26/2/22 Blues V Huddersfield Town. Blind Faith Peaked Long Ago.

A couple of weeks previously, I’d got a phone call off an old mate of mine. Someone I’d known for over twenty years and at one point, been really close to. Time moves on at a pace so rapid, that contact gets stretched. Although the bond doesn’t get broken unless you part on bad terms, it loses its importance. Hughsey revealed that he was coming over to watch the Blues with his eldest son Dan and that he wanted to meet up with me. Now for me, Blues are the most important thing in my life. Yes, I know that’s an incredibly shallow thing to say, but if nothing else, least I’m being honest. Addicted, obsessed, call it what you want. I learned a very long time ago that people feel that they can only talk to me about football, and so, I stopping bringing it into the conversation, they still would though. I also realised that other people could easily function without football, whereas I can’t. Although I except that there are those who aren’t as self absorbed with the game as me but still like it, I don’t understand it. Covid restrictions apart, the only thing that has ever stopped me from going and watching football, and more specifically Blues, is money. The amount I spend of my wages on attending football is eye watering. Everything I do is geared towards football. There are other things I like and enjoy, (I’m not that much of a freak regardless of perception), but whereas someone else will forgo games because they clash with something else they like and want to do, I don’t. Hughsey wouldn’t be a Blues fan had it not been for me. Not only that, but he wouldn’t have gone on to indoctrinate his son Dan either. Both aren’t regulars at games, and they certainly aren’t as addicted as me. I would be though, really pleased to see them. I did the usual thing, and got to the Welly for opening time. Both Taffy and Hereford Gary were already waiting. Taff was on his way to watch Wrexham. He’d also bought a McDonald’s. I don’t know whether one of the pubs cats had smelt it from inside, but it was waiting by the door as we entered. Hughsey phoned to say he was on his way, and after a quick half of Churchend Grave Diggers after the pint of a Cherry stout I’d first had, I went down to New Street station to meet him. The last time I saw Dan, he’d been about 3 foot tall, he now towered above me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly the biggest of blokes, but it was still a shock to see him. After a pit stop at Greggs, it was back up to the Welly. Both Taff and Gary had left, and in the meantime, Worcester Pete had arrived. After Checking out his footwear to ascertain how bad the flooding was still, Pete shifted round in his fishing waders so we could join him. As I caught up with Pete, I carried on catching up with Hughsey and Dan. Dan had blossomed from simply irritating to someone I could actually talk to and had things in common with. That’s no disrespect to him, I find the vast majority of kids irritating. I do like to think I’ve mellowed slightly, but certainly not enough to be able to be even a half decent Grandad. I still don’t see the appeal of being a grandparent and believe it to be well overrated. In turn, Jinksy, JK and Daryl entered the pub and joined us, I introduced Hughsey and Son to them. I suppose I could have given them a guided tour of all the more impressive looking pubs of Brum, but as we were going to the Blues anyway, I thought it better, although probably more self indulgent, to just do what I always do. Was a time it was just get to the Anchor and go nowhere else, but it’s a winding trail these days. That in itself would be impressive enough. Plus I knew that they’d fit in with the ale trailers for the day anyway, so they’d be fine. Daryl passed me the T-shirts I’d asked him to get for me on his visit to Edinburgh, and being of the Hobo, spoon burning persuasion, I took great delight in showing Hughsey. Much was made of the similarity with one of the colours of the Vile, but as I keep saying, go and ask for a glass of maroon from the bar. I knew that the next place would impress the Dad and Son duo, and also that they wouldn’t have been in there before. The Colemore is not only somewhere that I like, and seems to have become a permanent fixture on the home game trail, but the Head of Steam is still not anywhere near its pre-Covid standard. It’s a shame really, because the HOS did used to be really good. We left to go to Kilda at roughly the same time as JK and Daryl, and although they veered off to go a different way, we crisscrossed more than once on the way there. Given that Daryl walks at the speed of light, our way was probably quicker. It wasn’t by design, but Hughsey was baffled with where we were going. In fairness to myself, I have grown to know the centre of town and have become somewhat of an expert. Getting to Kilda, both Spoons and a post-op Steve were in there with Paul. This was where we had a stroke of luck. As Dan deliberated with what to have, the barman had forgotten that he hadn’t taken for mine and Hughsey’s drinks, and only charged Hughsey for Dan’s. Although we looked quizzical at each other, we stayed quiet and just regarded it as a bonus. Kilda can be on the dear side anyway. After banging my head on the low hanging light fittings above the set of tables far too many times, I finally sat next to Steve and enquired about his arm and operation. Had I any musical talent whatsoever, I could’ve probably have played a tune with the light fittings. With Steve’s arm bandaged up, it would probably have been the theme tune to ‘Casualty’, before booking in to have my head re-tuned myself. As some carried on down to Halton and Turner, me and the Dad and Lad team headed to Bob’s. Turned out that Dan knew this side of town as he’d been up to Digbeth several times on a night out. Well let’s be honest, there’s nowhere worth going in Telford. Especially for youngsters. Hughsey on the other hand, was pretty much lost. In Bob’s, we were joined by Russell and Badger. Hughsey’s eyes lit up with seeing Badge. His pre-match experience was complete. Mikey also came in. With looking after his parents now, he can’t always make it out like he used to. I’ve got to say, I miss his old contribution to a matchday trail. Especially the awaydays. If I had a magic wand, I’d wave it to return things back to how they were for his ailing parents. Life and old age is cruel. Personally, I’m looking to get more involved with youth in Asia. That’s the answer.

