Dave woke up with a spring in his step. Matchday! The best day of the week!
And this would be one he’d be attending in person, rather than checking the score updates on his phone whilst strolling his way around some anonymous out of town shopping centre, looking for another new pair of school shoes for Peter, or a new scooter for Rachel.
Dave loved matchday. Especially on a fresh, crisp, and sunny Saturday afternoon in early spring. In part, because Matchday signalled the end of the working week, and this had been a particularly long week. The kind of afternoon where you get to Monday afternoon and you’re dreaming of retirement.
Dave had been recently retraining to be a Software Developer and was meant to be having his probation meeting for his new job on Friday afternoon, but his manager got called away on an urgent client meeting and so it had been postponed until next Monday morning. Which now meant he’d spend all weekend stressing about it. But he wasn’t going to let it spoil matchday.
It wasn’t that Dave particularly liked his new job, but the money was better than his previous work in property lettings, the hours were better, and the commute was shorter, which had previously involved a one-hour drive each way, and that was only if traffic was good. Which all meant he could now get home in time for his kids’ bedtime if he left promptly enough.
Dave wasn’t meeting his friends until midday, but his wife had agreed to take their two kids Peter and Rachel to their respective school friend’s birthday parties, so he had all morning to get in the mood.
After a quick peruse of the socials, he ambled downstairs to the kitchen to make himself some breakfast…
“F*cking hell! Who is this idiot?” He exclaimed to himself as he promptly turned off the radio in a matter of seconds after turning it on. ‘Radio phone-ins, what a loads of w*nkers’ he thought.
Dave had his morning all planned out. A Bacon Sandwich (why not, it’s Matchday!), a swift w*nk (he did have the house to himself after all), a sh*t and a shower. Which should still leave enough time to rewatch the latest episode of Strike. He had already watched it with his wife, but his habit of falling asleep in front of the TV meant he’d missed most of it, as usual.
He opened the fridge, no bacon. “Peanut Butter on Toast it is then” he groaned.
He opened the cupboard, no Peanut Butter… “Margarine it is then” he huffed as he slumped his shoulders in disappointment.
Dave sat down with his pathetically small side plate and his two measly slices of margarine covered toasted medium cut wholemeal bread placed on top and smiled to himself. ‘Still, it’s Matchday’, he thought, ‘all good’.
Dave slumped on the sofa with BBC Breakfast on in the background and munched his toast whilst scrolling through his phone.
Before he knew it, more than an hour had passed, then another. He’d spent so much time checking all the pointless apps on his phone and enjoying a long read in the Athletic about Chesterfield’s 1997 FA Cup run that he’d now only have time for a quick a shower if he was going to catch the train. ‘Better crack on’, he thought.
Dave quickly checked his pockets. “Wallet, check. Keys, check. Phone, check.” He said to himself out loud in reassurance.
He slipped on his shoes and his bomber jacket, locked the door behind him and quickly paced up the street towards the station. He had left plenty of time to avoid any need to rush, but always liked to be there a bit early to avoid any unnecessary panic. It also gave him a chance to take in the hustle and bustle of the pre-match buzz at the train station.
Dave bought his train ticket from the machine, rushed through the gates, and headed for the platform. ‘Oh great, cancelled. Fucking trains’, he thought. “Fucking Thatcher” he exclaimed in jest so a nearby group of fellow football fans also checking the train times could hear him.
Dave wasn’t particularly political; he had only ever voted on rare occasions when his wife Mel had insisted. She was the political one. To him, politicians were all the same. Lazy, greedy, lying c*nts.
He now had 15 minutes to kill until the next train, so headed to the little cafe on the station to get a coffee. He was about to head inside when he saw Paul from work in the queue. Dave liked Paul but didn’t know him that well yet, having only started in his new job a few months ago, so turned back and headed for the platform to avoid an awkward 5-minute conversation in the queue, and potentially another half an hour of awkwardness during the train journey. ‘I’ll head to the end of the platform’ he thought, ‘don’t want to risk bumping into anyone else.’
So, Dave worked his way down the platform, slaloming between the scrum of fellow Town supporters all keenly anticipating the afternoons action.
Dave stopped just before the end of the platform, standing behind a group of young lads, all wearing retro Town away shirts from of the first seasons Dave started regularly going to watch them. A season which from looking at this group would have been well before they’d all have been born. It wasn’t even a nice shirt either. One of those horrible early 90’s ones, with a mesh pattern and too many colours interacting at once. Then again Dave wasn’t really a football shirt person, not at his age and with his belly at least.
