No, not the gap in between my ears. This was going to be the third game in three days. Something that I hadn’t accomplished this season. Had I not woken up, wondering where and why I was in hospital late in February, I would’ve been fit and able to do six games in six days this Easter. I plan on trying seven in seven at some point in the future but for me at the moment, even attempting back to back games is commendable, let alone trying three in three. I wished Steph (Dave’s wife) a heartfelt goodbye at the door before Dave walked me down to the station. It came through on his phone that Ray Wilkins had died at the age of 61. News like that tends to bring your own mortality into focus anyway due to faster and faster advancing years but more so when you remember Ray starting out as a young player. He was one of those as a media expert, you couldn’t help but like. Unassuming and intelligent. Someone you could find yourself deep in conversation with, as if he was just one of your mates. The train arrived and Dave made sure I caught it ok. Either that, or he was just glad that he didn’t have put up with me wittering on anymore. In between Chorley and Preston, the clouds emptied. I was glad to be on the train. Preston station was as cold and unwelcoming as only Preston can be. I was starting to feel a bit fragile. I’m getting patches of that. Courtesy of the accident. At that precise moment, I didn’t think I’d make that nights game. Train and then bus home was the idea. I worked out that I could change at Wolverhampton for a train that would get me back to Brum earlier. Getting off at Wolverhampton, I discovered that I could catch an even quicker train to Brum. My body is really sending me signals, that I just can’t do what I used to. I made the train, but it was close. When I got off at Brum, I was feeling really shaky. I was due to meet Darrell and if it meant a struggle, I’d meet him and then apologise and bail. I got up to The Wellington. Darrell was in there with J.K. We caught up with the previous night. Strangely, I was starting to feel better. This kind of thing keeps happening to me since the accident, but it is also getting less and less by the day. I’d got my second wind, so to speak. We decided on The Woodman. It was J.K.s energy levels turn to drop. I was up for it now. Mentioning that we hadn’t been to the F.A. Youth Cup semi-final for over forty years. What chance would we have of seeing another. It was a similar trail as a normal senior home game. From The Woodman, we went to The Spotted Dog. It was down to just me and Darrell now and soon to be just me. I was now determined to go and watch the game and trod the usual furrow up to the ground. It was a lot more quiet than usual and I did question my sanity. I got to the turnstiles and was fully expecting my overnight bag to be searched. I must have been looking a bit disheveled as the steward just beemed and let me passed.
I got a team sheet that was surprisingly free and I made my way up to the top tier of the Kop. Watching the two squads warm up, it looked like a bunch of sixth formers from the local public school versus a bunch of first formers from the local comprehensive school. In real terms, there was only one division between the two clubs but actually the gulf was Grand Canyon proportions. The haves and the have nots.
Is that all you take away?
Although nobody stood out for Chelsea, they were just bigger, stronger and faster. It was like they had been scouted for their physical attributes only. They had been well drilled and the higher level of training told. It didn’t help that the star and great hope for the future for us, got injured early on. Odin Bailey was replaced by Jack Concannon. There were more players for us that stood out individually than there was them. The sum might have been greater but some of our parts were not only better but gave hope for the future. Both our centre halves were excellent. Wether or not it will be with Blues, these two will make professional footballers. I’m not going to mention his name but our right back that night, didn’t show the right ingredients. To put it coldly, he won’t even make first team for a Sunday league team. A quick mention of the lad that came on for Odin Bailey, Jack Concannon is a talent that I can’t wait to see in the Blues first team. He looks like he’s got it. The rare double act of skill and brains. A mention goes to the referees assistant who needs to learn the rules. Another one who won’t make the senior level. Maybe a local park somewhere. It ended 3:0 to Chelsea but it seemed harsh.
Official away coach regulars. No Davo though.
I walked back to town and got the bus back home. I was really flagging. I was glad that I’d done it though. Glad that I’d seen the next generation coming through.