Sunday, 13 December 2009
"Oy- Elbows Sodje!"
It was a thoroughly entertaining day and one which I hope to repeat when the opportunity arises.
With Charlton playing in the chilly north at somewhere I've already been, it was a no brainer when Sledge asked if I wanted to be spoiled at Dagenham and Redbridge!
The walk from the tube station to Victoria Road was punctuated by posters promoting local girl Stacey Solomon in the X Factor final. As you may already know, she came third but she carried my vote.
I met up with Frankie Valley in one of the bars at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium and waited for Sledge's other guests, JB and Nigel to arrive. Westie had already sent his apology due to work commitments.
We were all there to indulge in a spot of corporate hospitality, as the guests of Vicarage Field shopping centre in Barking, watching the Daggers play Bury in a 'vital' League 2 encounter.
Despite being born in Dagenham, (thanks mum!), I don't really keep up with the fortunes of the club. I'm ashamed to say that I had to go online on Friday evening to check who they were playing.
I was, in all seriousness, here for the beer.
We sat down to a three course carvery Christmas meal, then made our way up to our own private box overlooking the pitch, just behind the home dugout.
I've never really fancied watching football from behind glass but on a cold day, with the wind blowing in your face, it really does make the world seem a glorious place.
Did I mention that there was a fully stocked fridge, laden with beers, lagers, soft drinks etc. and a steaming pot of coffee waiting for us? The nearby toilet was a godsend.
The one player I was looking out for was the Bury defender Efetobore Sodje.
He is an instant target for the opposition crowd as he stands out like a sore thumb. He is big, strong and powerful and he also still wears the bandana he made famous when playing for Stevenage.
Within seconds of the start, the home crowd were on him, booing his every challenge. One loud local constantly bemoaned Sodje's use of his elbows. Even when he made the cleanest of tackles there was a murmur leading to a crescendo of displeasure.
It was a little ironic when it ended up being Sodje who was on the receiving end of a clattering. He had to go off the pitch for treatment on a blood injury. Strangely, he had a Terry Butcher style head bandage placed over the top of his bandana.
The game was a little stodgy in the first period but really came to life in the second half. Excitement tripled when one of the lady staff members came speeding into our box to grasp the drinks from our hands. We were not allowed to drink in view of the other supporters apparently. We felt like naughty schoolboys.
The Daggers ran out 3-1 winners with my man of the match, Paul Benson scoring two goals.
It was then back downstairs to watch the Man of the Match award and mingle with the players as a pasta dish was being consumed. The official M.O.M was Scott Doe who had a very tidy game in my humble opinion.
It's not the way I'd like to enjoy my football every week but as a special treat it's a wonderful experience.
Dagenham and Redbridge are a very friendly club, living hand to mouth. It felt like indulging in 'real' grassroots football.
We do need to remember though that when looking at league positions we are far closer to the Daggers than any of the Premiership teams we used to count as peers.
If Dagenham get promoted, (they currently hold a play off place) and we don't, then Charlton would be playing at Victoria Road next season.
Can you pencil me in for that one Sledge?