After all the hype, it was good to finally get things underway. I met with Gaz, Gumbo and Paul Griff at KingsX at 11:45 Friday morning. Soon afterwards we were on our way out of London, and not long after that, 12:49 to be precise, the first lager was drunk by Gaz. Having passed Highbury, London Road (we won the league, at Peterbro', we won the league at Peterbro'....), Wakefield Trinity and Elland Road, we arrived at Leeds and got a cab to Bodington Hall for 2:30. It was straight to the bar. I started with a diet coke, trying to be professional and all that, but it didn't last so I was onto beer for the next round. Gaz had gone stright onto the alcohol, and it showed as he drunkenly knocked over his bottle of Red Square. Good job he's not a 'keeper.
As more Bees arrived we decided to have a kickabout on the grass outside our block. A passing opposition player was a bit peturbed that we were practising, but I reassured him that we were not serious saddos by telling him that we were practising being rubbish. 7:25 saw our squad meeting, where Stedders accompanied his talk with very professional handouts (staples courtesy of Josh) and the all important breakfast vouchers. We briefly split into two for our final pep talk from our management teams.
It was an 8:30 meet in the bar, then various groups formed depending on what people fancied doing. I fancied a trek into town, so caught the bus along with Paul Griff, Trandy, Taffy, Michael, Gary Paul, Matt and Muk (bus ride only for Muk). We were joined in town by Gaz and Joe. We had a brief stay in Edwards, where the tacky 80s music would have been great had we been drunk. However it was too early for that so we decided to look elsewhere, and ended up at The Observatory. At first we did little more than observe what skimpily dressed talent there was, but after some more beer we were getting on down with the best (or worst) of them. An impromptu photo session was then conducted, after which Trandy won a £5 bet for snogging a girl who was several sizes too large for her top. Cheap bastard, I would have required at least £15. Anyway, I developed my own special friendship with Claire, the barmaid with pink hair. I found it most amusing when she wouldn't serve Michael because she was busy talking to me!
At the end of the night some of us decided to get some food (a disaster for me, see 5 worst moments), then caught a well-cheap taxi back to the Halls. Gary Paul was king of the ridiculous sloping pool table (Gaz insisted I mention his earlier 7-1 triumph over James Kilo, sorry James), then it was time to retire to bed at about 3am.
Only four hours later we had to suffer Scratchy's wake-up call, which was bad enough in itself, but Scratchy did you have to do it wearing just a short t-shirt and Y-fronts?!? By 7:45 I had staggered to the canteen for brekkie - yum, then it was time to get kitted out and prepare for battle, with Hey Jude's first game against Huddersfield due off at 9:00. Preparations got off to an ominously bad start with my bootlace snapping at 8:30, but thanks go to Matt for a replacement. Just before kick-off we had our team huddle and war-cry: "YOUUUUUUU RRRRRREEEEEEDDDDDSSSSS!!!!!!
The first half saw some skilful play in attack capped by an excellent left-foot strike by Rob Pyle to put us 1-0 up. The second half was end to end, with some determined tackling from the Bees frustrating the Terriers. Rhys was often off his line quicker than a Bosnian child nicking your wallet. The final whistle blew, and we were very happy Bees. The only blot on our copybook was the 1st minute booking for Gaz. Assistant manager Jonno's pre-match recommendation to respect the referee's decisions obviously made no impact on Gaz, whose diplomatic reaction to the award of a foul against him - "f**k off ref!" - earned him a deserved yellow card.
I made the point to the No To Woking management that they had to match our result: encouragement not one-upmanship of course. Their game (the first half of which I missed as I was saying goodbye to my breakfast's scrambled eggs) was not helped by the pitched which had seemingly been modelled on the green baize of the pool table. They matched our score of 1-0 thanks to a goal two minutes from time, unfortunately though the score was the wrong way round, leaving the boys with nowt to show for their efforts.
In Hey Jude's next game, v Ayr United, we switched to a 4-5-1 formation. However the Sweaties' movement up front was too good and they opened up a two goal lead. In the second half we reverted to 4-4-2 and coped better. A Rhys peno save was the platform for a comeback, however despite an excellent breakaway goal by Rob time was against us and we couldn't muster up an equaliser. NTW didn't fare any better, going down to another last-minute goal.
Further defeats left both teams needing a result in their final game. The going was tough, but the tough got going. Aided by superb support from the touchline, everyone rose to the occasion splendidly with spirit and endeavour. A 3-0 win for NTW (Minky 2, Heston Bee) over the Stavros Allstars was celebrated with a pitch invasion and a bundle on top of Minky. HJ gained a 2-0 win over West Brom thanks to a brilliant run and finish by Spender Bee (a la Heston), and a bullet shot by Rob which found its way to Gaz via keeper and post. I won't attempt to describe how he celebrated his tap-in (no it wasn't 45 yards Gaz) as I don't quite know what the loony was trying to do. He wasn't finished though as near the end of the game a two-footed lunged by one of the Baggies induced a Di Canio-esque type frenzy which nearly brought more disciplinary action from our hapless official. It wasn't pure Di Canio though as the loveable Italian rascal has a far superior grasp of the English language than our Gaz!
