21/8/21 Luton Town v Blues. Berminum.

After talking to Spoons in the Shakespeare in Sheffield, I was determined to at least attempt to get him a ticket for Luton on my reference number. It transpired that neither he nor Ian had been to Kenilworth Road. The away ticket allocation at Luton, is minute. Last time anyone was able to go, only Steve and Daryl were lucky enough to get tickets, due to them both being Platinum. Only a minuscule amount of tickets made it to Gold. It’s since come to light, that tickets made their way to people who hadn’t the right level of criteria. Because of having been there before, the awkwardness of getting there by train, and the lack of decent real ale pubs, I wasn’t that bothered about going myself. I even looked at ground hopping in the F.A.Cup qualifying round. However, us ale trailers were right on top of it. We were even able to get Badger a ticket. Even with managing to get Spoons one on my reference, Ian was also able to get one on my reference. You were actually only able to get one ticket per reference. As I was up the ticket office buying Spoons’, Ian was online buying one. The daft thing, I tried getting one on Jinksy’s reference, only to be told that he was Silver. Even though, he’s got an email stating he’s Gold again this season. You honestly couldn’t make this stuff up. It gives me a pounding headache just thinking about it. So it was to Luton I headed after all. It was drizzling when I came out, that wasn’t a good start. I don’t like rain, absolutely hate it in fact, but please, not on a match day. I was meeting the majority of my fellow ale trailers at Snowhill. I got there, just after Spoons. I caught sight of him entering the station. Our uniqueness forever creates a lasting impression and our Spoons is nothing if not unique in everything he does. Me and Ian had been planning on getting a joint railcard since before Covid, but after many discussions, we’d finally got round to it. He’s one of those that has embraced phone technology, unlike this Luddite, and I’d sent him a mugshot of me, so he could get the railcard on his phone. I’m only surprised that the act of me just sending my mugshot, hadn’t melted his device. He showed me the railcard. Melted it?, I’m amazed his phone hadn’t exploded, causing a mushroom cloud you could see from several counties away. If ever there was warning to “If seen, do not approach these men, they are considered dangerous”, it would be for the railcard. The familiar gait of Daryl came speedily into view, followed, but nowhere near as fast, by JK. Greetings completed, we got down on the platform, and on the train when it arrived. After settling up with Ian, we relaxed into the journey. The usual banter ensued, as well as a level of train talk between Spoons and Ian, that is way above my interest in them. I like trains, It’s my favourite form of travel. Although never having been on a ship or aeroplane, neither ever appeals like train travel, but the detail that Spoons and Ian go into, is very impressive. To look at them, they don’t look like your average, stereotypical ‘train spotters’, but they take ‘train enthusiasts’ into geekdum. I just sat there listening, only having the most vague idea of what they were on about. It was code, a foreign language. They could’ve been talking Jamaican patios, but in a Brummie accent. I’ve already mentioned about the Sheffield hotel situation that faced me, Spoons and Jude, in my post for the game. Spoons updated me about something that happened at the hotel that cancelled on us. It had been reported in the news of the distressing death of a young Afghan refugee, who had fallen from a window in a hotel in Sheffield. It turns out, that the hotel in question, was the same hotel we would have been staying at. It seems that my Covid theory, was in fact, a governmental decision. Had the hotel been commandeered for housing refugees? We can only speculate. All I know, is I had to find myself a new hotel and sharpish. We landed in Marylebone, spotting the chance to do the lottery, we somehow got split up on the tube to King’s Cross. I made it to the Barrel Vaults, but about 15 minutes later. I found them at an outside table, After travelling into Euston, Steve and Jinksy had been already there when the other four had landed. With being able to watch football and Blues in particular, it meant that once again, I could indulge in something that I’ve always found amusing as well as interesting. A Saturday in the middle of London, is brilliant for spotting little mobs of football fans and a myriad of different club shirts and colours. Oh how I’d missed it. With being so close to two main stations as well as an Underground junction, it meant that the Barrel Vaults was perfect. It’s back to how it was before Covid. Sussing who’s who, trying to remember who’s got who. Friend or foe. Groups of Carling brigade with their sexist comments of passers by. Lambasted by the brave and indignant. I could feel myself relax, being able to relax, being able to enjoy myself, being able to laugh again. Football was back. We made a move to get the train to St Albans. Daryl was fretting over what train was best to get there. We were joined by Jeff and John. They were travelling on to Luton. Good luck lads, there’s hardly anywhere decent to drink. We touched down in St Albans, our tickets weren’t working, well, they wouldn’t be, we’d got them to Luton. With a bit of remote blagging, via some kind of video link, we made, it through the electronic gate. Daryl was itching to run off. He’s only got one walking pace…….fast. we dropped into the Farmers Boy. I was sure I’d done the place before. It definitely felt familiar. It might not have been the centre of London but, a group of lads came in with unfamiliar colours on. Their garish, ‘electric blue’ shirts had Jake Bugg emblazoned on the front. It was Notts County. It had us scrambling to find out who they were playing and why they were there. Barnet away. A strange, though understandable stop over. There really is nothing in Barnet. You definitely drink somewhere else first. From Nottingham, it’s on the way into St Pancras, before heading to North London. A late kickoff, it would be worth it. Daryl was off again, it was the White Hart Tap. Card payments only. I can honestly say, being a dinosaur, I’m not a fan of this. Like with a lot of different establishments, we are being cajoled, forced to use the digital option. I like cash, there’s something aesthetically pleasing about it. Something ‘real’. There wasn’t the range of ales in there that I remembered from the last time, and had there been, I wouldn’t have chosen the one I did. Covid sure has a lot to answer for. It’s only bigger breweries out there at the moment, the smaller are sticking to their stock range, and micro ones are almost having to learn how to brew again. It will get better. Well it needs to get better. People are venturing out, returning to what they used to be able to do, social activities we once took for granted, activities we’re desperately trying to get back to doing. Human beings are sociable animals. We need each other. You can’t keep us penned in, imprisoned against our will. Spoons is a kaleidoscope when it comes to things he enjoys, his image belies his personality. An assistant brewer by trade, drinker of it in his spare time, and a walking exclepedia when it comes to the business. The stuff I’ve learned and learn from the bloke is phenomenal. Listening to him on a day out, is a joy, even if it is news of a brewery I used to like beer from, going bust. Drinking in St Albans, there was only one place, me, Jinksy and JK were determined to do, Robin Hood. It was where Dingle Dave drank when he lived there. The world definitely has a Dave Roberts sized hole in it. JK and Alan Clements, had made the trip up to Scotland for a get together held in Dave’s honour. Two lads who had made the trip up from his St Albans local, were in there. Dave really did leave a huge impression on whoever he met. A good number of people in life, never get near to owning even a droplet of charisma. Dave drove a petrol tanker overflowing with the stuff.

