In these days of limited crowds, I’d been over the previous Sunday to secure tickets for this. I don’t trust the postal service round where I live. That’s no disrespect meant towards the postmen I know like Russell, Nick and the mob from down the Blues, but none of them deliver my mail, and I’ve had stuff go missing and had things that should’ve gone to another flat within the building come through my letterbox. It’s happened enough times for me not to request things sent to me. It was a satisfying feeling finding out a little later on in the week, that the tickets had sold out. Not so satisfying, but extremely annoying was hearing the news that our clown, sorry, Mayor, has decided on implementing a local Lockdown on Brum as of Monday. At least we were able to escape on the day of the game, just two days earlier. After what now feels like a standard walk into town while this rubbish is still getting strung out well passed its sell by date and a scoot round town to get lottery tickets and my train tickets, I arrived at the Welly before the doors were opened. I was soon joined by Darryl, and a now compulsory chat about virus fallout and the eschewing restrictions. Some will see what’s in place as necessary measures, they’re not, they’re unnecessary restrictions. Mind control of the masses. Darryl was off down to watch Banbury United, but was having a pint first. Taffy soon joined us. He remarked on the wisps of hair growth that was hovering at the corners of the barmaids mouth. I really hadn’t noticed, distracted by other things. Oh please, not her chest. I was on about her many tattoos and dyed green hair. Other than the unfortunate makings of a rather substantial moustache, she’s has that feisty emo/gothic thing going on. Enough to distract anyway. Taking the glasses back to the bar on our way out, I couldn’t help stealing a glance. Whether she’s noticed, or even cares, Taff was right. The thing is, now he’s mentioned about it, I won’t be able to look at the poor girl without checking out the progress of her top lip. We caught the train to Wolverhampton. They’re in the process of redeveloping the station and very much like how confusing New Street was, when that place was being redeveloped, it’s baffling. I would love to plonk any one of my fellow siblings, all who remember Wolverhampton in their youth, there now, each would be more disoriented than I was, and believe me, I was totally stumped. It was a relief to hear a familiar voice, it belonged to Jinksy. He announced that the Great Western wasn’t opening its doors before midday. The next option would’ve been The Lytch Gate, but as we tried to make sense of the layout, it was Jinksy’s turn to hear a familiar voice shouting him, he turned to see a bloke with a Northern Ireland tracksuit top on. It was obvious there was a Rangers connection just from the tracksuit top. He was having a fag outside the door of the Sunbeam. It’s a Green King Hungry Horse venue, but neither me nor Taffy minded going in for a beer and a natter. The tracksuit top did indeed have a Rangers connection, it was how Jinksy had got to know both Jim who was wearing it, and Jarrod, a young Black Country lad who I learned had no other allegiance but Rangers. The five of us just generally chatted, ribbing each other as lads do, after a pint, we went our separate ways. One of the reasons why I was intent on taking in the Great Western, was its off centre location. I was expecting the restrictions to be fairly relaxed and reasonable, oh how wrong I could be. We entered and were confronted by a woman in a visor, who proceeded to tell us we had to wear a mask on the way to our table, the now mandatory hand sanitizer I was expecting, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to have my temperature taken. Least I think it was an electronic thermometer. it could’ve been a gadget to see if there was still life going on inside my head. We were to make our choices of drink and we were then ushered/ herded to a table we liked the look of, whilst a barmaid poured our drinks. The pints were brought to us, but we weren’t allowed to take them off the tray. So what are they going to come up with next? A customs style doorway we have to walk through that checks our DNA? A strip search before walking through a tunnel that blasts us with gallons of disinfectant?
Taffy ordered a dish of gray pays n bacon (As they pronounce it over there.) Family legend has it that my mother banned my father from having it. Apparently my Dad loved Gray peas and bacon, however, it didn’t like him, and soon after eating a plate of it, it was coming out of the opposite end to the way it went in. I’ve never had it myself, but on that legend alone, I’m not sure I’ll take that chance. Taffy’s did smell nice though. Maybe as a precaution, I might have to tuck my jeans into my socks. After a couple of pints of Batham’s Bitter, we got the train to Shifnal, I can still glance out of the carriage window at any time while it’s going along and know exactly where we are on that line. We got off, walked down through the carpark to the unfortunately named Aston street and walked into The Anvil, we wrote down our contact details, including inside leg measurements, a complete record of all schools attended from first day attended to leaving day, family linear going back four generations and obviously blood type. A quick squirt of ‘sheep dip’, and we were then able to have a drink. Though we weren’t trusted not to spray our bodily fluids all over the bar, cat style, and our drinks were brought to us. it’s all very ‘continental’ this table waiting malarkey, and for some, it’s a welcome addition. It’s not that I don’t trust the waiter/waitress to get the order right, but I like, have always liked, and always will like, watching the barmaid/barman pouring my choice of beer with a building anticipation. It’s satisfying, adds to the experience for me. With most places, through no fault of my own, that’s been taken away from me.
we walked the short distance passed Idsall School to the ground. Those of a certain age, will understand the significance that the school has had to many a professional footballer in a period of time that was also significant to the F.A. if you’re intrigued and want to know more, then look up about the now defunct F.A. School of Excellence.
