10/12/94 Chester City v Blues, The Fun of Playing Away.

I was finding domestic bliss a living Hell. My son John had by now turned one. He’d learnt to walk but hadn’t mastered the art of talking. Over 25 years later and although he’s graduated Uni, is now working and living with his girlfriend, he still hasn’t mastered the art of talking. In fairness to him, my philandering did lead to him having to go to school in Tipton and then Dudley. I was still working at the same factory, but life was grinding me down. I mentioned in my last post that Trelayne is faithful. It’s something she finds ridiculously easy. I on the other hand, am rubbish at it. In all honesty, if I was a woman, I wouldn’t go anywhere near me with notions of a long term romance. Now I’m not going to attempt to try and vindicate my infidelity by some lame excuse of state of mind, I’m not after exoneration. I’m just telling a story and being honest. My depression is triggered by feelings of being in limbo. I should’ve been happy with my little lot, but I wasn’t, I felt mentally imprisoned. I was forever spending too much time walking around my memories, at a life when I felt free, instead of relaxing my mind, focusing on the present and just enjoying it. A memory that I kept going over and over again, was of the time when I was seeing the last girl before Trelayne. Gayle had been in her last year at School when we met, she’d been 16, I’d been 23. Legal but not really morally ethical. Her Father was a copper, her Mother had found out, and had threatened to tell her Father unless Gayle broke off the relationship with me. Because of that, it was unfinished business, an itch that needed scratching. Somehow, it was the same feeling on both sides, and Gayle had got back in touch. She knew the domestic situation with me and Trelayne, she also had history with her. There was an unhealthy amount of animosity between them. Gayle had now escaped the parental clutches, she was working, living with a mate, had possession of a car, she even had a mobile phone. To say my head was turned is an understatement. Though in reality, it wasn’t exactly screwed on properly in the first place. Right, that’s a bit of background to what was going on with me domestically. Since the demise of my beloved bank of terracing, I’d migrated to the brand new, plastic seated, concrete dust covered Tilton stand. We’d tried to keep the group that stood together, but unless you buy tickets together, that doesn’t happen with seats. Me and Paul ‘Tin man’ Edwards managed to get season tickets together. Not only had the terracing gone, but so had The Wrexham. We’d shifted to The Brighton, a little further down the Coventry road. In all intents and purposes, the group was breaking up, even Pughey had stopped coming down the Blues. Now, if there was ever anyone who was built for domestic bliss, then it was Pughey, and he’d snared himself a girlfriend. Me and Paul became close, and by extension, Mandy his girlfriend, and Trelayne became friends. Paul and Mandy had stopped at mine on the Friday night, before me, Paul and Mandy, (Trelayne couldn’t come with us, she was helping out at her Aunt’s pub with a wedding reception or some similar thing) caught the train up to Chester. (They’d built themselves a new ground in their home city by then.) It was on the train that I was finally able to admit to Paul and Mandy what the situation was, I’d been dying to tell them since we’d met up the previous evening. In retrospect, I was putting them in a horribly awkward position, but like with the selfishness that goes with this sort of thing, I was totally unaware of others feelings and was relying on their compliance as friends. I’d made them co-conspirators without realising it. We hit the lovely, historic city of Chester, one that was teaming with Christmas shoppers. We weren’t there in search of presents though. We went into a wine bar and I bought the round. I asked for a pint of lager, to be snootily told, “We don’t do pints. We only do halves or two pint pitchers. I shrugged my shoulders and dismissively retorted that “I’ll have a two pint pitcher then”, as if it was nothing, expertly filling the half pint glass I was given at the bar, I preceded to down it in one. I wanted to show off, immature, I wanted to prove a point, some kind of warped masculinity. We moved on to a more traditional pub, albeit one that was serving lunchtime meals to shoppers needing sustenance before they re-engaged in an afternoon of jousting with other like minded, armed with rolls of shiny wrapping paper. A figure entered the place, a figure that both me and Tin man knew well, but hadn’t seen since Peterborough away, 91/92, at least I hadn’t, Paul actually hadn’t seen him since the previous home game to that. He hadn’t been expecting to see us, let alone us him. Sean was the Irish lad I described in my post for Stoke away of that season. His mother had become badly homesick and had dragged Sean back to Newry with her. Sean had developed homesickness pangs of his own, but as he’d smoothly adapted to a life enjoyed in Brum, his homesickness had been for Birmingham. In the meantime, he’d done well enough at school to get a place at Liverpool University. The financial resources of a student being what they are usually, he’d only been able to get to the Chester game though, but here he was, and he was making damn sure he was at least going to make the closest Blues game to him, so he was. We got a taxi to the ground.

