Craig Priest reveals some of his memorable moments on the road with the Mansfield Matters team...
Away days are notoriously brilliant, often regardless of the result on the pitch. You spend all work working and then on a Saturday get to sit on a coach for hours, watching the white lines go flashing buy in search of three points. Fair enough I’ve not painted the most beautiful of pictures there but trust me, when you throw in really good friends, bucket loads of banter, a sing song, maybe a dance and a beer or ten – the afternoon turns out to be wonderful.
As I’ve said on numerous occasion, I always enjoyed travelling on the coach with such a wonderful group of people, again the only “downside” to broadcasting this seasons action, was the fact that logistically going on the coach isn’t do-able. The coach leaves practically straight after the game and had I been on it this season, would have had a few annoyed faces waiting for me to pack up – having the car means there’s no rush, which I’m grateful for. Obviously you miss out on some of the banter but similar to footballers going into training, we’ve developed our own little “car school” which creates banter now and then, although as James Williamson knows, sometimes it’s better to remain silent then open your mouth, Hi Andy! – That’s all I’m saying!
Coming home there’s no pressure as everything’s done and you can chill out which we tend to do, however the journey to the game isn’t the same as your against the clock to get to the relevant ground with enough time to set up and go live on air at the scheduled time, sometimes things don’t always go to plan, something that’s happened on more than one occasion this season!
I have to say that only drivers are supposed to get road rage, however when the traffic is crawling at a snail’s pace for no apparent reason at the clocks ticking ever closer to when I’m supposed to be at a ground or worse, on air, passenger Craig can catch road rage too, something discovered in pre-season when the Stags headed for Boston United. Our “Car School” departed Mansfield around 11.30am for the 1 hour 20 minutes trip so that we’d arrive at the Jakemans Stadium around 1pm, plenty of time for me to set up the radio kit and for the others to enjoy a drink in the sunshine. Things we’re going fine heading through Newark, the banter and conversation was flowing in the glorious weather, then we hit Lincoln, Sleaford and eventually Boston where the nightmare began. Slow moving traffic slowed us down through Lincoln but we got through the worst of it, the same again in Sleaford however in Boston itself and the long stretch to the ground, things took a frustrating turn. The traffic was barley reaching 10MPH and a final leg which should take ten minutes, took around 50 minutes – finally arriving at the ground at around 2.15pm a trip which totalled up to roughly two and a half hours.
I was sat in the car clock watching for the final bit of that journey, I honestly considered getting out, taking my kit from the boot and walking (maybe jogging) to the ground, it would have been faster that the speed we were doing in the car anyway! There was something so smug about the passing pedestrians and cyclists too; never have I dished out so many ‘I hate you’ looks! Finally arriving at the ground I thought ‘great, now I can kick on and get this show on the road’, but as you can imagine things never run smoothly in Craig’s world, when things are going wrong, they do so in epic fashion as it took a further ten minutes to get my press passes and into the ground due to a conversation about tea and coffee. Tea eventually proved the winner and in we went, heading to the main stand on the side of the pitch in search of a press box, imagine my horror when there wasn’t one. Panicking I asked a steward where the press box was and was directed behind the goal, where low and behold, the press box was, it certainly made an interesting afternoon’s commentary with the sides kicking up and down rather than left to right – got to love new experiences really.
Another road rage trip was one which also led to a near death experience, travelling to Fleetwood for an FA Cup replay back in November. A chemical spillage on the M61 had seen the motorway closed and, adding to a long list of problems, saw the team coach caught up in the chaos. I knew their pain having been on a Motorway closure the previous season when the Stags headed for Newport, I’ll never forget the SSA people selling stuff to the people in the cars around us!
Fortunately the power of twitter had alerted us to the dilemma prior to our departure and we made alternative plans, as did every other motorist which was part of the problem! We opted for logic and thought the most likely route people would take would be the M6 and such, avoided it taking the M62 followed by the M55. As predicted a lot of folk travelling in that direction opted for the M6 and around Preston, it had become jammed and closed by the BBC, sorry, traffic cops! Everyone filtered onto the M62/M55 and with both already tight with maintenance work, things began to crawl. Fortunately I foresight to avoid the M6 had gained us some ground and after a final couple of agonising miles at 15MPH, we were clear and on the home straight looking good, and the headlights on the car died – yeah I laughed too.
We pulled into a garage some eight miles from the ground to tinker about with the lights, we prodded every button, kicked and punch everything and still nothing worked bar the brake lights, indicators and full beams. After a LOT of cursing and pacing up and down the forecourt, we decided to carry on, get to the ground and then call the AA (other breakdown companies are available). It was pitch black, we had no headlights and we’re driving with full beams on with cars going the other way constantly flashing us and piping at us, the was more swearing that a turret’s group meeting. We nearly crashed twice and Scott Rogers was practically in tears in the back, whilst I kept my head down, holding down the beam light thing whilst my dad drove into the darkness. Eventually we arrived, unharmed, at the ground where we got out the car shaking and our hearts racing, myself and Scott headed into the ground to set up whilst the other travellers with us made for the turn-style, my dad stayed and waited for the AA (other breakdown companies are available), I think out of us all, he got the best deal as the Stags went onto be trounced 5-0 and dumped out of the cup, a night which saw them endure a five hour coach trip, getting stuck in traffic with everyone on the coach throwing up with food poisoning which also effected members of the press, who’d eaten the sandwiches of doom. On reflection, we got stuck in traffic, broke down, nearly died and got hammered 5-0 – I hate football at times!
There have been a few close calls time wise due to work commitments for midweek games, namely Grimsby when a drastic run around the surrounding streets was needed to gain entry into the stadium at 7PM, with heartburn I add due to a 2 minute wolfing down of McDonalds – also a SatNav failure at Cambridge saw my dad do a Williamson and get lost, however no matter the situation, nothing compares to the nightmares of Boston and Fleetwood.
There are plenty more stories to come but for now there you have it, lessons have been learned once more – Tea beats coffee, always have a weekend away where you can and NEVER travel to Fleetwood with us without life insurance!
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