We were going to be hit by a storm called Brian. When I heard it was called Brian, I couldn’t get the image of Brian the dog from Family Guy chasing his tail, out of my head. Of all the names to call a storm, Brian is not a name that would spring to mind if I was naming them. Are they named after ex’s? Should they be called things like “My solicitors advised me” or “You’re never going to see your kids again” or “What the Hell was I thinking of, when I met you?” I got on to the concourse at New Street and Spoons and Jude were already there. I wasn’t expecting to see Spoons, let alone Jude. J.K. turned up and then Jinksy with a Blues/Rangers lad that I can never remember the name of. Darrell had already gone to hog seats for us. I had visions of him sprawled out across the table growling at people. I had reservations so I was ok. As it turned out, there were plenty of seats where they were, so I joined them. The conversation flowed except for about 5 minutes when for no reason whatsoever, we stopped talking. The journey sped by though. I said my goodbyes at Euston because I was meeting up with Steve Whaley. Spoons J.K. and Darrell were doing the Bermondsey mile, Jinksy and the Blues/Rangers lad were heading for London Bridge. I was the first one in the Royal George just round the corner from the station. Steve was on the London Midland so was about 15 minutes behind. A couple of Redditch Blues came in. Regulars at away games. The pub had already started to fill up with Blues fans when Steve joined me. This was going to be a mad day. It was seven hours before kick off. The pub was scouted by one of the local constabulary. This lot were heading to London Bridge. We had other ideas. We walked passed the British library to St Pancras/Kings Cross. One of these days, I will spend an afternoon in the library. This wasn’t the time though.
To think, this beautiful piece of station architecture was almost lost to the bulldozers.
We got the tube to Liverpool street. The Pride of Spitalfields was the destination. I’d done this place before with Jinksy but I was more than happy doing it again. Accent sussed, we got talking about Sullivan, the Golds and Brady with a West Ham fan. Harry Redknapp was also discussed. I can’t not like Redknapp but it’s looking more and more that it was right to get rid of him. You learn a lot by talking to fans of other clubs. You get a different perspective on things. A not so blinkered view. The Pride of Spitalfields is a bit moth eaten but it’s friendly and well worth the visit.
Despite the badly taken photo, cat was in exactly the same place as he was the last time.
Heading back to the station we eavesdropped a couple motioning to a place over the road from us. A little bottle and craft ale place. We stuck our heads round the door of the Kill the Cat. The bloke running the place was changing two of the three beers over. The other was 12%. It was still early so we balked at that one but made a note to visit again. Although I had made a list, because I haven’t got the new G.B.G. yet, it wasn’t a big list because I knew Steve would do one. We were following his list. We walked to the next pub.
To stop any confusion, this place is absolutely nothing to do with me.
The White Hart. This place was full, and I do mean full, with Chelsea. This lot was their firm. Chelsea were playing Watford at home, in the early kick off, and this lot were nowhere near the game. For the life of us, me and Steve couldn’t understand why, so we asked someone. It was another march against extremism. There had been a huge one that had gone largely unreported the weekend of the international break. There must have been in the region of one hundred and fifty lads in this pub and within 90 seconds of a phone call being received, there was just me and Steve left. It was surreal.
On the move and not to Stamford bridge.
We moved on to the Redchurch Brewery. We were stumped here. You could only pay by card. Your cash was no good. Neither of us had our bank cards on us. I’d been predicting this for a few years now, wasn’t expecting to fall foul of it though. Both me and Steve are traditionalists when it comes to drinking, neither of us like the idea of paying by card. It was a real disappointment.
I never got to taste anything brewed in these.
We retraced our steps back and went in Ma Kelly’s. Not quite the Blackpool version. I’m starting to get used to how beer is treated in some circles. In this place, a great tasting beer, like wine, is to be savored not guzzled. For a dinosaur like me, it’s a bit strange. I’ve grown up in a culture that drinks as much as it can, as quick as it can. I love a pub and there’s some amazing examples around the country both in architecture, decor and ambiance but I like these places. You’re never going to encounter the Carling brigade in these, that’s for sure. No Sky sports, no jukebox, no pool table. Just good beer sold along side a different kind of menu. Food that compliments the taste of the beer. We hit the tube because the next destination was a football ground. To be exact, it’s supporters club. Leyton Orient supporters club is excellent. The club might be languishing in the National league, a result of ridiculously inept ownership, but the supporters club is better than premier league. It may be run by volunteers but make no mistake, they know how to run a bar. Not only is the beer superbly kept but it’s a good range too. I hope our owners take note. . . . Ahh no wait, they’re too busy chucking money at the wrong things at the wrong times. I genuinely fear for the future of Birmingham City football club. A rant is starting to build, believe me. Back to the supporters club. Though I could be wrong here, I’m under the assumption that Barry Hearn had a hand in where it is now. I definitely know it’s been where it is now since 2005. It deservedly regularly picks up awards. Jealous? You’d better believe it. If we had this at Blues instead of the expensive fizz dispensing holes that we have to put up with, I wouldn’t go anywhere else. Let’s put it like this, I’ve been to this place twice now and neither time has been for a game and it’s not exactly in the middle of London or for that matter, anywhere near the game I was actually going to watch. It’s that good. Last orders called before the game, Birmingham Mail left for someone to use as ticker tape and fanzine bought, (I stopped myself short of buying a programme) we hit the tube once more before getting the D.L.R. down to Limehouse. Just outside the station was the Craft Beer Co. It wasn’t on the list but it did look interesting so we dived in. I spotted a particular favourite of mine, Marble Chocolate, Manchester Brewery. This was to be, unsurprisingly, my beer of the day.
