This may have been the fifth game I’d been to this season already, but couldn’t suppress the feeling of it being the first. It’s been a strange summer, even for Blues’ standards. Monk gets sacked, majority of the fan base weren’t happy, I wasn’t bothered, Monk’s assistant is put in as temporary permanent (Whatever that means) manager with the remit of producing football that’s easy on the eye, players are sold for fairly big money, (Including the marmite Jota to the Vile) rumours surface about Monk and why he was dismissed, youth team players start signing professional contracts in their droves, but until the marquee signing of Šunjic, nothing seemed to be coming in. So although I was looking forward to watching Blues on their travels again, I, like so many of my fellow ale trailers, have already wrote the season off. The previous season, unless there was silverware or promotion at the end of it, is largely forgotten by the vast majority of football supporters, everyone is filled with blind optimism, until the cracks start to appear, or maybe even Grand Canyon style crevices, that obliterate that optimism. There were loads of cricket fans milling around town, mostly English with a splash of Aussie yellow, every now and then. I myself, was on my own for this one, some were doing a beer festival at Egham, but all of us on different trains down to London. Touching down at Euston, I made my way, via the underground, to the first place on my itinerary. Sorting out an itinerary for a London trip, isn’t easy, when you’re trying to visit pubs you haven’t done before, as well as, tying them to a game. London is a sprawling mess of a place, and as stated by me before, distance inexplicably stretches, and time is squeezed. I got off at Green Park, expecting, as was advertised, to do a Nicholson’s place called Clarence. I found the pub ok, but I also found the pub wasn’t open. On the ‘Whatpub’ site, it stated it was open at 10 o’clock, it wasn’t and judging by the cleaner with her bucket, mopping the floor, that I spotted through the window, wasn’t going to be anytime soon. It meant a re-jig, so took myself off to Waterloo, to get the train to Kew Bridge.
“It’s no Spurs”
Getting off at Kew Bridge, and with the time fairly early, I went and had a look at Brentfords new ground. (I’m sad like that) I for one, don’t like new grounds, doesn’t help that I quite like Griffin Park, however, the new ground seems to already have its own character. Some grounds, it’s only the colour of the seats that tells it apart, with Brentford, you’d be able to tell, even if they tried to change the colour of the seats, just to confuse you. (Something that isn’t that difficult in my case) The second place on my itinerary, which turned out to be the first place I went in to, was the Express Tavern. A favourite of mine, though will be so close to the new ground, that as an away fan, might not get in, should we still be playing each other next season.
“Some child is missing their train set”
The bonus, was that they’d got the cricket on the TV, so not only did they have a really good range of ales, I could watch the Ashes. I had a couple of different beers whilst I watched the Edgbaston test till the lunch interval, both well kept. It was then onto a place that wasn’t open on my last visit, but from what I’d read in the London Drinker, would be well worth a visit. The Black Dog is a welcome addition to the Cockney ale scene, somewhere that if the Express Tavern becomes home fans only, I can see us going in.
“That’s not a Dalek trying to eat a floodlight”
The rest descend, as I was in the garden, first Mikey, Jinksy and his mate whose name you won’t be surprised to hear, I forgot, then Darryl, J.K., Ian and Spoons fresh from taking in the Egham Beer Festival. Ian’s one of the ones that believes we’re going to get promotion, (or so he says) and that was the talk. Goats Milk is up for more awards, though I wondered if Spoons had anymore socks to use in it. Spoons had been treated almost like royalty at the festival, stopping short of signing autographs.
“A West Ham pub according to that awful film, Green Street”
I saw Jeff, John, Andy and a couple more of the Spotted Dog crew outside, as I tried to soak up as much of the ground as I could.
Griffin Park is, or more to the point, was, one of the last remaining ‘old’ football grounds. The first couple of times I visited, the away end was open to the elements, but was slightly bigger than where the away fans get put now. It’s not the biggest of grounds, almost as if it’s a collection of sheds around an allotment, at the back of a few streets of houses, but it’s got character.
“From the away looking at the old away end, but with a roof”
The Blues last stand”
I spotted Shane, standing and chatting with him till half time, although I saw Tron to give a hug to. The game was one sided, extremely one sided, and that side was Brentford. Blues saw a lot of the ball, by that, they watched Brentford have possession of it. Brentford were killing us, hit the bar, not once but twice, they were shredding us, it was just going to be a matter of time before the home side got their season up and running, only with a rare venture over the Halfway line, Blues got close enough to the Brentford goal to gamble on putting a cross over, now because of distance perception, I couldn’t gauge how far out Pedersen was, and thus didn’t realise at the time, how brilliant the header really was, what I did know, was the header had some kind of guidance system attached to it, because the Brentford keeper was having to pick it out of the back of the net. Well I’m assuming it was the keeper doing that job, as everyone was too busy bouncing up and down, hugging each other. Football has that ability to shock you in an instant, good or bad, and as we looked at each other in euphoric disbelief, media news was reporting we were winning. Brentford went back to cutting us apart, each attack felt like it was going to be the equaliser, including another attempt that hit the bar. So Brentford had hit the bar three times, but it was us that was winning at halftime. I’d spotted the Noonans during the first half, so went and had a chat to them. I had a quick chat with Rob, but didn’t see the rest of Steph’s crew. I went back and stood with Shane for the second half, a half that pretty much resembled the first, but our defending was more organised. Camp was rarely troubled, unlike Pep Clotet, who cut a depressed figure on the touchline, maybe it’s his usual disposition, although we were winning, he didn’t look happy. All I could think, was it wasn’t the attacking, flowing, possession style football that he’s hoping to play. One thing I keep forgetting to do, is to note the time that the second half kicks off. It’s ok when there’s a electronic scoreboard or screen, but not every ground or game I go to, has got one. It can, like on this occasion, make for an anxious second half. I wouldn’t have been too upset had Brentford equalised, as it was what their overall play deserved, but I honestly believe we’re going to need all the points we can get, though I wouldn’t be too unhappy if we were to get relegated this season. I didn’t stay to applaud the players at the final whistle, I was still in shock and wanted a beer.
I saw Jinksy on the way to the Brook, another new pub for me, he was with a Rangers lad (Complete with tattoos) who’d fancied doing the game before flying back up to Scotland so he could do Rangers at Kilmarnock. He went off to get the train, me and Jinksy following a little later. I said farewell to Jinksy at Vauxhall, I was going back via Marylebone, as he was going back via Euston, plus I wanted to see if I could recollect anything at all about what happened on that certain night. After all, I was pretty much following the exact route. There was nothing as I got off at Vauxhall, nothing as I went down the steps, nothing as I went from the overground to the underground, there was nothing as I went down my friend the escalator, nothing, absolutely nothing. I thought I might have got some memory spark from that night, but nope, it’s like they must of dug it out while I was in hospital, and chucked it out with all the other hazardous waste, they have to get rid of from hospitals. Maybe it’s festering in a landfill somewhere for the rats and seagulls to feed on, poor things. I got off at Marylebone, with enough time to go to the Windsor Castle, no not the real one, but still owed by same person. It’s part of the Crown Estate, made me wonder how these decisions are made, and who by. Does she even know about everything she’s got, had she ever fancied a shift behind the bar. One thing is for sure, the beer wasn’t very well kept, so once she’s been made aware, I’d like to think that it’d be off to the tower for the cellar man, or woman, in these days of political correctness, no idea what they were called before political correctness. I got the train home, falling asleep almost as soon as I’d jammed my headphones in, only waking up when we got to Solihull. I checked the results on teletext, when I got back to the flat, just to make sure we had actually mugged Brentford, and got away with it. At least the result was easy on the eye.