We gained entrance to the small ground and I went to get a programme, only the last one was sold just as I went to buy one. This was where the confusion started,
Neither of the teams were wearing red and white stripes. Had I been able to purchase a programme, we might’ve understood that the kit design had changed. You would think that the colours the ground was painted in would be the big give away.
One team were playing in blue and yellow hoops. So who was who? We decided that because of the colours the ground was painted in, the team playing in those colours were Shifnal. The team in red scored, it was a local derby with no segregation, some but certainly not everyone, cheered. Still no real clue to who was who. We settled for the lead being taken by Bridgnorth. It was a lead that easily made it to halftime. Straight after the restart, Bridgnorth increased the lead, or so we thought. It was only after they scored a third, that Jinksy discovered that the team in red, were actually Shifnal. So the place of my birth were getting thrashed. Taffy was never going to miss the opportunity to, light heartedly, admonish me for not knowing. I had actually wondered if I would feel any kind of allegiance towards Bridgnorth, in truth, I hadn’t. I spent less than a quarter of my life there and looking round at the crowd, I wouldn’t have recognised anybody anyway. At 3:0 you would’ve thought the game was over but for the referee blowing for time up. You’d be wrong, Bridgnorth carried on pushing forward. It was the F.A.Cup after all. (Plus it was nice to finally know who was who) an excellent through ball led to the out rushing Shifnal Town keeper taking out the on rushing Bridgnorth striker (And I don’t mean for a romantic candlelit meal either) As the striker lay prone on the ground and recieved treatment, the keeper was shown a straight red. (Or maybe a blue and yellow, I’m not too sure. Either way, he was sent off) In Non-League, you haven’t got the gigantic matchday squads the fulltime professional clubs are fortunate to have at their disposal, and it meant that an outfield player had to take over in goal. It was ‘old school’ and made for extra excitement. We wondered if this would be a significant turning point. All the good work of compiling a 3:0 lead up in smoke. Whilst the outfield keeper was still finding his bearings, Bridgnorth struck a goal that would probably have beaten the ‘normal’ keeper. Was it to be the great comeback? You’ve guessed it, no was the resounding answer. Shifnal not only closed ranks and defended well, but they even managed to restore the 3 goal buffer in one of their sorties over the halfway line. It knocked the stuffing out of Bridgnorth and instilled a cast iron belief in the Shifnal team, that they were going to be in the hat for the next round. The referee confirmed it with the fulltime whistle.
Shifnal isn’t exactly awash with decent boozers anymore, it used to be. It’s more of a ‘dormitory’ town now. I wouldn’t hazard a guess at how many of the working population of Shifnal work in the ridiculously close ‘New Town’ of Telford, but would assume it’s a ludicrously high percentage. It’s still got enough character for people to still want to live there, but social trends have eaten away at the old habit of meeting and drinking in pubs. There really was only one choice left to us, The Plough. The barman, or was that barmaid, was camp, and I don’t mean the recent custodian between the sticks at Blues either. For whatever reason, you never have a laidback ‘Queen’, in these days of Covid, he appeared to be more ‘uptight’ than usual. It was duly noted by the three of us, and we pounced. Our particular brand of sarcasm did the trick of de-stressing the lad as opposed to distressing him, and at least he seemed to relax enough to appreciate the sarcasm, as he broke into a grin. We moved out to the garden. The young of Shifnal were out early to enjoy themselves and to take in the Premier League game that was being shown on the television, as we chatted between ourselves, every goal was being cheered as they watched the game. Blues had won 1:0, a result I fear will be the norm. Not 1:0 to Blues primarily, but just 1:0. If goals are your currency, then avoid games involving Birmingham City like the plague, or Coronavirus in fact. We left the Plough, left Shifnal and headed back to Brum. Taffy bailed when we touched down, maybe the Gray pays n bacon was starting to weave its mischievous magic. After last week’s and this week’s experiences with all the different restriction interpretations each pub has, there was only ever going to be one me and Jinksy were going to head to. Now Andy Street has decided on his version of Lockdown, I suppose as I sit here writing this bile, the Bull has had to fall in line with the rest of the bed wetting paranoia, but last Saturday, it was the only place we were going to be able to truly relax and feel like we did pre-virus days. Darryl had beaten us there, well it was Darryl after all. After catching up on how Banbury and Shifnal was, he headed off into the night. In these days of individual social bubbles, spontaneous conversations with perfect strangers has been suffocated to death. The Bull is an oasis in a desert. A place where it still exists and flourishes. I should in all honesty, be devious and claim that the Bull isn’t actually the pubs name, that it’s actually called something completely different just in case there’s any snoops reading this. Spies who will inform the Covid Gestapo leading to the place being shut down,……….or have I already done that?????? Me and Jinksy got into a conversation with a couple of perfect strangers that chances are, won’t ever happen again, about conspiracies and national identities……..or did we?????? Those photos on here could be elaborate fakes, the days events just figments of my vast imagination. Aitor Karanka’s football is still boring though, I couldn’t make that up without my mind exploding out of sheer protest. I vanished, leaving clues of my presence that only a trained eye would be able to detect, but still said T’ra to Jinksy just before I left though. I will pop up soon somewhere else………or will I??????