He looked around and realised he must be one of the oldest people on the platform. He looked again at the kids in retro Town shirts, Town shirts from his era, an era that had felt like yesterday, but it wasn’t, it was retro, dated and old. Dave stared down at his feet and couldn’t help the creeping sense of dread and mortality overcome him.
Dave’s train pulled into the station, eventually. Fifteen minutes late. Meaning he was now half an hour late in total.
Great, he thought. Now that prick Colin was going to make me down a pint to catch up. They weren’t in university anymore; they weren’t even close. They’d only started inviting Colin because they felt sorry for him after his wife left him…Two months after the wedding. Brutal. Who could blame her though?
There also was the fact that Colin was able to get them tickets in the main stand using his families season tickets. Town tickets were hard to come by these days since their fortunes had improved. Figures. ‘Johnny come f*cking latelys’ Dave called them, not that he was the most dedicated of supporters himself of late.
Colin was Steve’s mate too and Dave absolutely loved Steve, he’d do anything for his oldest friend Steve. A friend of Steve’s was a friend of his, he told himself begrudgingly.
Ed made up the foursome. A quiet, but honest and dependable guy who Steve and Dave went to school with. He was the type of person you’d trust with your life, as long as it didn’t involve him doing any physical activity to save you that is. Computer games were more Ed’s thing. Dave didn’t really get it, but often indulged Ed in his ramblings about his latest game because he knew how much Ed loved his gaming, and it was a good way to get him out of his shell.
Dave turned right out the station and down the main road towards the pub, it was a good 10-15 minutes’ walk in the opposite direction from the ground, but they’d been drinking there pre-match for a good ten years now, and enjoyed the familiarity of it.
Dave turned the corner and saw the pub appear in the distance, a sight that gave him a warm sense of comfort in his chest.
As he got nearer he saw a figure smoking outside, and when he got near enough he realised that it was Steve.
Steve and Dave shared a knowing looking and a smile. “I thought you’d given up?” Dave asked.
“Yeah, I have.” Steve replied. “But it’s matchday so I’ve given myself the afternoon off.”
‘Yeah, and on birthdays, Christmases and any day ending in a y!’ Steve thought to himself. But he knew Steve was sensitive about his addiction, so Dave bit his tongue.
“Fair enough mate, I won’t tell the misses.” Dave said with a wink and a cheeky smile. “The other lads inside?” He asked
“Yeah, Colin’s already bought you a drink.” Steve replied with another knowing smile.
“Fucks sake” replied Dave with an element of faux outrage. “I know he’s your mate Steve. But Colin is a bit of a prick sometimes.”
Two rounds down (plus the pint Dave had to downed for being late) and they were all getting a bit giddy.
“Any empties?” the barman asked them on his sweep of the tables.
“Here” Ed said passing him two empty pint glasses.
“Cheers mate” Dave added as the barman began to turn to his next table.
“Why can’t they just wait for us to leave?” Said Colin. “Really pisses me off!”
The rest nodded in awkward agreement as the barman was still in earshot.
‘He’s just doing his job’ thought Dave.
Steve broke the ice by turning the conversation to the match.
“Tough game today. City are playing well, but Town really need a result and the manager has to turn it around soon, or else.” He said whilst miming a throat cutting action.
“Guys clueless” replied Colin. “Only got the job because he was a name”.
“I’m feeling confident” Dave added. He had no particular reasoning behind this, it was mostly based on his positive matchday vibe.
“Yeah” replied Steve. “Things have got to turn around eventually, right?” He added with a air of hopeful optimism.
“2-0 to us I recon” Ed added.
“Hopefully the new guy gets a run out. Can’t understand why he’s not being given a chance?” Said Colin
“Yeah, can’t understand why the manager prefers Sanchez.” Steve replied. “Maybe Sanchez has some dirt on him?” He joked
They all chuckled except for Colin who gave out a snort in agreement.
“Shall we make a move?” Asked Dave. He was keen to end the football chat there, conscientious that he was a bit out of touch and getting out of his depth. He wasn’t even sure who the new guy was that they were referring to.
As well as regularly going to Town matches. Mel and he used to religiously watch Match of the Day together on a Sunday morning and then spend the afternoon in front of Super Sunday followed by Dave’s famous roasts. She would now and again come with him to matches, but only if his mates weren’t going. Dave didn’t like to mix friends and family and it worked for both of them as Mel wasn’t a fan of Colin, then again neither was he.
“Just gonna take a piss.” Said Colin.
