I have no idea whether if it’s due to global warming whatsoever, but for whatever reason, we’re in the midst of several storms. Might not be the ‘twisters’ you get in America, or the monsoons you get in Asia, but it’s possibly the worst I’ve ever known it. Sure, we’ve had some really bad storms in the past, but at the moment it seems like it’s one after another. They give them names these days. It’s beyond me why, but at least we can all departmentalise and package them now. So as I write this, we’re being acquainted with ‘Franklin’ on Friday it was Eunice and this last week it was Dudley. Being Brummie, us ale trailers all agreed that Dudley the place, needed a really good storm just to improve it anyway. I met up with Ian, Daryl, Jinksy, JK, Spoons and Steve at New Street, before getting the train to Stoke on Trent. Well that was the plan. Approaching Stafford, an announcement by the train manager revealed that because of a tree that had been blown over and was now blocking the track between Stoke and Kidsgrove, anyone travelling to either Stone, Stoke or Kidsgrove, would need to wait for rail replacement transport at Stafford. We brain stormed our options. Taxis were mooted, but with the unlikelihood that we’d be able to get a 7 seater, it was looking like two taxis. We weren’t of course, the only ones with similar ideas and getting off at Stafford. Once there, there seemed to be a complete disorganization as to what was happening in terms of coaches. To make matters worse, it was raining and it certainly wasn’t light drizzle. This is where this country seems useless. Having never been abroad, I really can’t say for certain, so stories of efficiency in other countries are always secondhand. What I do know, is this country doesn’t seem to be getting any better at dealing with these sort of issues. There was always going to be more passengers than seats for the only coach that turned up, and it was a complete melee trying to board it. Me and Spoons missed out, the other five made it on. Eventually, what looked like a normal local service bus turned up. Observing people getting off with luggage, me and Spoons agreed it was a replacement bus. Spoons grabbed the opportunity to enquire. A quick phone call by the driver, and we were off to Stoke. A message on the WhatsApp group, revealed their coach was stuck in traffic on the motorway and it was snowing. We were now bombing down the A34 and there was no snow. Docking down at the station in Stoke, we got a taxi to the Arnold Machin Wetherspoons in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Although leaving Stafford a good twenty minutes after the coach, we arrived only ten minutes after. As we sat down with our pints, the snow caught up with us. Surely it was still too warm for it to cause even more serious disruption to our day? The first on the proper itinerary, and I will add, it wasn’t mine I was just following everyone else, was 10 Green Bottles. With the weather, accidental breakage due to one being blown and falling off the wall was extremely likely. As I write this, it might even now be called 9 Green Bottles. I hadn’t been in this place the last time as it had yet to open up as a business.
There was a good selection of craft beer dispensed from taps on the wall similar to Roberto’s. The place was ok, but I wouldn’t make a beeline for it. With the scheduled Cross Country train strikes now aborted due to organisational technicalities, we discussed our upcoming trips to both Bristol and Swansea. The next two places on the itinerary, I’d been looking forward to. The first of those, Wellers is superb. The brewery tap for beers from Weal ales. Both the beer and the friendliness, add to a brilliant ambiance. With his parka on, Ian was in his element, not so Spoons.
The next ‘must do’ place was the Bridge Street Ale House. Run by a West Ham supporting Londoner. With the sun now out, the place was to be completely taken over by Blues regulars of a certain age.
At the start of the week, the Blues terrace legend that was Bob Teagle, sadly passed away. It was well known that he hadn’t been well, but he was still doing Blues, still managing to get to as many games as he could. Still a face that you looked for and when spotted, all felt right in the world. I can’t say I knew him well, although I’d known of him since the days of the Fox and grapes back in the early 90s. In truth, I was in awe of him. Everyone knew him and he seemed to know everyone else. Not a hooligan, he wasn’t a Zulu. He was always up for mischievous fun though. One of the original Minstrel Wanderers crew, he always lived life with a glint in his eyes and a quizzical grin. With bemused locals looking on, a spontaneous rendition of the ‘ugly song’ based on the Ken Dodd ‘Happiness song’ was sparked up, followed by ‘We are the boys from the Tilton’ and finished off by a truly heartfelt slowly sung ‘Keep Right On’. Without anyone needing to say who it was in aid of, everyone knew it was for Bob. RIP mate. Right opposite the Bridge Street Ale House is a bottle shop that also sells key keg craft beers by the name of Hopwater Cellar. In all honesty, it was just an excuse to get one more in before getting a taxi to the game. One taxi had already been ordered and one needed to be. As long as I was in one of them, I really didn’t care which.
Turning up at the ground, we walked round to the away end.
