The first visit to any ground is always the best one and Friday night at the Wessex Stadium in Weymouth was just that for me. The fact that it was Friday night took the edge of the whole experience a little but I was determined not to let that cloud my view of the experience.
In fact, being a Friday night fixture actually made the planning that little bit more fun - if that's the right word. To ensure my arrival on time I had two options. I could either skive off from work early on Friday afternoon - absolutely unthinkable! - or engineer my diary so I was nearer to Weymouth than the far East Kent coast. As if by providence the opportunity presented itself late on Thursday to arrange a meeting in Eastleigh on Friday afternoon. This had a double benefit; being two thirds of the way to my destination is the obvious one and gaining the undying appreciation of my boss for my dedication to the cause the other.
So it was that I left the Kent base camp at lunchtime and had a completely trouble free journey to the bottom end of the M3, arriving in good time for what turned out to be a very brief meeting. I was back on the road at 4.30 and looking forward to arriving at Weymouth with plenty of time to spare. I had, of course, not realised what a pig of a road the A31 can be. The earlier accident at Ringwood had just about been cleared by this time and the radio reports didn't sound too bad. It still took over two hours to make the journey of 60 miles, leaving just an hour for the pre-match socialising. While crawling along the single lane road it occurred to me that we are so used to motorways on our trips that Weymouth presents an almost unique experience for most of us. The approach to Weymouth - whatever direction you are coming from - is motorway free and, apart from all too brief sections of dual carriageway, single file. I must remember never to attempt that journey during the holiday season!
Having paid my pound to park and been assured that there was a warm welcome awaiting me in the social club I climbed the slope to the door to find a gaggle of Shots supporters milling about outside. The poor man on the door was very apologetic, but we weren't allowed in! He said they would gladly take our money but the police had banned us! Those hooligans on that Chivers coach have got a lot to answer for! Even with my youthful self the average age of the supporters asking to go in must have been not far short of 60 but we were obviously too much of a threat to the Dorset police. The serious side of this is, of course, that the reputation of Aldershot Town fans is making us unwelcome in practically every ground in the country these days - with a few noble exceptions - and it is so very sad that decent people are made to suffer for the actions of a few - and it is a very small number - idiots. Some say the solution is easy, some say it isn't, but something has to be done if the away experience isn't to be spoiled for ever. The club officials were very friendly and accommodating - how do we get the message across to the various police authorities around the country? Discuss.
The pub we were directed to - only a six minute walk, but all uphill! - was very welcoming and they managed to control the couple of dozen Shots fans without too much trouble. It was called the John Gregory but I didn't asked why an average football manager should have a pub in Weymouth named after him. Having taken in the requisite refreshment we walked back down the hill and into the ground. The food scenario was just as Crawley last week, with one little lad serving us, but the wait wasn't too serious. They could have got the fifteen stewards and ten police to help them serve the food - they had bugger all else to do. The Shots put on a really good display of football and eased to another win on the road, which set us up nicely for the long drive back along the Dorset lanes. Being traffic free makes those roads so much nicer to drive on - this must have been what it was like when only rich people could afford a car. Now the fact that the roads weren't motorways was a bonus - it was actually a pleasure to drive and not just sit there pointing the car.
Arriving chez-moi at something just after one in the morning my round trip of a shade under 400 miles had taken me almost exactly 12 hours. Now that's a proper away trip isn't it? My first visit, even on a Friday night, gets a big YES; we did have a lovely day the day we went to Weymouth.