It was onto the game. Well sort of. The programme ‘Peaky Blinders’ exploded onto our television screens back in September 2013. At the time, I honestly thought I’d be one of only a handful of people that would watch it. I remember how captivated I’d been by that first episode and on the following Saturday, I headed down to QPR to watch the Blues. All day, all I heard from young and old alike, were exited conversations about the programme. In that very first episode, a huge mention was made of Blues. The fact that the team were pre-match drinking in a pub near the ground, sealed the programme’s future as a ‘must watch’ with us Blues fans. At the time, I wasn’t involved with the ale trailers, and so a little unconnected to a lot of what was going on in terms of socialising with others on an away game. Heading down to Charlton on my own later on in the season for a game, I noticed a little group at New Street station dressed as if they were extras on the show. At the game itself, there were several more dressed as ‘Peaky Blinders’. Unbeknown to me, it had been unofficially designated a ‘Peaky Blinders’ day out on social media and people were encouraged to dress up. It’s become traditional, especially amongst fans of West Midlands clubs, to don fancy dress for the last away game of the season. Travelling up for our crunch relegation game at Bolton that season, most people in fancy dress, were Peaky Blinders. So why Blues in particular? Other than the ‘team appearance’, the storyline is based around a notorious family living in Small Heath. For those who don’t know, St Andrews is in Small Heath. Steven Wright who writes the programme, is a self confessed Blues fan, and has cleverly stitched together several historical references. For the record, the real Peaky Blinders existed about 30 to 40 years previously to when the programme is set, and is probably based more on the antics of the ‘Birmingham Boys’ that existed at the time the programme is set. As you can tell, I’ve researched the history. Possibly a little too much in all honesty.

“Cheeky Blighters more like”

I’m not going to bore you anymore with it, other than that the club had come to the realisation that the programme has cult status amongst us Blues fans. In conjunction with the Beeb and the release of the current, and very last series, the club decided to delegate our game versus Huddersfield. Several gimmicks were put in place. It was announced on the club website that the club would return to its roots and go back to its original name of Small Heath Alliance, ‘By order of the Peaky Blinders’. The front cover of the programme would adopt a design that was in keeping with the period, and the walk on music for the two teams would be the programme’s theme tune of ‘Red Right Hand’, thus replacing E.L.O.’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’. For their part, the Beeb had event style banners advertising the new series hung on to the lampposts surrounding the ground, had a ‘world exclusive’ promo played on the big screen, but the pièce de résistance, was free special limited edition scarves to be placed on a number of seats for ‘lucky’ fans. Of course, the cynics amongst us, saw it as a way for the club to jump on the chance to disrupt the ongoing protests. Who doesn’t like a freeby right? Knowing that the club wouldn’t get the organisation of it right anyway, and it would just be yet another trick missed, I just turned up at the usual time. The programmes had already gone, the club in their infinite wisdom didn’t think to print any extra, and I always knew that the unscrupulous would Hoover up as many scarves as they could, to sell on Ebay. I would’ve liked a scarf if I’m being honest, but wanted a programme more. I don’t know why, because I got a chance to look through the programme and the only thing that made it different, was the front cover. The programme this season is as poor as Non-League standards, and that’s doing a great disservice to some Non-League clubs.

“Free scarf!!!”

Oh, and there was a game. A game that went from bad to worse. Our defensive injury problems had been bad enough before the game. They were to be exasperated even further, very early on in the precedings. One of our makeshift centre halves had to be replaced. One of the most overused cliches in football is ‘we didn’t get the rub of the green’ usually that’s a veiled excuse for either the team being rubbish, or the referee being rubbish. In this case, it’s defensive injuries. Never mind limited edition scarves, the club need to request Nike to produce a Blues kit in bubble wrap for Kristian Pedersen. Gary Gardner fell back to fill in for Maxime Colin. After that, it was never going to end well. Huddersfield picked us off with two first half goals, the second was incredibly badly defended even for people who just haven’t got defending in their DNA. In the second half, we made a fight of it, and could have possibly scored. It hadn’t helped though with Lyle Taylor pulling up injured even before the game. All I can think, is that he must’ve got it as he walked passed the queue of defenders who were waiting to get in the physio’s room at Wast Hills. The injury crisis will dissipate at some point, but I do wonder why and when though.

“Arthur’s mad as Hell Tommy”

I headed back to the Spotted Dog. The usual crowd were in there, plus they were showing the Six Nations game between England and Wales. I got a phone call from Hughsey. As suspected, the extensive roadworks in Digbeth had completely baffled him. Unless you’re a regular visitor to Brum, or just an addict like me who moved back to the place primarily because it made it easier to follow Birmingham City, I’d defy anyone not to be confused with the roadworks in Digbeth. Getting him to describe where he was, I went back out of the pub to guide him through it over the phone. To be honest, I didn’t feel like talking much about the game. Part of the healing process after a defeat is to ignore it happened, focus on something else, have a laugh and don’t maudle on it. You wait for something, look forward to it and when it arrives, it’s rubbish. Just get over it and move on as quickly as possible. It’s just a game after all. It’s not like it rules your life or anything…….. Subconsciously, I suppose I ignored him and Dan a bit. The outing had been a big thing for them and they would want to talk about it. To me, it was just another game. They did have each other, and like me and my lad, you could sense the close bond they had. Again, I suppose you could say I’m fickle in that sense, but I’d moved on, made a new life for myself in Brum with the rest of the ale trailers I hang around with. Time passes on and the ties of friendship loosen until you find yourself desperately trying to search for memories that have long become distorted. Replaced by new ones that don’t involve that friend. A friend you once were as close as a sibling to. It had been though, really good to see him, seen what a fine young man Dan had grown up to be, and there was a genuine warmth in the farewell hugs when they went. I went back to my social circle. Safe in the knowledge that Russell is now back in the fold again after his medical problems. Oh, and England beat Wales in the rugby. Nope, don’t remember the score and don’t really care that much. Either by order of the Peaky Blinders or by no order.

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