We’d been given a skittering of snow during the night, a taste of what was supposed to come according to the forecast. To say I’m not fond of snow, is an understatement. Especially if it means I can’t get to a game. We were taking our biggest traveling support of the season down to Fulham so I wasn’t surprised to see a fair number of Blues fans grouped up under the departures board at New Street. None of the ale trailers though, so it was headphones on and nose in The Guardian. Steve and Paul were already nestled in the corner of the Royal George when I got in there. I ordered a pint of Redemption London Porter only for the barrel to run out on me. Not a good start. I said hello to Steve and Paul and then spent a nervous 20 minutes trying to get through to the Hearts ticket office to get my Hibs ticket. To my relief, I managed to get through and get one. With that done, I could relax and enjoy the day. Paul’s lad Ben, his two Blues supporting mates Rob and Twiggy (Not the Walsall supporting lad that I couldn’t remember the name of) and their Man United supporting mate, came in off the next train. The pub was completely full of Blues by the time we left it. The Ol Bill had been alerted because there was two vans outside by then. With Millwall traveling through Euston on their way to Villa, it was probably wise. We headed for Victoria, where I saw my old mate Shane. He was going in the other direction and it was busy so I didn’t get chance to ask whereabouts he was drinking. We had two pubs to go to at Clapham Junction. The first of which was called The Four Thieves. Part of the Laines Brewery group. There was a private party in the boat room. Apparently, they meet up every Saturday. They certainly sounding like they were having fun. In fairness to them, the place is worth visiting on a weekly basis. It’s class.
Essential information I’m lucky enough not to have needed.
A curious bit of artwork.
We moved on to The Falcon. I’d been in this pub before. Last time, I was impressed. This time I wasn’t happy at all. I don’t know what’s happened in between my two visits but it isn’t good. It’s a Nicholsons pub and Nicholsons need to sort it out. It’s a disgrace. It’s a beautiful pub
See? Beautiful. Not the bloke, the pub.
It’s obviously being run by idiots. The first two of my choices had gone but none of the staff had got the sense to turn the clips round. The third pint had gone off. The river Thames is clearer. That took me to my forth choice. That’s totally unacceptable in my eyes. Whoever the goon is that’s running the place, they should be struck off. Never to be allowed to run a pub again. On the way back to the station, I got talking to the United lad. The Blues game was just an appetizer for him as he was off to Old Trafford for the Manc derby. He’d been expecting grief for it but as a ground hopper when the Blues ain’t playing, he was never going to get any from me. He told me, he got up there 3 to 6 times a season. Not as many as he’d liked for him but for me, better than not doing any at all. It was his second derby but he’d never seen United v Liverpool and it was on his desperate to do list. As far as I’m concerned, United v Liverpool isn’t as big a deal as the media pumps it up to be. There is a rivalry, I’m not going to dispute that but any combination between a Manc and Scouse club has a bit of needle. It’s a rivalry between the cities not particular clubs. That’s missed by the media but not by us ordinary fans. We’re very much aware of the different hatreds round the country. We got off at West Brompton with an hour before kick off. Just round the corner from the station is The Atlas. The place was within view of the Chelsea ground. The youngsters amongst us were more impressed than us oldies. It was a nice enough place but the safe range of usual suspects on the pulls wouldn’t get me going back time and again. I needed to top my Oyster card up so I left early so I didn’t hold the others up. They still hadn’t joined me when the tube came in. I jumped on it. I spotted Andy, Birdy and Brynn. As I was saying hello to them, Darrell spotted me from the next compartment and shouted me. I heard someone say “Does he know everyone on the train?” Not quite. I didn’t know the driver. Andy told me the team. Worzel’s team selections are getting as bewildering as Lee Clark’s more and more each week. I joined Darrell, Spoons, J.K. and Mikey. They’d been to the Pigs Ear beer festival over in Hackney. I told them where we’d been. I walked through the park to the ground with Mikey. He told me his New York itinerary. He’s off over there for Christmas. Taking in Springsteen again. He’s also doing the Giants v Redskins game. I would like to do an American Football game but not just yet.
I got a programme, got in the ground and managed to get passed the sniffer dog. No drugs on me but it’s getting closer with having to put up with what we put up with. Fulham has become popular with a lot of clubs fans, not just Blues. For some, it’s their only away game of the season. With our away record this season, I’m amazed that anyone would even want to do this one.
