I’m usually up and bouncing for a game. I wasn’t, in fact, nowhere near. The optimism had not only evaporated, but had gained a layer of dust you could write your name in. As I sat on the bus into town, the game’s one redeeming feature, was that the top of the Kop was back open. Thing is, did anyone actually want to go anymore? I’m not the only one who’s had their enthusiasm battered. Gary from Hereford was already in the Welly when I got there and it was almost instant that we discussed the malaise at Blues. We were obviously in the same mindset as each other, as we moved on to the depressing subject of getting old and the bodies disintegration. JK came in, and mercifully, the subject was switched. We got talking about Horse racing. Something I’ve never ever been interested in. After living on this planet for over 50 years now, I can safely say without fear of contradiction, that I won’t ever find it interesting. Some things just don’t ‘rock your boat’ I suppose. As a family, we’ve never been adverse to betting, just not enveloped by it. It’s always only ever been, take it all leave it. These days, you don’t even need to get out of bed to lay a bet on. Just reach your arm towards your all singing and dancing life support machine. Focus on the screen, choose your App, and away you go. You can even have a quick glance at all the social media sites you’re on, before slipping back under the duvet. Steve landed, as did one of Paul Mason’s Buggies mates. We chatted about the recent takeover at Newcastle, and how the billions will be spent. Like Chelsea, like Manchester City when they were taken over and their new rich owners flexed their wallets, Newcastle will no doubt, do the same. Provided that they are fully committed for the long term mind. Otherwise, it’ll just be a lot of wasted money. There was a time when I would’ve loved for Blues to have been owned by a ‘sugar daddy’, but these days, competent seems to be all you can hope for. The size of Newcastle United as a club, is a ‘bone of contention’ with a lot of people. What constitutes a big club? There’s no set rules, just a fog of criteria. Clubs are lucid. Nothing stays the same. Not even the fans. I can categorically state here and now, that there isn’t one Blues fan alive today, that saw our first game as Small Heath Alliance. Personally, I would say Newcastle is a bigger club now, than it was when I was a kid. I say this, from seeing how big St James’ Park is now, and the consistency with which it gets filled. However, seeing as when I was a kid was a long time ago, it was a lot closer to when Newcastle won a trophy. They haven’t won one since. Clubs have purple patches in terms of trophy wins and being well run. Anorak wearers like myself can draw up instantly a list of clubs who have had purple patches of trophy wins, yet have also hit patches of being badly run. (Remembering anything actually worth remembering is beyond us though.) The mega-money now at Newcastle doesn’t automatically mean success will be achieved. Can it be achieved? Definitely. Will it be? Something’s telling me that it won’t be. Ultimately, I just don’t care. We moved on to the Colemore. Paul Mason was in there. We all chatted about our ale trailing away day experiences this season, sharing news of where’s good and where isn’t anymore. For some unknown reason, I never knew there was a micro pub in the Arndale market in Manchester. In mitigation, I don’t get to visit Manchester enough anyway, but the next time I’m passing through, I’m definitely going to check the place out. We moved on to Kilda. The place was empty, bar Jinksy, Spoons and Paul. A lot of my mates, ok ok, ALL of my mates are much more well traveled than me. I tend to just sit and listen in childlike wonderment when they discuss trips abroad. Already there’s talk of getting tickets to games in Germany in 2024. I’ve got to say, I really do fancy the idea. I’ve certainly got enough time to save up and prepare for it. There’s certain things that work against the idea. The main one being getting time off from work. Is that me procrastinating? Most probably. We moved on to Bob’s Bar. Right, time to give it, it’s proper name for a change. Roberto’s Bar and Tasting Club. Bit convoluted isn’t it? You can understand why we call it Bob’s bar, or just Bob’s, can’t you? A face not seen since before Covid, blah blah blah, Russell was able to make an appearance. Whilst at work, he had an accident on his round. In normal circumstances, he’d have taken it in his stride, but it was actually his stride that had done for him. It was an innocuous event, but one that would knock him sidewards. Coupled with his ongoing health condition, it spelt disaster. It meant a considerable amount of time off work, as he’s tried to recuperate. I hugged him but due to his fragility still, it wasn’t the usual bear hug. It was though, great to see him. I’ve missed his sick brand of humour.
Swansea were sporting yet another garish kit that’s not only an assault on the eyesight, but an assault on the very identity of a club’s support. Watching your club play in a kit whose colour simply doesn’t belong in a team sport, has got to eat away at your mental health. It’s got to be embarrassing. It’s football, not a wedding.
