I was getting itchy feet, really itchy feet. I had grown passed weary of Telford, the place was now well onto the stage of irritating me. There had been major changes at work, and not for the better. When I had started, there had been 3 training assessors. I was told that they were looking at increasing that to 4 and I was number one choice. It was the closest I was to get to a job I wouldn’t have minded doing. The company instead of going down that road, decided to completely revamp the department and made the 3 redundant. They replaced them with one person and he was brand new to the company. It was solely a money saving exercise. If that wasn’t enough of a blow, I was in the process of getting upgraded. That went out of the window. I was to discover that I was also earmarked for a position in Quality Assurance. That too went out of the window as that department also fell foul of cuts to the already existing numbers. There was also redundancies to the numbers working on the shop floor. The section I was on, went from 3 to 2 shifts. A drop in money due to night shift being stopped along with its allowance. I learnt of a 3 shift position becoming available at roughly the same time on another section, and jumped at the chance. So that was my work situation. One I wasn’t particularly happy with. Like I intimated at the start of this tosh, I was increasingly getting frustrated with living in Telford. I was finding any excuse to jump on a train to Brum. With my Mom now passed on, I realised that there wasn’t anything to stop me moving there. I’m independent bordering on impetuous. I’ve never been one to settle for boredom. A symptom of the depression I get, that I go toe to toe with. A mate of mine at the time, phoned me up while I was in The Anchor in Brum. I had even started to look at rent prices for places in Brum. I told him about this, and he informed me of a studio flat that was available in the block he lived in. He was actually in possession of the key to it. The wheels started turning. I arranged to view it. It wasn’t very big, still isn’t, but unless it had been a death trap, I’d made my mind up without actually viewing it. I sorted it out with the landlord, handed my notice in with the housing trust I was with, and handed my notice in at work. I had roughly 6 weeks money to last me whilst I found a job. Some things in life have extremely bad timing. My brother Les had fallen out with his girlfriend and was hoping to move back in. It was too late. A matter of a couple of days. Looking back, it was a big decision to drop everything and move to Brum, you could even see it as foolhardy. Les is now living in Essex with the same girlfriend, so maybe it was right to move anyway. Besides, living in Telford certainly wasn’t doing my psychological wellbeing any good. It took me 2 weeks to find a job. A temporary job in a tiny engineering firm in Aldridge. The wages weren’t bad. It was in the Q.A. department, and I got on extremely well with the second in command. However, I couldn’t stand the bloke who ran the department, and the bus trip was horrific. I was actually going to be taken on permanent, but as the number 2 had gone and stuck her notice in, I was off. I turned up next at a factory in Newtown. The job on my doorstep was more to my liking. It was still temporary, but temp to perm. Although on the wrong side of town, I was enjoying living in Brum more than I’d enjoyed living anywhere, including living with Trudi when I first moved in with her. At first, I couldn’t quite afford the away games but managed this one. It was the first as a resident of Birmingham. I had arrived. So to Blues then. Remember me telling you about Lee Clark having his coat taken off him? You do?…..Really? You really do need to get a life. That coat consisted of the loan recall of Dan Burn by Fulham, Kyle Bartlett by Swansea and Jessie Lingard by Manchester United. Now that doesn’t sound particularly drastic, it’s only 3 players right? They were recalled not because they hadn’t been playing for us, but because not only had they been playing regularly, but were making headlines due to playing so well. Both Burn and Bartlett were the centre of our defence. Effectively, their recall, had brutally ripped out a cavernous gap that couldn’t be and wasn’t plugged. An attempt was made of course, but was akin to putting a sticking plaster on a severed leg. Two severed legs in fact. Even Douglas Bader wouldn’t have made it back behind the controls of his plane. Using an image of a stricken plane, our plane was careening into the side of a mountain. We went into this game needing at least a point just so long as Doncaster lost away at already promoted Leicester City. Sky of course don’t give a monkey’s for fans that actually go to a game. The game, all games in the division were moved to an early kickoff so their legions of armchair subscribers, could feast on the drama. Thankfully, mercifully, there’s Wetherspoons for this silent scandal, and I travelled up to Manchester Piccadilly early enough to get in there for a beer. It quickly filled up with fancy dress clad Blues fans, loud fancy dress clad Blues fans. Alcohol had obviously been flowing on the train up. It was of course the last away game of the season. It was now traditional amongst fans to celebrate the season, good, bad or indifferent, by dressing up for it. Not everyone does it, I don’t and won’t. Not because I’m boring or think it’s stupid, far from it, it always makes me smile, but for me, it’s just inconvenience issues. However good it looks when you put the gear on, you’re going to be wearing it for around 12 hours. The bar staff were getting a bit ‘twitchy’. It was already plastic beakers only. They made the decision to stop serving because of the noise. Everytime the noise died down a little, they reopened the bar. The volume then returned to maximum. This happened twice more until they decided to shut the bar permanently. There’s not many times a Wetherspoons will close at Saturday lunch time. They were in the process of getting everyone out, when Sean came in. We moved back towards the station to a wine bar type place. It at least had real ale, but it was mainstream stuff. Sean looked up train times on his phone. We needed to move, we needed to get to Victoria. Move we did. Either plenty of the fancy dressed didn’t have tickets, or they were passed caring and were just out for a ‘relegation party’. Piccadilly was still awash with them. We touched down at Horwich Parkway with only 5 minutes to kickoff so hurried to the ground. I wanted a programme but they’d sold out. I just thought I’d get one after the game. Me and Sean split up to go where our tickets were. Mine was somewhere in the lower tier, I went up the back of it.