“That explains a lot”

Daryl was getting itchy feet again. Daryl is Daryl and he should never ever feel, or should be made to feel apologetic about who he is, and the quirks that accompany him. He’s hyper active. It’s like he’s constantly overdosing on ‘E’ numbers. Continually moving on to the next place before he’s halfway through the present. His behaviour can wear you out just thinking about it, but unconsciously, it’s the behaviour that keeps you on your toes. Keeps you alert to time. His attention to detail is commendable, he may be constantly like a coiled spring, but he’s clockwork. I find myself following him, not because of his relentless speed and I can’t keep up, but I don’t have to think. He’s doing it for me. Daryl is Daryl and he’s class. We landed in Luton, had enough time for a quick one at the Bricklayer’s. Unashamedly a Luton Town pub.

“Been so for a while too”

I could’ve quite easily have had another one in there and missed the first half. This time, it wasn’t Daryl that led to us moving, but the fact that the pub was emptying. We followed the throng that seemed to be being magnetically drawn to the ground. All we needed to do was look for the fluorescent jackets of the Ol Bill to know where the away end was.

In my last post, I gave this bit it’s own title to differentiate from the rest of the rubbish. Once I’d posted it and looked at the result, I realised I didn’t need to give it, its own title. The mere fact that it was in bold, was enough. It’s not like you need spoon feeding or require diagrams. I often lament the passing of old football grounds. Especially if they’re replaced by identi-kit, out of town ‘stadiums’, but Kenilworth Road is not one of them. Luton Towns’ home ground is badly in need of the services of a bulldozer. Plans are in place to build a new ground within walking distance of the town centre. The land has been purchased and plans approved. It’s long overdue. I know that’s a bit rich considering the problems Blues are facing with their own home, but Luton Town is a dump. Only Wigan’s Springfield Park was a worse experience as an away fan. Queens Park Rangers is bad granted, but not as bad as Luton.

“And these show it in its best light”

