I’d gotten up just before going to bed. It was THAT early. I got to New Street station and helped the caretaker open the place up. 05:22 train out to Peterborough. Being out in the dark was exiting as a kid. I find it boring now. I stuck my head in the Guardian. I surprise people when I say I read the Guardian. This actually annoys me. Just because of my low level position in life it doesn’t mean I have to conform to that image. I might be just a minion at work and my wages too low to afford anything more than a hovel but that doesn’t mean I have to be stereotypical. I split my train ticket at Peterborough because it made it cheaper. It would have been cheaper still if I’d have gone through London but it probably would have took me the whole of the weekend just traveling. Peterborough is a railway junction. Like all railway junction stations, it’s a soulless station. Waiting for a connecting train seems to suck the life out of you. Daylight had made an appearance so at least the second leg of my journey wouldn’t be so dragging. Darrell text me to say they’d be in the Murderers for 11. My pub list looked like it was fast becoming obsolete. We were soon moving through the flatlands of East Anglia. The whind and grind of the working working week washed away gazing out over shimmering fields of whatever, favourite tunes streaming in through wires from a piece of technology that I’ll never truly master before having to update to a device even more baffling.
I started off at the Bell. It’s a Wetherspoons but it’s not a conversation. It’s still got that Wetherspoons stamp on it. I was served by new starter. If it wasn’t her first shift then it was definitely only her second. I wished her luck. She beamed back and thanked me. Steph text me. There was a spare ticket going for Liam Gallagher. It was for the day before I go up to Edinburgh to watch Hearts. My heart said go for it but my head told me not to be such an idiot. Christmas presents don’t pay for themselves and the gig is only a fortnight before. I just wouldn’t have the money. Breakfast finished, I moved round the corner to the Gardeners or to use its nickname, the Murderers. Macabre but interestingly, it’s got a rogues gallery of notorious killers on the walls.
Not sure how Al Capone would view the LGTB bottle.
The pub is split into two parts. The character full front bit and the Carling brigade new bit. It’s a strange sort of cut and shut.
Interloping fruit machines to keep the Carling brigade happy.
Russell and Nick came in looking worse for wear from the previous nights 10 pubs. They filled me in with what they could actually remember. It included a gash on the top of Russell’s head where he’d smashed it on one of the low beams in the Ribs of Beef. Him and Nick had also had an impromptu wrestling match coming out of the lift in the hotel. Falling in a heap and not being able to move for laughing. Apparently a woman guest had to step over them to get in the lift. Darrell joined us and we compared itineraries. They were going to stay round the centre. I really wanted to do the Fat Cat so I drank up and said I’d meet them in the Kings Arms. Steve Whaley text me to say where he was. We were to spend the day missing each other.
What a gem the Fat Cat is. This has got to be one of the best pubs in the country. If I hadn’t got a list, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else. Norwich is excellent for real ale pubs but this place is the best one.
It was here that I got recognized from the Anchor. I don’t use that place anymore, but it was nice to be recognized. I got talking to the two lads. Moz and Andy. We got chatting about where we drink before home games and who we knew. I’ve admitted before that I’m rubbish at remembering names. I finally now know that the Bournemouth couple are Jeff and Carol. While I’m at it, cheers J.k. for pointing out that the Walsall fan in the Wagon and Horses in Halesowen is Twig. How is it possible I couldn’t remember that? I am well and truly useless at remembering names. I was on a mission now and had to get a bit of a wiggle on. The Alexander was next. I doubled the customers on my entrance, felt guilty for only having a half. The landlady and the regular were talking music. I couldn’t stop myself from joining in. I was able to educate the other customer by telling him that heavy metal was born in Brum and that the whole of Black Sabbath were originally from Aston. That Ozzy Osborne used to live a couple of streets away from where I live now. He was under the misconception that They came from Wolverhampton. Bless him. I left him with his new knowledge and moved on to the Earlham Arms. It had an upmarket feel to it. Shiny and new. Straight out of IKEA. The beer was once again, excellent, and there was a good range of craft keg, if you’re into that sort of thing.
The pub did have some nice touches to it. Not without a bit of humor.
