A Bond Broken In The Dark.

First of all, I didn’t need to be subsidised by family anymore, the government was doing it, and secondly, I had lost Les to a domestic bliss that would turn into Hell. That’s a story for him to tell you. It’s one of girl falls for boy, boy falls for girl three kids later and they fall out. Nothing special, I’ve probably already made it sound much more interesting than it actually is. One for Mills and Boon but without a happy ending. If you think I’m being disparaging, then don’t, Les would tell you the same. First up, a night game versus Bradford City. Other than songs about the fire, and it was the last game I would see with Les for awhile, I don’t remember too much from the game. I don’t remember anything from a 1:1 draw with Derby, but another 1:1 draw with Huddersfield was slightly different. We were cruising to victory when with 10 minutes to go, a pretty innocuous cross into our box was met with an unchallenged emphatic header for the equaliser………..from Julian Dicks. If you hadn’t known any better, you would’ve thought he’d had a bet on Blues to draw 1:1. I liked Julian Dicks as a player at Blues. Not because he was the first player to play for Blues that was younger than me, but because he was a whole hearted player who had a cavalier attitude going forward. He was though, wired up wrong between the ears. He was susceptible to the old red mist descending throughout his career, but I’ve no idea what went through his head that match. I suspect he doesn’t either. Although I had a little bit of money in my pocket now, away games were beyond me. I still had that desire and new found freedom to go to matches. Wolves were now languishing in the Fourth Division. I couldn’t afford to go to Boothferry Park to watch Blues play Hull, but I could afford to watch Wolves versus Burnley. I was in to collecting programmes back in those days and I could afford to buy back issues. In the carpark behind the old North Bank, a couple of dealers used to set up on pasting tables from the back of their cars. I had picked up a Wolves v Blues one from the 50s. It was to prove to come in handy. Burnley beat Wolves 1:0. I was wearing a very distinctive jumper that I had got my Mom to knit me. Never mind the 400 Burnley fans I was stood with in the away end, I would’ve been easily spotted in a crowd of 40,000. For whatever reason I don’t know, but they let the away fans out round the pitch and out of a gate at the North Bank. As I headed for the train station, a group of Wolves were waiting on the ring road. My jumper had been spotted and I was confronted. I just showed them the old programme that I’d bought earlier and pointed out that I was hardly likely to buy it if I’d have been a Burnley fan. The fact that I’d only bought it because it was against Blues was irrelevant. I don’t remember anything from the 2:2 draw with Ipswich or even the 4:1 win versus Palace but I do remember Wolves versus Halifax. Why? Well outside the ground, I bumped into a lad I knew from college. It was also a night game. It was to be the first time I ever went in the Wolves end for a game. It wouldn’t be the last either. Oh, and Halifax beat Wolves 2:1. Halifax were the perennial strugglers of the Football League. Wolves had reached rock bottom. Two sides of the Molyneux were shut for health and safety reasons and a pair of binoculars were required if you wanted to watch from their newest stand, such was the distance from the pitch. November 1st actually brought an away game I could afford and I travelled the short distance to the Hawthorns. Saunders had bought Hoppy back to the West Midlands in a deal from Manchester City. Blues had sold him to City, but he hadn’t settled, and Baggies were closer to Brum. What do I remember from it? I remember Hoppy scored from a great shot from outside the area and then celebrating. I remember Albion being 3:0 up with half an hour still to go and us fighting back to 3:2. In the last minute we got what we all thought was the equaliser. It was cancelled out because Wayne Clarke was adjudged to have fouled Paul Dyson. The fact that Dyson had been kicking Blues players that went anywhere near him all game and Clarke would’ve needed to take a cricket bat to Dyson to foul him, is beside the point. Because of the fight back from the team, a point would’ve been just deserve. It wasn’t to be. A week later, and I was off to Shrewsbury for their game versus Plymouth. I don’t remember anything about it other than I know I went because my records show I went. Although Blues was the preferred choice, I was actually bouncing between 4 clubs. I’ve mentioned that I record League and Cup games I go to, but don’t record Non-League games. To be honest, I haven’t a clue how many Telford games I was going to, and I probably wouldn’t remember anything anyway. It was back to the Molyneux for my next game though. One I do actually remember. I went with a mate of mine. