Gas away days – The good, the bad and the just plain wrong – Part 3

by Martin Bull

To celebrate some of the away days Gasheads will be looking forward to in our new League, I’m looking back at some of the away days I’ve (cough) enjoyed in the recent past, and also looking forward to what our plan might be this time around.

After reminiscing about ‘the good’ trips to Shrewsbury Town and Walsall in Part 1, and evoking ‘the bad old days’ of the 1990’s at Bradford City and Gillingham in Part 2, we come to extra time and a club that raises hackles just at the mere utterance of its name.

The just plain wrong

This may be a well trodden gripe but the idea of a British football team moving 80 miles, and changing its name is wrong… just plain wrong!  North American sports fans may well be used to the franchise system, but territorial Brits aren’t and we certainly don’t want it.

So when the League One fixtures were recently released there was really only one collision the world was paying attention to. Whilst Bury fans may have been pencilling in the date of their first meeting with Bolton Wanderers since 1999, and Charlton and Millwall fans were preparing for the short four mile trip separating them, the rest of humanity was searching for the first ever League meeting of MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon. Cuckoo vs. Phoenix. Nosferatu vs. Great Uncle Bulgaria. ipad vs. ZX Spectrum. 30,000 seat stadium with the loudest PA system in the world vs. 5,000 capacity hotch-potch bought off a cash strapped non-league team.

We‘ve played MK Dons away four times now and lost all four, with them scoring a brace each time. I saw the first three of these games. By the time of our last game in Buckinghamshire I had given up. If karma exists it seems to be on a very long holiday indeed.

The match in August 2006 was our first ever match against franchise f.c. In the early days of their majestically lengthy history they played at the National Hockey Stadium in central Milton Keynes. The Stadium was a lop-sided soulless affair and was demolished in 2010. The old joke goes that a bomb dropped on it and caused £3m worth of improvements.

Us Gasheads were in a lonely stand on the West side that was a little like a smaller version of the Mem’s Centenary Stand, except it had no roof and no atmosphere, and occupied just a small plot on either side of the centre line. There was nothing else on that entire side of the pitch though, not even Greasy Joe’s burger van, resulting in the pictorial equivalent of the old ‘throbbing thumb‘ in a Tom & Jerry cartoon, where Jerry invariably whacks his digit with a hammer and it swells up to the size of a balloon in an otherwise empty room.

As a freezing rain storm hit us (in August, just like the infamous Wycombe Wanderers game, proving that it’s not just Scotland where you get all four seasons in a single day) I hoped to find some solace on the pitch. Unfortunately it never happened (we easily lost 2-0) and I got so cold, wet and depressed that I left my seat, and my mate Mike, and stood behind the stand in silence for a good 10 minutes to try to thaw out and mop myself down.

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(note – I am actually in this rare photo of our inaugural trip to MK Dons in 2006 –

I am on the far left hand side, near the top, in front of the guy [inexplicably] wearing a RED top!)

It was one of those very rare moments when despite the time, money and effort spent on the trip you just wanted the game to finish, now, so you could get out of there and return to a vaguely normal life.

The 2-1 defeat on the last day of October 2009 was one of the most mind-numbing performances I have ever witnessed. I almost fell asleep in the comfy seats they have at their posh new ground on the outskirts of the city. Although I have respect for Paul Trollope’s general achievements he did produce unbelievably soporific football at times. The record books show we scored in that game, yet I have no recollection of it. Maybe I was asleep? I bet it was a futile consolation goal.

Bristol Rovers play at MK Dons’ Stadium of Doom on Tuesday 18th October

The plan for this season? Don’t lose. Don’t go. That’s all.

Martin Bull became a Gashead in 1989 and immediately fell in love with Twerton Park, standing near G pillar. Three of his seven books have been about Bristol Rovers. ‘Away The Gas’ is packed full of over 50 years of ‘I was there’ away game moments, all written by fans, ‘Print That Season! – One man’s weekly meanderings throughout Bristol Rovers’ promotion campaign of 2014-15’ is the antidote to obedient season reviews, with none of the hindsight that most writers rely on, and ‘Double Darrell’ is similar, but chronicles the 2015-16 promotion, and is even better.

Full details of all are available at www.awaythegas.org.uk

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