It was after this where I misread my own directions, took a left on the Unthank road and then had to back track once I’d worked out I’d messed up. I finally found the Eaton Cottage. It was showing the Man City v Liverpool game so the place was full of plastics. Including a Scouser. I wondered when the last time he’d pitched up at Anfield was. It was good to see Liverpool getting beat. A club with an odious following. I moved on to the Kings Head. I’d been told by Steve that they’d be expecting me. What they were expecting, I’m not too sure. I’d just pitched up when everyone else landed. Including the first appearance of the bloke below.
The man, the legend.
You can’t go anywhere with Badger without someone knowing him. He used to go to every game, home and away. These days, he picks his away games so I was surprised to discover, he’s doing Derby too. Most of the football talk today had been what the team would be. Someone mentioned that it had been released. Grounds is in it, I said. Half in jest. Yep, came the reply. I couldn’t help laughing. Someone had likened him to a cockroach the day after deadline day, on the Small Heath Alliance forum. This is harsh on the bloke. Yes, he’s got limited ability at best. Yes, he badly needs to be replaced if we’re to progress upwards but the abuse this bloke gets isn’t nice. Whether he has an odd good game or the usual mediocre one, he never hides. He’s had 4 managers now and he’s still there, putting a shift in. For that, he needs applauding for, not vilifying. He can’t help not being quite at the level we want from him. You can see that he’s doing his best, It just isn’t good enough. If he was in league 2, he’d make the team of the season, but he’s not, he’s with us. I’ve come to see Grounds as a bit of a cult figure though. Regardless of ability, give me Jonathan Grounds over Craig Gardner and Jacques Maghoma any day.
We made our way to the game. I spent the walk in conversation with a Norwich fan. Talking about previous games between us. I poked my tongue out at Alex on the way in to the ground. Inside, I saw. Daz and George. Also Tron. He spends more time in England than he does Norway these days. The biggest surprise was seeing Andy Bird. He was dressed like he’d come from the beach. It’s been that long ago that I can’t actually remember when I last saw him at an away game.
I don’t know whether Norwich scoring early knocked the stuffing out of us, or we just didn’t know what to expect but the atmosphere in the away end was subdued.
Spot the celebrity.
Norwich were able to sit back once they’d got the goal and just pick us off on the break. It was clear that we were playing together for the first time. It’s also clear that what we’ve bought in is better than what we had. They over played it at times and credit to Norwich, they suffocated the space. We needed to move it quicker and we definitely looked better when Adams came on. There was some good pockets of play and as the games come and go, those pockets of play will grow and overlap. We will start to pick up some momentum and we will start to climb. That’s not me trying to put a positive spin on it. That’s fact. Us Blues fans are pessimistic at the best of times, me included, but I saw enough against Norwich to be able to stay optimistic. On the way out, I flicked the bird and grinned at Leo without Steph and the rest seeing me.
I was soon joined in the Fat Cat And The Canary by Russell, Darrell and J.K. Nick had bailed, last night had got the better of him. We caught up on the rest of the scores. Least the Villa hadn’t won. We had the usual post mortem. Always depressing when you’ve lost. We went from there to the Coach and Horses. Russell was lagging, waiting for the wave of second wind. Darrell had got his. Blues had taken over the back room. The Bournemouth couple were in there, Steve Whaley, Moz and Andy, us three, Tron and a few of his Norwegian mates and an assortment of the usual suspects.
Happy 50th Tron!! Another legend.
Steve and I made arrangements to meet up with one of the Norwegian lads in Leeds as we all chatted. I’ve known Tron a few years now. It never ceases to amaze me how many games he actually gets over for and yet there’s so called fans in this country that could but don’t get to as many games as he does. Even Jeff and Carol live on the doorstep of St Andrews compared to Tron. I said my goodbyes and caught the train back to Peterborough. I had a half hour window in between trains at Peterborough so instead of having the last bit of life sucked out of me, I went over the road to the Great Northern Hotel. The interior is very much in the Art Deco style. The urinals, I’m sure, were unique to the hotel too. Considering the Wall street crash happened during the Art Deco period, the style looks expensive. Personally, I can’t get enough of it. When I’m sat in these places, I keep expecting the Peaky Blinders to come breezing in. Back on the station, Nat Peters was in conference with a couple of Bradford fans. I joined in. If we don’t go up, I want Bradford to because that’s another good place for ale. As Harry would say, “It’s a proper football club”. I made use of the second leg of the journey home to catch up on some of the sleep I’d lost out on. Good day, shame about the result.