2/1/22 Leamington V Gloucester City, National League North. Take Two.

Back in March 2020, when everything started getting shutdown pre lockdown, I attempted to get one last game in. Buggies v Blues had been postponed on us, and I desperately searched for somewhere else to do. Leaving the flat that morning, Leamington’s game was still on. I continued to check my phone regularly for updates. I even made it to Leamington and had got an itinerary. While I spotted people racing round, forlornly trying to buy up as many toilet rolls as they could, I walked into the Wetherspoons and bought a pint. It was then that I was to leam that the game had been ruled off. I had got so close. At the time, I was absolutely spitting feathers angry. The country went into full lockdown, and I was put on furlough. That didn’t work, and nothing else they’ve tried doing since has worked either. Our species is at the mercy of a virus that doesn’t make any sense, doesn’t follow rules, and attacks who, when and how it wants. I followed the rules complicitly when furloughed. I haven’t since. There’s no point. They’re already talking about another booster. Why’s that if the vaccine is as good as they claim? It’s nature’s warped humour. A devastating, nasty lottery, and we’ve all got a ticket. Back to the present day, and we’re still in a mire. Anxiety still reigns supreme and that anxiety is being greatly exploited. Not going to Blues has only fueled the ground hopper in me. Not having a particular fixture list as a structure has resulted in compiling an enjoyable but complicated list of games. Why enjoyable? it was similar to completing a sudoku puzzle. Complicated? Pretty much exactly the same as a sudoku puzzle. Brain taxing and ending in an inane sense of achievement. If you’re thinking that it can’t be that hard, then take into consideration both train and underground strikes that are happening sporadically over the next month and beyond. To some, strikes are an inconvenience and just point at laziness. They’re not, they’re an integral tool that is required to make idiot ‘fat cats’ take note. No doubt, I will encompass strike action at some point that will stop me from travelling, but that’s just the way it has to be. Money is everything but won’t stop you from dying. Jeeeeeez, I really am ranting, and it’s only the first week of the year. With any luck, I’m still penciling in Derby away at the end of the month, but as that’s been moved to the Sunday, I’ll still be ground hopping that weekend. Standing waiting for the bus into town, my body was moaning at me. Whether that was just recovering from the exertions of the previous day, or psychosomatic with the impending doom of work, I don’t know. Maybe I’d just stood too close to the Cheshire Ring in Hyde. Getting off in town, I went and purchased advanced train tickets for some of the games I’m going to be doing, before joining what was a queue that was waiting for the Wellington to open. Once in, I was soon joined by JK. Talk was of Christmas at our respective sisters. Hereford Gary, Worcester Pete and Ian descended on us almost simultaneously. Carrying on the theme of being unvaccinated and untouchable, I pretended to lick Pete’s hand as I shook it. I then explained where I was off to. On the WhatsApp group, it had been remarked about the anniversary of Gary Ablett’s untimely death. Football supporting is about opinions. Rightly or wrongly, we all have them. It’s why football conversations can become so passionate. Personally, I thought Ablett was rubbish. He was rubbish at all the clubs he played at. However, for whatever reason, some thought he was a great defender. If he was a great defender, then his contemporary, Mike Newell, was the most prolific striker Birmingham City have ever had. Like I’ve said though, opinions are meaningless. Bit like this blog really. Bidding the rest farewell, it was soon time to get the train to Leamington Spa. On the way down the hill, I met Steve who was on his way up to the Welly, informing him, who was in there. Touching down in Leamington, I got out the itinerary that I’d compiled. Leamington Spa might be a pretty place, but like both Bath and Cheltenham, it’s pretentious. Giving off a ‘stuck up’ feeling, it was apparent that it’s too ‘toffee nosed’ for oikes like me. The first port of call, was The Star and Garter, a place that mirrored the town. There’s nothing much more to say about the place really, so I won’t. The next place was the Green King owned Copper Pot. A chain that isn’t on my list of places that are ‘got to go to’ right now. It did though, have a slightly better choice of ales than the last place, and was showing a Sky sports football round up programme. It also had the smallest member of any bar staff that I’ve seen in a very long time, and possibly actually the smallest. She was so tiny, that at first glance, I thought it may have been because of child care issues that she was in there. Good luck to her though. It’s January, it means that Jinksy is off the booze and fags for a month. He had got a later train and had now joined me in the Copper Pot. He was drinking, or attempting to drink, some sort of alcohol free lager. What he does is commendable, but for me, baffling. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it. Although I’d got more places on the itinerary, I was in no hurry to do them. For obvious reasons, nor was Jinksy. With time knocking on, we’d got time for a quick half somewhere. Well I had, Jinksy was discovering the delights of non-alcoholic slop. We took in the White Horse.

