then, Woodingdean’s winter illuminations:
Misted-view of a bruised bus stop, naked, no poster,
pub lights, still beaming pre-ban smoky yellows,
and angry traffic lights outside the Downs View Hotel.

This journey, to the whine and song of the diesel engine,
over rattle of chassis, clanking like an ill-fit armoured suit,
and an under-pinned stutter of gears and transmission;
I could be tunnelling, Underground, returning from Chelsea,
another lost night at Stamford Bridge, of over-paid play,
on an overloaded tube, instead, this winners’ free bus.

The last hill-grind, up to the racecourse and car park,
relief among the two teams, their bladders held tight,
for that final long release in the loo, before bed.
I stand up, as we shunt over the potted road,
My walking stick matches that of the older players.