Chester’s ground is unique in that it’s half in England and half in Wales. I hadn’t brought my passport with me. Mainly because I hadn’t got one, and still don’t. The home end is actually in Wales, so you can have the scenario of Chester playing a Welsh club at home, yet the away fans can be in England and the English home fans can be in Wales. Chester had given us two sides of the ground. Just like they had in Macclesfield. We were in the seats on the side. We were positioned just over the halfway line towards the Chester fans, so without getting a map, compass, tape measure and finding out for sure, it’s quite possible we were in Wales. Blues had been making good progress in their quest to bounce back to the First Division, the owners had still got that ‘new purchase’ enthusiasm and had been busy accessorising it. With each home game, we’d checked the progress of the Kop stand, the crowd seeping into the bits that had been passed by Health and safety. Fry was still enjoying himself spending the owners money, and had assembled a side that was gaining plaudits. Barry being Barry, continued to add to it. We were evolving at pace, it was exciting and we’d all been seduced. As games go, this was one of the most ‘one sided’ I’ve seen. It wasn’t whether we were going to win, but by how many. With us attacking the Blues fans in the ‘English end’, we poured forward from the off. Liam Daish scored the first from a header. The second didn’t arrive until just before halftime but how it took so long, was down to desperate Chester defending, bad finishing and the luck falling to the home side. Claridge managing to slide in a rebound to make it 0:2. The second half was just as easy as the first half had been. A rare Steve McGavin goal but great finish, made it 0:3. Any forlorn hope that Chester could get back into the game, was extinguished. On another day, it could’ve been double figures. Tactically, Barry Fry’s football philosophy was, if you score 5 we’ll score 6. At the level we were playing at, it was more than adequate. The team had evolved so much, that Kenny Lowe, Fry’s first signing for Blues only a year earlier, was thankful for a cameo appearance. Lauded by Fry at the time of his signing, Lowe was supposed to be “The Glenn Hoddle of Non-League”. It was one of the few of the many transfer gambles that Barry made, that didn’t work. The appearance of Kenny Lowe getting stripped off, ready to enter the fray, meant that Fry knew the game was won. Other than he was as slow as a lamppost and even a tortoise could leave him for dust in a race, Lowe had good touch. He could actually pass a ball, though I wouldn’t have rated his chances in a 50/50 challenge with a shop window mannequin. Chester had visibly given up by now. Watching Kenny Lowe score the fourth showed that. “Even Heskey scored” refers to the dominance England had over Germany in Munich on September 1st 2001. This game deserves the tagline “Even Kenny Lowe scored”.

We came out of the ground, not having a clue how to get back to the station. Thankfully, we didn’t need to, the taxis of Chester had dumped their payload of Christmas shoppers and knowing that there were a load of similarly lost Brummies to fleece fares out of, had headed to The Deva. We got the train back to Shrewsbury and part two of playing away. I’d arranged for Gayle to meet me off the train. She may have had a mobile phone but I was never going to at that point. It would’ve continually been going off with Trelayne on the other end for a start. We came out of the station, Gayle and her mate Liz were waiting in the car outside. We all got in and me and Gayle kissed. As a wind up, she was playing ‘C’mon on you reds’, on the car stereo. Man United had been in the recording studio. The two girls thought it was highly hilarious, but for me and Paul, it had as much impact as playing the theme tune to ‘Coronation Street’. Three minutes later, we were in the pub anyway. I can only assume Gayle was attempting to show off, as we could have walked, the pub was that close. It all felt false, we weren’t connecting. It didn’t help that me, Paul and Mandy were on the come down from the game, Gayle and Liz were fired up for having a night on the town. It didn’t feel right. I kissed Gayle goodbye, said T’ra to Liz, and the rest of us got the train back to Telford.

FOOTNOTE:- Firstly, On the Sunday morning, we drove Paul and Mandy back to Brum. Something happened with Trelayne though, the sun came out. I’ve no idea why her post-natal depression lasted so long, or why the dark clouds finally decided to leave the poor woman alone, but I instantly felt guilty. Me and Gayle fizzled out almost immediately. Even though I was suffering from, and trying to cope with my own depression, to use an Americanism, I needed to step up to the plate. The me and Gayle saga wasn’t over, it was just put on hold for a couple of years.

Secondly, Blues ended the season with two trophies. A certain amount of Blues fans call it the ‘double season’. For me, the double is winning the top division and the FA Cup. As we’d played in the FA Cup that year, I don’t recognise it as ‘the double’. Winning the league we were in, meant that we were promoted and thus, couldn’t defend the trophy the following season. That’s not the true double for me. For me, that season was a great season, winning the league and getting promoted on the last day of the season, was fantastic. (Because of reconstruction of the divisions, only the champions of that league gained automatic promotion, the next 4 clubs had to fight it out in the playoffs) Having a day out at Wembley and winning the trophy with a ‘golden goal’ from Paul Tait, who then pulled off his top to reveal THAT t-shirt (It’s believed that the Zulus clubbed together to pay Tait’s subsequent fine), again, was amazing, but it was just 2 trophies. Unprecedented for Blues, but no double.

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