Well with another fruitless lockdown foisted upon us, it’s back to the treasure trove of memories. At least my life keeps changing as it bounces along the bottom of humanity. I don’t know if it’s a legacy of going cartwheeling down the escalators at Vauxhall station on my head, due to depression, or it’s just an age thing, but I get quite vivid, random flashbacks. They’re random, because they’re not in chronological order, and also, because they happen without any triggers whatsoever. Whatever the reason, I find them amusingly interesting. Well, I am the star of the show after all. I just don’t get hoards of autograph and selfie hunters chasing me afterwards. So, back I go to the day after my lads fourteenth birthday. It was originally going to be played on John’s birthday but Sky in their infinite wisdom, had decreed the game sufficiently appealing to their captive armchair audience, and had moved it to a 4 o’clock kickoff, the following day, a Sunday. Well what had been happening then? I was still working a night shift at the same place, still living with Gayle, and still seeing Bryanné. I was however… bored. Really bored. Being in a suspended psychological state, doesn’t do my mental health any good. Although I didn’t realise, the only thing that was keeping me from falling deeper to the point of utter despair was being in control of the boredom. By the following Christmas, I would be having to mentally piece myself together again. Much much worse than I had needed to after Mandie all those years ago. I digress. So what of Blues then? Well with the spectre of a Chinese takeover hovering over the club, Steve Bruce, not feeling safe in the managerial hot seat, had jumped ship to Wigan. Although I could understand the reasons why, and wasn’t really too disappointed as I thought he should’ve been sacked well, well before he actually resigned, I did wonder who Blues would get lumbered with. At the time, I thought Alex Mcleish’s appointment was a coup and a half. I was genuinely excited. Spurs away was to be his first game. The Sky decision had been made before the appointment. In retrospect, it was probably inspired, but I’m sensing much more luck than judgement. At the time, I was doing most of the away games with Badge, Johnny Rafters, Andy ‘Poo pants’ Paterson, Brendan Todd (His kids at a home game) and Toddy’s extra marital interest, ‘Army Karen’ at an away game. I’m not entirely sure what precisely was going on between Toddy and Karen, but something was. Other protagonists included ‘Ticket’ Mark, so called because of his job in the Blues ticket office and access to the more harder to get tickets. ‘Plymouth Steve’, and ‘Donny Karen’. Both nicknamed after the places they lived. I in fact, was known as ‘Telford Sid’. To some, I still am. Toddy had decided to drive down to London……in his work van. Now because of a lack of safety, I should’ve been concerned. As a father, I should’ve been appalled at the idea of travelling all that way in the back of a van. Of course I wasn’t, a game is a game for an addict, how you get there and back is pretty much irrelevant. It’s actually much more important that you get there at all, than it is to get back. Me and John got the train over from Telford on the Sunday morning and after picking up a few things for the trip, waited outside the Anchor to be picked up. Poo Pants and Toddy arrived and mentioned they needed to pick up Rav and Karen. Fine by me, I just thought the more the merrier. They picked up Karen first and unsurprisingly, she went in the cab. Johnny Rafters on the other hand, wasn’t as easy to rouse and it took some time to wake him up, let alone, for him to actually get ready. After saying his hello’s, he flopped out on the floor of the van, and went back off to sleep. To keep himself occupied, my lad always took his PSP with him everywhere he went. I watched his progress on it. Rav finally surfaced and we chatted, whilst John carried on playing his game. Eventually, the van came to a stop and the door was flung open. We’d arrived, blinking in the sunlight. We walked to the Antwerp Arms where we met up with Badger. Greatly outnumbered by the home support, there was still small pockets of Blues in there. I can’t recall what fight it was, but it had been in the early hours of the Sunday morning, and Toddy, Karen and Rav had paid to watch it on Sky Box office. At one point, both Karen and Rav fell asleep. They were like bookends. We were in the pub for the 3rd round F.A.Cup draw. We all chose a club we would be drawn against just to see who would get geographically closest. I can’t remember who actually got closest, but it wasn’t me. I was just pleased that it was a ground I hadn’t been to before. In the January of the following year, I dragged John to Huddersfield.
None of us really gave Blues a prayer, mainly because we never do well at White Hart Lane. Spurs hadn’t been doing particularly well, but were doing better than us. Going into this one, a solitary victory at a woeful Derby, was our only win on our travels, though a 0:0 at Anfield was celebrated like a win. We parked ourselves on the back row and settled down to watch the game. (Stood up, of course) It was to be a fairly end to end game. Most of it at the Blues end, but we managed to take the lead from the penalty spot after McSheffrey had been upended. He got up, dusted himself down, and put us 1:0 up. It was a lead that we were to keep until halftime. All we needed to do in the second half was kick it as far as we could into the stand or preferably, over it. Even if the stands at the old White Hart Lane were quite steep. 8 minutes into the second half and we were losing. Robbie Keane with a penalty and then almost immediately, he’d put Spurs in the lead. It looked in all purposes that we were doomed to another defeat. How, I don’t know, but somehow, Cameron Jerome eeked out an equaliser. Jerome was an infuriating player. He had all the ingredients to be international class at least. His game lacked something in between the ears though, and so those ingredients continually got wasted on the wrong recipes. It’s very rare to see, let alone have in your ranks, a player who has the right combination of talent, composure and brains. Talking of ‘screw loose’ Robbie Keane was another with bags of talent but with the wiring not quite right. He launched into a tackle that looked from where we were, to be bad, but Spurs were at home, Keane had scored twice, and if I’m being a really pessimistic paranoid, Blues never get good decisions. Surprisingly, he was shown a straight red. So a draw then. We’d get another point. Good chances came and went. That draw still looked nailed on as the game entered added time. Larson managed to rob a Spurs player and then from fully, 25, 30, 35, just the other side of the M25, he hit a shot that no one in the ground, probably not even Sebastian himself, believed would arrow into the top corner. Even now, after all these years, whenever I see a replay of that winner, I marvel at how well he hit it, not only that, but I’m instantly transported back to the pandemonium that eschewed in the away end, as we fell over plastic seats celebrating, picking each other up to find ourselves falling over them again. My gold chain was snapped in the chaos, but luckily, I spotted the Blues pendant that had been hanging from it on the floor and so was able to pick it up, to be fixed later. the bruises and grazes would heal too. I was too euphoric to care too much.
Badge bagged a lift in the back of the van for the trip back, and we worked (Though mainly that lyrical genius did) on his 12 days of Christmas, Ann Summers version, as we walked back to it. We weren’t stopping on the way back, so standing up to relieve ourselves in a plastic bottle was to prove fun. At one point, as the van went round a corner, Badge was almost covered in it by John. My phone started pinging with text messages from Trelayne to enquire about our progress back to the West Midlands. I was supposed to be dropping John off back in Tipton. I blagged it as all irresponsible parents do, and kept her ‘informed’ with fictitious updates. There was obviously no windows in the back of the van, let alone seat belts. To my relief, she gave up in the end, and I was able to keep him until the Monday morning on the proviso that I would get him back over to Tipton in time for him to go to school in Dudley. We were dropped off back at New Street station, tired, but happy, we completed the ‘new’ last leg home. Getting John back in time for school the next day was easy. I even managed to spin more of the yarn I’d spun the night before when I dropped him off.