I’m a fan of the sitcom Derry Girls, in the latest episode, the storyline concerned trying to foster better relations with Protestants, the two groups were asked what Catholics and Protestants had in common, both groups then preceded to come up with nothing but differences, Birmingham City and Aston Villa is much the same.
“Are we really that different?”
With the local constablary already buzzing round town, with eyes on potential mischief, I met Steve at New Street, as we waited for L.J. with an eye open for Paul, we missed Paul, catching up with him at Dig Brew, Darrell was already in there. The place is really making an effort, for a start, they’d opened up at 9 o’clock, they’d also erected a big screen, and were showing a highlights video of Blues from the last 20 years on a loop, not that we needed anymore to remind us of why we were Blues, Jack and his Grandson came in, Worcester Pete had dragged a mate in, and we were joined by Aids, who showed us a mock up of a Winnie the pooh cartoon, dark humour the theme, a couple of words changed, and it would’ve been just as macabre, funny, but directed at Blues, not Villa.
“Inner city art at its best”
We headed to Clink, another place that had opened, and opened early specially for law abiding Blues fans, wanting a drink, J.K., Russ, Nick and Ian filled in, and I used the opportunity to ask Ian to sign the verification section on my application form for a provincial driving license, I’ve no intention of learning to drive, but apparently being born in this country and having a full birth certificate, isn’t enough anymore, and to prove that you actually exist, you need photo ID, not only am I a dinosaur, but like them, I’m virtually extinct, a quick phonecall to Mikey to ask on how packed the Spotted Dog was, and we decided on a last pint in there before the game, I bumped into Jeff (Not physically) in the toilets, saying hello before joining Mikey, his brother Steve and Rich, who informed me that the Lamp Tavern had won the pub of the year, I don’t go in the Lamp enough, it’s laziness on my part, because it’s a cracking pub, a traditional old pub, with a landlord that’s just the same, I might not frequent the place enough, but I was pleased to see that it had rightly won.
Now to the game, I don’t like the game anymore, the hatred between the supporters of both clubs has made the atmosphere ridiculously toxic, whipped up by the media, made worse still by social media, aggressive behaviour in humans, is down to testosterone, that’s not vindication, that’s observation, adrenaline rises to dangerous levels, causing the rational to become irrational, a Jekyll and Hyde scenario, local derbies bring out the worst in us, though not just exclusive, you’re more desperate to win, desperate not to lose, never mind red rag to a bull, the colour isn’t red, it’s the colours of your local rivals. I’m digressing, both teams were rubbish, neither team showed any class, any indication that they should be higher in the league than they were, I’d seen more skill, better football, up in Salford, three divisions below, the previous day, you could point to those adrenaline levels, causing wrong decisions, but the same can be said of right decisions, Villa managed a corner, and from where the corner was to be taken, came a figure dressed in civilian fatigues, running across the pitch, he made a Beeline (Not the Manchester sort) for Grealish, attacking him from behind, knocking him off his feet. It seemed surreal, even quite funny for a second or two, in a slapstick comedic way, before the enormity of what had just happened immediately kicked in. I honestly don’t care what happens to the perpetrator in the incident, the idiot will receive whatever is due to him, I empathise with his family, who will have to put up with the fallout from his behaviour, and they don’t deserve any repercussions, but what I’m concerned with, is what punishment will the club suffer, more importantly, what ramifications will us law abiding, loyal supporters, have to put up with? On a whole us Blues fans have a historically, extremely bad, reputation as it is, and wherever we go, we’re viewed with suspicion, don’t enjoy the concessions, other clubs supporters get, targeted by people who are intent on making, and marking, their own dubious reputation. With the incident having been dealt with in the immediate, you could see that, instead of Grealish becoming tentative with what had happened to him, it had the adverse effect, he was a player on a mission, you could sense the headlines being written, he was determined to leave his own mark on the match. The goal when it came, wasn’t £20, 25, 30 million worth of quality, more a fivers worth, but it was a fivers worth more than Craig Gardner could see himself with peeling from that substantially wad of cash he steels off Birmingham City in wages. His introduction to the precedings as substitute in the 79th minute, causing me to finally sit down, as I knew we were effectively down to ten men, he even managed two pathetic attempts on goal.(They were never going to be on target, or anything as useful) I left just as the referee blew for time.
I dragged my weary spirit back to the Spotted Dog, Spoons already in there, with Steve and Fay. After a defeat against them, I don’t feel like having anything to do with the sport, let alone watching it, it’s all I can do to chew the game over. Thankfully, Ireland were playing France in the 6 nations, and the Dog, had got the game on the big screen, after appreciating fifteen minutes of good rugby, I was ok again, well, not as depressed anyway, after all, it wasn’t a new feeling by any means. Paul Mason and Jackie joined us, still trying to make sense of Darren Moore’s sacking, something that had surprised and saddened me. Darrell went off down to the White Swan with Paul and Jackie, and I followed on after I’d drank up. Jude, the only Villa fan, I truly don’t mind seeing after they’ve beaten us, was in there, with Norwegian Ivan, and the Port Vale lad that Spoons and Jude had gone to their game with, the Swedes came in, and I said hello to White Swan Paul. We dissected what had happened to Grealish, Jacob showing me a local derby in Gothenburg, which had to be delayed because of a barrage of flares being let off, astonishingly impressive, but stupid also, as it could’ve caused injuries. Jinksy came in, he’d been in the Roost before the game, a place and game where the atmosphere was much better than the beer, ex player, Geoff Horsefield had been in there. I’ve met Geoff, and he wasn’t enough of a pull to put up with the beer. Jinksy’s mate finally made it in the pub, and was handing out programmes that he’d picked up in the executive suite. Talking to ‘H’, one of the Swedes, I found out that the reason he became a Blues fan, was Kenny Burns, I couldn’t help but smile, as Burnsy, was one of my brothers favourite players, if only we’d had the great man lining up in Blue a few hours earlier. An impromptu rendition of ‘Keep Right On’ started, it quickly enveloped the whole pub except Jude and the Port Vale lad, it was 6:20 in the evening, it was the most poignant and heartfelt rendition I’d witnessed and been part of, of the day, true Blues defiance, spirit that will never be broken, we lose, we’re still Blues. The Arsenal v Man Utd game wasn’t holding my attention anymore though, and deciding I’d had enough, said T’ra, vowing to see everyone up in Preston.