Although the away end was sold out, the home end, again, with what is now traditional, unless there’s something hanging on the last home game, wasn’t well populated. For Blues, it was full of nerves, eyes were on phones for the latest from Leicester. We had chances. It was like both Bolton and the referee were trying to help us out. Halftime came and went. As it stood, we were down and Doncaster were staying up. Something had to give for the things to change or go even more pear shaped. Second half started, destiny to be decided. Disaster struck just before the hour mark, Bolton went in front. The home support celebrated, their players were a little more professional and except for the goalscorer, respectful. Just as news of Leicester winning came through, it was negated by Bolton scoring a second. That was it then, Blues were down. I couldn’t see us scoring once, let alone twice. The second Bolton goal just summed us up. It had been a speculative shot that had beaten Randolph at his near post. As with typical Blues, virtually straight after going 2:0 down, we pulled a goal back. It was excruciating to watch those last minutes. Doncaster were losing, we were losing, we were down. We only needed one goal, the whole season rested on one goal. To this day, I have no idea where on earth the referee found 6 minutes of added time from. At most, there was only 4 minutes, and in all honesty, I wouldn’t have been surprised had it only been 3. 6 minutes can be a long time in football. When you’re hanging on to a lead. It feels like hours. When you’re chasing a game, 6 minutes give you hope. It galvanises a tired and weary crowd. Could we still journey on? The end of the road in terms of the season, was in sight. Was it despair and oblivion or ecstasy, relief and consolidation? Roared on by the travelling support, who were doing their collective best to suck the ball goalwards, the ball broke to Jordan Ibe inside the box, who crossed, it was intercepted, ballooning it up in the air, it fell to probably the tallest man in Lancashire that day, Zigic headed it towards goal, it was headed off the line. A lot is said about things moving in slow motion at certain times. It’s a trick of the mind of course, but slow motion it was. It fell towards Paul Caddis, who not known for his heading ability due to his diminutive stature, stretched every sinew of his body to leap up and head the ball in the net. We’d done it, we went ballistic, the euphoria was palpable in the away end. It was now that we cursed the extra minutes. Where was golden goal when you needed it? We held on. We celebrated a 2:2 draw and survival, like winning a trophy. It was a typical Blues moment.
I spent most of the short walk back to the station hugging people who I recognised or recognised me. Thoughts of a programme had long evaporated. I didn’t care. Both platforms were covered with jubilant Blues fans, some heading back to Bolton, the rest, back to Manchester and beyond. Manchester was my preferred choice as the songs filled the air. Pockets of bemused Bolton fans seemed genuinely pleased for us. Although there are certain clubs I don’t like, there’s really only one that I love to see relegated in this country. There’s no prizes for guessing who that is. Manchester is a big enough city with more than enough pubs, to be able to disappear and do your own thing. I was happy, but emotionally washed out. I know this is going to sound completely inane, but it was akin to how I felt when my son was born. Now if you’re looking at your device in disgust, (I know I would be) we didn’t know the gender of my son until he was born. All through the pregnancy, everyone and their old wife who purported to ‘know’ how to tell the sex of a kid, just by looking at Trelayne’s bump, ‘claimed’ she was having a girl. No disrespect to the female population, but I wanted a son. Superficial I know, but I couldn’t help how I felt. So you can understand how I felt when John made an appearance. Same with that Bolton game, the surprise and elation of that equalizing goal, and the relief and hope for the future was in line with how I felt back in December 93. Just as back then, I had a grin you couldn’t have got rid of, with a wood plane, industrial wire and a 12 hour operation to stitch my face into a permanent scowl. Just like when John was born, I couldn’t help telling complete strangers who spoke to me, why I was so happy. The difference was, when I told them about Blues, they looked at me as though I was Forrest Gump or Frank Spencer. (Look them up if you’re lucky enough to be too young to know who they are) Touching down at Victoria, I went in the Lower Turks Head in Shrudehill. The outside is all glaced bricks. It’s a beautiful facade. Unfortunately, the inside doesn’t match the outside. The beer wasn’t great either. I moved onto the High Street Tavern. I probably should’ve just gone to the Grey Horse in Portland Street, but I was still in a bit of a daze to be honest. I relaxed, soaked up the pubs atmosphere and tried to make sense of what had happened. The more I thought about it, the more the silly grin got wider. I walked back to Piccadilly and got the train home. Home to Brum.