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
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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