Total fucking catwank

Tuesday 4 March – Brighton 4 – 2 Gills

I really don’t know where to start. Football can mean many different things to different people, from the simple joy of a well made goal for your team to the rather more complex process of helping to explain the human condition. From getting to grips with existential angst or rampant global capitalism to giving people a chance to unite and share experiences based on location, history and identity to generating mass public outpourings of emotion from an otherwise staid and repressed people, football can and does contribute much to the culture and experience of living in England in the early part of the 21st century. Most of the time I’m a total addict, but the whole creaking edifice is built upon certain principles without which it would crumble to nothing.

One of those principles is simply that it is a meritocracy, you win games, you get your reward via promotion, League titles or Cup triumphs. You lose games you suffer the consequences, be it relegation to League Two or humiliation at Burscough. That is the risk you take when you sign up your soul, when you agree to invest emotion, feeling and meaning in the results achieved by your football team, there are no money back guarantees, even if you end up being a Maidstone fan. The second principle is that the law makers and law enforces are honest, imperfect but fair. That concept flew out of the window on Tuesday and I nearly walked out in disgust at half-time for the first time in 30 years. It was pointless being there, the referee hadn’t just made the odd error, he destroyed the entire game reducing it to a farce with 20 or 30 serious mistakes. It is one thing for human error to creep into the mix, we usually shake our heads, shake our fists or scream our frustration at the unfairness of it all, the futility, the powerlessness, it is another thing to be completely cheated.

Mick Thorpe the referee, isn’t one of the “usual suspects”, his name doesn’t cause instant feelings of nauseous retching and anger before the game has even begun like D’Urso, but he will forever be associated with arguably the worst display of refereeing I have ever seen in more than 2000 games. Either he temporarily took leave of all his senses or he was bought-off. He is bent or bonkers. Nobody gets every single decision wrong. The end result he cost us three goals, two laughable sending-offs and should have sent one or two of the Brighton players off. We outplayed Brighton for at least 70 minutes of the game, even down to nine men we were all over them, thoroughly deserved to win and gave the remaining players a standing ovation at the final whistle.

If football is going to be reduced to that I’m not going to bother any more. What is the point? If some brainless, malicious, officious, idiotic, fucking cunt like that turns what we all love and cherish into a mad circus of random stupidity then I’ll save my time, money and commitment and fuck off round the world instead thank you very much. Life is too short to invest emotion in something open to such criminal abuse. Bringing the game into disrepute? More like reducing it to shambolic rubble. If the same thing had happened live on Sky in the Premiership during say a crucial Arsenal vs. Manchester United game it would have caused total carnage. Having got into the unhealthy habit of hyping the most trivial incidents into international incidents week in week out our dearly beloved broadcasters would have struggled to cope with the genuinely surreal anarchy of it all. Questions would have been asked in Parliament and Mick Thorpe would have had to see out his days hiding in the jungle of Paraguay in a pair of dark glasses with only a few remaining Nazis and their gold for company.

It wasn’t just the referee that made this a mournful evening, the whole sad, sorry, sodding experience could be used as an illustration of all that is wrong with the modern game. First you had the differential pricing, £22.50 for Gillingham fans, £10.00 for home fans. Now £22.50 is a disgrace anyway, a mad, mad price to charge for Third Division football – even in 2008. It is a complete piss-take and no wonder Brighton’s crowds have dropped off even quicker than Gillingham’s despite flirting with the play-offs. However to add insult to injury the original game just before Christmas saw a special offer but limited only to home fans. Differential pricing has been outlawed by the League but there is a loophole and Brighton showed all their trendy talk of being a “community club for the fans” with their “interests at heart” is just totally stinking cynical bullshit by exploiting it. No club with even a shred of soul left or a modicum of self respect would screw people over like that. They’re just fucking scum like most other clubs paying lip-service to customer relations but in reality happy to fuck their own granny if there was a fiver in it.

