IT’S that time of year - when work colleagues let their hair down for the office Christmas do and almost anything goes.
Football is no different to most industries, and the Advertiser has been given unparalleled access to Swindon Town’s festive celebrations for 2013.
Here’s our reporter’s account of what took place when he attended a quite extraordinary party: A stream of bemused guests trickles through the main doors to the Legends Lounge. Despite the promise of a champagne reception on their event tickets, Town’s players and their spouses are being served cartons of Um Bongo a fortnight past their sell-by date.
No reason is given, though the kneejerk reaction is to blame Andrew Black. Regardless, the show must go on and Tijane Reis proposes a game of Guess Who.
Initially taken aback by Reis’s sudden grasp of the English language, the Town squad quickly show their approval for the idea and Alex Pritchard scuttles off to find post-it notes and pens.
Soon the game is in full flow, with Mohamed El Gabas struggling to give Grant Hall any guidance on who he is supposed to be. After 15 frustrating minutes, Hall rips the post-it note from his forehead in a fit of anger, takes a glance and shrugs his shoulders. “Who’s Harry Agombar?”
Nile Ranger has not been seen for a good half-hour and is in danger of being dropped from pass the parcel before he charges back through the Legends Lounge doors sporting the words ‘Mother Theresa’ across his forehead.
“You know a post-it note would have sufficed, Nile,” coughs Mark Cooper. “There was no need to get it tattooed.”
As Darren Ward pulls the caterers to one side to query the absence of yams from tonight’s menu, a giant crashing noise can be heard from under the players’ feet. In a cloud of rubble and dust, Jed McCrory and his builder mate Geordie appear through the floor.
“Were makin a underground bomb shelter for the children of Swindon. Roooaoaaoaar!!!!!” McCrory tweets.
Sadly, the enthusiastic duo have caused structural damage to the Legends’ Lounge as a result of their misadventure and a throng of council yellow jackets appear to evacuate the County Ground.
“Let’s put a carousel on the centre-circle,” says McCrory, undeterred.
For a moment it appears as though the party is over before it’s even begun but help is at hand as Lee Power screeches into the car park in his armour-plated Mercedes, dressed as Batman.
He jumps out of the car with Tim Sherwood, who’s looking resplendent in full Robin costume, and points the players into a giant marquee on the cricket pitch nearby.
The Swindon squad flood into the tent and onto the dancefloor, where DJ Coops presses play on the pre-recorded playlist he put together last night.
Cooper looks confused when Slipknot’s ‘Wait and Bleed’ begins to blare out over the soundsystem instead of his chosen ‘Hey Delilah’ by the Plain White Tees, before he looks across the dancefloor and sees Batman and Robin moshing to hardcore goregrind.
As Spliknot’s Satanic drone merges unspectacularly into Rockin Robin’s acoustic rendition of Don’t They Know It’s Christmastime, Louis Thompson can be seen chasing frantically around the marquee.
“Have you seen Nathan? Have you seen Nathan?” he frets.
Nathan Thompson is nowhere to be seen. And neither, for that matter, are Wes Foderingham, Alex Pritchard, Ryan Mason, Yaser Kasim and Massimo Luongo.
All is explained when Eddie Howe is discovered wandering around outside the tent sporting a sandwichboard diverting the players to Dean Court.
The errant sextet are quickly ushered back into the marquee, where Troy Archibald-Henville is leading a game of lawsuit charades and there’s a hilarious moment when Dany N’Guessan tries to describe Adam Rooney by baring his naked bottom.
“Sounds like Mooney,” he says. Blank expressions ensue.
The main event of the evening is meant to be a one-time-only reunion of 911 but they cancel at the last minute, meaning Luongo has to lead the squad in a chorus of Waltzing Matilda.
Carriages are called for 1am, and a fleet of hired-out Mercedes arrive outside the Arkell’s Stand reception to pick up the players.
However, the cars are quickly chased away by a mob of pitchfork-wielding fans and Power has to shell out for a minibus.
The evening comes to a close with Power raising a toast to the continued health of the club but, seeing as the Um Bongo has run dry and all that’s left is Ward’s dubious brocolli and beetroot cordial, the squad’s interest has pretty much run out.
Happy Christmas everyone!