I could’ve taken lots more photos that would make your toes curl, but I’d already missed kickoff and I didn’t want to miss anymore of the game. It’s why I was there, after all. Standing with Ian, it wasn’t long before we were bouncing around like loons. An early goal for Blues. I didn’t know who scored, it was at the other end of the pitch, and quite frankly, I didn’t care, Blues were 1:0 up. I was expecting Luton to come at us with some kind of riposte, if they did, you couldn’t tell because the Blues defence were well drilled and well marshalled. We were dominating. So much so, that the long suffering, dyed in the wool, complete barmpot, addict in me, felt we needed a second and third while we were on top, because we would relax back on our laurels and let the home team back in it. The usual Blues thing to do. The second arrived, Hogan with the second headed goal of the game. One thing that Lee Bowyer seems to have got right, or at least instilled in us, is our ability to be dangerous from set pieces and also from open play, in terms of crossing and heading. Halftime, 2:0 and extremely comfortable. That third had it arrived, would not have flattered us. I wanted something to eat, but needed to visit one of the holes in the ground that serves as a toilet. It’s no wonder that the adjacent gardens that the away end fire escape type stairs overlook, get their fair share of ‘organic’ watering. Coming back out, I spotted Rob, a Roost regular. We hugged like old friends. Oh wait, we are old friends. Like I’ve said, Blues is an extended family, one that hasn’t been in contact for 18 months. I’m guessing if you read this tripe on a regular basis, you’re getting the point if you haven’t already. It’s why the chaos concerning the stands is infuriating, I want to see all the people I sit next to again. Catching up with Rob, we didn’t see our third go in, as it was so soon after the kickoff for the second half. The celebration seemed slightly staggered. Having since watched highlights, I could understand why. Me and Rob latched on to the end of the celebrations. It was so good to be back. Nothing compares to the spontaneity and sense of community of a goal celebration, nothing. After being so good in the first half, a third was exactly what we needed. The impetus carried on. I hadn’t seen such a dominating away performance from Blues since the 4:0 win versus Chester City at the end of 1994. That includes the 6:0 at Millwall in 2011, and 4:0 at Palace in 2013. Not one single player was letting us and himself down. You could only see more goals for us. Ah, substitutions, that would disrupt us. Two goal Hogan was replaced by Aneke, and the once again, very impressive, Tahith Chong was replaced by Gary Gardner. It was seamless. You couldn’t tell that there had been substitutions, and there was no let up in the pressure. The best goal had been saved for the fourth. Gardner, picking the ball up just on the edge of the area, picked his spot and swept it over the keeper. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to Blues. 4:0, got to be happy with that. Good days work. Wait, what’s that? A floating cherry? That’s never going on the top surely? It is you know, it’s 5. it may have been the scrapiest goal of the game, but like any of us cared. It was nice to see a goal from one of our new signings though. It also meant that two substitutes had scored. Just having one score was good, two just made Bowyer look like a genius. I didn’t stay to applaud the team off, I probably should’ve, but then, they don’t applaud me when I’ve done something right. And let’s be honest, that doesn’t happen very often. Probably less often than a performance like this in truth.

I made it back to the station fairly easily. Easily for me and my terrible sense of direction anyway. I met up with the rest, including Badge. I knew Badge was going, but it was the first time that day, I’d seen him. The train back to St Pancras was quite eventful, well it was for Jinksy, who found himself being chatted up by a woman on her own adjacent to us. Although Jinksy obviously fancied her, she wasn’t really his type, but the deal breaker was how she pronounced Birmingham. What is it with southerners and their inability to pronounce Birmingham properly? Is it that their mouths haven’t evolved enough? Regardless, it’s a turnoff because it’s just plain irritating to us Brummies. I can’t speak for Brummie women and their dislike of southern blokes doing it, but to all the southern women, stop talking fanny. (Say funny in a southern accent. I rest my case.) I managed to chat with her as we got off the train. Not up, I don’t do chatting up. She was heading out for an evening with people she wasn’t looking forward to being with, yet in her favourite city. I advised her to relax and enjoy her surroundings, and not let the company bother her. You’re only here once, enjoy what you love. The advice seemed to have the desired effect. The anxiety dissipated. Sometimes, following Daryl doesn’t work. His shortcut to the Euston Tap turned out to be the long way. The ones who had decided to go the usual way, the long way according to Daryl, got there first. After finding out that the barmaid had used a hair scrunchy to tie her t-shirt, I joined the rest outside, just within earshot of the music. One track me and Badge debated, was a classic, chill out trance track from our youth. He went to find out if I’d been right with my recollection, I had been. I’ve got to admit, I was quite pleased with myself. I love it when my memory doesn’t let me down. I’ve no idea what set this one customer off, but he started to rant in a foreign language, as well as picking up a reef from the war memorial, and thrashing it on the floor. Our disgusted stares, must have done the trick, because he settled down. Looking sheepish, he went back to how he was before the rant. Saying farewell to Jinksy, Steve and Badge, the rest of us headed to Marylebone. It was then that JK worked out that he’d lost his ticket. As he and Spoons went to sort that out, me, Ian and Daryl went to The Met Bar. It’s another place that Wetherspoons have tastefully renovated. As I spent far too much time talking and not drinking, Daryl spotted a sideboard with loads of pamphlets set out, he made a beeline for it. “Where’s he off to now?”, an exasperated Ian asked. What he said next, was the funniest thing I’d heard all day, and i’d spent a great deal of it laughing. Me and Ian have kids, and know exactly what it’s like to have our patience pushed. “Ah, I see, he’s looking for a colouring in book for the train home.” I couldn’t catch my breath. I was to spend most of the trip back, asleep. I hadn’t had a pint I’d truly enjoyed all day, but it had still been an excellent one. A day to live long in the memory.

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