I can’t remember falling asleep on the Friday night but I know I woke up the following morning under a blanket on Pughey’s sofa, well, his parents sofa. it had always been the plan to stop there, but just not crashed out on the sofa. The previous day, I’d met up with Walshy, drank in the bar at the top of Smallbrook Queensway again, we’d got the bus to Bromsgrove, met up with Pughey and gone on the Friday night pub circuit. Apparently, I’d crashed out whilst chatting to his Dad. The bizarre thing, I felt fine in the morning, and polished off a plate of bacon sarnies while Pughey, feeling the affect from the circuit, couldn’t face anything. Picking up Walshy, we set off in dense fog. Adhering to safety protocol, we sped down the outside lane at a pace that would’ve had even an adrenaline junkie shutting their eyes and praying. Games were getting postponed left right and centre, though I’m not sure speeding down down the motorway as fast as we did, played with the anxiety that came with Pughey worrying about our game falling foul, or he just loved driving fast. I’d never been to Bournemouth before and couldn’t drive anyway, so I was hardly in a place to argue over his driving. Obviously we made it there though, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to write this, now would I? We parked up at a Harvester somewhere on the edge of Bournemouth. Not my kind of place, then or now. If nothing else, it’s something that 1991 me and 2020 me can agree on. It had been agreed to meet Birdy in there. He was travelling down from Atherstone with a pair of brothers, Bryn and Craig, surname Morris. Spotting us as they came in, joined us. Back in those days, my palate was extremely basic. I was a finicky eater. There was nothing on the menu that appealed to me, so as the other 5 tucked into what they’d ordered, I just carried on drinking. It was decided that it would be easier to leave one of the cars we’d travelled down in at the Harvester, and all pile in the other. So the six of us crammed into Pughey’s car. Craig stuffed one of Walshy’s cassette tapes in the player, (If you don’t know what a cassette tape is, then you’re far too young to be reading rubbish like this) Ragga filled the air at full blast. Not really trying to appear racist in any way, shape or form, and actually just only mildly observant, it was a form of music that was in its infancy, and synonymous with the poorer areas of inner cities that ethnic minorities predominately inhabited. As like Ska had been before it had been ‘discovered’, Ragga had been hijacked by youth who thought it ‘cool’ as it was seen as ‘underground’ and nowhere near making it into the ‘boring’ mainstream Pop scene. We got to the ground, and not knowing where the away fans were allowed to park, we advised Pughey to ask a steward. As he wound down the window in readiness to enquire, the steward pre-emtted the question, just motioned for us to carry on passed the home carpark that we were in. At the time, we thought it odd, how did the steward know we were Blues? But in reality, the bloke didn’t even need to be one of Bournemouth’s premier detectives in the local constabulary, let alone reside at 221b Baker Street, London, be Smoking a pipe and be sporting a deer stalker. We parked up, and like a giant reverse game of Tetris, gingerly extricated ourselves one by one from the car.
“not so much the number of ‘The Beast’, as just an animal”
There’s been a few games I’ve been to over the years, where I’ve looked at a pitch in disbelief as to how it’s been passed fit to play on. Sometimes I feel that the safety interests of the players are ignored in favour of commercial revenue and police advice. This should definitely have joined the long list of casualties of games that had succumbed to the weather. I’m not saying that Blues would’ve won the rearranged game, or even had the pitch been actually playable, but it should’ve been called off.
“Swap green for a huge, heavily starched net curtain that’s somehow been dipped in a massive vat of cooking oil, and you get an idea of the conditions”
As players tried to get to grips with the conditions, many doing impressions of either Bambi, or Frank Spencer on roller skates (Seriously, if you don’t know who Frank Spencer is, then put this piece of garbage down and step away from it before it does something irreversible to your mind. You really are too young and I’m not going to be held responsible for all the therapy you’re going to need.) Matches played under these conditions inevitably reduce players to farcical levels of performance. It really is down to whoever can keep their feet the most successfully. It does however, turn some players that normally have extremely limited ability into world class ones, as they not only adapt the quickest, but inexplicably thrive. It’s as like they were born to play football on an ice rink, but not specifically, on grass. Bournemouth managed to take the lead and 1:0 was how the half finished. We equalised fairly early in the second half through Jon Paskin, a South African journeyman of a striker, who Wolves had palmed off on loan to us, as we were struggling to search for an affordable uninjured player whose stocking trade was to score goals. Either he, or Wolves should’ve been done under the Trades Description Act. As goalscorers go, he wasn’t one. A sighting of Haley’s Comet was less rare than a Jon Paskin goal. Bournemouth weren’t going to be upstaged by this momentous occasion, and duly scored the winner.
“Just another 3rd Division non-entity that will never amount to much in management. Least Blues would never hear of him again……….”
The Blues support is renowned for its ferocious backing, like the weather, it had seemed frozen. We got back to the car, where we once again, practiced our new found hobby of collective contortionism. Being the smallest, it was out of me and Walshy who had the passenger seat foot well, Walshy lost out, and he was covered with a coat, so as to escape detection from the Old Bill as we exited the carpark. We made it back to the Harvester, where we carried on drinking. Being near to Christmas, the pub/restaurant had been decorated and set up for festive parties. We’d commandeered a table to sit down at. It had Christmas Crackers laid out on it, for a dare, we preceded to pull them. I’d like to say that was the end of the shenanigans, as we harmlessly sat around the table in paper Christmas hats we’d all found in the now pulled crackers, but it wasn’t, it was to get worse…….. a lot worse. As the drink carried on flowing, only the designated drivers were trying to keep it sensible. The inebriated had not just lost their inhibitions, they’d thrown them out of the reach of common decency. After running out of crackers to pull, including crackers off other tables, bored, we shifted focus to the decor. Spotting some antique golf clubs fixed to the wall, Walshy climbed on a chair to fetch one down. He then stood on the table to practice his swing. I’d spotted a book shelf full of the type of books you’d see in a library in a TV period drama. It was next to a roaring log fire. I have no idea what the books were about, but at the time, it seemed a really good idea to tear the books up as I flicked through the pages, and feed the fire with them. (Well it was cold outside) Pughey and Bryn were vainly trying to keep some kind of order to the proceedings……and failing. The interior designer of the place had thought it would make a nice touch, and a point of interest, to have life sized models of Worzel Gummidge and Aunt Sally. (For those that should be doing whatever youngsters do these days and NOT reading this for an example of how full grown adults should behave, look the characters up on that tinternet thingy) Well anyway, Craig took umbrage to how Aunt Sally was looking at him, and he punched her. With her head now detached from her body as it lay prone in the way of the toilets, it was a que to get us out before we caused anymore covert damage and mayhem, and definitely also before the staff noticed and called the police. The trip back up to the West Midlands was thankfully uneventful and so was, for me at least, the trip back home to Wellington the day after. We’d had our fun.
FOOTNOTE:- Of the 41 games that were due to be played on the same day as the Bournemouth game, 16 were called off. These included 4 in the First Division. (What the all consuming Premier League is now) Of those four top flight games, were Arsenal v Norwich City, West Ham United v Southampton, Coventry City v Sheffield Wednesday and Notts County v Wimbledon. Stop rubbing your eyes, that last fixture isn’t a miss print.