Although there was as many Blues fans on the concourse at New Street, as there was for the Wigan game, there wasn’t any ale trailers, I did spot, not so big Dave, who was standing over a figure sat on the floor, I joined him to see what he was looking at, Steph was trying to sort all the tickets, that the machine had spewed out, she looked like she was playing patience, something she was losing. I left them to the cheaper long haul stopper cattle trucks, and went for the Virgin service I was on. Most of the train emptying at Euston were Blues, and the large Old Bill presence, were already keeping their eyes on us, and Blues who had already arrived, and there was loads, I was the first off the train into the Barrel Vault, Wetherspoons at St Pancras, but I certainly wasn’t the first Blues in there, all the tables had at least two’s and three’s, and almost exclusively Blues, I saw Ian and J.k. come in, but not close enough to shout them, and they went back out, I nipped round to The Parcel Yard at Kings Cross.
“Harry Potter enthusiasts, no, they really are”
I like the Parcel Yard, but I don’t like the prices, £5:10, is too much to pay for beer, that isn’t craft ale. I eavesdropped on a group of Cockneys talking about grounds they’d been to, trying to work out who they were, 3rd round F.A.Cup day in London, is a day of working out who’s who, but at the aforementioned £5:10, it was back to the Barrel Vault, I checked the train times again on my phone, but don’t know whether it was the site, or my doziness, it wasn’t showing what I’d had written down, so had an eye on the claret and blue locals, when they moved for train, I would. There was a mix on the train, again with the police keeping their beady eye on us, I spotted a couple of Eurostar’s, wondering how brexit would effect that particular service. I grabbed myself a burger from one of the vans, on the way passed the shopping centre to the ground,
“How has Ms Brady, not sold this off yet?”
“What time does the pole vault start?”
This is where it gets ridiculous, I’d made an allowance for the ground being an athletics stadium, what I hadn’t made allowances for, was that Brady’s contempt towards football fans, had increased to Oyston levels, after getting directions off one of the many police officers on duty, I got to what I thought, was a turnstile set up, it wasn’t, along with our celebrity hooligan, who was in front of me, M.I.B. Dave, Poo Pants, and Roost regular Rob, to the left of me, we, along with everyone else, trying to gain entrance, were all individually searched, just short of being strip searched, once through, and hearing we’d gone 1:0 down, (I’D ARRIVED AT THE CUSTOMS AT 12:15, KICK-OFF WAS 12;30, IT WAS 12;37) I then had to queue to get in, inside the athletics stadium, it was no better, the stewarding was just as officious, but no more considerate, I understand that the tie had matched up the Premier League club, with the most arrests, and the club with the most arrests overall, but out of 5,200, not everyone, would cause aggravation, not even a 10th would.
“At least they would be taking prisoners”
With the score 0:0, ah, no wait, 1:0, I settled down to watch the game, though my mood would’ve been better, had our treatment been up to standard. As you’d expect, a strong West Ham were getting plenty of possession, but also looked a struggling team, they didn’t look like they were going to add to their lead, we however, grew into the game, and proceeded to make chances, that a better team, probably would’ve taken. With not getting in till well after kick-off, what was left of the half finished, least we were level, ah no wait. . . .
“The great man, no, not the one in Neighbours”
I went over the permanent, temporary bridge to relieve myself, checking out the supposedly hotel standard (They certainly weren’t) toilets. I bumped, almost actually, it was that congested, into Alex, who like me, was not impressed with the whole set up, anymore than I was, I caught up with a depressed Andy, his mood solely down to how we’d been treated, I don’t know whether it was knee jerk reaction, but he said that he was done with football. No other set of sports fans, are treated like us, in fact, no set of people in society is treated like us, I could understand the knee jerk, if it was one. Amir at the ticket office, might actually have got it right with choosing the allocation, we’d been given, I dread to think how they would’ve coped with 9,000 of us. Second half, was much the same as the first half, except for missing an early ish goal, we were still making the better chances, and not scoring them, I had my eye on the clock, I couldn’t afford with getting ‘kettled’ after the game, the game looked like it was heading for a replay, ah, no wait. . . . I left just as the electronic board was due to be put up, I made it passed the Old Bill, getting ready for the Blue hordes, and heard a roar from inside the athletics stadium, so that was both goals missed.
