With the forecast predicting rubbish, I wondered whether weather could be dodged or I would finally have to bite the bullet and get a public Covid taxi in to town. Luckily by the time I’d managed to make myself something like presentable, the rain had abated and I took the chance of walking into town. I made it there without getting wet or having my temperature taken and being subjected to a strip search. I got my ticket for the train to Lye and walking down Corporation Street, I spotted Badge. Not something that was at all difficult. First of all, he’s got a distinctive walk, secondly, it wasn’t like there was many people around anyway but what really sealed it, was the camouflage coat he was wearing. Great if you’re in a rocky desert kind of setting, but surrounded by glass, brick, concrete and tarmac, not so good. He’d have blended in better had he been wearing a hi-viz jacket, and been carrying an industrial sized taser, complete with a electronic thermometer hanging from his belt. There’s hundreds of them around, ‘advising’ you where and where not to walk. There’s at least as many of these stormtroopers as there are people, possibly even more. He was on his way to Manchester and a district known for real ale called Chorlton cum Hardy, I walked down with him towards New Street station and we bumped into Daryl who turned tail and carried down with us. Badge went off to get his train ticket, I split to go and get a lottery ticket. Just as I got to the Welly, Darryl came round the corner. He was off on a later train to Worcester and a ground hop there. Once in after the doors had been opened, we were soon joined by Steve. We chatted about the ground hopping we were doing and possible upcoming trips. It truly is a nightmare trying to gauge whether it’s worth trying to go further afield with local lockdowns, late postponements due to positive virus results and gaining entry due to ticketing and attendance restrictions. The hoops we’re made to jump through is tiring. Alan joined us on his way through to watch Halesowen at Hednesford. At least I was able to share what I’d learnt from a fortnight ago. The joy of ale trailing and ground hopping has been squeezed to such extent that it’s taking all my resolve just to find a game to go to on a Saturday. Trying to plan any further ahead is nigh on impossible. We split to go our separate ways, me and Steve got the train from Snow Hill to Lye (As it was insistent on telling the truth, it took much coaxing and a fair amount of bribery) Getting off, we were confused by two signs that seemed to conflict each other’s information. One was for the Sadler’s brewery and the other for the Beat brewery Tap. Turned out that neither of us had spotted the opening times anyway and when we did find the Beat, it wasn’t quite open. The Windsor Castle had been advertising that drinking was only outside, with it now raining, we were relieved that we could actually sit inside without having to have a meal.
In contrast, except for the stormtroopers that do absolutely nothing during the day but stand there telling you where to go, with table service now enforced, the staff in pubs are having to work twice as much as they were in proper circumstances. The Windsor is a pub I actually wouldn’t mind going to when things stop being rubbish. As is the Shovel.
There was actually more than just these, there were loads more. Knowing that Steve is a fan of jigsaws, I called him over to look. The place had a locally brewed ale on that was based on the famous Batham’s called Bathum’s. A nice play on words, it even tasted very similar to the great brew itself. The pub was another one I’d like to visit in much better times. A very cosy, homely pub. It was onto the game.
I’d actually wanted to do Lye Town ever since talking to the Dad and Lad ground hopping team I met in Darlington. I wasn’t disappointed.
