3/5/80 Blues v Notts County, The Die Is Cast.

This new affection for Blues had been growing, I was still a Liverpool fan, but the idea of supporting Blues, was becoming more and more seductive, even at 11 years of age, I knew it was sacrilege to change your allegiance to another club, and in our family, it was an unwritten rule, that you couldn’t support the same club as anyone else, so divorce was taboo but it was something that needed to be done. Blues only needed a point going into this game, the last of the season, to secure promotion back to the First Division, just a season after relegation. We took Raffles, the family dog, for a walk, well more of an excuse to go and have a kick around on the Bridgnorth Endowed school fields really. Whilst we killed a bit of time before needing to get the bus to Wolverhampton, I announced to Les, that if Blues got promoted, I’d become a Blues fan, the incredulous response took the wind out of my sails. As we cleared up the makeshift goalposts, and put them back on a few minutes later, I admitted that even if Blues didn’t get promotion, I’d decided to become Blues. In truth, Blues were more fun, and I wanted to embrace and immerse myself in that fun properly, no dipping my toe in, or paddling with my shoes and socks off, I wanted to dive in fully clothed. Again, it was met with scepticism, but I wasn’t going to be put off, ‘Can I borrow a scarf?’, a request that was refused at first, but as we left the house to get the bus, I asked again, but this time, reluctantly, Les relented, and I was given his blue and white bar scarf (His least favourite). Getting to the ground, I didn’t need a scarf, the amount of fans queuing, was enough heat. The crush got more and more, as we approached the turnstiles, but it was nothing compared to Shrewsbury, and besides, I was a veteran of it now. Unlike Shrewsbury, once through the turnstile, I could move my limbs again, a new terrace song had sprung up, to one of the tunes from ‘Jungle Book’ it caught on like wildfire, a packed Kop kept itself amused by singing it, whilst we waited for kickoff. There was absolutely no room at the top, so Les found some towards the bottom of the huge terracing, the Tilton looked even more packed solid than the Kop, it was a sea of baked beans again, the West Ham game on Easter Monday had been a big crowd, but this was the biggest I’d been in so far in my young life.

I actually do remember a lot of this game, although, in all fairness, it wasn’t a bore fest. Blues raced into a 2:0 lead with the second, a brilliant free kick from Alan Curbishley, things could not be going better, ok, so maybe 3:0 would’ve been better, but 2:0 is a good lead to have when it’s the last game of the season, and there’s something hanging on it, but this was Blues, something I’ve learnt over the following years, they don’t do things the easy way. That 2:0 lead was wiped out by an emerging County, 2:2, but just before halftime, Kevin Dillon made it 3:2, of course it was going to go the right way, nothing to worry about. Half of the Notts County support in the away end, and there wasn’t many in the near 34,000 crowd, were Blues, County had sussed this out, and stayed quiet, they knew that New Street station was a long walk back into town, even longer when you’re not sure of where you’re going, longer still, when you know you’re outnumbered by a whole host of nutters who knew the streets and roads better than you did. Second half brought an equaliser for Notts County, and with the beer wearing off, Jeff Wealands made two excellent one on one saves to keep it at 3:3, anxiety didn’t just creep in without making a sound, it marched in accompanied by a complete orchestra, including whistles, as the game headed towards fulltime, the whistles grew louder and louder, imploring the referee to blow his for the last time, the little bit of space that we’d been able to find, had vanished, as more and more fans had made their way down in readiness to run on the pitch to celebrate.

The final whistle was met by delirium, as thousands of Brummie Skinheads poured onto the pitch, I remember wondering if it was allowed for you to go on the pitch, and found it both exhilarating and liberating as me and Les jogged on, joining the throng, congregating below the director’s box. Bold headed youths clambered on top of the executive boxes and up into the top tier of the main stand, replacing the regulars who sat in there, and thus, bringing the average age down by at least 40 years. We sang and danced, until a half attired first team appeared in the director’s box to the acclaim of jubilant fans. I’d never felt so connected, so alive, so rebellious. Supporting Liverpool wasn’t a patch on this, this was real. Walking around on the pitch, looking up at the stands that surrounded it, I couldn’t help wondering how it felt to play in front of thousands, playing in front of thousands on what was basically flattened mud, there wasn’t any grass in the centre circle, hardly any on the wings, if I was in awe of players before, I definitely was looking around me. I started picking as much grass as I could, stuffing it in my pocket, I wanted a momento, proof that I’d been on the pitch, none of my school friends had had that privilege. I don’t how Les was feeling, but the end of season adrenaline rush I had, was something I would experience on a regular basis with watching Blues. Something that is truly addictive and there’s nothing like it. On the train back to Wolverhampton, I bumped into a friend and his parents, that lived in the same street as us, I parted with some of the grass I’d picked, putting the rest in an empty crisp packet.

FOOTNOTE:- The grass didn’t last long, I came home from school the one day to find out that my mother had thrown the crisp packet with my new found treasure inside, in the bin. To her, it was rubbish, to me, it was more valuable than the crown jewels, in hindsight, she was right to, it would’ve only have led to a life of parting with hard earned money, on more and more bizarre memorabilia.

The very next school holiday, the half term break at the end of May, I took myself, and my saved up pocket money, to the best sports shop in Bridgnorth,  (The other one was rubbish, and had not long opened up) to buy a Blues scarf. Among the other clubs scarves on the display stand, was the only one on sale in the whole of the town, my eyes lit up, I didn’t care that it had dust on it, (I’m not even joking) and was given a discount without even enquiring, I would’ve paid double.

The Liverpool scarf that I’d got, was bought me by my sister Val at my second game at the Molyneux, Les never missed an opportunity to point out that, even with the new purchase, I’d still got it. During the summer holidays, symbolically, I launched the scarf and Liverpool badges I had, off the Castle Walk. I was Blues.

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