Not surprisingly, life had become a lot more comfortable, and a lot less intense. I’d watched almost all the games Blues had played, made a few more friends whilst doing so, and put weight on, I’d needed to. If you want to lose weight, get yourself some nervous anxiety, you can’t beat it, the weight will just tumble off you. I was down to 8 stones when I left Mandie, healthy for a bloke a foot shorter than I was, but being 5ft 9″, I viewed drains as cattle grids for humans. The change in my domestic situation, had led to my weight increasing by 2 stone by the time this game came along 6 months later and I no longer had to cling to lampposts for dear life if there was a gentle breeze. After a number of protests, including ‘sit ins’, participated in by yours truly, Blues owners relented, and changed the locks on the door of the manager’s office. The new keys were handed to Lou Macari, who moved his bed into the physio’s room too. League form was fairly middle of the road, but The Leyland Daf Cup was a different matter, everything had gone right for us. Because of rescheduling, the games had arrived thick and fast, between February 18th and March 5th, we played 3 rounds, and because the draws had been kind to us, they’d all been at home. That famous new manager bounce had transversed from league to cup, what had been something between curiosity and ambivalence, had gathered momentum at a lightening pace. In the 1st round, the crowd had been a paltry 3,555 v Swansea, 2 rounds later, and only 15 days later, the attendance had jumped to 9,429, for the area Semi final v Cambridge. The area final v Brentford had been successfully negotiated, for the first time in 35 years, Blues were at Wembley, none of us cared what happened in the league, we were going to party. Although I stood with friends at home games, I was still going to away games on my own, this one was no different. I got the train from Wellington, changing at New Street and Doncaster, two lads got on at Doncaster and sat opposite me, ascertaining we were Blues, we got chatting. They were from Bromsgrove, a couple of years older than me and we hit it off immediately. Grimsby are the original ‘out of town’ club, similar to what Bolton is, the ground is so far out of Grimsby, it’s in Cleethorpes, the train took us through the ironically named Grimsby Town station, where far more got on than off, a few doing zebra impressions, but most sporting something in monochrome, their team were heading for their second successive promotion and were in buoyant mood, we didn’t care, we were going to Wembley. Touching down in Cleethorpes, I’d found out they shared the same first two names, by that I don’t mean they had joint custody, the tall one, an electrician by trade, always called the short one Dave, sometimes ‘Walshy’, the small one, something in the care system, always called the tall one ‘Pughey’, they asked if I wanted to tag along, so I did. They were more immersed into drinking than me, but then I certainly wasn’t expecting a hunt for candy floss either, we didn’t fancy the look of the bar near the pier, instead we chose a bar on the main sea front, where we drank and played pool, I’d got my replica shirt on underneath my coat, which I shed, to be able to play better, well better than I was anyway, it was getting a few looks from the locals, and not the admiring types, it was agreed that I needed to cover the shirt back up, a wise move, as it had got me into a spot of bother in Exeter earlier on in the season. We left for the ground after another pint, which we found fairly easily, and took position up near the front of the away end, not that the away terracing was big anyway.
There was only ever going to be one team that was going to score, and they never managed it, even the appearance of Richie Moran and Sean Francis, a couple of fringe players at Blues, in the away end couldn’t inspire anything more than rearguard action, we were the happier of the two clubs, we were content with a 0:0 draw, and besides, we were going to Wembley.
We went to retrace our steps back to the station after the match, but there were large groups of Grimsby lads waiting, but their intentions were obviously not to talk about the intricacies of the game, so instead, we followed the coastal path back. We got off at New Street, and before we split up, we arranged to meet up for Huddersfield away, I’d found mates I could go to away games with.
FOOTNOTE:- We only went and won the Leyland Daf Cup, or to give it, its proper title, Associate Members Cup. Afterwards, Stoke, finding out that he was only being paid monthly, siddled up to Macari and offered him a long term contract. He accepted, we were on the hunt for another manager. Oh, and I was back on the dating scene.