‘I’m not equine phobic, but this seriously freaked me out”

They’ve obviously done it for affect, and I’ve got to say, it definitely has an effect. The front doors to the pub are locked. You can see people in the pub, and so you look for a way in. Just as you turn into the courtyard, you’re immediately confronted by the full sized dummy of a horse, complete with one of those jackets that they put on the proper things. It’s the last thing you’d expect, and I really wasn’t ready for it. Although you can tell it’s not real, it’s still incredibly lifelike. I went and produced some Carling, while Jinksy phoned for a taxi to take us to the ground.

“Trouble with the plumbing, or following new French Covid restrictions?”

I was aware that the ground was some way out of the town, but wasn’t aware exactly how far. At one point, I’m sure I saw a road sign for Dover.

Three days after we left Leamington, we arrived at the ground. The taxi driver had even had to stop at a petrol station twice to fill up.

“Well that’s some photos of the ground”

I had a quick look in the programme shop there. Well actually, Jinksy had to drag me out with the promise that we’d go back at halftime. I could’ve easily have spent several hours in there. We were though, there to watch a game. After finding a place on the terracing behind the goal, we settled down to watch it. Gloucester were slightly on top, but not much. They did though, take the lead with a bullet header from a corner. They just about deserved it. Gloucester carried on in charge, but it wasn’t ever total dominance and 1 goal was all the first half was to produce. Halftime, and it was back to the programme shop to rinse it of old Blues programmes. At the moment, it depends where you go, but where as one place is trying to sell them as quick as they can, another sees the value in them. Me? I’m just trying to hoover them up whenever and wherever I’m lucky enough to find them. I’ve always loved programmes, and I always will. It’s a dying habit due to the tinternet. Several clubs only produce programmes online these days. It’s a nasty habit as far as I’m concerned. Wait until all of us dinosaurs like me are dead, and then do it. Now happy with my haul, Jinksy went and queued up for something to eat, while I took up a place behind the goal again. The second half was full of Non-League spirit and endeavour on a heavy pitch. Skill is very much at a premium at times in Non-League football, but there’s never any lack of physical exertion on show. I love skill in football, it’s what attracted me as a kid to the sport, but it’s not the be all and end all. There’s so many aspects to the sport that keeps me returning week after week. Leamington pushed themselves as much as they could to find an equaliser. Gloucester pushed as hard as they could to increase their lead. Neither was to happen but it really wasn’t from the want of trying. Although it was only the one goal that had settled it, it had still been a good game.

The problem was now to travel the thousand miles or so back to Leamington. Jinksy had phoned the same taxi firm, and surprisingly, got the same taxi driver. Leamington F.C. have had building plans approved to build a new ground nearer to the town. It couldn’t be further away and still be in the same country otherwise. For anyone who has been inspired by this rubbish enough to still want to go to a game at Leamington, I really really don’t recommend walking. I’d even contemplated it when working out an itinerary and decided on taxis. Had I’d decided to walk, I’d still be walking now. Even Daryl would have struggled to make a 3o’clock kickoff, even if he had started off at quarter to. Dropped off at the station, we caught the next train back to Brum. Still not feeling all that great, I said T’ra to Jinksy once we’d touched down, and caught the bus back home. Blues? Lost 2:1 at home to QPR.

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