The football season had
just begun and an away trip with my two boys
seemed like fun it was August after all, unfortunately it was August 2007
the wettest summer on record. Travelling down it was overcast and as soon as
we got to Wiltshire is started drizzling.
After navigating, surprisingly easily, the Magic Roundabout we passed the
ground and found some street parking before scurrying off in the increasing
rain to find a pub, after crossing the magic roundabout again, this time via
pedestrian crossings, we found the Merlin quite easily. The doorman insisted
that I escort the children round via the beer garden, fair enough,
unfortunately the door lady at the beer garden entrance wouldn’t let them in
the actual pub, and so we sat outside under cover, but rather chilly,
watching the Portsmouth v Bolton game through a window.
On purchasing a couple of drinks I noticed that the establishment has
changed it’s policy on colours as many Luton and Swindon shirts were spread
around the very smart bar areas. A pint of cider and one small coke were
£4.80 which seemed steep. Later on purchasing a second pint I discovered it
was the £2.05 for a squirted coke that had been my financial downfall.
Back outside the ‘beer garden’ was quickly becoming the ‘smoke’ garden but
still the ‘no kids’ rule was observed. I’m pretty sure that the Government
didn’t ban smoking in pubs just to subject children to it.
With a while to go before kick off we wandered back towards the County
ground past a chip shop which had a healthy looking queue so we decided to
try the food in the ground. Finding the away end we got tickets (£15 adult
£7 children) and went through the turnstile and found that we were on the
Stratton Bank and not allowed in the Arkells stand, despite the fact that
the ticket displays the end section as for away supporters. The stewards who
understood English, were still unhelpful in offering advice as to why on a
rain soaked day we could not sit undercover, eventually a senior steward
advised it was because visiting Bristol fans had previously thrown seats.
With an hour to go before kick off we bought some food, normal pies and
chips, on offer, didn’t see the Balti pie though. It was reasonably priced
and was perfectly acceptable but nothing special to write home about. We
then climbed the bank and found the toilets, along with scores of sheltering
Having one of the worst grounds in the country it is interesting visiting
other clubs grounds, Kenilworth Road is cramped but at least it has a roof.
Scores of people were then pulling on plastic coats and a chap was
wandering around distributing them, apparently he’d previously been outside
the gate flogging them for a pound. By the time
Pedro the Polythene Poncho Provider had got to us we were already soaked but
we joined the condom army all the same.
Couldn’t help but look with envy at the Swindon fans cowering at the back of
the main stands and the empty section of the Arkells in particular. To be
fair it would have been a great seat if it was sunny, but you won’t want to
sit there on a cold Tuesday night in February
The game itself was pretty dire, to match the weather which was getting
worse. The referee J Singh was teasingly praised for looking like Luton’s
cricketing hero Monty Panesar, and Monty cheers greeted every decision given
Luton’ way, particularly when he disallowed a Swindon effort in the first
half, which clearly upset one Robins fan who came racing down the stand with
his shirt off looking for a scrap, as he came out of the cover of the roof
he must have got a dose of the rain we were sitting through and promptly
returned to his seat. There is always one! Most of the singing was based on
the “can you hear the Luton sing? And vice versa, without a roof though the
Luton fans still generated a fair bit of noise
Swindon deservedly took the lead in the second half, getting on top of a
disjointed Luton team, and it was with some relief that Luton equalised,
though trying to renegotiate getting the plastic poncho around the seat was
a pain. The rain just kept coming and so, with a couple of minutes to go,
did their winning goal. The Swindon fans found their voices with a “2-1 down
and you’re getting wet” ditty.
We walked back to the car and left Swindon as easily as we had arrived, if
it had been a different result and hadn’t rained all day it would have been
a better trip. I’d go again if it was a nice day, and I’d recommend the
Merlin, if you don’t have youngsters with you.