The Sanatogen Years
Newbury was cold and wet on that fateful Thursday morning. The tour virgins grouped in the Lamb, introduced themselves and started drinking. A theme was gradually developing. The hero of the hour was Martin Haywood; injury meant he was unable to participate in the forthcoming trip but he very magnanimously supplied a means of transportation to Luton as well as a supply of ale. We salute him for this as well as finding a suitable venue on the M1 to release the liquid joy he had so thoughtlessly purchased and could only watch as the selfish travellers quaffed freely at his expense.
What happened next was standard, a couple of liveners at the airport, flight to Alicante, cars to villas and bedrooms claimed. There was probably one too many villas however. A legend was about to be created in the highly suspect town of Torrevieja that has remained on all subsequent tours and long may it continue.
As the purpose of the tour was innocently and ostensibly to play football a training session was soon arranged and would be performed every day until the big one. It was clear that we possessed “some” talent and we would probably conquer all at a Two Left Feet Championship. News from Mr Organiser, the ever-efficient Squandron Leader, was that our opposition were old has-beens who were doing us a favour by agreeing to be our whipping boys. This filled us with heart and the local brew filled us with confidence in our own abilities. The bar owners were pleased to see us, some are still spending their profits, but more of this later.
The game. The inaugural fixture. The loss of virginity for 14 highly revved performers. We met our hosts, a couple of scallies who would loosely be described as on the run (unlikely considering their physique) from some authority or other by the side of the motorway. We were in good heart; hopefully they were representative of the size of the team we were to face. No such luck, we faced whippersnappers without an ounce of fat on them and by half-time there was a range of mountains to climb, let alone the singular peak, if we were to achieve respectability.
In order to save blushes we will not mention the opposition’s goal tally but if you are looking for a clue try looking at England’s one-day cricket team totals. As for the plucky Brits? 3 second half goals including a brace of mis-shots from Herne junior and a fortuitous cross from the Rocket meant we didn’t leave empty-handed.
Highlights of the game apart from the final whistle included TV looking for a contact lens and an automatic turning away from the pitch from the substitutes in the last 15 minutes if any of the on-pitch warriors wanted a breather.
It was a quiet return to the villas but after a short period of wound licking it was decided to have a couple of beers and as the night progressed the opposition score had steadily reduced. It very nearly became a thrilling score draw.
Legends were created in this dusty part of Spain, the most enduring of which was the formation of the Vampire Villa residents. Quite simply you had to stay out as long as possible enjoying witty repartee with Ken Goodwin and The Macclesfield Three. The street sellers were also greeted with open arms and cheerful banter.
Who could forget the stirring words of our own team Churchill/Wellington the night before the game? Squandron Leader gave Rob the simple job of ensuring that the performing athletes did not over-indulge and with each drink that was put in front of him, and happily dispatched, kept telling us we were “doing it for the boys”. Eventually he was carted home and the serious drinking began. Seriously Rob, it was being done for the boys!
What about the Reverend not realising that he wouldn’t be at his meeting on the Monday as that was when we were flying back? We told you we weren’t joking Alan! Or the impressive stage debut of the Rear Brothers - Gonner and Dyer who electrified the audience with their Beatles medley. Now you know why Lennon was shot.
The template had been made and the weary travellers returned to the ever patient Martin at Luton vowing to do it again. The story had begun…
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