15/4/22 Blues v Coventry City, Dark Skies On The Horizon

There used to be a time when very Few games were played on a Good Friday. Was a time when I used to have Good Friday off. Although I’d finished my last shift of the week, and also knowing that I now had a weeks holiday from work, it didn’t alter the fact that the game was kicking off at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I wasn’t going to get any sleep. I suppose I could’ve gone to bed when I’d got home from my nightshift, and then getting back up later, gone straight to the match, but firstly, you only get one crack at this life, so shake it for all its worth, and secondly, have you watched Blues this season? Alcohol intake before viewing should be made mandatory as to help ease your descent into the abyss of despair. It certainly helps me with the mental anguish. The thing is, I’m definitely not the only one who finds the fuzziness of alcohol helps with what happens on the pitch. Even so, a 3 o’clock kickoff on a Friday afternoon doesn’t feel natural. It conjures up a whole host of questions. Easter is not only lucid in terms of the date it happens, but so is how companies plan their holidays. For instance, I’ve never worked anywhere else where the company shuts down for the week. Because of this, they utilise the ‘floating’ day by including it in the shutdown week. It means that Good Friday is just a normal day. How can it be a normal day when there’s a near complete fixture list that kicks off at 3 o’clock? Of course, we’re not the only company that works on Good Friday. Other companies choose to use the following Tuesday for the floating day. It is though, confusing. Baring in mind that Saturday is a normal day, it means that some pubs will stay true to their normal hours, and some will extend hours to accommodate the people who are on holiday. While I would like to see the floating day fixed for good, either Friday or Tuesday, it doesn’t matter which, just choose one and use it permanently, I would also like to see the dates of Easter fixed. This is where for any rational, intelligent person the alarm bells will be ringing loudly when it comes to religion and Christianity. Each year the birth of this bloke called Jesus is celebrated on the 25th of December. So why is it that the death date moves? Who’s lying here? Who’s trying to pull the wool over our eyes? Strange that the shortest day of the year is celebrated in the Pagan calendar just 4 days before Christ was supposed have been born, yet Easter moves. It’s also strange that many Pagan symbols for spring and fertility have been hijacked by Christianity as part of Easter. What has an egg got to do with someone’s death? Rebirth? Don’t make me laugh. While we’re at it, Thanksgiving to ‘God’ for a harvest? It’s just nature’s cycle. ‘God’ hasn’t got anything to do with it. It’s climate, terrain, growth and nurture. Nothing less, nothing more. We’re born, we live, we die. End of story. It’s up to the individual to write that story and make it as worthwhile reading as they can. I’m nearing the epilogue of my life and I’m just wondering whether I’ve added enough illustrations to entertain during the boring bits. Anyway, not for the first time, and I don’t suppose for a single second, it’ll be the last time, I digress. While trying to get the timing right and not going overboard on the beer too much due to lack of sleep, I was later getting into the Welly than usual. In fact, Ian, Steve, Jinksy and JK were already in situ. Ian had mistakenly bought a book believing it to be about ‘The Hollies’ pop group. It was about a Hollies, but Eric Hollies, the spin bowler that had played for Warwickshire and England with distinction, and who then had had a stand named after him at Edgbaston. He’s most famous for bowling the great Don Bradman out for a duck in his very last innings for Australia. It meant that Bradman fell short by just 4 runs of finishing with a Test career batting average of 100. For that achievement alone, I applaud Eric. I do after all, dislike Australians with a passion. Ian isn’t the biggest cricket fan in the world, and was simply going to throw the book in the bin. Discovering this, I jumped at the chance of liberating it from potential landfill. Ian even said he’d look after it until after the game. Steve showed me his list of pubs and opening times for Blackpool and where they were on a map he’d bought. I had looked myself, but hadn’t written anything down. I knew Daryl would be doing the same as Steve, and so it seemed futile to do the same. We moved on to the Colemore and I spotted a familiar face behind the bar. it was one of the barmaids from the Welly. She beamed when she saw me. I didn’t get the chance to ask why the move, but I suspect I will do. We moved on to the Head of Steam and watched the Luton versus Forest game. Neither team looked like the teams that Blues had played. Forest looked nervy and Luton looked hungry. Luton deservedly took the lead. None of us could understand how bad Forest looked after they’d beaten us twice, and how good Luton looked after we’d scored 8 goals against them over two games without reply. It just showed how but for different things that have happened over the season, that but for the top two clubs, any club could have a good season and be fighting for the playoffs in our division. We moved on to Kilda, a place that had extended its opening times to try and attract customers that were on holiday. It now felt like a Saturday to me. Even more so, knowing that I myself was now officially on holiday. Something I’d been counting the days down to since the very first shift back at work after Christmas. Another old familiar face was in Kilda. One I hadn’t seen since well before the pandemic. Phil used to join us on the odd away game. Something that had become scarcer as time moved on. Age, boredom, disillusionment, delete where applicable. Ian bore the brunt of much teasing due to his position and job in the Union. Phil also works on the railways, and gets to know a little more with the job he does on it. It was all light hearted of course, but it’s how we are as a rabble. We tease and support whenever and wherever it’s needed. We’re all equals regardless of status and backgrounds. It actually makes supporting Blues much more bearable. Spoons was in Bob’s, he’d had to work in the morning. That’s the difference with his job. It’s not only much more important and worthwhile than mine, but due to the organic nature of beer, you can’t mess around with the production of it. Brewing doesn’t stop for a day off, just as food production doesn’t. We walked up to the ground together and we swapped stories about what we’d done after the Forest game. Beer and lack of sleep was catching up with me. I would need to be careful.

