With England already winning 7:0 in the rugby World Cup semi final, I ventured out in the rain. 7:0 in rugby is effectively 1:0 in football, so nowhere near as impressive as a 9:0 away win, which is what Leicester had just inflicted on Southampton. There’s a paper shop near to where I get off the bus in town, well there was, it appears to have shutdown, which is a real shame, as it used to open at 5 o’clock in the morning, and always had a good range of magazines and snacks that I could get for the train, when I either went ground hopping or up to Edinburgh, independent shops in Brum are disappearing far too quickly for my liking, the city is rapidly losing its uniqueness. I walked up past The Welly, in the off chance that it might’ve been open early to show the rugby, it wasn’t hoping that the Pint Shop was, it was. Rich was already glued to the action when I got in there, and I joined him. The next in, I wasn’t expecting to see, well not for the rugby anyway, Spoons handed me an old whisky bible that he’d promised me, something that we’d chatted previously about. Even better, England won, it did however, mean the prospect of England and Wales playing each other in the final, next Saturday, when Blues are in Cardiff. The WhatsApp group I’m in was buzzing with plans of where best to watch the game and best trains to get. Match over, I joined the rest of the ale trailers next door in the Welly, where the conversation continued, listened to by a bemused Paul and his Baggies mate. With plans very much up in the air, depending on individual speculation, I went and met LJ and Shannon at New Street station. It would be the first time I’d met Shannon, though LJ now lives with her, had I been a much better father, I certainly would have already met the poor girl, especially as they’ve been together for a year now. I’m not paternal in the slightest, struggled with it from day one, something I don’t really understand, because I actually get on very well with him, let alone naturally love him, like a ‘normal’ parent should. We went in The Windsor, a place that Shannon knew, a place that I hadn’t been in for a very long time, if ever, as I wanted the upheaval of meeting me, to be as smooth as possible, Ice broken, I dragged them to the Head Of Steam, where the beer, and range is infinitely better, though we couldn’t find anywhere that we could sit in comfort, the conversation flowed. I kept one eye on the Man City v Vile game, and one eye on the body language and reactions between LJ and Shannon. What I saw reassured me that the relationship is solid, a mutual awareness of each other that was pleasing to see, pleasing to hear, something that wasn’t put on for my benefit. Time will tell if it’s going to be a long term thing, but from what I’ve seen, I can’t see it not being. Not only did the conversation flow, but the time flew too, and although the offer was forthcoming, getting an Uber with them, would’ve meant me getting to the ground too early, and I wasn’t up for that. I finished off and walked down the old Anchor route to the ground, timing it roughly the same as we used to, when the pub was good.
“Sabbath on a Saturday”
It had been over a decade since we played Luton, I’d forgotten how much I disliked them. They’re a narky kind of club, the first and only club to permanently ban away fans, and the second to install an artificial pitch, back when artificial pitches were awful. The away end had no roof, something they rectified when they banned away fans, when they did resume allowing away fans, they stuck them in, what is, one of the worst experiences, an away supporter can have. As they hadn’t played us for a while, and had at one point dropped out of the league, in between, they had for once, brought a fair amount of fans. Blues are really starting to play the way that the owners would like, attacking football, that is eye candy. The type that Barcelona made famous with Xavi and Iniesta under Pep Guardiola, don’t get me wrong, it’s nowhere near as good as that was, but under a different Pep, it’s nicely taking shape. It carries on like this, and instead of not being bothered about making kickoff, I’ll be racing to the ground, to make sure I do make it in time. It’s been far too long since I’ve truly been entertained by a Blues team, sure, it’s always nice to win, but to be entertained, is something that I’ve looked on with envy, when another team is playing football that I will Blues to play. The chances are starting to come now we’re playing a higher line, pressing teams further up the pitch, where we can play around and through teams, the movement off the ball making it easier for the player on it. We had to wait until virtually the last kick (or header) of the first half, to go ahead. Pedersen heading home, unmarked, from close range. On the way back from the toilet at halftime, I caught up with Pete, and also Rob, both, like me, are basking in the football we’re playing. In 45 minutes, we’d played better football, than in the whole of Rowetts tenure. I could’ve easily have brought a book to read, under Rowett, but with the football that Pep has got us playing, you don’t even get chance to take your eyes off the game, just in case you miss a great pass or piece of skill. As the second half wore on, it was apparent, we needed another goal. We’re not yet in a position where we are taking more of our chances, and as such, the opposition has always got a good chance in them to get back into the game, Pedersen slipped, Harry Connick, (Not junior) made him pay. 1:1. The only time you remember how old Bellingham actually is, is when he starts to tire. He is after all, a boy in a man’s game. I like how Clotet is handling Jude’s progress, he’s pushing him, but mindful of not pushing the lad too much. He’d lasted longer, but was correctly withdrawn, but not until after the winner had been scored. Dean headed it back across goal to that particular area, and that particular head. 2:1 Blues, the Juke with only his third of the season. You could have forgiven a team having retaken the lead at the late stage they did, for just smashing it out of the ground at every opportunity, but for the final few minutes, it was still controlled, still forward thinking. It had me staying till the final whistle, and wanting more. I’m not delusional enough to believe that Blues are going to go and get promotion, or even make the playoffs, but I am enjoying the football we’re playing and am looking forward to more of it, I also believe that we’re going to win more games than we lose because of it too. I’m far more optimistic than I was when Clotet was manoeuvred into the position he holds, but in reality, I’m just enjoying the experience of watching Blues again.
As I was waiting for my Son and his girlfriend to come out of the ground, I saw and heard nothing but happy expressions and positive chatter as fans poured out, past me. Winning isn’t everything for me, I’d rather lose when the football has exited me, than win but feel guilty, because we’ve committed the football equivalent of a mugging. We went back to the Spotted Dog, and because the pub gets packed straight after the game, and I wanted to carry on getting to know Shannon a bit more, not the usual third degree kind of interrogation type of thing, I’ve never done that, but more the hope of getting her to relax more. She wasn’t standing on ceremony by any means, but I did want her to feel comfortable, like she wasn’t on trial, as meeting parents is never easy, especially if you’re already emotionally invested in their offspring. After a pint, we walked back into town.
“They must’ve stopped feeding the bloke”
I left them to go and catch the train, vowing to go and see them in Coventry, before getting the bus home.