I could’ve easily have taken more photos. All I’m going to say, is get down there and see for yourself. Daryl had been going to watch Worcester Raiders, Lye were playing Worcester City. When we moved over from Bridgnorth to Telford when I was a kid, and the only way of breaking into the Football League was by election, Worcester City who were still playing at St George’s Lane, were one of the biggest Non-League clubs if not the biggest. Telford who were also one of the biggest, regularly pulled in crowds of around 1,100, Worcester City regularly pulled in around 500 more. Only Yeovil pulled in similar sized crowds. The difference was that Worcester had an idiot as a chairman. He was offered what he thought was a good deal for the land that the ground was built on. Unfortunately for the club and its fans, the idiot thought buying another plot of land and getting planning permission afterwards would just be a formality. The money didn’t prove to be enough and the club began a nomadic existence. The money dwindled away due to having to pay rent and income shrank. The adverse effects has caused the club to slip down the pyramid. They still have a large following but not the size it was. On paper, it should have been a win for Worcester, but the now ancient cliche states, football isn’t played on paper. As we took in our surroundings, we noticed people with pints but couldn’t see where they were getting it from, Steve deducted that they must’ve been bought from the clubhouse which was situated just outside the turnstile. He checked with the operator if we could go and get one. The lower you go down the Non-League pyramid, the more relaxed and accommodating club officials are. it makes for a much better experience in many ways. Of course we could go and get one. Even with visiting, approaching, 200 grounds, I’m still pleasantly surprised how nice watching football at this level really is. Behind the goal was mainly Worcester fans, behind the other, was just a grass bank and it was raining, so we pitched up underneath the stand towards the halfway line. What we thought were Lye fans, were mainly Worcester. We ascertained that Lye were outnumbered by 2 to 1. It seemed to be the other way around on the pitch because Worcester didn’t fancy defending. At one point, it looked like Lye were going to score everytime they got within 30 yards of the Worcester goal. As Lye raced into a 3:0 lead, I got talking to a lad stood next to us. Turned out he was a fellow Bluenose. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one living in that part of deepest, darkest Black Country, and there was quite a knot of Royal blue. it was heartening to hear. We moved back behind the goal for the second half. A half where Worcester managed to claw one back but in doing so, were reduced to 10 men. As they congratulated each other, a Lye player jogged back to confront them and ended up on the floor. It was quite bizarre. The now indignant Worcester lad walked off in front of us and received a fair amount of stick for being sent off. Lye easily restored their 3 goal lead with a fourth and if they had really wanted to, could’ve pressed home their advantage with more goals. As the embers of the game were dying out, we walked past the player who had received his marching orders, briefly stopping to ask the still kitted up lad, his take on what happened. The instigator of the incident, the one who had ended up on the deck, used to play for Worcester, unbeknown to the player who had been sent off, there must have been some ‘bad blood’ and he wanted to enquire what. We didn’t stay to find out.
as the rain continued to fall, we went back passed the station to the Beat brewery.
Although I hadn’t ever heard of the brewery let alone had anything from its range, I was impressed not only with the beer but the set up too. We did however, leave it slightly too late to get the next train back to Brum, and we saw it pulling out, just as we got to the incline down to the platform. As in accordance with the law of sod, the next train had been cancelled. We decided to go back to the Shovel. This table service law for pubs rules out movement and means pot luck when it comes to getting a view of the telly to watch whatever game is on. I love watching football in the flesh and that won’t ever change, but I’m fast losing interest in televised football. It used to be quite an enjoyable experience in proper times to watch it in the pub, but not anymore. Instead of it being a focal point, it’s now just on in the background. We left the Shovel just in time to get the train back to Brum, though we had to put a little bit of a jog on. When all this is over, and life returns to what it should be, I can quite easily see myself taking another trip over to Lye. Touching down, we went to the Post Office Vaults where Daryl was already holed up. Steve left after one and Badge joined us. Just before the bell went, Daryl and Badge left to get the public Covid taxi home. Just as the bell went for last orders, the pub went deathly silent, you could hear the curfew sirens from outside. With worried expressions abound, I drank up as fast as I could and tentatively exited the front entrance, ducking into the shadows of a shop doorway as a gunship slowly drove past. I watched as figures scattered in all directions trying to escape. A middle aged couple unwittingly timed it wrong, seconds earlier, they’d been holding hands, maybe out for an anniversary meal, as they attempted to run, a bunch of storm troopers threw a giant net over them and they were bundled into the back of an armored ambulance. It sped off. I moved from doorway to doorway, shadow to shadow as figures were mown down with tasers. Scared for my life, I wondered how the Hell I was going to get home without being shot by a Covid Gestapo tranquilizer gun. As gunships with their flashing blue search lights cruised round I managed to evade detection by cleverly disguising myself with a series of hastily assembled makeshift outfits, including a traffic cone, a concrete bollard and a wheelie bin. If anyone survived Saturday night and remembers seeing a bush crossing the Birchfield Road, chances are, it was me.