9/4/22 Nottingham Forest v Blues, Forest Wood Wouldn’t they?

Sometimes I’ll have a sub-heading sorted long before the day. Sometimes, I even get to use it. However, with Blues that rarely happens. I’d got ‘Woodland Fairytale’ for this one. As I was to discover, a couple of pyromaniacs in red would put paid to that idea. Getting the bus into town, I spotted a lad with a Chelsea hat on. I really don’t understand armchair fans. I honestly can’t see how they can have the gall to wear the colours of a club they’re never going to watch. Foreign club shirts are acceptable. Especially if they’re really obscure, but to maintain that they’re a supporter just because they watch games on telly and always wear that clubs colours, is a disgrace in my eyes. I really don’t care who you support, just as long as you go to games. What do I feel is the least acceptable? 4 games a season if the ground is over 150 miles from where you live. If you’ve ever held a season ticket but don’t hold a current one, that’s just about acceptable too, but in reality, the only viable reason for not going to games is having to look after kids or ageing parents. No other excuses wash as far as I’m concerned. If fans that come from other countries can travel over several times a season, then why can’t an armchair fan go and watch a game? I very rarely wear colours, but to wear colours when you’re not going to the game is just cringeworthy. It’s embarrassing as far as I’m concerned. When I went through periods of time when I couldn’t get to games due to a lack of money, I felt guilty for even thinking of wearing colours on a match day. This is going to sound totally bizarre given my own history of philandering, but it felt like I was cheating on Blues. In my eyes, it’s even more unforgivable to be a glory hunting armchair fan, if there’s local clubs that they can follow. Anyway, rant over for the meantime. I’m sure I’ll write about my utter contempt for them in the future though. Apologies in advance for being repetitively boring about it. I’m fully aware that there’s many more pressing issues in the world than my dismissal of armchair fans. I met up with Steve at New Street station and whilst we waited for the rest, we chatted about the new construction that had sprung up.

“It’ll be a bit of a squeeze”

I don’t know whose idea it is, and I’m sure something similar has been done somewhere else, but Squash is going to be played here during the Commonwealth games. This was just to be a ‘dry run’, but for the first time since it was announced that Brum had been awarded the games and venues decided, I’d actually become interested. Just so long as it doesn’t disrupt my using the train of course, I quite like the concept of Squash being played on the station concourse. Daryl arrived as did Spoons and Jude. With the TV series now at an end, talk turned to ‘The Peaky Blinders’. As Steve had yet to watch the finale, we were careful as not to talk about the last episode but more the whole programme’s impact. JK turned up and we caught the train. I chatted with Daryl about upcoming ground hopping trips, before a subsection of the Carling brigade got on at Tamworth. By the time we’d got to Nottingham, we’d all had enough of them. It was truly headache inducing. Touching down before 11, it was always going to be a Wetherspoons, but which was it to be? In the end, we plumped for one that was central but far enough away from the rest of the main crowd. The Roebuck is one of the better Wetherspoons. It still had bouncers on the door, but that’s pretty much par for the course for a Blues away game. The next place is a favourite of Spoons, and also a place I’m more than happy to visit. The Salutation is unashamedly a ‘rock pub’. Surprisingly, it was open given rockers reputation for partying well into the small hours and not stirring much before midday. Even given that it was early, we joked that we needed to order taxis from the pub. The last time had been a right fiasco. Usually Daryl is well on top with things like that, not that day he wasn’t. Although I like rock music, even thrash metal, I don’t tend to listen to it very often. When I do, it’s always enjoyable. After the Salutation, we headed up the Derby Road passed the Cathedral to the Organ Grinder. A tap for the Blue Monkey brewery. My eyes lit up at seeing the Mocca Guerrilla. Nice tasting though it was, it was as heavy as soup and I struggled with drinking it fast enough to keep up with the rest. Daryl had already finished his by the time I’d even got an inch down mine. Before finally rejoining them in there, the others had headed round to the Sir John Borlase Warren. With a name like that, you really would think it’s a Wetherspoons. It’s not. The area of Nottingham that we were in is excellent for real ale pubs. It’s why we tend to end up there pre match. That’s not to say there isn’t many more excellent real ale pubs in Nottingham, but it’s very much under the radar. From the Wetherspoons named place, we went into the Hand and Heart. It’s been refurbished since the last time we were in there. Making use of the Covid lockdowns, they’ve taken the whisky cabinet out from behind the bar, and have also shortened the bar itself. It’s now more of a foodie place than a pub. It’s got the unique selling point of the adjoining caves at the back, and they’ve increased the dining area to make use of the feature. Even the toilet is now a continental style unisex set up. If that was slightly disappointing, the next place was very disappointing. The Good, The Bad and The Drunk used to be Room With A Brew. It had been a welcome addition to the ale scene in this area the last time we’d visited. While Covid lockdown had enabled the Hand and Heart to renovate, it had done for Room With A View.