There was just over an hour and a half till kick off. Enough time for a quick amble to the ground and to take in the pre-match vibes before one or two more pre-match pints on the concourse. Sadly, the beer was Fosters, but it was convenient, so they tolerated it. Rather that than risk leaving it too late and miss kick off.
The game was 15 minutes old, and Dave was already starting to feel the cold. It was one of those spring afternoons where the sunshine meant it was deceivingly cold. ‘If only I’d brought my hat and gloves.’ He thought.
The foursome had perfect seats, near the front of the upper tier, overlooking the halfway line. Expensive, but Dave didn’t come to many games these days, not anymore, not since the kids were born, so he thought he could justify it.
But these days he’d be lucky if he caught the sports section at the end of the ten o’clock news. That’s if he managed to avoid dozing off before then.
Then suddenly his phone went off. “[You left the freezer open again you twerp; that’s dinner ruined! 😡🤦♂️]”
His phone buzzed again. [Can you pick up some more bread and something for dinner on your way back? … unless you’re having a late one that is?]”
‘Shit’ he thought. That’s him in the bad books, not even a kiss either. A bad sign. He’d better reply. “[Oh no! Sorry!…🤦♂️Of course, we might have a couple after the game but won’t too late. Any suggestions? Xxx]”
After an anxious minute or two of waiting his phone buzzed again “[just get something to stick in the oven. Maybe a lasagne? Xxx]”
Phew, kisses. He thought. Then he heard a cheer from the other end of the ground and quickly looked up to see a group of oppositions players huddled together in the corner of the pitch. 1-0 City. F*ck.
“What a load of Sh*t!” Someone cried from behind them as City scored their third.
“Not even half time, this could get ugly,” said Ed.
“What else do you expect if the gaffer keeps starting Sanchez up front!” Dave said, simply repeating their earlier comments to give an impression that he knew what he was talking about. “…The guy can barely run.” He added for good measure.
“Too right!” Said a rather burly tattooed bald bloke sat behind them as he patted Dave on the shoulder. “Do something you Clown!” The burly bloke shouted at the manager.
“Guy’s only here because people know his name. Sooner he’s fu*cked off the better!” The burly guy said to them before giving Ed a firm pat on the shoulder and leaning back into his seat.
Steve turned to look at Ed and Dave with a knowing smile… maybe these seats weren’t quite as perfect as they first thought.
“How’s the family?” Dave asked Ed trying to make conversation as they waited for the others to finish their half time piss, whilst rubbing his hands together in an attempt to get some feeling back in his fingers.
“Oh, you know. Still a bunch of annoying twats.” Ed said with a smirk. “Chris keeps getting in trouble with his teachers. Sally and I have nearly given up on him.”
‘Maybe he wouldn’t be such an annoying twat if you talked to him more and spent less time playing Adventures of the Argonauts 7 or whatever his latest gaming obsession was’… Dave thought.
“Really?” He replied. “Bloody kids eh?! Have the school said anything?”
“Not really. They just want to give them all a label these days.” Replied Ed. Dave didn’t want to press Ed any further, he could tell it was a sensitive subject…
“Pint?” Colin exclaimed on his return from the loo.
“I’ll have a half” replied Dave.
“Half?!” Splutter Ed.
“Pint or nothing!” Declared Colin.
“Alright then.” Dave said with a forced smile. “I’m not fucking downing it though.” Dave said. “Let’s just miss the start of the second half, we’ve lost this already anyway!”
“The manager has to go!” Steve said exasperated as he returned from the loo.
“Yeah, you’re right.” Said Dave. “Clueless. They look like a bunch of strangers out there.” Dave thought that would do.
“I like him”. Said Ed, ever the contrarian. “Good clobber, talks sense…. And if we get relegated, we might win a few games!”
They all laughed… “Yeah. Noticed from overhead that he’s got a bit of a bald spot.” Said Steve.
Dave started laughing a bit too enthusiastically and quickly stopped himself. Quickly retorting. “The stress of the job!” In a vain attempt to cover his embarrassment.
“Come on boys, put some effort in!” Shouted the burly bloke from behind them.
After the half time refreshment break, they’d ended up sitting in a different order and Dave was now frustratingly sat next to Colin.
“How’s work?” Dave asked trying to strike up some kind of conversation.
“You know… Work.” Colin replied with a rueful look.
‘Fair enough’ thought Dave. He didn’t want to talk about work on a Saturday either, especially this weekend. He just had so little to say to Colin that he’d runout of any other ideas and panicked.
