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New Article: Satisfy the taste of your wellbeing: A day at The Valley

I park the car just off Wyndcliff Road and walk down Victoria Way a little way before heading through the wonderfully named Frank Barton Way and the wonderfully named Nicholas Stacey House into Delafield Road. As I walk along, I feel, well, I suppose, just average. As I arrive at the top of Floyd Road, something changes – match day excitement begins.

As I walk down Floyd Road, I see the Seabay Fish Bar. I’ve only sampled their products once – and, from memory, they were fine, but it always looks welcoming and acts as an icon. Underneath their prominent Seabay Fish Bar sign in a smaller font is their strapline which reads “Seabay Fish Bar”. Why not indeed? Disappointingly, on their window, they advertise anything but fish – kebabs, jumbo sausages and hot dogs are offered. It reminds me of a place I have passed many times in Thailand called ‘Just Burgers’. They advertise pizzas and hot dogs.

Next to this fine establishment is the more curious Le Sorelle Unisex Salon. The shutters appear to be permanently down. Is this where Yann took his family and now they have had to close? If nothing else, Le Sorelle has a more tantalising slogan – it reads “Satisfy the taste of your wellbeing”. It’s a curious slogan and as I move closer to the ground I wonder whether the game will “satisfy the taste of my wellbeing”.

I turn the corner and think about placing a bet on the game. I consider first scorer, but just can’t imagine who might score. Perhaps, I’ll bet on the result, but I can’t stop my mind thinking of a 2-0 win to Birmingham. I just can’t do that. Someone might see me.

I pass the usual paraphernalia near the ground – burgers, programme sellers and the like. The official programmer seller has a long notice next to his programmes which boils down to the fact that the transaction may take longer than I expect as there a lot of counterfeit notes around right now. It does take longer than I expect partly because he gives me the wrong change from a £10 note. There’s less trouble with those well commissioned Voice of the Valley sellers, they gladly accept the £50 note which has just come off inkjet printer. I walk away from the Voice of the Valley seller hoping my thumbprint is not too obvious in the ink.

Being a non-regular, I have to queue for a ticket. In front of me as a boring man with his bubbly wife, who is clearly excited about what might lie ahead. “How many debuts?” she asks her boring husband. “Hamer’s injured” is his inadequate reply. Behind, a man has two excited youngsters. They avidly want their Dad’s prediction. He is reticent to put his cards on the table, but is eventually pinned down and tells the younger son that Charlton will win 2-0 or 3-0. The younger son is delighted by the good news. The man starts to struggle more when now the exuberant young Addick asks who will score.

I get to the window and ask for a seat in West Lower towards the Covered End and not too near the front. It’s too much information for the young lady as she mumbles something about all the sides being covered. I end up near the cheery Birmingham contingent. Aren’t the staff given lectures on which end used to be called The Covered End?

I am bit tight on time and manage to get a quick pint of the almost undrinkable John Smiths, although it actually seems almost drinkable. I hear the teams being announced and proudly repeat to myself the pronunciation of Ghoochanneijhad and Parzyszek as well as remembering the forgettable second barrel of Thuram-Ulien. I have been practising these names all week. After so much effort, I am doubly disappointed. Not only does Ghoochanneijhad wear Reza on his shirt, but on the electronic scoreboard his name is truncated. The ‘d’ at the end is missing and a diagonal across the final ‘a’ means that it is lopped off. Surely, Powell should have realised this. Surely, he could have told someone to use a smaller font. It would still be big enough for most people to read. Of course, if the rumour about Ibe joining was true and Ibe was given the next sequential shirt number, Ghoochanneijhad could be hyphenated and run into Ibe’s line. I guess though that this is asking too much of Powell.

I move to my seat and start to wonder whether I will be satisfying the taste of my wellbeing. Certainly, that John Smiths has a bit of an aftertaste and I start to have my doubts. Ninety minutes later, it is all over. Or, of course, more accurately, ninety minutes plus four minutes of added time plus half time later.

I head back to see Nick Stacey and Frank Barton without passing a glance at the Seabay Fish Bar or Le Sorelle. A policeman unnecessarily shouts at me “trains to London this way” from about two feet away. “I don’t want to go to London” I churlishly tell him. He smiles widely. Maybe, he supports Palace and has satisfied the taste of his wellbeing today.
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