Cheltenham Town, Saturday 20 January
How to get there
As with other grounds in the West Country like Yeovil and Bristol City, Whaddon Road is located over 40 miles from the town centre. There is no parking and the hike from the station is considerable, involving a trek across a near-inpenetrable mountain range and miles of arid scrubland. A park-and-ride connection modelled on the Looping Star at Margate’s Dreamland has been mooted for many years but has been continually blocked by NIMBYs unhappy at an unsightly loop-the-loop marring the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside.
Still non-league at heart, it’s a well-appointed arena. The away end is now all-seated and sports a roof. Ironically, it hasn’t rained in Cheltenham since the Gills’ FAC tie there in 1999, when the town received four times it’s average annual rainfall in under twenty minutes. It’s now officially classed as a desert, with a hose-pipe ban enforced at weekends.
Where to Drink
Small away fan friendly social club at the ground, but real ale afficianados head for The Jolly Brewmaster or The National Hunt, both footie friendly and less than a mile from Cheltenham Spa station. The Sudeley Arms is closer to the ground – two fires and it sells Goff’s Jouster.
The Robins. Often erroneously thought to originate from their predominant colour of red, it in fact dates only from the mid-70s when Cheltenham fans were deemed the second most perverted in the country, with a per capita consumption of soft porn higher than everywhere except Faversham. The nickname is in honour of the art movies which starred the talented Robin Askwith, who got into all sorts of amusing scrapes with semi-naked ladies, all in a day’s work for your average window cleaner or driving instructor.
The beautiful inland spa resort – first discovered by pigeons pecking at salt crystals in a meadow in 1716. In particular, don’t miss out on the Pittville Pump Room
The Bibury Trout farm – one of the oldest and most attractive trout farms in the country. The cafe serves both fresh and smoked trout, plus Pukka pies and Bovril. NB : Fresh trout is banned from Whaddon Road unless it’s so fresh that it’s still alive, in which cases normal admission prices apply
No longer as perverted as their 1970s ancestors, they are generally friendly and a little shy. They mostly live in burrows in the Cotswolds, which explains their furry feet, fondness for smoking pipes and songs about Gloucestershire slums
Cheltenham Hate Figures
We haven’t played Cheltenham anywhere near enough to engender any rabid hatreds, rational or otherwise. The only people in their squad who I recognise are ex Gill Craig Armstrong (harmless ginger chap who hit the bar at Portman Road when we reached the 4th Round of the League Cup), Jamie Victory (about whom Sky Sports always manage to make an amusing pun, think he used to play for Swindon), and Sosthene Yao, the mis-spelled nephew of Gills Legend Brian.
Getting very wet at the outset of the monstrous cup run of 99/2000. For those who travelled by train, the champagne moment was a close run thing between Wolfie with a protective carrier bag on his head, and an exasperated passenger threatening to “have a wank in front of Match of the Day”
Er…that’s it. Don’t personally remember much about the Southern League encounters in the 1940s
Cheltenham 1 Gills 0. Late winner after Ian Cox slips on a discarded trout head. Matt Jarvis hurls the fishy remains into the crowd in disgust and is sent off for ungentlemanly conduct, and now faces a three match ban. Ronnie is pleased with our defending but acknowledges that you just can’t legislate for fish heads.
The Morty Vicker