Before the game (at the second attempt, the first being frosted off in December because it was played on a Friday night because the nimbies nearby demand a park and ride scheme to protect their property prices but then want to use it themselves for their Christmas shopping) in the soulless but effortlessly inefficient generic Sportsman “pub” adjacent to Withdean we drank two pints of shitty dead beer, got patronized by some smug and really rather charmless Brighton fans (go fuck yourself middle-class cock-suckers – for fuck sake, “apologizing for beating us” in advance – the smug-o-meter nearly exploded – muppets!) before entering the worst football ground ever to host League football in England. Not only is the away end a shallow, uncovered temporary seating structure stranded many miles behind the goal between which is the huge curve of an athletics track but it is populated by some of the most pathetically confrontational and petty stewards you are ever going to have the misfortune to meet. The nearest Brighton fans are located fifty yards away high up on another temporary stand with a steep drop and various athletics paraphernalia in between and yet the boys and girls in their luminous bibs had to keep busy, busy, busy, netting off either end of the already small away end forcing everyone into the middle section and into the seats at the front which have an even more limited view obscured by the goal net as well. They then spent their time harassing everyone, forcing fans, even if they were in the back row to sit down.

We are the most over-policed, over-stewarded fans in the world and the inconsistencies (5,000 stood for the entire game behind the goal unmolested at a Tottenham game I recently attended) show the desire for terracing from a sizeable and vocal minority and for some common decency and common fucking sense to be shown towards the rest of us. Being treated like scum is wearing a little thin by now. LEAVE US ALONE YOU FUCKTARDS. Throw in the most over-priced food and drink this side of Wembley and you have a truly shite matchday experience even before the referee decides to go stark raving bonkers.

Ah the “game”, hmm, it was indeed eventful, gripping even, never dull, but ultimately rendered meaningless. We were left to shrug our shoulders and laugh hysterically at what transpired. First up, four minutes in came goal of the season. Unfortunately the floodlights at Withdean are rather dim, dimmer than Nicky Southall on University Challenge, and it was down the other end and really rather unexpected so none of us really appreciated the sheer audacity of the strike until seeing it again on television, but basically the ball fell to Crofts 35 yards out, he seized possession, teed up the ball with a nonchalant flick and then in one sweet movement swivelled and leathered the ball hard and high into the night’s sky from which it descended moments later at stunning velocity to defeat the Albion keeper and nestle gloriously in the net. Hurrah we cheered, was that a fluke or something special? Either way it gave us the lead.

For the next fifteen minutes, confidence bolstered by Croft’s inspired strike we buzzed around showing plenty of ambition and intent, some of the passing was smooth and confident although with the action in the next county we weren’t in the best position to really judge whether the Gills were in total control or just pretending.

The twentieth minute saw the opening of hostilities with the referee and he caught us all napping with his worst decision of the evening. Richards went to challenge Martot on the wing, he’d slightly over-run the ball, it was right in front of us, Richards slid in one-footed and executed a textbook sliding challenge, dispatching the ball out for a throw with a minimum of fuss with his trailing leg, a routine challenge, the Albion player tripped over his prostrate form after the event but it brought no significant appeals from either Brighton players or their most vocal fans in the seating immediately adjacent to the incident. The referee then raced over and gave a free-kick, we howled our disgust but then it stuck in our throats as he pulled out his red card. What? What? We were gobsmacked, the players were bemused and the home fans laughed.

It was one of the most mistaken red cards I’ve ever seen, but the FA appeal failed, not sure why, Meridian showed the definition of a perfectly legitimate challenge in slow motion just to emphasize the stupidity of the referee before interviewing him. Madness. Any hoo, on it went, the free-kick which shouldn’t have been a free-kick was played in, we failed to clear, Albion rammed the ball in the net and then the referee ruled it out and consulted the linesman. “Aaaaahhhh!” we gestured at the bemused home fans only to suddenly realise the referee had given a penalty, presumably on the say-so of his assistant. I’m buggered if I know what it was for. Forster casually slammed home the kick and suddenly we were beginning to feel it wasn’t going to be our night.