Quickly scanning the formation as the game started, it was apparent that we had fullbacks as centre halves and wingers as fullbacks. Ordinarily, both Pedersen and Colin would’ve been fullbacks. Maybe even Pedersen as a part of a back three, but he and Maxime Colin playing together in the centre did not fill me with confidence. Although injury has ravaged the defence, the transfer window did bring in pace up front. Something we’d been badly lacking. Lee Bowyer simply hasn’t been given the funds that his predecessors have been given, and the squad is somewhat thin. Much as us fans would like to see quality additions, it doesn’t mean to say it’ll materialise. Especially under this lot. We may be a Championship club in name, but because of the apathy and sheer incompetence that’s being continually shown by the owners, we’re not performing as a Championship club. In fact, it doesn’t take a genius to observe that several clubs on the Non-League circuit are better run than us. One bright spot for me, has been the emergence of Jordan James. A 17 year old from Hereford, James is definitely one for the future. Don’t get me wrong, he’s never going to reach the heights that Jude Bellingham already has, but he’ll play in the Premier League. It just won’t be for Blues. Unlike when a 16 year old Jude broke into the side and made himself undroppable, Jordan James is quietly improving game by game. There are times when the inexperience of youth shows, and he looks like the game is bypassing him, there are times when he shows the neat and tidiness of maturity and his contribution is vital. As fans, we tend to be hyper-critical of players. We don’t sometimes see the back story. We lack patience. Expect perfection and expect it instantly. 12 minutes in, he scored his first goal for the Blues senior team with a sweeping finish. As is the norm now, I immediately looked at the time and wondered if we could hold on to the lead. Made all the more seemingly impossible with the makeshift defence, I still clung on to hope. Hope of course, almost always lets you down. Kicks you in the teeth for being so stupid for having it. Rational thinking has no place if you’ve been taken over by hope. Obviously the lead wasn’t going to last and it didn’t. The equaliser when it arrived, looked offside. I am though, biased. I was though, stood behind the goal and so didn’t get a proper view of it. It still looked offside mind. 1:1 halftime and it was Carling production time. Straight after the restart, Stoke took the lead. Although galling, it did look a good finish. Now before the transfer window, that would’ve been it, game over. We might have a fragile looking defence, but we are though, much more potent in attack. From a neutral spectators point of view, a game involving Blues these days, is a viable proposition. It’s a polar opposite from the earlier drab 0:0 draws against Huddersfield and Coventry. I’d watched Lyle Taylor playing for both Wimbledon and a Lee Bowyer managed Charlton, and I’d liked what I’d seen of him. He obviously enjoys playing for both LB and Blues, because his attitude is first class. He chases lost causes, moves quickly and intelligently when Blues have the ball. He gets involved, makes space to receive a pass. He’s what you want from a striker, and he scores goals. I don’t know what happened at Nottingham Forest, and I really don’t care. What I do know, is I would like him to move to Blues permanently. Over to you upstairs and in China, or wherever you’re hiding. I’ve been highly critical of the Gardner Sisters, and it’ll take more than the equaliser for me to start to soften my attitude towards Gary, but he did have a good game against Stoke, and was in the right place at the right time to get the equaliser. So a 2:2 draw it was then. I just needed to work out how to get back to the station.
Coming out of the ground into the carpark, I spotted the shuttle buses that the club lay on to the station. There was though, little or no organisation and I decided that it might be better just to walk. Spotting a Copper, I asked which way. Asking how I’d got to the ground and being given the answer of ‘taxi’, he said I could try the Stoke shuttle buses that were in view. So that’s what I did. I hadn’t got colours on, and just kept my mouth shut. This is where I’d had a stroke of luck by doing what I’d done. They allowed the Stoke buses back to the station before the Blues ones. Being on my own, I made it passed the bouncers on the door to BOD.
Blues could do with seeing if the bouncers are available for hire whilst we’re struggling for defenders. As centre halves, nothing would get past them. It didn’t matter that I could see the rest through the window and I was with them, the bouncers were not letting my friends in. Touching down back in Brum, a hasty plan was made to go to the Craven Arms. I hadn’t been to the Craven Arms since I first moved back to Brum. I don’t know why, I just hadn’t. Maybe it’s the steepness of the hill you have to walk up to get to it. Anyway, me and Daryl got there to find it packed with mainly Stranglers fans who were heading to the gig. The same gig that JK was getting back from Stoke for. By the time Spoons, Ian and JK had joined us, some seats had become free, and we’d swooped. After one, Daryl left to be replaced by Jinksy off the next train. Many were drifting off to watch the Stranglers’ support band. A Baggies mate of Paul Mason came in with his friend. They were both going too. Albion have recently appointed Steve Bruce as their manager, and he’s making an inauspicious start to his tenure. I’ve long since grown weary of Bruce. To say he’s an utter mercenary is to put it mildly. Personally, I’m quite enjoying seeing his latest venture fail. Maybe now, clubs will start to view him as toxic, and an appointment best to be avoided. Both they and eventually JK went off to the main event, leaving me, Jinksy, Spoons and Ian to immerse ourselves in that old familiar warm, contented, alcoholic glow of a Saturday night. Just mates talking about absolutely everything and nothing. Only knowing that we all needed to get home still, ended the night. KRO and SOTV Bob, wherever you may be. #BSHLOUT