“As bland and as tasteless as the beer”

We were eyed with suspicion by the wall to wall Carling drinking locals in the GBD. Good it wasn’t, bad it definitely was, and I really wouldn’t want to be in there when they were all drunk. It was back to firm ground with the Barrel Drop. I wrote about this place the last time we’d watched Forest away. I’d been impressed with it at the time, but although Mikey hadn’t been when he’d visited it a couple of weeks later, I still found I was to be impressed with it. With time ticking on, we grabbed taxis from the nearby taxi rank and touched down near the ground. Walking the rest of the way to the away end, me and Steve spotted a programme shop. I couldn’t help but add an old programme to the one for the day. In my mind, I vowed to go back in at some point.

After finally walking all the way round to the away end, we had missed kickoff. We also missed the first Forest goal. I’m not going to lie to you, I had no expectations with this game other than believing we would lose. Even managing a draw would be beyond us. After beating the Buggies you might even think I would’ve been full of hope that we could sneak a win. Well firstly, I don’t do hope. Secondly, Forest were on a hot streak and they had the advantage of being at home. I won’t say that Blues had struggled to beat the Buggies, but our form, formations and team lineups have been changeable all season. I’m not going to claim ‘excuses’ as reasons. I’m not defending anyone or any one thing. Not going to point fingers, rant and rage at anyone. It is what it is and will carry on in the same way until something goes bang. What and when I don’t know, but nothing will change until it does. I’d spotted the Noonans and went to stand with them. Si is a bit knee jerk with his opinion, but to be honest, I could see where he was coming from. He believes it’s time for Lee Bowyer to go. Will Bowyer going make any difference? I doubt it very much. Maybe my view of the way he tries to get his teams to play is clouded by what I saw with Charlton in League One. Maybe with what happened behind the scenes at Charlton and now Blues has got to him, in a similar way that the then situation at Blues, got to Terry Cooper all those years ago. I like Lee Bowyer as a manager, but the fog seems to have descended and he appears to be stumbling around. Things were compounded here by Etheridge getting injured and having to be carried off to be replaced by Conor Truman. I’m not a fan of Etheridge, but Truman looked like a rabbit in the headlights. The second goal was always going to come. Yet another defeat to try and make sense of and consign to the dark recesses of the memory.

As i came out of the ground, I didn’t see any of the other ale trailers. Like them, I was never going to see the end of the game. It wasn’t like we were showing any backbone with getting back into the game, but they still must’ve left before me. I knew roughly where the rest were heading, but thought they might head to The Navigation first. Passing the programme shop on my own this time, I was able to peruse at my leisure in there. I was even able to add to the old one I’d bought earlier. Although Blues had lost, I was quite happy that I’d been able to get one particular programme from a cup game I’d been to in the late 80s. They weren’t in the Navigation, but I decided to stay and watch the Grand National anyway. I hadn’t bet on the race but I still like the atmosphere of a pub where it’s being shown. The excitement, the expectation and the disappointment. That in itself is entertaining for a people watcher. I got talking to a couple of similar aged Forest fans. The one was now convinced that Forest were going to sneak the last automatic promotion place. Personally, I thought they’d left the run just a little bit too late, but it’s good to dream I suppose. It’s been that long since I looked at the top of the table as opposed to having the haunting sense of trepidation with looking at the bottom, that I’ve forgotten what it feels like to dream. I was also to find out they both went to the Forest v Liverpool Semifinals at Hillsborough in 88 and 89. I couldn’t help but offer my opinion about 89. Neither could disagree, though I still sensed a feeling of guilt with what happened. Guilt that it could’ve been them instead. Trust me boys, it wouldn’t have been. Only Liverpool fans don’t look after each other. Leaving there, I headed to the one place that I’d been determined to do all day. Partizan is a micro pub that has possibly become my most favourite in the country. That’s no small accolade seeing as I’ve been in close to 100 different ones now.

“Beer and football. Perfect Heaven”

I was to learn from the barman that the owner is a regular traveller to Belgrade to watch Partizan, though with the pandemic, that hasn’t been as viable as it once was. I’ve got to say, if I had the money to open a micro pub, it would be jammed packed with football memorabilia of all kinds and from all over the world. A football museum of sorts. The other great thing about this place was the range of locally brewed and well kept ale.

“The best beer of the day”

The beer in the photo was absolutely gorgeous. So much so that it led me to remark about it to a girl who was sat at the bar. A beer lover herself, I encouraged her to embark on her own ale trailing in search of different pubs, breweries and beers. I stopped short at suggesting ruining it by watching football though. I tore myself away to take in The King Billy. Although, again an excellent place, it wasn’t as good as the last place had been. More of a traditional pub, it capped a good day out but for the result. Catching the train home, I never did catch up with the rest.

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