I was never going to bail on this one, but I was battling with the flu. I still love the F.A.Cup. Truth is, I’m one of a dying breed. The league is now the be all and end all. We’ve got something in the region of 14,000 season ticket holders, most would be missing today. I dragged myself into town on the bus. At least I wasn’t having to catch the train from Telford anymore. Living in Brum, you have everything at your fingertips. It’s a lot easier to live in Brum than it is Telford. I was grateful for small mercies. Earlier on in the season, Blues and Villa both played at home on the same night. This was the second time in the season it had happened. I can’t remember the last time this happened. Its a rarity it happens once in a season, but twice? I hit the Woodman and text Steve to say I was in the back room. He arrived and we wished each other a happy new year. With the draw being uninspiring, Steve had ideas of going and watching Hereford at Slough, but Slough had only given Hereford a small allocation of tickets, so he missed out, hence the reason I had company. With time moving on, we moved onto Clink. Passing a queue of people with pugs going into a place just down from it. Clink actually didn’t look open when we got there. It was only when I spotted someone in the side room, we knew it was. Usually on a match day, there’s a few customers in there but it was sparse to say the least. A few more came in afterwards but not many. The shelves were looking pretty sparse too. Someone must’ve had a very “Merry” Christmas. I was really struggling now. The beer was gorgeous but I just didn’t fancy it. This was when I knew I wasn’t well. Steve had another one but I was never going to. We gave the Spotted Dog a miss and headed for the ground, passing more pug owners on the way. Knowing that the game was going to be a low attendance, Blues were only opening the kop. So as usual, the kop car park was chaos. A stroke of genius from someone in charge, enabled us to use any of the turnstiles. Had that not happened, I would not have made kick off. I saw Dave Moyna on the way over to one of the turnstiles that hadn’t got as long a queue as the one I was in. He was waiting for a mate to give him their ticket. He would definitely miss the start of the game.
The team was being announced over the tannoy. I was expecting a number of changes. There wasn’t any. I saw the Noonans Rob had his missus and little un with him. His little un was asleep, so I left them in peace and found my seat. I was sat next to the regular season ticket holders to my right and a Tilton exile on my left. Ten minutes into the game and I’d resolved to move at half time. The Tilton exile was knowledgeable. I don’t think the Kop regulars had ever kicked a ball in any of their lives, let alone ever been to an away game. The rubbish they were coming out with was hurting my ears. Our midfield was back to awful. After the second goal at Reading, I would’ve thought that with that new found confidence and the game being a cup game with nothing to lose, we would’ve pushed on and really took the game to Burton, but no, it was back to the tentative stuff. Davis and Kieftenbeld’s movement was non-existent. Gardner came for the ball off the back four but never turned with it. Never looked to move forward with it, wasn’t taking responsibility as a senior player who had spent most of his career in the top division. Wasn’t engaging with the other two central players. Gardner has his fans, I’m not one of him. For me, he’s still not earning his substantial wages. Not once did he have a go at the other two middle men for their lack of movement or poor distribution when they received the ball. The kop regulars, couldn’t see this and thought his misplaced passing were actually good passes. Gardner’s passing is, at best, average in the Championship. How he played so long in the Premier league without getting sussed out, I don’t know. Having said all this, I actually feel that Cotterill instructed them to play it like a league game. We were lucky to go in at half time at still 0:0 as Burton had looked more likely to open the scoring. As soon as the ref had called an end to the first half, I was off to give my ears a rest. I saw and spoke to Spoons, who was making short work of a pie. I got a tap on the back, and turned round to be faced by Birdy, Brynn and Brynns Son. I told them all about the trouble I’d had on the trains over the Christmas period, starting with Sunderland and finishing with the way back the day after the Reading game. I hadn’t covered it for Reading but basically, my train into Paddington, was delayed by two hours due to engineering problems, so it meant I missed my advanced ticketed train out of Marylebone and ended up on a London Midland train out of Euston, because that was all I could afford. Thirteen stations and over two hours traveling time. I found an empty seat for the second half and Jinksy text me to say where he was. I spotted Spoons before I saw Jinksy. I joined them. Steve would’ve walked up passed us, if we hadn’t stopped him. Burton had a chance cleared off the line and it seemed to wake Blues up. You sitting down? We weren’t, we were on our feet celebrating. Gallagher, 1:0. We had a bit of a purple patch, but then it settled back down into mediocrity. Villa were winning, oh no they weren’t. Posh had equalised. Then someone started to sing the Villa losing song. Surely they weren’t. . . . . Were they? Yep, yes they were. How we laughed. It had been a long time since we’d been able to enjoy ourselves at a game. Peterborough scored a third and the ref blew the final whistle. We were in the fourth round. If I manage to complete the whole season, then it’ll be a half century of games.
I had every intention of going home. The idiot inside me, decided otherwise and I went back to the Dog. Mikey came in. It was the first time I’d seen him since he’d got back from New York. He showed us the photos he’d been able to take before his hands started to freeze to his phone, when he’d been to watch ice hockey at a baseball ground. Minus ten but with the wind chill, it was more like minus twenty. He showed us a selfie. He looked absolutely perished. It did look pretty awesome though. If nothing else, what an experience. I mentioned the glass in the soup incident to Mal. He was still recovering from the ordeal. Aida came in and soon after, so did Jude. I was nursing my pint as I warmed up. I got talking to Jude or actually, she got talking to me. She hasn’t had the best of lives up until now, which is a real shame, as she’s lovely. Thankfully, she’s ended up with Spoons who absolutely adores her. They’re good together, them two. The type of relationship that I’ve never had, that’s for sure. mind you, It’s not like I haven’t had a good go at the whole relationship lark. It would help if I knew the meaning of the word fidelity. I started off following the Romeo path, but the Casanova one looked much more fun, so I ended up down that one instead. Aida was in his glasses. He looked good in them, but we were never going to tell him that. He was right though, they didn’t make him look intelligent. He definitely looked good wearing a mini Christmas tree as a hat, in a photo Jude had took of him on her phone, though. Well, once he’d ripped the base off it, he did. Spoons and Jude were decamping to the White Swan, so I said T’ra to everyone and got myself off home.
Footnote:- The pug owners were going to a new pug cafe. A place where both animal and owner can eat next to each other. Make of that, what you will.