Picking The Bones.

From a time when I could’ve played my ribs like a xylophone, (Had I had any musical talent of course, which I don’t.) to a time where I’ve conceded defeat to baldness, I’ve had fun with life, and life has, at times, got its own back, and has had fun at my expense. There’s still more to come, but what, when, where, why and who with, I’ve no idea. It’s just passed the 3rd anniversary of my head surfing at Vauxhall station. I still have absolutely no recollection of it. My last memory is still one of getting on the train at Brentford, the next was waking up in the head trauma unit in hospital. Even the recovery struggles are starting to become faded memories. Not that I’m trying to dispel the memories of struggling. However difficult and ultimately frustrating those struggles were, it’s always good to have them to use as a gauge. They keep you grounded. If I’m being completely honest, I’m enjoying being back to how I was before it happened. Whether that’s a good thing, remains to be seen though. It’s hard to think now, that it really happened at all. It did obviously, but with no lasting effects to hold me back, those memories are now in the bottom of the wardrobe. It was a struggle, and I really didn’t let on how bad I actually was. I just coped. I’m a right obstinate so and so, I won’t and don’t give in to anything if I can really help it. I knew that if I was going to recover, that it would take hard work and patience. I still know I was lucky, I could’ve easily have ended up in a wooden box. I know that if I wasn’t the person I am, that I could’ve quite easily have played on my injuries, that I could’ve used it as an opportunity to malinger. I’m not one of those people, never have been. I’m far too independent. I can say, although I wouldn’t actually recommend it, recovering was interesting, especially the first year. I’m not going to go into details, but it was lucid and unpredictable. Well this pandemic has stretched on a while now, and being able to do what we all did before the world exploded into chaos is getting closer, it’s got a sell by date to work to in this country. The next 4 to 6 months is going to be limbo still, but the back end of the year should be better than the whole of the previous 18 months. I never thought for a second we’d have had to go through all this, and I really haven’t enjoyed it. Anyone who has read this rubbish on a regular basis, can attest to that. I’ve delved in the memory bank to keep it going with no ale trailing and ground hopping to keep me entertained. I’ve done the life story thing, done the ground thing, the media thing with the pink paper, how football supporting has changed, it’s down to the heading now. I’d better go back to the beginnings again. It all started on the 6th of July, 1968….. Don’t worry, I’m only joking, I’m not really going back to when Mom was wishing disposable nappies had been invented. I did deliberate over whether to categorize different flashbacks but decided against it. It’s going to be more little flashbacks than whole days though. I’ve got over 4 decades to go at. It’s weird what makes an impression on you as a child. It’s even stranger that those memories can last a lifetime whereas there’s things you’ll have done yesterday that you simply can’t remember doing. The first game I ever watched, I don’t remember too much about if I’m being honest. I know the score, and who I went with. I remember sitting on my brother’s shoulders for a lot of the game, I remember hearing the singing at back of the South Bank, but couldn’t see who was singing as it was dark at the back of the terracing under the roof. I know we caught the bus from Bridgnorth to Wolverhampton, but that’s about it. The second game I’ve got more memories of. Same two teams as the first game, but it was more exciting. Why? It was a night game and I was allowed to go because it fell during the Easter school holidays. I remember getting the bus again, but my sisters had swapped. Val is like me in that she still gets that ‘buzz’ before a game. We met her from work, as her job was in Wolverhampton, that I remember, I also remember the huge cloud of cigarette smoke hovering over the ground but beneath the floodlights. Oh and didn’t those floodlights make it all look magical. A header from Alan Hansen won the game 1:0 for Liverpool. (I didn’t even need to look that information up, it’s etched.) I remember Val buying me a scarf and I slept with it under my head that night. Then Les took me to Blues. It was the first game for Trevor Francis back at St Andrews. I was a neutral, Blues weren’t my team (Though they would be.) Nottingham Forest were a great side at the time and Blues were poor. There was an air of inevitability that Blues would lose and the gallows humour was something that struck me. The thing that really took my breath away, was getting to the top of the steps at the back of the Kop, and seeing a lush green pitch in front of me. This is where childhood memories make such an impression. That pitch seemed to glow. I went to one more game that season, the last one with relegation already confirmed. The gallows humour was evident again and the game had no goals, (I’d be surprised if anyone would’ve scored if they were still playing now.) The one thing that stood out from the day, was someone selling programmes for the Arsenal v Manchester United F.A.Cup final on the walk back to town, and a Blues fan trying to grab one as he walked passed, the vendor just managing to swipe them out of harm’s way. With the Wolves ground not being ready due to their massive new stand still being completed, Les took me to Blues v Fulham, the first game of the season. Halftime, Blues were 3:0 up. Promotion and the Second Division championship trophy already looked assured. Fulham swapped their winger to the other flank, it was a catastrophic move for Blues. I remember the disbelief, disappointment and dismay around me. Although a mere novice with the game, it seemed surreal, Blues 3 Fulham 4. I remember Les talking to a Blues fan in Wolverhampton as we waited for the bus. The bloke was in a suit and had been working so hadn’t been able to get to the game. He’d been trying to follow on the radio. I remember him asking Les what had happened, what went wrong. Little did I know, but I was getting sucked into the Blues thing. There hadn’t been any camaraderie at the first two games at the Molyneux. It felt different. I went to one more game, a drab 1:1 with Bristol Rovers before not getting to a game for another 6 months. I’ve already written an account for Blues v Shrewsbury that season. The run in to the season was eventful. West Ham on the Easter Monday was 0:0, but it was a game full of those end of season nerves I was to get many times since. The things that stuck out, was walking through a ghostly Bullring market that was obviously shut with it being a Bank holiday and the crush at the turnstiles to get in for the 3 o’clock kickoff. It wasn’t the last time, but it was the first. 5 days later and we were off to Leicester. That was a game full of memories. Not the match itself, I saw very little. I remember the football special train, I remember turning up to the ground to find out it was all ticket. I remember the thousands of Blues Skinheads who had travelled. We got into the ground late, and there simply wasn’t a way through to somewhere I could see. I remember at the end of the game me and Les being grabbed to safety as the departing surge would’ve trampled us under foot, me for definite. Luckily I didn’t end up part of the tread of someone’s Doc Martens. It was here that I encountered my first taste of police ambivalence towards football fans. On the way back to the station, and with the locals baying for blood, we saw a couple of Blues fans cornered on top of a industrial sized boiler outside of what looked like a school. Leicester fans were throwing rocks and stones at the lads, as more locals added to the barrage of missiles aimed at the two on top of the boiler. Their plight seemed hopeless. At the station, we were told by the police cordon that had been thrown round the concourse, that they weren’t going to let us through, we’d have to walk round. Thank you for all your help constable. I was small and young looking for my age, what exactly were we going to do? We didn’t exactly look like your average trouble makers. The promotion game versus Notts County, sealed my fate. 80/81 back in the big time, but as a Blues fan.

FOOTNOTE:- Not the longest post I’ve written for this blog I know. I could give a list of reasons, (Excuses!) but I won’t. Won’t exactly make it any longer anyway. What I will say is there’s more to come. Much more. The only other guarantee, is that it’ll be true for how I remember it. Whether it’ll be entertaining and/or amusing, I really can’t guarantee.

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