First of all, the owners of WordPress who I write this rubbish on, have revamped their site and it now has a new format. I have no idea why as it was perfectly fine as it was. It will mean that I will probably make a right hash of things until I’ve worked something out that I’m content with. Progress is only progress when the thing you were using has broken beyond repair and what replaces it is actually better. Otherwise, you end up wasting far too much effort trying to vindicate the new thing being half as good as the old thing. We, as human beings are obsessed with the new. Seduced by the bright, shiny and sparkly. What we really need is something that just works. If it’s not broke, don’t think that you need to fix it. If you do actually follow this trash, then you will see that there’s a fairly large jump in dates between this pile of garbage and the last. First and foremost, money had still been an issue. I’d only actually managed to get to 10 games in between. it certainly wasn’t down to not wanting to go. At the time of this game, money had become a lot easier, but it had taken quite a few twists and turns to get there. Les had moved out, it wasn’t because we’d fallen out or anything like that. Far from it. I honestly can’t remember the ins and outs of why he was able to get a council flat but it was something to do with the kids. In lieu of paying maintenance to Trelayne, I’d agreed to sign the house over to her and keep John in school uniform. Her and her new bloke, also confusingly called John had got married, had got a kid of their own, and had decided to move to be closer to his parents. I was now having to travel over to Sandwell and Dudley by train to collect him. I desperately needed more money just to survive. I learned of a job on nights at the place I worked. It was one I had to apply for as it was on a completely different line. It was back on manufacturing. Luckily, I got it. My life was very much step forward, knock back, step forward, knock back. Running as fast as I could just to stand still. The Bryanné situation had cooled again, the excuses were always plausible. The times we were able to see each other were becoming further and further away from each other. The truth is, when you need to talk about a situation like this, you turn to the one person who you feel able to talk to. Unfortunately, she was that person. Might sound utterly cliched but I felt lost. Lost is a symptom of limbo, limbo is what triggers my depression. I was just discovering that little gem. I hadn’t quite had that light bulb moment yet. I’d worked out that up tempo music, ie dance, had a good effect and also walking where there was a panoramic view was good. I was a long way off from where I am now, but I was a good leap forward. I at least had Mom who knew exactly how I was feeling to unload on but I never truly felt able to tell her about anything but feelings. There was still and always would be that parent child relationship where the child likes to keep secrets from it’s parents. Even with life having changed, I was missing Blues, missing Brum. I talked to Les about it. Found out he felt the same. We both harboured ambitions of moving there. Again, I don’t know the ins and outs of it, but there had been a huge disagreement between him and his ex-wife, the upshot was that he wasn’t allowed to see the kids. Les came up with the solution of me moving in with him so we could save money. It proved to be a good idea. Exactly 4 years to the day of moving into the place in St George’s, I moved in with Les in Madeley. I gave up on Bryanné, she’d given up on me or whatever, it just wasn’t happening. I sort of hooked up with Gayle, or more to the point, she was feeling locked in with her relationship. She loved the bloke she was living with, but he was a work shy layabout, it was dragging her down and she was trying to find a way out. Just as I let my guard down and thought we were going to make a go of things, alas, it was her turn to see her toxic relationship to the bitter end and so nothing materialised. It didn’t matter, I’d now got a little extra money to lessen the blow. Money that I was able to watch Blues with. So what about Blues? Well first of all, Francis had gone. The working relationship between him and the board, especially Ms Brady, had soured worse than leaving a litre of milk out in the summer sun, and he was sacked. The appointment of Steve Bruce wasn’t cut and dried. It wasn’t an appointment I was particularly happy with. At that early stage of his managerial career, I questioned his loyalty. We were to be his fifth club in 4 seasons. He’d resigned from Sheffield United citing a disagreement with the board over transfer funds, after just a season. After early promise at Huddersfield, had made a hash of things and had been sacked after two seasons, spent only two months at Wigan before resigning, and now after only 6 months, wanted to jump ship at Crystal Palace to come to us. Not that I liked the opinionated, sun tanned, flash suited owner of Palace, but I could understand Simon Jordan’s indignation. Jordan rightly or wrongly, went to court and won an injunction to stop Bruce taking over the reins at Blues with immediate affect. Bruce was put on ‘Gardening leave’. Ironically and given what was to transpire, a bad move, Jordan appointed Francis to replace Bruce. After finally being allowed to start at Blues, things went (For Blues anyway) stratospheric. From mid table, Bruce got us into the playoffs. Only this time, after 3 consecutive years of failure at the same stage with Francis, the fourth year with Bruce was to prove fruitful. You won’t be surprised that I missed out on the playoff games, including the final, or couldn’t afford the 149% hike in season ticket prices. I had managed to