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I Must Be Mad!

I Must Be Mad!
No, this is not a joke but a true fact. The journey, or should that be expedition and 'mother of all away trips' took place 12 years ago and involved a mere 2,000 miles of travel!

The reward for this extreme loyalty was to witness a goalless Anglo-Italian Cup game alongside just 800 other fans.

There have been many supporters who have gone to great lengths to prove their devotion to their 'heroes'.

Some will probably have regretted the day their loyalty went a bit too far.

I can recall three occasions when my personal commitment to Hereford United probably passed the point of credulity.

Firstly, in 1982 during the Hereford United SOS Appeal the Supporters Club put out an appeal for any unwanted programmes. United were in dire straits, so after some thought, I donated my entire collection. Yes, the whole lot!

I had hundreds packed away in the attic, they included a few programmes from the 1940s and many from the 1950s and 60s. I also gave away two 1958 United v Sheffield Wednesday programmes and two from our very first Football League game away at Colchester United in 1972.

Out went programmes with famous names like Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and a young man called Brian Clough. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it now.

Secondly, on Wednesday 30th September 1987 - the date of United's home game against Peterborough United coincided with my first ever attempt at acrobatics off a ladder!

Two fractured heelbones (and 3 months off work) was the result of that little effort. Meanwhile, back at the hospital I was chuffed with myself after talking my way out of an overnight stay, only to be informed by my other half that I had also talked my way out of 100 - this being the sum that my health insurance scheme would have paid out.

Anyway, by 5:30pm I was bored stiff and decided to ring St Johns to hire a wheelchair. By 6:30, after damaging my car getting the contraption into my boot, I was off down to the match.

A mate of mine, who was on the sick at the time, volunteered to push me into the ground. He had disguised himself by wrapping a scarf halfway up his face terrorist style, and the result of the match after all this effort; a one-nil defeat!

If I had stopped in hospital I wouldn't have damaged my car, I would have been 100 better off, and I could have listened to radio updates on the match. I must have been mad!

Thirdly, a few seasons later I found myself joint organiser of a coach trip to Gillingham. The purpose of this mission was to witness the 'glamour' Leyland Daf Trophy tie at the Priestfield Stadium. We started off at 2:30pm thinking 5 hours would be enough time to get to the ground ahead of kick-off.

All went well until we arrived at London around the start of the rush hour when the coach driver in his infinite wisdom decided to keep well clear of the M25 and instead headed for Central London!

The scenic route perhaps!

Of course we soon came to a grinding halt, but we had the 'executive' coach complete with on-board video facilities. But the problem was that had decided to chew up several tapes almost as soon as we'd left Hereford so that was a non-starter, and if I remember correctly, the toilet didn't work either - lets just say the fans on board were not amused.

Eventually, we were about 10 miles outside Gillingham and already late for kick-off when the driver suddenly stopped.

'Sorry', he said.

'I've run out of time on my tachograph'

We then rung Gillingham to warn them of our late arrival, and after the famous '45 minute break' we were back underway, but by this time the noose was already being made up for me and the driver. Then a glimmer of light shone through the coach as we heard on the radio that Paul Wheeler had put us one up!

We eventually arrived at the ground 20 minutes before the final whistle. The good news was that we got in for nothing (thank you Gillingham FC) and we won the match one-nil.

And the bad news?

None of us were allowed to get a programme from the club shop (thank you Kent Police).

At the end of the day I still regard travelling to Italy in a Reliant Robin would have been a far better option!

Colin Butler

Writer:Colin Butler
Date:Thursday May 29 2008
Time: 8:16PM

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