There was a big round shiny thing in the sky, as I came out for the days precedings, hunching my old body against the cold, wasn’t needed for the first time this year. Hitting town, felt like we were playing at home, even though Blues hadn’t got a game, I made use of The Wellington’s early opening time, and dropped in for a pint, forgetting that the Baggies were home verses the Vile, it was only when seeing Paul come in, that I remembered. I joined him and his Baggies mob for a natter. One thing that never fails to amuse me, is the random likes and dislikes individual fans have for a random array of different clubs, and the reasons why. Not withstanding the usual tribalism that goes hand in hand with how we view the nearest club to us, but why and who we like and dislike in a wider geographical sense. For instance, I don’t particularly like Watford, they were the first club to smash my dreams and hopes, when they knocked us out of the F.A.Cup at the quarter final stage, in my last year at school, they also beat us on penalties, the first time we made the playoffs. They’ve never come across to me as a traditional working class club, not the type and level of passion I associate with watching football. I’m not a fan of the place either, but that’s more to do with the dearth of Real ale pubs. I drank up and wished the Baggies luck. I know I do this blog, but I’m really not up on anything ‘I.T.’ related, Darrell is the one for all that malarkey, on the train, my phone pinged to indicate that I’d received an email from my niece, concerning the menu choice for her upcoming wedding reception, I was extremely proud of myself, that I was able to reply to it. . . using my phone. Touching down in Nuneaton, and having plans to get the bus out to Churchend Brewery Tap, I went in search of the information I needed, unfortunately, it’s going to have to be another time, bus and journey times meaning, that I wouldn’t be able to do the brewery, and the game, and the game was really why I’d gone over there for. Not being able to combine the two, I headed for something you can rely on, a Wetherspoons, this one named The Felix Holt. The ones in smaller towns, tend to have a similar clientele, they could have been taken from the Robert Pocock in Gravesend, and except for the accents, you wouldn’t have noticed any difference. The next place was easily somewhere, I could live in, a micro pub, converted from a different commercial use.
“Anyone got any bread to toast?”
“Pump clip spotting”
I dragged myself to the next on the itinerary, walking in and back out of the Black Swan in Hand, as the selection was what puts people off drinking real ale, unless you actually enjoy the Marston’s range, and it wasn’t even a Marston’s pub, definitely disappointed, as it is actually in the G.B.G. The next, and what turned out to be my last before the game, was The Horseshoes, I must’ve gone through Hinckley, and various other places on the way to it.
“Carling drinker, or disgruntled ale drinkers work?”
Usually, when you go off the beaten track to a pub in the G.B.G., it turns out to be not worth the effort, and it was definitely an effort, an Everards owned pub, but not shy in keeping guest ales, the huge effort, had been worth it, a pub that had got a good feel to it, if not the location, it’s been knocked around by renovation, keeping enough features to make you wish, you could grab a lift in the Tardis, to see how it used to look back in its heyday, but then that’s progress, the clamour for brand new, a quality of human nature, that I dislike, the older I get, and the closer I get to being put in a home, for gibbering wrecks. I retraced the many steps I’d taken, but not before I’d stopped to take this.
“Shouldn’t this monument have a more important location?”
I’m not going to get into why it was here, just that I felt privileged to see this monument to the Gurkha’s contribution to this country. It says in the entry on the footballgrounds website for Nuneaton, that the ground is but a mile and a half from the railway station, it’s more like four and a half miles, or hours away, depending whichever is longest. I eventually got to it though, having seemingly passed Leicester on the way.
“A strange ground”
“I told you”
Once you get through the turnstiles, you then have to go through the clubhouse, to get to see the game, and nope, there wasn’t any ale. Programme bought, I found myself a place at the back of the arena style terracing, hoping it wouldn’t rain, me slipping, and having to spend more time in hospital, after bouncing on my head. Thankfully, it didn’t rain. Nuneaton are rooted to the bottom of the league, as much as Huddersfield in the Premier league, for those who don’t bother looking any further down the pyramid, Spennymoor aren’t far off being the polar opposite, it had a nailed on away victory all over it, but in my experience, struggling clubs do at least try more at home, which is pretty much what happened. There’s obvious talent, players who are trying hard, you can see that they should be at this level, and could perform at a higher level, though you wouldn’t be watching them on Sky, the spine is weak though, I don’t particularly like singling players out for being rubbish, especially as, except for Blues, I don’t watch clubs on a too regular basis, but the Viking looks of Aaron Birch, made him stand out in the midfield, in a Terry Horlock, Trevor Hockey type way, that was where the similarities end, he couldn’t read the play, was five yards too slow, in body and mind, and when he did actually make it anywhere near the ball, a 6 year old, would’ve been able to out muscle him. The rest of the Nuneaton team belied their league position, the game being scoreless at half time. Hunger had got the better of me, and I settled on a tray of chips. I don’t know what it is with polystyrene and its ability to turn chips made out of potatoes, into things that taste like cardboard, but I was hungry so they disappeared. Nuneaton hadn’t played badly, and they didn’t deserve to go behind to a flick header. A bit of leadership on the pitch, and managerial direction, and Nuneaton would be easily nestled in mid table, a snap shot in the box from Spennymoor, and the second was scored. It was harsh on the home side. At this level, there isn’t an electronic board indicating added time, the man in black bringing an end to the game, is always a bit of a surprise. Even more of a surprise, was the reaction from the home support after the whistle, it was like Nuneaton had won, they could see that their team had tried, and that team seemed visually embarrassed at the praise that they received. It was refreshing to see, most supporters these days, are far too impatient, and one of the legacies of the amount of money involved in the game now, is the Grand Canyon size divide between cosseted mercenary millionaire players and those impatient supporters, yes, Nuneaton had lost again, but their supporters could see that the players had tried their best, and that the defeat hurt.
The chances are, had I been to another half dozen pubs before the game, I would still have gone back to the Lord Hop, it was another tuck under the arm, take it with you place. It was such a comfy place, that I wasn’t in a rush to get the train back to Brum. When I did finally bring myself to leave, the train back was delayed by a signalling problem, I couldn’t help thinking that maybe it was Ian getting me back for all the school team photos of potential offspring, however, it did actually turn up, and I made it home.