Albion did contrive an astonishing miss, Forster’s delicate cross nodded wide of an open goal by Murray and had another disallowed (Whing header), but we continued to match the eleven of Albion in a more entertaining game than most of us could have hoped for. So the referee couldn’t tell the difference between a fair tackle by us and a malicious lunge by them and had a tendency to book our players for nothing, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before but just before half-time it just got silly. On 43 minutes the referee awarded yet another soft free-kick on the edge of the box, the ball played in, Cullip slid in but missed the ball, Forster, with a yard of daylight between them then slipped (it wasn’t even a dive). Not even remotely a challenge, never in a million years a foul except in the twisted, perverted mind of Mr Thorpe. Albion took full advantage, the original strike by Richards was pushed brilliantly onto the post by Stillie (in for the ill Royce) but the rebound fell kindly to El-Abd to slam home from an acute angle.

We were still in shock when Albion added a third on 45 minutes, again wrongly. This was equally mad, a simple goal direct from a header, Elphick heading home from the edge of the box, the only fly in the ointment being two Albion players standing on the line interfering with play (one directly blocking Stillie, the other almost hit by the ball) and about as offside as you can get. Stillie went mad at the linesman and was booked. I was so angry I contemplated leaving, no actually I wasn’t angry, more overwhelmed by feelings of despair and a sick empty feeling in my guts. Three goals and a red card, all wrong, all from a crazy referee. The home fans had it right rising up en mass to serenade him with “stand up for the referee”.

Other Gills fans contemplated leaving but in the end were persuaded as I was by the ghoulish promise of more bizarre shenanigans. There was an Italian guy sitting behind me and for much of the match ranted and rambled inanely about the referee “Referee ‘e is a cra-aezy – ho, ho, ho” and the Gills “if-a we-a lose we-a might go down, this is – a – bad, we were in the Championship” – well no shit Sherlock! It then began to rain, tiny icy pinpricks of hell reminding us that there wasn’t a roof. The Gills battled gamely and made Albion look third rate, attacking with plenty of guts and some of the freedom that has been missing for the last six weeks.

The closest we cam to making it 3-2 was via a splendid direct free-kick from the lively Miller, but it smashed against the bar instead. Fuller and Miller also went close. Our hackles were further raised by two very shoddy challenges from Albion players, both ten times worse than anything we’d done, one received a yellow card, the other a gentle finger-wagging. We giggled. Albion’s fourth goal duly arrived on 68, the Gills claimed a foul on King in the build-up, I didn’t see anything, Whing’s header from a corner was initially blocked and Robinson swept home the rebound.

At the other end Facey impressed with some tireless running, never giving up the ghost and he won the corner on 74 minutes which saw us pull another goal back. The ball was floated in, Kuipers flapped horribly, pawing it down into the path of Crofts to turn in. Game on! Credit to the entire Gills team, but unfortunately there was to be one more cruel twist of the knife from the referee. In midfield, Clohessy challenged for the ball, missed the ball and the man by miles, the Albion player slipped and the referee gave a free-kick. Clohessy already in the process of launching the ball followed through half a second later and was duly sent-off for time-wasting. Aside from the fact it would be strange to waste time when chasing the game at 2-4, it was never a cunting foul in the first place…

The nine men swarmed forward in search of the third goal, defeat by only one goal would have lifted us back out of the drop zone but it wasn’t to be. The referee blew for time and we (officially 313, looked more like 500) rose and applauded the remaining Gills players off. They had shown guts and determination and no little skill. It was the best we’d played since Huddersfield away and we’d created more chances in the one game than our previous five at home. It was then time for Mick Thorpe to scuttle off, oblivious to all the carnage he’d caused and probably convinced in his own tiny little mind that he had done his job. We gave him a volley of advise to send him on his way, I’m just amazed that Stimson didn’t beat the cunt to a fucking pulp when he got in the tunnel although he did evidently give him 0/100 in the written assessment!

