Wednesday, 15 August 2007


The AA route planner might have worked out that the trip to Swindon would take 2 hours and 5 minutes, but it had failed to take into consideration a number of crucial human variables, the main one being Human Error. Not me of course, I’m to driving what Carmen San Diego was to wearing a hat and not getting cornered. Instead I refer to the tit that closed Junction Nine of the M25 for over an hour after jack knifing his articulated and unloading several dozen gallons of diesel across the tarmac. I hope he was fine, but it put a serious spanner in the works as far as timing went. Have no fear though, for when Junction Nine was re-opened all looked to be well and good, until someone in a Mini crashed and closed off Junction Ten for another half an hour.
Fucking magnificent.

We arrived in Swindon at 7:30pm, navigated the driving nightmare that is the Magic Roundabout, someone’s idea of a joke which seems to have killed more people per square metre than German Machine Gunners on the Somme, and park the Saxo up in the Stadium Car Park five minutes into the game.
Good going.

For those that haven’t been there before, the County Ground is fairly old, a bit run down, and for those reasons is a bloody awesome football stadium. I’ve been there six times now, and every time I’ve had fun. The stands are run down, old concrete and faded red plastic seats with thick red paint daubed on the ticket offices and burger bars to somehow overcompensate for the overall drabness. The floodlights stand out, towering over the Town End and Arkell’s Stand, and silhouetting the tower block that loomed over the Nationwide Stand, black storm clouds and all. Behind where we were standing, the giant scoreboard sat next to the Rolex Clock, which is the sole one in the world at a football ground.
It’s all a bit broken up and dilapidated. But when it had terracing, the stadium must have been immense with 30’000 people inside. As it was, the Town fans gave a good account of themselves in the Town End to our left and we returned the service. Estimated crowd size, 5000, perhaps a little more.

The theme of a run down stadium in need of attention mirrors Charlton on the pitch at the moment, that despite concerted renovation work still look to be well short of meeting minimum requirements from the foundations up. A structural collapse is, however, perhaps not on the cards. Charlton, handing a debut to Izale McLeod and a first start of the season to Jonathan Fortune, lacked genuine penetration. Sam continues to impress, incisive and solid on the ball, but around him something ain’t right. Reid was good, Semedo solid, but Ambrose is still a monumental tart when it comes to fighting to win a game, and in the first half was non existent. Meanwhile the partnership of Izale McLeod and Marcus Bent looked full of pace and power, but more inclined to run with the ball wide than ever get in the box, which is bizarre for two strikers. There’s not enough directness.
Half-Time. 0-0.

We came out looking like a different team after the break though. Reid got more involved, and when Ambrose latched on to a knock down from Marcus Bent and made it 1-0, we were rolling. Swindon, for their part, went to bits, and when we were awarded a Pen. when Reid converted, albeit after a retake, it was all over. Subs were made, Iwelumo for Bent being the best, and from there on in it was cruise control. Charlton won 2-0, the four hour hold up on the M25 was worth it.

So what did we learn?
Well we learned that Swindon, for all their battling, are more or less awful. We learned that Ambrose still needs to earn his place in the side, and we learned, again, that terracing at least in some form has to return to stadiums even if it’s at a lower level just to bring back some fun at games. It’d lower ticket prices and increase people through the turnstiles too.

Also whoever the Charlton fan was in the Volkswagon Golf V6 that burned me on the M4 doing 110mph, I salute thee.

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