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in decades, but at the time, we were quite close. Anyway, we went in the Wrexham end for their 3:0 victory at the Wolves. That wasn’t the thing I remember the most, what I remember the most was three Wrexham lads standing directly behind us, letting off a distress flare towards a group of Wolves in the John Ireland stand. (It’s been renamed the Steve Bull stand now, but at the time, he was languishing in the Baggies reserves because Saunders didn’t rate him.) The flare didn’t reach its target. An Exoset missile would have struggled in all fairness. As soon as they’d set it off, the three lads split up. The Ol Bill descended and fanned out in search of the perpetrators. They managed to catch one, but the others escaped. A draw against Blackburn has vanished from memory as has the away game at Shrewsbury. The latter is probably because we lost 1:0 again. It was getting monotonous. Turn up at Gay Meadow, get beaten 1:0. It was almost as regular as day following night. A 2:1 win at home versus Sheffield United has evaporated. Other than knowing that John drove, Val was with us and it was Boxing Day, I don’t remember a thing about Shrewsbury beating Baggies 1:0 or a 1:1 draw that Blues had with Millwall three days later. I did say I was picking the bones, didn’t I? In my defence, it was well over 30 years ago. You have a think back to 30 years ago. See if you remember much. I’ll cut the season short in terms of Blues, besides the Millwall game, I went to three other games after Christmas, Stoke, Brighton and Portsmouth. Don’t remember a thing. What I do remember with Blues, is that Ken Weldon was cutting costs. Cutting back on everything and anything. Staff were told to turn lights off when they left a room, and even rooms that weren’t being used at all, had the lightbulbs removed. It was rumoured that Weldon did this himself. Things were bad. According to my records, only 5,007 turned up at St Andrews for the Sheffield United game. It’s possibly why the memories are sketchy. I wasn’t so much turning my back on Blues, but it didn’t make for happy watching. You tend to push out unhappy memories. It seems I’ve remembered more about games I went to that didn’t involve Blues from that period of time. Not that I was going to loads of games anywhere else, more that I’d got myself my first proper girlfriend I suppose. Testosterone was getting the better of me. In fact, after we’d hooked up with each other, I only actually went to one game whilst I was with her. Before we did though, January brought the 3rd round of the F.A.Cup. Telford drew Leeds United at home. Blues drew Ipswich away, I was never going to be able to afford to go there. Leeds had been clattered with a ban on their supporters attending away games for a whole season. By the time this game came around, fans had been allowed back, but they had to belong to the official supporters club to be in with a chance of getting tickets. The legacy is that Leeds United became one of the best supported clubs away from home. The West Mercia Police force who covered Telford games had kittens. The thought of marauding hooligans causing havoc in the sleepy town of Wellington was too much for them and they pressed Telford to move the game. The Telford United board bowed to the pressure, and they went round the clubs of the West Midlands with a begging bowl. The Baggies came to the rescue, but a midday Sunday kickoff had to be agreed. Val and John were attending a church close to where they lived, and had got friendly with a lad that served there. It turned out that he was a Leeds fan. I was asked if I could get tickets for the Telford end as getting tickets for the Leeds end was impossible due to the restrictions that had been imposed on them. it was going to take much more than divine intervention for him to meet the right criteria. Of course I could. They all trapsed up to Shropshire for the weekend. A Sunday kickoff meant a free Saturday. John fancied going to a game. Val and this lad, (I’m rubbish at remembering names as it is, I’m never going to remember what his name was, or should I say is. I assume he’s still alive.) also did, as did I. The problem was the game they decided to choose. Of all the games they