“You don’t make it down to games very often these days?” Colin accused with a mocking tone.
“Yeah, it’s expensive these days. You know? … and the kids have a busier social life than me. One of Me or Mel has to take them!“ he excused.
“Kids eh!” Retorted Colin…
Dave could tell Colin was a bit awkward. Family life was still a bit of a taboo subject with Colin, even if it was now two years on from his divorce, so Dave was about to move the conversation on before Ed butted in…
“Bunch of pricks! Enjoy the freedom Col!” … they all chuckled.
“Yeah Col” said Steve. “Mine spend half the time causing havoc!… it’s just a battle to get through the day until bedtime.” He stated in jest… “But you know, they’re great really.” Steve added with a rueful grin.
There was a pause as Dave considered what else he could say to Colin to change the subject.
But the match came to his rescue…“Come on ref! That was a foul!” Shouted Colin, quickly getting to his feet and waving his arms.
“We always get the sh*test refs!” Stated Steve.
“Oh, for f*cks sake!” Shouted Colin as City quickly broke free to score their fifth of the afternoon
“Shall we just go to the pub?” Asked Ed… “I’ve had enough and it’s fucking freezing!”
One more for the road?” Said Colin… ‘Not really’… thought Dave, as he awkwardly shuffled from side to side, whilst waiting for Ed or Steve to be the first to make their excuses.
It’s not that Dave wasn’t enjoying himself. But he was near to his limit in pints and was keen to not get home too late to be able to spend some time with Mel, particularly given the food shopping list she had requested. She’d had to leave early for their kids’ friend birthday party, so they’d taken off with Dave still dozing in bed. They both had busy work lives, often doing plenty of unpaid overtime, so the weekend was usually the only quality time they got together.
“I’ll leave it”, said Ed. “Got an early start tomorrow, in-laws are coming for Lunch.”
“Urgh” replied Colin. “Rather you than me, he chuckled, whilst shuffling awkwardly.
“Yeah, might leave it too”. Said Dave. “Promised Mel I wouldn’t get too drunk and I’m not able to handle many more than this these days.”
“Good call”. Said Steve.
“Fair enough lads,” said Colin. Pulling out his phone as if he had other friends to contact…but they all knew that he didn’t. Not since Carly had left him. All his other friends had either sided with her or lost touch long before.
They headed their separate ways. Colin and Steve were sharing a cab home, and Ed was getting the bus, so Dave was on his own again getting the train.
It was an hour or so after the match, so most of the crowd had surpassed and Dave walked straight onto the platform without having to queue.
There was a group of teenagers blocking the gangway, so Steve awkwardly asked them to move. They did, but with a sneering reluctance.
He walked down the platform and looked up at the train times board. “Cancelled?! Again!?” He thought. “Fucking Thatcher!” He exclaimed.
“Alright Love?” Dave said as he went through the door.
“Hi!” Mel replied enthusiastically.
Dave took an internal sigh of relief as they hugged and kissed. He was worried his blunder with the fridge might still be being held against him.
“Blimey your hands are cold! She exclaimed, flinching in shock.
“Yeah, froze our arses off!”
“Aw” she replied with mock sympathy. What did you get for dinner?” She asked.
“Lasagne” he said with a knowing smile. Mel loved Lasagne. Especially if she didn’t have to make it herself from scratch.
She smiled back. “Good game?” She asked.
“No!” Spluttering as he replied. “Did you not see the score?” He said with a grimace.
“Sorry I’ve been on the go with the kids all day. Not had a chance to look.”
“5-1 City” he replied morosely.
“Bloody hell!” She exclaimed. “Colin won’t be inviting you back for a while!” She said with a smirk.
“Good” he replied, smirking back.
“The kids were asking to go next time”. Mel said with an anxious look.
“Really?” Dave replied sharply with eagerness.
Mel looked back with a look of encouragement and surprise. “Yeah, I said we’d think about it.”
After a day at the football which had starred with such excitement but had hardly lived up to his expectations. This news had put the spring back in his step. He’d always hoped the kids would take an interest in football and hoped to one day take them to their first game.
“I didn’t think either of them were interested?” He said with surprise.
“Well, they were intrigued where Daddy had gone today, so they kept asking about it… and someone in Peter’s class goes to games too apparently.” She replied, smiling even harder as she could hear the excitement in Dave’s voice.
“Let’s do it! I’ll speak to Colin tomorrow to see if he can sort us out some tickets for the United game.” Dave said with a grin.
Jump to the next instalment