Away Days – On The Train For The Biggest Trip Of The Season

Matthew Keeling recalls as much as he can from Sunderland's 2018 trip to Home Park

Ah 2018. League One had arrived. The smell of promotion was in the air. An old Glenn Loovens taught us how to laugh. And I was going to Plymouth to watch Sunderland. You know how it is, you book it all up weeks before and there are early trains that you think, “not a problem!” at the time – and then 11.30pm arrives on the Friday before, you’re 6 pints deep and you’re wishing you’d agreed to watch it in the pub (sorry, listen to it on the radio) with your mates.

My train was indeed early. Very early. 4:44am to be precise, from Newcastle, which meant a taxi at 4, meeting your mates at the station a coffee that no one really wants and a train to London Kings Cross, with people on it who were finishing a night out. Yes, there is a direct train to Plymouth, but that is boring. You’re boring everyone. Quit boring everyone.

So the issue here is you arrive at London at about 7:45am, which is just ridiculous. So yes, do that, then meet my London-based friend who shall not be named; lets call him Andrew Ferguson. A pint, naturally at Liverpool Street Spoons, then aboard a train which we had not reserved seats for, for the incredibly long journey to Plymouth – it takes longer to get from London to Plymouth than from Newcastle to London.  Stupid place. 

After three and half days, we arrive, and it’s a pub where the locals are staggered to find we have 1,200 fans at the game – though to be fair, they travel 100 miles for their home game from Cornwall. Could move, I guess? I then I had quite possibly the worst burger I’ve ever had from a van next to the three-sided Home Park. It was appalling. At this point I’m afraid it gets a little hazy. 

We did win 2-0. Aiden McGeady scored both in the second half and I do remember Plymouth being very salty about it after because they had more corners or something. Thank god we got out of this division! To be honest after the game I was steaming. We went to a pub, where I tweeted some player ratings from the WMS account, before realising I had forgotten to rate… Aiden McGeady. Yes, the same Aiden McGeady that scored both goals. 

The journey back to London (where I was staying, I’m not a lunatic) was somehow longer than the journey on the morning, and I fell asleep at Bath, was sick at Paddington Station and had to get a taxi back to my mates house in Isleworth. What a time to be alive.

Matthew Keeling