With both teams guaranteed a place in the Plate (HJ unlucky not to be in a play-off for a Cup berth) it was off to take in the draw for Sunday. Sammy was picked to draw the teams, and subsequently handed us 8:30 games instead of 9:30. Nice one Sammy - not!! Highlight of the ceremony was the award to Brentford of Internet team of the year, collected by Stedders, the man who made it all possible. Top man. Once again people split into groups according to what they wanted to do and how knackered they were. I was short on energy so went to the local boozer before returning to the campus bar where Coventry were conducting a very loud and enthusiastic sing-song. Fair play to the lads who ventured into town again and ended up at the Majestyk - watch out for flying Leeds boots!
It was a 7:30 start for day two. Everyone was very much worse for wear, but other teams' players didn't seem much better. After looking like they wouldn't turn up, HJ's opponents Stockport arrived wearily for our first-round tie. However their appearance was just a sinister scam devised to make us think we wouldn't have to work too hard, and they snatched a 2-0 lead to take into half-time. We woke up in time for the second half, but a Rob goal was not enough as we just couldn't muster an equaliser, despite a siege of the Stockport goal in the final few minutes, and a very late free-kick which the referee allowed us to re-take three times! NTW didn't fare any better, going down 3-2 to a good Portsmouth side. They had twice pegged Pompey back with goals from Heston and Sammy, but suffered yet another cruel last-minute goal to bow out of the competition. Both teams were disappointed to have been eliminated before having the chance to really get going. At least HJ didn't have to face those nasty (and reviled throughout the Internet footy world it seemed) Gooners.
Attempts to arrange a game against other defeated opposition were unsuccessful, so our final meeting in the reception proved the end of our footballing soujorn oop North. David Lacey of Celtic, known better as the continually pissed bloke who kept making wisecracks at Saturday's presentation/draw, handed out signed Bees footballs to each team's player of the tournament. This was not necessarily for footballing ability (as demonstated by the HJ winner) but for encapsulating the spirit of the tournament. The honours went to yours truly for Hey Jude - cheers lads, I am almost in tears just typing this - and Paul Griff for No To Woking, a defensive colossus if ever there was one (that'll be a fiver please mate!). So that was that, people said their farewells, and WorldNet 2001 was over for the Super Bees.
Myself, Griff, Gaz and Gumbo hadn't finished though. Our return journey was on Monday, so off we went to our B&B, conveniently situated in the dodgiest part of Leeds. Great planning Gaz I don't think. Our taxi later into town was only £2.90 between four, giving a hollow ring to Griff's earlier words: "let's get the bus, it'll be cheaper". Mind you it probably would have been safer taking into account our cabbie's Coulthard-style driving. Actually that's probably a bit unfair on the cabbie, at least he didn't crash at the first corner.
After a meal and a few sedate drinks in Wetherspoons, we moved to the Dry Dock, a pub disguised as a land-lying barge. Gaz won at pool (flukey bastard), but unfortunately the friendly locals informed us that they didn't play winner stays on, so Gaz didn't have the chance to defend his crown. As we had now livened up we decided to make the most of the night so went to a club called Creation. It was good, especially as it was free to get in. After another drink we hit the dancefloor which had just, after about half an hour of cringeworthy strutting that would make a peacock blush, been vacated by the biggest poser ever. Honestly he loved himself more than Glenn Hoddle loves using the word "situation".
A high point was the DJ announcing happy birthday for Wednesday to Supes from Gaz, Gumbo & Paul. Cue lots of shouting and jumping up & down. A low point was the DJ subsequently announcing "he's 42"! Cue silence and frowning from Supes. Myself and Gaz spent a couple of songs standing, arms folded, watching with admiration the moves of two very very tasty girls next to us. It's a misued cliche I know, but honestly, they loved it!! In the meantime, Gumbo was waving at the entire crowd from the front of the stage, trying to rouse the masses. Ayia Napa, Ayia Napa, Ayia Napa, BO! Griff was getting more drinks in with the charity money he had earned in a run. He pointed out that he was only borrowing it. Mind you Arthur Fowler said that and he went mad!
The club shut at 1 so we roamed back into the city centre singing Bees songs en route. The highlight was standing on a platform in a massive open square singing Hey Jude, to the bemusement of three Leeds fans we had got chatting to. The tall stone buildings around the square provided excellent acoustics, almost as good as the Brook Road stand in fact! Once on the main street through the centre, a Leeds fan piped up with "sit down if you hate ManU", which was the prompt for the entire street to park their behinds on the pavement. Good one!
The cab driver we hailed was unsure if he would let us in his cab with the munchies we had gained from the 'bab shop. He relented when Gaz assured him "it's alright mate we won't make a mess". Cue Gumbo collapsing into the car spilling chips and curry sauce all over the back seat (and Supes' trousers). Paul said "it's OK it's only over him". Gumbo the diplomat admitted that it was also on the seat. Finally we got back to the B&B for a wonderful sleep, which exceeded that of the previous two nights put together.
We had a nice cooked breakfast in the morning - apart from Gumbo who couldn't get out of bed - whilst our friendly landlady told us of all the recent shootings in the neighbourhood. Nice. It was then cab time again as we headed for the train station. The Rasta driver actually thought we were Bees players! If only. So it was on to our train to be greeted over the tannoy by Tina, our Customer Service Manager (you what?!) A few hours later we were home. Tired and weary, but with plenty of superb memories from a most excellent weekend. Roll on WorldNet 2002!!