get to 4 games in that first season in the Premier League. Missed out on the first league derby game at St Andrews for 16 years. Sullivan and the Golds now saw the opportunity to claw back some of their money as the cash tills rattled. They’d cleverly split the home fixtures into 3 groups and for an upfront fee, you were guaranteed a seat somewhere in the ground for those matches in group of choice, the money was taken out of your bank account when that particular match came up. Neither me or Les had enough money for season tickets, but could afford this legal money making scam. The group we’d plumped for, was the one that guaranteed the derby game. A derby game that had been moved. Both the previous seasons games had been covered by Sky Sports, and in their infinite wisdom, had scheduled the games for an 8 o’clock Monday evening kickoff. It was inevitable that there was going to be aggravation been the two sets of fans. I’m not going to go into vindication or condemnation here, that psychological little beauty is for another post. The fallout from those two games led to every league game between the two sides being played at 12 o’clock on a Sunday by instruction of the West Midlands police. This game was the first to come under that instruction. The police also put restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Me and Les caught the first train we were able to get on a Sunday morning to Brum and with a heavy police presence around the city centre, made our way to The Forge. At the time, it was owned by a Londoner by the name of Maureen. She’d had the place for years. Very much like Maureen, the place was getting a bit tatty and old looking, but was reliable. I honestly don’t know if it was true and it was just a way of getting round the alcohol restrictions or if it was Maureen’s chance to get rid some of the stock that was gathering dust, but although she was able to open, she wasn’t allowed to sell cask or keg from the bar until 12 o’clock. It was either top shelf or alco-pops. It was of course, better than nothing. It was also only allowed to be sold in plastic glasses. At the time, it was a novelty, these days I see it as an assault on my civil liberties. Again, that’s the potential subject for a future post. (That’s if I get the hang of writing on here again)
I’m really not impressed with what they’ve done to this if I’m being honest. The older I get, the more I feel I’m being marginalised. Perhaps I need to learn how to become a sheep and embrace the new, bright, shiny and sparkly. Discarding the things that work perfectly well. Consumerism is king and all that malarkey. We were definitely on the up as a club, not only had we done ‘the double’ over them lot, but we’d finished above them too. We’d exceeded all expectations. Nobody had given us a prayer of staying up the previous season, and not only that, but (For Blues a anyway) we’d gone off like a steam train. We were essentially still a first division team that was punching way above its weight. The spivs that owned us, were only really shelling out enough to paper over the cracks, the rest, they were pocketing. Us fans were still basking in la la land. Waiting for that hand on the shoulder from the bouncer, to chuck us out of the Premier League. Going into this one, we were favourites to beat our near neighbour’s. The ‘favourites’ tag is never something that sits right attached to us. The overpriced seats that had been allocated to me and Les were on the first row of the Kop just over the halfway line towards the Tilton. I so wanted to be in the Tilton but at least I was in. I’ve never enjoyed watching a match from near the pitch. Not because you’re more in danger of being hit by the ball, but I prefer a more panoramic view of the play. Whether my appreciation of this game would have been enhanced had I been further up the stand isn’t certain, but all I saw was a team that had been set up not to lose and a team that hadn’t enough quality and tactical nous to penetrate the away teams two lines of defence. The only things of real note to come out of this game, was a failed ‘Rabona’ unsuccessfully executed by David Dunn on the edge of the Vile penalty area, that was to be forever vilified by numerous television replays. Never ever is the sublime piece of skill he performed just before his discrepancy shown, only ever him falling over his twisted legs. The only other things were bookings for both Christophe Dugarry for us and Juan Pablo Angel for them lot. Two bookings don’t usually catch my eye, especially in a derby game. A good derby game should have at least half a dozen bookings in it, otherwise, it’s not been a ‘proper’ derby. The thing that struck me with the, only two bookings, in this game, was that it seemed the referee had something against players with long hair, as the only two that were booked, were the only ones with long hair. It could of course, be just innocent coincidence but as any suspicious/paranoid copper will tell you, there’s no such thing as a coincidence. So 0:0 it ended, the only winners were the local constabulary. At least our unbeaten run carried on.
We went back to the Forge because we knew it would be serving properly and it would be open. The run might have been extended, but we both felt flat. I for one, will continue to hate 12 o’clock Sunday kickoffs. Regardless of whatever lame reason, us fans are trampled over again and again.
FOOTNOTE:- The season was to finish with us in our highest position under Bruce. Expectation started to creep into the thinking. Higher profile players such as Emile Heskey and Darren Anderton were brought in on big wages. it was an awkward transition.
The extra money was coming in handy, though the ambitions of moving to Brum were to remain unfilled. Well, for now anyway.