The Boro’s cup run had coincided nicely with our trip to the UK and the fifth round tie with Oxford meant that I had another opportunity to go along to the Riverside.
Tom was working and as I’d already bought two tickets I took my six-year-old grandson, Harry. He’s not that bothered about football really. He has a kick around in the playground but his main interests are spiders and bats. I couldn’t promise him that we’d see any of those, but the day started well for him when we spotted a squashed rat after parking up.
I’d taken advantage of the reduced cup prices for hospitality and so our tickets were in the Fenton Club. The last time I’d been in a posh part of the ground I’d got away with black jeans. This time though the requirements were somewhat stricter and I needed proper trousers and a jacket.
Fortunately I found a suit in the lock up that I’d bought for a wedding in Kazakhstan nine years ago. I rarely get invited to weddings and so I don’t think I’ve worn it since.
Harry, however, had been to a wedding last year and was just about able to squeeze into the suit that he had worn on that occasion. I think he quite liked the dressing up. If he didn’t he certainly liked the frequent compliments on his appearance.
The Fenton Suite is a large room in the West Stand with a small bar at one end and a carvery along the side. It overlooks the pitch. You get your own table and there are tellies everywhere for watching the early games. Best bit was probably the framed shirt and cap from a Micky Fenton England appearance.
In the corridor on the way in and out were the pre-season team pictures cataloging our squads for the past century or more. It would be nice to have some of those images blown up a bit and added to the walls in the concourses in the ground so that everyone can see them. I was up at Hampden Park last year and they’ve got loads of old photos dotted around.
We started off with carrot soup and then tried the carvery. Harry was offered a secret option of chicken nuggets which he accepted on the basis that he could also have exactly five roast potatoes with them. He’s precise about things like that.
There were a few Oxford United fans in the suite, including former children’s entertainer Timmy Mallett. He seemed pleasant enough but I couldn’t quite work out if he wearing a headband that spiked up his hair or if the entire thing was actually a hat that was intended to resemble a shock of hair.
Either way, it smacked of attention seeking in a way that made me wonder if his ‘wacky’ tv personna is actually the way he is in real-life. Admittedly, I didn’t see him twat anyone on the head with a hammer but you got the impression that he might very well have done if he were allowed.
We were a couple of goals up and cruising at half-time, but two goals in a minute mid-way through the second half brought Oxford right back into it and Mallett to his feet in celebration. He’s perhaps a little fortunate that he was in the hospitality section as his reaction might very well have brought about a nostalgic sharp blow to his own head in other areas of the ground.
It all worked out though as Stuani popped up towards the end with another of those vital goals of his and we were through to the quarter-finals. We trooped back into the Fenton Club for ice cream before Harry informed me that, good as it was, he’d quite like to go home now. So that’s what we did, making sure that we kept an eye out for squashed rats.