I found the Crate Pizzeria, and made it passed the doorman, being on my own, and sporting a head of grey hair, does have it’s advantages. I had a Crate chocolate orange stout at 6% a.b.v. at a surprising £4:90, it wasn’t that good though, and served in a flimsy plastic glass, I phoned Mikey, they were just leaving the Howling Hops, to come to the Crate, I don’t how I contrived to miss them, trying to find Howling Hops, but I did.
“Story of my life”
The area I was in, was very similar to the Custard Factory in Brum, urban chic, In the Howling Hops I found Paul, Son Ben, Twiggy, and Ben’s bro in law, the Howling Hops is the first straight from the tank bar, and I pleasantly surprised by how good the beer was, and although, it was also served in a plastic glass, it wasn’t the flimsy sort, more the sort, you give a toddler, or clumsy people, (They must’ve known I was coming) I got talking to Ben’s bro in law, hatching an idea, that might actually work, I’ll leave it at that. I bid my farewells, and went for the train.
I caught the train from Hackney Wick, Changing at Cannonbury, I got a bacon and cheese roll, from the kiosk on the platform, the young girl serving was listening to cool 60s French pop, made a change from the usual, since going head surfing at Vauxhall, I’ve made sure I’ve eaten on the move, coupled with a mega worrying, nagging eldest Sister, that’s ingrained it into me, I almost missed the train, I got off at Norwood Junction, and had just enough time to grab a pint, at the Shelverdine Goathouse, an ex Wetherspoons, which would explain the mission to get to the toilets, once again, being served with a plastic glass, although this time, it had been stated on the Camra website, and I was pleased to see Trafalgar, Great Heck brewery, as one of the beers on offer, Great Heck being one of my favourite breweries, bar the plastic glass, it was a great pub, and I could’ve easily have stayed in there.
So I’d made match number two, I’d done two games in one day before, but it was so long ago, I don’t think, I had even started shaving, and it had always been on the personal agenda, to do it again (Not the shaving thing)
“The population of Grimsby, had halved for the day”
Looking at the Grimsby support, I couldn’t help wondering if the bloke from ‘This is England’ was in amongst them, there was definitely enough of them.
“Birds don’t belong in football, some male chauvinist once said”
After missing both goals earlier, I was part hoping, part expecting goals, after seeing Grimsby reduced to ten men, due to V.A.R., after three minutes, those expectations grew considerably, I thought I’d experienced some, at times, desperate defending, on New Year’s day, that was nothing compared to the rear guard of Harry Haddock and his mates, and although they got a deserved rest from the barrage, at half-time, it was a short lived respite, and the resumption of the game, just led to more attack v defence practice, in the 85th minute, with an unlikely replay looming, I finally saw a goal, although I wouldn’t have been too unhappy, had the Mariners managed to force a replay, they may have been fortunate at times, but the ten had worked tirelessly, against their Premier League opposition, but as the Holmesdale end I was in, hadn’t stopped singing and jumping, all game, I wasn’t unhappy that, that support would be going home contented, if not happy either.
Although I contemplated going back to the Goat, I’d got a list of pubs, I was hoping to do, and caught the train up to London Bridge and over to Waterloo East, taking in the Kings Arms,
“Souless, characterless, words not to be associated with this place”
Great place, a place lovingly looked after, by both sides of the bar, with good beer, priced well. The thing with London, is time is speeded up, and distances increase, you never seem able to complete a pub visiting itinerary, I ditched the other two pubs on my list, and after arriving at Marylebone, only had time, before my train, to do my fall back choice, The Allsop Arms, a Green King pub, luckily, it’s one of the better ones, with a couple of well kept guest ales on, it was also showing the closing minutes of the Everton v Lincoln game, with an open Mic night as background music, on the nearest table to the screen, was a group of millennials, that I got talking to, two Chelsea, two Man Utd fans, the youngest looking of them, (I.D. needing to be pinned to his chest) a Chelsea season ticket holder, even one of the United fans, reckoned he made it up from Watford 4/5 times a season, I’m either getting less cynical, or I was just too tired to press him on it, but I believed him. I crashed out on the train, until a bunch of noisey hyped up millennials heading for a late night out in Brum got on at Dorridge, and disturbed me, (Yeah, I know I’m disturbed, I meant my sleep), once in Brum, I managed to make the last bus home, not being one for taxis, I was relieved, I didn’t have to walk.