I thought this would be an intriguing POV (point of view) for anybody, and after the Saturday I had, boy this should be interesting!
I’m not going to lie to you, waking up on that Saturday morning at 8 am was a feat in itself. I had been at my mate’s 18th the night before and I believe I stumbled through my front door at 3 am!
Luckily for me, my town is blessed with a Greggs and that beautiful sausage and bacon butty kissed with the sweetest tomato sauce (plus a tasty latte) mended me.
I often arrive at the Cleator Moor Celtic club at around 10 am to help Flynny - the kitman and player liaison officer - load the bus with bags, bottles, balls, and bibs.
We have a nice catch-up before the players and coaches arrive and then we board the bus for the long 3 and a half hour journey to Ilkley Town.
I had done my research on the place. It’s a lovely little spa town, situated in a rural location in West Yorkshire. I was really looking forward to it, even though my head was still screaming at me from the night before.
The bus journey on the way down normally consists of all the lads catching up with each other, or a few of them tend to either watch the early Premier League kick-off or watch a bit of Netflix, mainly Squid Game (as it’s all the rave at the minute.)
We landed at the home ground at 2 pm. It’s a new complex with 4 hockey pitches and a 4G synthetic football pitch.
The changing rooms added a clean contrast to the new complex, as they were situated in what seemed to be an old cricket house, which was very quaint.
The pre-match warm-ups start, so I take a few pictures and get them on Twitter with a caption and I go on a hunt for the food and drinks stand, where I am guaranteed to get a top-quality cuppa.
Only the best, and that’s Yorkshire Tea. It was beautiful, especially on a cold and wet day. I put the team news on social media to keep everyone at home updated, and I set up shop in the little terraced stand on the halfway line, giving me the best view of the pitch.
The game got off to a bad start as the home side took the lead within 3 minutes, and from there on, it was plain sailing for Ilkley as they ended up winning 5-1.
I thought that Celtic was very unlucky. Our goalkeeper was misfortunate as he was injured before the first half had finished.
I did end up talking to a really nice guy from Tadcaster though, who was telling me how their home ground is situated between two breweries, so I guess you learn something new every day!
Everyone you meet on your non-league travels is always really friendly and always up to talk about football.
This is something that reassures a young person like me because younger people can sometimes be really easily stereotyped as yobbish and unfriendly, but I love football and I think I’m lucky to have been treated with respect everywhere I’ve been, from Blackpool to Bradford.
Anyways, we repacked the bus and set off home, with a stop off at the local Co-op for some drinks on the way back.
I’m not gonna lie, the staff in this little village Co-op looked shell-shocked to see 16 men in green pile into the shop, and I honestly don’t blame them.
Win, lose or draw, the lads always have a drink, and the big speaker was transmitting the sweet sounds of Elton John and Dua Lipa right down the bus.
I think we were all in party mode by the time we got to Penrith. But you couldn’t have written it…
Just as we’re about to hit Junction 40 (Penrith roundabout), the bus splutters. Radiators gone. Absolute heartbreak.
I instantly messaged my mam; her response was very simple. “You’re joking?” We dilly-dallied for around 2 hours. We were told that all the bus needed was water. Then it was a fan that had fallen off, and then finally we were told a replacement bus was coming from Workington.
That was another delay we didn’t need. We got the stricken bus to Rheged and then the replacement bus landed at around 10 pm.
By this time, I just wanted to be home. I was tired, still a bit sore from Friday night, and rather hungry, but I caught a second wind on the way back...
We finally managed to get back to the club at 11:15 after drop-offs in Carlisle, Workington, and Cockermouth.
It was a hectic day that took a lot out of me. At this point, I had a dilemma: go home and go to bed, or join my mates in Whitehaven…
Well, you only live once!