I left Withdean deeply disillusioned with football. It is bad enough the Gills being £12 million in debt with shrinking crowds and sitting in the relegation zone without lunatics escaped from some asylum inflicting their warped version of reality on the rest of us. Sometimes I really don’t know why we bother, one of these days I think I won’t. Until that day comes I expect to see you all up bright eyed and bushy tailed for the epic trip to Hartlepool…

Champagne Moment:- Croft’s goal was stupendous, a glass of your finest for the young chap. The rest of the bottle can go to the young Gills fans at the back for keeping up everyone’s spirits with a rendition of “Are you McClaren in disguise?” at the Meridian cameraman behind the goal when it began to rain and an assistant came out and stood by him holding up a brolly.

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7 Responses to Total fucking catwank

  1. beanhead says:

    just reading that has ignited my fury further!!!! fucking cunt!!!

  2. Jon says:

    I wasn’t there myself, but listening via Gills World, I quickly deduced that the referee was taking the piss… A harsh red card and then a penalty from the resulting free-kick? That’s when you know it’s not your night.

  3. Rosco says:

    Its crap like this that has reduced me from being a loyal supporter to a twice a season merchant. Well that and the two kids !!

    The powers that be need to sit down and listen to the fans cos they are killing our game, with crap rules on and off the park.

    Top report son , keep up the good work !

  4. sad old git says:

    I was ejected by the Brighton gestapo sorry stewards, still waiting for them to send me a copy of their evidence (it wont come cos their aint any). Whilst I was in the middle of protesting even the local constabulary were protesting my innocence & encouraging me to make an official complaint so they can the matter up (private land laws or something similar apply in the ground so they can’t interfere other than on the clubs behalf). Interestingly the police only followed me out to “prevent the stewards misbehaving”.

    On a positive note the view from Withdean woods is far superior to that which I paid £22.50 for. So I probably saw more of the game than those in the ground. Also as your behind the home fans you can have great fun winding them up.

    So next season I shall be watching the game (with a great view) for free from the woods.

    Oh & by the way the ref, first class cunt & no mistake

  5. Salvatore Benici says:

    I can imagine that was probably me but i was so annoyed with what i was seeing (a) !

  6. PettsWoodGill says:

    I got a couple of free tickets for the first time in 42 years – a mate (Brighton fan) was bought them for an Xmas present by a relation who is a Brighton director so I sat in the “executive” area. Brighton fan couldn’t go so I went with another Gill (second attempt after arriving at 6pm on 21/12/07 just in time to see it called off).

    ‘Sportsman’ (sic) pub was astonishingly slow at serving – so bad that I thought they were refusing to serve Gills fans at one point.

    Could hardly believe what I was watching for the first 20 minutes only to see it ruined by the ref. No appeals for a sending off from the Brighton fans around me. Completely ruined the game. I found this intensely annoying as we are usually bad enough as it is. The one time we play well and it’s game over thanks to the ref.

    The view was bad even where I was (halfway line). More atmosphere on the moon. Went apeshit when Crofts got the opener and was asked to tone it down by a steward at half time in case I upset the locals any more. Not much chance of that happening as the game had already been handed to them (although remarkably we did score again and I couldn’t help going ape a second time). I was seriously depressed that a match was rendered pointless after just 20 minutes so unnecessarily.

    In the words of Jeppo “credit to the lads” for the way we played second half even bearing in mind that Brighton eased off. I had a feeling that the sending off might be a crucial point in our season. We fell apart for a few minutes and were out of it by half time. This may be a fatal blow to the inexperienced (in league terms) team’s confidence and this seems to be evidenced by the subsequent tonking at the mighty Hartlepool.

    So in spite of a free ticket the ref managed to make it a waste of money !!!! Respect to those of you who sat in the rain, 100 yards from the pitch for £22.50.

    A totally depressing experience made even worse by the fact that I am sure we would have won but for the ref.

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