Let’s put it like this, Fulham were rubbish but we combined well to make them look world class. I’ve seen better pub teams. I’m beginning to wonder how we beat Crawley 5·1. It’s definitely a very distant memory. Like it must have happened to another Blues team in a different season. Fulham scored with the only good move of the first half. How good? As good as we allowed them to be. We played like schoolboys and I’ll say sorry to schoolboys all over the country that play better football. We played like schoolboys who have no interest in playing sport of any kind. You remember the ones who hated P.E. when you were at school. The ones who tried to get out of doing it. We played like them. I went downstairs at half time
Most of this lot, me and Steve included, were still down here a good 10 minutes in to the second half. Some didn’t even go back up but left. With nothing but a sense of duty, we headed back up. It’s getting increasingly more difficult to describe how bad we are without the use of expletives. I’m even running out of adjectives. We toiled in attack but we won a penalty. (I just wanted to write “We won” for a change) It was a definite penalty. It was our lifeline. Our chance to get back into the game. We agreed that if he missed, we were off. Steve couldn’t watch. I was somehow expecting what happened next. Boga didn’t just miss it, he absolutely skied it. This bloke is supposed to be the next big thing at Chelsea. Earmarked to replace Eden Hazard. We’ve had a few players on loan down the years, who’ve gone on to bigger and better things. This lad isn’t going to be one of them though. If he becomes a Chelsea regular, then something will have seriously gone wrong at Stamford Bridge. I hadn’t seen a penalty that badly taken since Kevin Dillon missed one versus West Ham in 1982. The difference with that one, was that we were 3·0 up at the time. We can’t score. So missing this one was an utter calamity. We left. Truth is, we’re no better than we were under Harry. Cotterill hasn’t got a relegation on his C.V. He needs to go before the end of the season to keep that record intact. A Blues supporting work colleague said to me he thought that Blues would manage to turn it round. I’ve already seen enough to know we won’t.
Even the horses are getting in to the Christmas spirit
As we got on the tube, I noticed a lad with a Hearts hat on. It had the union Jack incorporated into the emblem. I got talking to him. He was Brummy Hearts season ticket holder and the hat was his design. It was clear from the pubs he goes in that he ain’t into ale but it was nice knowing that there’s a Birmingham Hearts supporters branch. It was also nice to be able to say I was going up for both the Dundee and Hibs games. As of next season, I’ll be doing more. I said goodbye to Steve at Green Park and for whatever reason, had to get the lift up to the Piccadilly Line. I got off at Leicester Square and weaved in and out of the London nightlifers to The Harp. The place was packed. It is a little bit good in there though. It’s my favourite place in the centre of London. Always a good range. Always immaculate. Probably my only gripe, is that it’s on the pokey side. Mind you, it was a Saturday evening and it is in the middle of theatre land.
A rogues gallery
A regular award winning pub and rightly so.
I decided to do a couple of pubs in Camden Town so I caught the Northern line up there. Is overhearing the same as eavesdropping? Because I don’t know. Is there any rules? Some kind of etiquette? Anyway I listened to a conversation between a group. One of the group works in a vegan restaurant but is a meat eater. He had dealt with a customer who was appalled that he was a meat eater working in a vegan restaurant. Like he was some kind of hypocrite. Does that make me a hypocrite for being a Blues fan living on the same road as the Villa ground? Sometimes needs must. I walked into The Prince Albert. I was confronted by a dapper looking bloke who told me it was a private party. I had been so preoccupied with looking at the range on the bar that I hadn’t noticed that everyone was dressed in wedding gear. He was obviously the groom. I apologised profusely, congratulated him and wished him better luck than I’ve had. I made my escape and went on to The Constitution
A welcoming sight on a cold dark night
A proper locals place you could feel comfortable in. I’d definitely go back. I want to give the Prince Albert another go, so I probably will. I missed a turn somewhere and ended up walking to Mornington Crescent station. I still had enough time to hit The Globe when I got back to Marylebone. The week before, I’d paid less for two pints in Bar 19 in Blackpool than I did for one pint in here. There is definitely not only a north/south divide in this country but also between London and the rest of the country. It’s like London is the only place that matters to the detriment of everywhere else. London gets more money spent on it than the rest of the country put together. It’s an imbalance that needs rectifying but I guess it never will. I was to find out that my train had been cancelled. My ticket would be honored on the next service. I went to the place next door. £5 for a pint in a plastic glass. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t at a music festival. When I finally managed to get a train back to Brum, I had to stand. After a couple of stops, I managed to get a seat. When I got off at Moor Street, Jinksy was waiting for Nat. He told me that Squid had died. He’d had another fall, only this time, his luck had run out. His head had had one too many bumps. Nat finally made it off the train, he’d fallen asleep. R.I.P. SQUID