could’ve chosen that day, they went and chose Vile versus Chelsea. Seeing as John was driving, I didn’t really have a say in it. I could’ve of course, stayed at home, but I did actually want to spend time with them. I didn’t however, want to go in the Vile end, so my plan was to split with them outside the ground and obviously go in the Chelsea end. That plan was scuppered when I revealed it as we parked up and walked to the cesspit. It was 3 against 1. Val pulled the ‘big sister’ card ably assisted by John. They maintained that it was much better to stick together as meeting back up after the game wouldn’t be viable due to the predicted police restrictions that no doubt would be put in place. So under protest, I went on the Holte End with them. I wasn’t ever going to cheer for the salmon pink and pastel blue lot though. Chelsea went 1:0 up, I jumped up, Val grabbed hold of me to stop me. I say grabbed me, if she could’ve pulled me down to sit on me to stop me, she would’ve done. The Vile equalised. As all the ugly troglodytes around me celebrated, I stood there in silence, totally unmoved. Val glared at me. I of course reminded her that I wanted to go in the other end. In the second half, Chelsea went 2:1 up. Val was too quick for me and grabbed me before I could jump up. She couldn’t stop me from shouting ‘Yes’ though. As always with the lucky bast……., Vile equalised again. 2:2 was how it finished. Thankfully, Vile lost the replay 2:1. When we got back to the car, I discovered that Blues had beaten Ipswich 1:0. I wonder how well my noisy celebrations would’ve gone down had I heard the score whilst I was still in the ground. The next day, we caught the football special train that had been laid on to Smethwick Rolfe Street. It was a ‘dry’ train of course. The transport Ol Bill made sure of that as they walked up and down the train. It was back in the days when smoking was allowed on public transport. The aroma of cannabis wafted through the train though as many exploited that particular loophole. It seemed strange that alcohol was strictly banned but a ‘blind eye’ was turned to open drug use. It was actually the first time I’d ever smelt the stuff. These days, it’s a regular occurrence. The aroma of the stuff hits my nostrils almost daily. I could probably even class myself as a passive smoker I get to smell it that often. That Sunday was a cold day. So cold that the pitch was frozen and heavily sanded. To this day, I’m sure had it not been for the fact that the game had been moved along with the kickoff, the match wouldn’t have passed inspection and the game called off. How much pressure the officials had been put under to get the game played, I don’t know, but it was obvious it was unplayable. They might as well have played in roller skates on tarmac. You could see players on both sides struggling with the atrocious conditions. Only Harry Wiggins (No, that’s NOT a made up name.) managed to adapt. In fact, not only did he adapt well, but he thrived on the extremely dodgy surface. It was like he’d been born to play in those circumstances. Normally, he was rubbish for Telford, the level too high for him, but that day, he was head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch. That includes the fulltime professionals of Leeds who usually plied their trade in the Second Division. The same league as Blues. Although so obviously man of the match, he was powerless to stop Leads winning the game 2:1. Outside the ground several of Telford’s version of a football hooligan mob tried to gather enough enthusiasm to have a go at Leeds, but the Ol Bill had a water tight operation in place and any ‘bother’ that was likely to develop, immediately snuffed out. A few weeks later, I went to Wolves versus Stockport County. I’d decided to go in the home end for their game versus Stockport and I stood next to an old bloke. He’d obviously seen the good times of the 50s, because he spent most of the game moaning about how badly Wolves were playing. Stockport didn’t help matters much by taking the lead. With 15 minutes still to go, he’d had enough. Not being able to stomach any more, he left. I often wonder how he felt when he learned of Wolves 3;1 victory that day. All 3 of Wolves goals arrived once he’d gone. John Bond was sacked at the end of the season. His outspoken comments about the club’s financial predicament, proving too much for Weldon, though he was to point at Blues lowly finishing position as the reason for Bond’s dismissal. Weldon wanted a ‘yes man’. Gary Pendrey would be that man.

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