Manhattan? No, Canary wharf.
I took the above on the way to The Grapes. This one was a tick off for both me and Steve. We’d both wanted to do this place since we found out who the licensee was. One Sir Ian McKellen. He of the acting fraternity. The pub itself is owned by Green King but Gandalf has his alter egos name above the door. He wasn’t in there but I could understand why he loves the pub. Whether it was because Brian was making his feelings known, I don’t know but it was really cosy in there. I have no idea how we did it but we made a wrong turn. It’s getting to be a bit of a habit of mine and Steve’s. Once back on track, we headed for London Bridge. We contemplated a quick one off the Borough market but decided not to. It turned out that it was a wise choice. I spotted Nat on his crutch, said hello. We were joined on the platform by Jinksy and the Rangers lad. They were holding the train for those who’d been drinking near the station. They arrived to a chorus of police dogs barking. We were shoe horned on to the train. On the way down to the ground I spotted Jeff without Carol she was further on.
Welcome to Millwall.
The best way to describe the ground is to liken it to a cross between a warehouse and a prison. Inhospitable, uninhabitable. What’s the nicest thing I can say about this place? Absolutely nothing.
Cotterill had set us up to defend. Now if we had been playing Wolves, I could understand it but Millwall are no great shakes. Like the majority of the division, us included, they’re there for the taking if you show a bit of ambition, drive and steel. We showed none of that. Had I been watching the game at home, I’d have turned over to watch Strictly Come Prancing or whatever normal people watch on a Saturday night. 0:0 at half time and general consensus was that Blues had to get better. I saw and got a kiss off Alex and after having a bit of a moan to Steve, headed back up. Before I got there, the noise from the rest of the ground told me we’d gone 1:0 down. Not only did it not get any better but it got worse. I spotted Nick and Russell, so joined them for the second half, or what was left anyway. Apparently, Darrell and J.K. had been turned away for being too inebriated and Spoons had sold his ticket. Victims of the Bermondsey mile. They were lucky. We were worse in the second half. Aimless passing and no spark. Mike Klippedthebloke was a his usual booking/sending off waiting to happen. David Davis spent all game trying to get substituted by passing into touch at every opportunity (He failed) Che Adams played that deep that I thought he was working under cover. Vassell was keeping in touch with the rest of the team by phone, he was that isolated. Cue some rubbish substitutions. Jota came on and played right back. it was the only way he could get the ball at his feet. Otherwise he was just watching the ball sail over his head. Jutkiewicz on for Ndoye. Gap exploited, 2:0. Boga on for Adams. This wasn’t even too little too late, it was a waste of a substitution. No disrespect to either player but it was never going to make a blind bit of difference to the outcome. Match over bar the final whistle, I wondered if I could get out early. No was the answer to that.
Now I’m no Angel but I’m no lifestyle hooligan either, so without naming names, condoning or condemning, here’s my report on what happened using “us”, “we” and “them” as the collective and not in the singular. At first, with no Ol Bill around to stop us, we tried rocking a set of gates open. It ultimately proved fruitless. Did it alert the Ol Bill? Maybe but a line of them appeared in riot gear. Most of us would have been in this compound by now and there was a fair bit of pushing. Our frontline was now toe to toe with them. Some of us were intent on a bit of agro some of us not but was definitely a mix of us. There was a surge at their line a couple of times and batons were used. It was indiscriminate and before it was understood by both sides what was happening. There was more surges. By people who didn’t know what was going on at the front and why we were still being held in or by those intent on fighting the police? Probably both. By this time there was nowhere to go if you were on the frontline and the surges continued, fans were losing their footing, pulling others including police down with them. You could see fear on both sides. The police line was added to. It incited even more surging. It was starting to get really stupid. It wouldn’t have took much for the whole lot to go. We had the numbers and they had the weapons and the armoury. The Cavalry arrived. A genius decision or sheer stupidity? It was a gamble by whoever was supposed to be in charge.
There was no space for these poor animals to be ridden in to but ridden they were. I saw seven, I was to find out that there were ten altogether. The most i’d ever seen outside a ground, let alone inside. They used them to push us back. Some of us got hurt. Some retaliated by hitting the horses. If only one had got spooked and reared up, then there would have been carnage. Nerves and tempers on both sides were visibly frayed. Finally the gate was opened after what felt like an hour. Even then, the lead rider couldn’t get her horse to move. What would have happened if this horse had been even more spooked than it was, doesn’t bare thinking about. I saw Andy as I walked up towards the station. I was surprised to see him so close to the front. I saw a lad with his arm round his mate struggling to walk. I helped him up the steps of the station. At best, he had a sprained ankle, at worst, a broken one. If we were shoe horned on to the train getting to the ground, then picture the trains of India on the way back to London Bridge.
Yes, that is a lad on the luggage rack.
We hit London Bridge. We were in full voice, we had come down to Millwall and good or bad, had put on a show. Fluorescent yellow, blue flashing lights and barking dogs led the way down into the tube.
My plan was to try and take in a couple of pubs off Leicester square but time was now against me so I only managed The Cambridge, a Nicholsons pub on the Charing Cross road. For some unknown reason, the adrenaline was pumping through my veins. Maybe a psychologist will be able to let me know why. Pint drunk, I made my way back to Marylebone. I just about had enough time for a quick half in a deserted Globe before buying a pasty for the train home. I hadn’t eaten all day and so made light work of it. The game might have been a disappointment but then I’m used to that, the day out on the other hand, was eventful to say the least.