21/9/19 Blues v Preston North End, Bell And Ball.

Coming out of the flat to get the bus into town, I couldn’t help wondering where on earth the glorious weather that we’ve had this past week, was Hiding during the summer. It was late September, and I was just in a T-shirt. (Don’t reach for the sick bucket, I’d got jeans on too) I made sure I was in the draw for the Lottery, and got my advanced tickets for the train to and from Wigan, before finding out, I was the first of the ale trailers in the Wellington. Darryl came in sporting a baseball cap, something he rarely does. I could hear a voice I recognised, but also a voice I wouldn’t readily associate with the Welly, I carried on chatting with Darryl, before the owner of the voice revealed himself to be the person I suspected. Martin, a Blues lad I’ve known from Lee Clark days, who now lives in Preston. We briefly caught up, before he headed off to a pub that hasn’t ale. JK came in, joining the conversation about claiming refunds for train tickets, using the tinternet, something I really must get my head round using more. It would help if I actually had the enthusiasm to understand it all better, but I don’t, and I should, though can’t see it happening, as it is, I still pat myself on the back for writing this blog, even if it is absolute bile. We moved on to the Head of Steam, where Spoons was, though even with Steve joining us, the trailers were looking sparse for a home game for once. The upcoming trip to Derby was naturally a subject that came up, Derby, after Norwich, being the best away day for ale, it just so happens that there’s a beer festival at the nearby town of Belper, we worked out if it could be done in time to make the game. We’ve all done Derby many times, and it’s not like any of us will ever get bored, as there’s so many excellent boozers with ale, but tying in a festival, makes it all the more interesting. It will depend how many of us ale trailers will be up for it on the day. Kilda gave me the chance to clear my palate, and I chose a raspberry sour, it did the trick very nicely, Ian was already in there, when we got there, and Rich came in a little before we split, to either Digbrew, or Clink.

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“More scenery for the Rap Game, I suspect”

With Clink closing, I was determined to visit it, before it did. Ian’s not a huge fan of the bloke who’s taking it over. I’ll give it a go, but fear that it’ll be one that’s lost to us. I’d grown to like the Clink, it made for a good little stop off on the way to the ground, because of where it was, was pretty much, undiscovered, and so you never had to battle to the bar to get served, and the range was always varied. Like a closing down sale at a shop, so the Clink was too, I had a pint for the same price for 2/3s, and both Ian and Spoons had pints of an imperial stout for the price of halves. Jinksy, Taff and Aida landed, as did Russ and Nick. With an ex player of ours meta morphing from a armed drug dealer into a pastor, Taffy told us of something that happened as Steve Claridge was saying farewell to his team mates, when he’d signed for Leicester. Most of the camaraderie that surrounds squads of players, doesn’t make it to common knowledge, this was one that didn’t. At the time, there were ‘strong’ rumours circulating about Otto and his dalliance with the narcotics industry, even before what he went on to do after his football career had finished. Claridge, or Cleggy as he was known, had got his girlfriend with him, the players who were on their table, waiting for the girlfriend to go to the toilet, they then cajoled Cleggy into asking Otto for an ‘eighth’, saying  that Ricky would ‘get’ the joke, unsure, reluctantly he did, the girlfriend came back, and while Cleggy is building up to pop the request to Otto, the rest of the lads, tell her what he’s doing, but they alter the story enough, to make out that it was Cleggy doing the offering. Otto is beside himself with anger at the suggestion that he’s taking, let alone dealing, and makes a scene, Cleggy comes back to the table, where upon the girlfriend slaps him full round the face, que explosion of raucous laughter from all in the know, when which the prank was revealed. I made the last journey I would be making for a while, from the Clink to the ground, late as usual.

I’ve got every reason to dislike Preston, as our recent history against them has been vastly more favorable for them, needless to say, we seem to struggle against them, I don’t dislike them, but as what is turning out to be an almost guaranteed bi-seasonal occurrence, we were struggling again. I like David Davis, he’s an honest player, but he’d picked this game to be honestly rubbish, it meant that effectively, we were playing with a player light in the midfield, a department that you really need everyone to be on their game. It was one of his mistakes that led to a free kick in a potentially dangerous position, I say potentially, as the lower you go down in football, the less chance of a free kick ending up in the back of the net, sometimes you just know that you’re going to concede a goal from a particular move, sometimes you think you will, sometimes you just know, I can’t explain why, as I don’t understand why, but you just know. You stand there (Because even if you’re seating down, you instinctively stand up, not always because of the Mexican wave of the first row of the stand getting up, causing every row above doing the same in turn) but you stand there, hoping that what you ‘know’ to be wrong, the free kick wasn’t one of those that would kill someone, it the net wasn’t there, but then it didn’t have to be, it hit the post, Maguire reacted quickest, and Preston were 1:0 up. Alex Neill is a wise manager, he’d done his homework on the referee, after taking the lead, every opportunity that his Preston charges had, to writhe round on the ground with a fake injury, they took it, the referee gullible enough to fall for it, and call for the physio, thus wasting as much time, as they could. The official gave me the impression that he was a bit of a namby pamby. The disruptions did nothing to help Blues find any fluidity, vice versa in fact. Halftime came and went, with Justin calling for Bellingham to be replaced by Maghoma, but as Davis was having trouble passing wind, let alone anything that remotely resembled supply, it wouldn’t have made a difference. There are times with Mags, that I’m not unconvinced, that he hasn’t found where Otto used to stash his ‘gear’. When the referee halted proceedings for a drinks break, that’s when I knew the bloke was a namby pamby, it was the 22st of September, not as if it was a pre-season friendly at the start of July, even given our missing summer. After the usual sequence of substitutions, the last being Davis, we did manage to put the ball in the net, the whole of the Tilton celebrated, me included, only for Steph to burst my bubble, by pointing out that the linesman, or aptly on this occasion, the referee’s assistant, had his flag up. Like I’ve stated, I don’t dislike Preston, and their delaying tactics, hadn’t altered that, and I haven’t been converted from using Clot for his proper name yet, but I’d wanted to win this one, more than I usually do with a run of the mill game. Even the chances that fall for you in added time, the ones that give the game a rousing ending, were lightweight.

As it was closing down, it was back to the Clink, where us ale trailers, rifled through the last of the stock, it was when it came apparent that the reason that Darryl had been sporting a baseball cap, was that his hair needs cutting, and he was hiding the fact.

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“Spoons and his newly acquired bespoke drum machine”

As the beer took effect, the bitterness of defeat evaporated, to be replaced by the banter that passes between us, too funny and rapid to try putting in this. I’d miss more than I took part in, if I tried to take notes, and I need the notes, because I never remember everything we say, do, and laugh at. I said T’ra to the Clink, and all the ale trailers that were in it, walking up into town to get the bus home.

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