AFC Croydon Athletic are a relatively local team for me. I live just under five miles from their ground, the Mayfield Stadium, and for some reason I felt like getting a bit of exercise so decided to make the journey on foot. Couldn’t do any harm, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. On my groundhopping travels I’ve journeyed to stadiums all over Britain and abroad, but I have never, in my life, gotten as lost on my way to a football ground as I did while trying to get to this one.
You might be wondering how it’s even possible to get lost in a fairly run-of-the-mill London suburb in these days of smartphones and Google Maps. And I’ll tell you how it’s possible. It’s because Google Maps is a FILTHY LIAR. It sent me through a field, along a mud track, and up to a tall fence with absolutely no route through. Sure, I could see the floodlights. I could even hear the unmistakable sounds of balls being kicked about and crap pre-match music. But, crucially, there was no getting in to the ground, and that’s really what I was there for.
With no choice but to plough blindly on and hope to discover some sort of way in, I carried on through the long grass and the mud. And that was when the rain started. As I trudged further and further from the ground, I ended up in a cemetery, with still no path to the stadium in sight. I walked further still, until I was back out on the street. I passed shops, I passed houses, and then (I may have been delirious at this point) I even passed some horses. By this stage I was starting to think less about getting to the game, and more about whether I’d ever see my wife and family again. And then, finally, after ignoring the further advice of that Google bastard who wanted to send me the wrong way a second time, the turnstiles appeared ahead of me like a beautiful desert mirage.
“The clubhouse is open if you want a drink and some hot food,” said the cheery, welcoming turnstile operator. I could have wept. I could have hugged him. He had no idea of the journey I’d been on. I’d left home at just after 12.30, and it was now ten-to-three. I fetched myself a tea and – wet, cold, hungry and in pain – took my seat in the stand among the 42 others who’d made it there. (That might seem like a low attendance, even for this level, but I’m just genuinely impressed that that many people managed to find the place.)
Still, it could have been worse. I could have been there as a fan of the home team. In the 90 minutes that followed, The Rams were completely destroyed by their guests. Lordswood, in their natty orange kit, ran absolute riot here, with Luke Medley bagging a hat-trick in a 6-1 thumping. Three of the visitors’ goals came in the last ten minutes, and it was clearly too much to take for the hosts’ social media bod, who abandoned all coverage at 5-1 and presumably headed for the bar, never to log in again.
For me, it was time to go straight home. And no – I didn’t walk.
AFC Croydon Athletic 1 Lordswood 6
Southern Counties East League Premier Division
Saturday 9 November 2019