The opening exchanges weren’t much to write home about. As Blues were at home anyway, I’m not going to bother. With Swansea being further up the league than us, I suppose you could say that at least we were holding our own. Swansea were intent on holding their own too. Two wallflowers at a party tentatively checking their surroundings. A fluid move, led to a cross, header, goal. It wasn’t as fluid as it needed to be. Our celebration was curtailed. The goal was disallowed. Pedersen has received my wrath and indignation on several occasions before this season, but finally had learnt the art of defending. He’s one of those players that believes and enjoys his own publicity. He has though, settled down into more of a team player. Well he had up until Swansea at home. All the good work went up in flames. He was having a nightmare of a game. Consistency is something you desire from your defenders. Unfortunately, Pedersen had settled on consistently awful on the dial. Halftime arrived as light relief. The game hadn’t been attritional, nor had it been one to be talked about. Another 0:0 looked possible as the second half kicked off. A good through ball from Chong, gave a certain player enough space and time to gratefully dispatch a right foot shot into the bottom corner of Swansea’s net. It was Troy Deeney’s first goal for Blues from open play, and how much did he milk it? Would I have done the same in his position? I’d still be celebrating now. You could see the immense pride it gave him. He once scored a dramatic last kick of the game winner for Watford in the playoffs. I suspect that wouldn’t have even come close to how he felt when he saw the ball nestle in Swansea’s net. We were in the ascendancy and getting chances aplenty. We needed a second, put the game to bed. That second arrived. Well, it should’ve. A goalkeeper is paid to keep the ball out. He’s lambasted when he drops a right clanger. Defenders are paid to tackle and head, midfielder’s are paid to intercept and pass. It’s in their basic toolbox. Strikers dream of having guilt edged chances. Chances that they practice again and again in training. The ‘bread and butter’ chances. Chances that the goalkeeper would put away if they were in the same position. Hogan was put clean through with only the Swansea keeper to beat. He could’ve gone left or right round the keeper before stroking the ball into the empty net, he could’ve passed the ball either side of the keeper and into the net. He could’ve executed an audacious chip over the keeper, before running round, sitting on the ball and then back healing the ball over the line. He didn’t. He didn’t do anything that resulted in the ball being returned to the centre circle for Swansea to kickoff again. For that miss alone, Hogan needed to walk off towards Lee Bowyer to demand to be substituted. He then should’ve requested a pen and a piece of paper so he could resign his position as a professional footballer. Yes, the miss was THAT bad, and yes, I was THAT angry. We continued pressing, though the purple patch had finished. It was sucker punch time and Swansea didn’t disappoint. (They could’ve. I wouldn’t have minded if they hadn’t equalised……honestly.) Hey Hogan? Remember that chance you had? Could we respond? Would we respond? Well yeah, we could and did. We had another glorious chance that we almost messed up. Riley McGree bustled through, shooting at the Swansea custodian, the Australian was able to bury the rebound. Pure ecstasy. The lead restored, Troy Deeney was able to leave the stage to an extremely well deserved standing ovation.
“Enjoy it Bluenose”
We were able to see the game out. We’d scored, we’d won.
It was back to the Spotted Dog after. The mood was happy.
Finding out that Taffy was in the garden, I went out to join him, Russell and the other postmen. It’s been a strange season in terms of who of the ale trailers have been able to go and when. You try and catch whoever whenever the opportunity has arisen. I still haven’t seen any of our friends from Scandinavia yet. Not being one for social media, I don’t know how they are. I fancied taking in the White Swan for one, I was followed down by Ian, Jinksy and Taff. Dave Thomas of Made In Brum fame was in there. I couldn’t help asking if the magazine had been knocked on the head. It hasn’t, it’s just having a rest. It’ll be well received when it does finally make an appearance. Ian was talking of his upcoming trip up to Bridlington. He did though, make the mistake of admitting to buying a wet suit so he could go in the sea with his two dog’s. Well us three were never going to allow that to pass without mercilessly teasing him as only mates can. Visions of him being pushed back into the sea, due to him being mistaken for a whale, were not far from any of our imaginations. I’m not saying he’s obese in the slightest, but his height hides a lot of his weight. Plus his clothes obviously. A wet suit though? Not the most flattering of garments. It’s not something I’m ever going to put on again. Those days are long gone………..thankfully. Good friends and a good result had made my weekend, it would make my week.
FOOTNOTE:- Been a while since I’ve written one of these. Firstly, apologies for being late with posting this. Or maybe it’s a good thing. Truth is, I haven’t been well. That’s not to say I was in hospital, or anything that drastic, but I have been off work, laid up with flu. No, not Covid. Just a nasty bout of flu that’s done the rounds at the factory I work at. I’m not your usual male wimp when it comes to flu. The standard way of coping, one day of sweating like crazy, and then pump myself with as much sugar as possible. This time, this one floored me. I even attempted to go to Middlesbrough v Blues, and didn’t manage it. This was all the more galling as I lost money on train tickets as well as the match ticket. I’d set the alarm ok for Middlesbrough, woke up feeling a bit strange. While waiting for the kettle to boil, I really started feeling squiffy. Almost immediately, I was wretching and clutching the toilet bowl. As I hadn’t been eating properly, it was bile that was now swimming in the water. After finally finishing wretching, I then had to move swiftly as my rear end had decided to explode. One end, I may have still attempted Boro, but both? It was too risky. As with the law according to Sod, Blues went and won. The best I’d ever had at Boro, was 0:0. So once again, apologies, I just haven’t felt like writing and as such, had I written anything, it would’ve been even worse than usual. Yes, I know that would’ve been an achievement in itself, but still possible. Enjoy anyway.