Steph, Justin and Seeley were back in position and the scaffolding at the bottom of the Tilton had vanished.

“Update forthcoming?”

There’s obviously been something happening at the ground. We as a band of supporters have to have faith that the right things are happening and what the club is telling us is the truth. I’m no civil engineer. I’ve never worked in construction and I have only what has been reported to go on. The rest is just conjecture. I am though, suspicious of the owners intentions and whether what is ever reported is actually true. Bottom line is that I don’t trust anything or anyone until it’s happened. We were told that a complete survey was to be carried out with respect to the degeneration of the ground and what was required to be done to bring the stands involved back to a state where they can be used again. It was reported that the survey would be conducted and completed by mid April and a club statement issued. As a layman, I can’t tell whether the survey has actually been done. It’s extremely easy to rip out a section of seating, drill some holes, fill those holes with fresh cement and ‘pretend’ the survey has been done. As long as palms are greased and mouths stay shut, lies can be told. Exactly 14 days ago, it was posted on the Small Heath Alliance forum that the survey had been done and the bottom tiers are actually irreparable. Here’s the crux of the matter for me. It took the club’s mouthpiece Ian Dutton 13 days to dispel this ‘rumour’. He maintained that he would be issuing an update early next week. Why not now if the survey has been completed? Have you got to get your story straight first Ian. Sorry mate, I just don’t trust you. Unless you can prove yourself to be anything but, you’re nothing more than a puppet. A ventriloquist dummy to be worked by your shadowy Chinese masters. It’s now hurtling towards the end of the season at a startling pace and because of the World Cup in Qatar, next season kicks off early. Before now, and especially before Covid, prices and sale dates for the following season’s season tickets have usually already been released. The chaos before the top tiers of the Kop and Tilton were allowed to open, was an unmitigated disaster. If it takes the managing director Dutton this long to dispel a rumour and then take even longer to issue an update, then it tells me that he’s not only not in control, but he really hasn’t got a clue with what he’s doing. I don’t believe for one second that the bottom tiers are going to be open in time for next season, whether they actually get repaired or not. After the season we’ve had on the pitch, and the way we as supporters have been treated off the pitch at home games, can they honestly vindicate putting the prices up? Absolutely not. All we ask for, is professionalism, efficiency and clarity. We’re not getting any of that still. We’re still being treated as an inconvenience and not something to be respected and valued. If I could still guarantee getting a ticket for every away game, I wouldn’t bother about getting a season ticket. It’s soul destroying looking around St Andrews and the atmosphere is just depressing. Long gone are the days when I used to look forward to a home game, and don’t forget, we’ve just gone a complete season where fans were locked out of everywhere. Oh, and by the way Dutton, I’m still waiting for the refund I was promised and should’ve received for Bournemouth at home. When was Bournemouth? It was only the second home game of the season. 18th of August if you need to look it up Ian. I honestly dread to think what will actually happen with the stands. I dread to think how much of a fiasco buying a season ticket for next season is going to be and how much I’ll get charged, and I dread to think how much or more to the point, how little the manager/head coach (Whoever it may be.) will get to spread round the team on new players. Oh that’s right, there was a game wasn’t there? Well first of all, Lyle Taylor was back after not being allowed to play against his parent club, and because Etheridge had still got his bonce wrapped in vinegar soaked brown paper, and Conor Truman hadn’t impressed, Zack Jeacock was in goal. I’ve never been truly happy with a youngster in goal. In fact, in my 43 years of watching Blues, only two young keepers have ever impressed me between the sticks for Blues. Both went on to bigger things. Tony Coton’s and Jack Butland’s careers have spoken for them. Would Zack Jeacock be the latest name on that painfully short list? Well it started off ok. We even took the lead in the 12th minute. Pedersen buried a cross with that blonde mop of his. Things were going good, we even increased our lead on 39. Another header, but this time from Geraldine Gardner and from one of Marc Roberts long throws too. Roberts’ only been trying it ever since Harry Redknapp brought him to the club close to 5 years ago. That’s when the fun stopped. ‘When the fun stops, stop’ says the gambling disclaiming advice. It’s far too late for me. I’m so badly addicted to watching Blues that I’m beyond any psychiatric help now. A bullet between the eyes would probably be the most humane way of putting me out of my misery, but as the bullet has only got a walnut sized target to hit, knowing my luck it would miss, ricochet round the inside of my skull for an hour or two before finally losing momentum and slow down to a halt. Chances are, I’d wake up one day to find the spent bullet stuck to my cheek after it had fallen out through one of my ears. The 2 goal lead lasted all of 60 seconds but worse was to come. Just on halftime, the visitors had gained parity. All 4 goals had come from crosses. The difference was that ours dried up in the second half. I don’t know what Bowyer said to the players at halftime, but whatever it was, it must’ve had the opposite effect on them, because several in the Royal blue shirt showed a total lack of commitment and determination in the second half. In the Welly earlier that day, Ian (Allen, not Dutton.) remarked that he didn’t rate Ryan Woods. Up until this match I hadn’t seen anything that had made me dislike the player. He could of course, just have had an off day, but he was awful. I hadn’t consciously decided to focus on what Woods did, it’s just that he was rubbish. Coventry had returned out for the second half and played with purpose. Blues had come out looking like porpoise. We were fish out of water. As the half grew older, our spirit diminished further and further. Another cross and another Coventry goal. The game had been completely turned on its head. Instead of consolidating their lead, our former tenants smelt blood and went for the kill. Although they needed to wait until added time, the forth was always going to come, and when it did, it was comical. Attackers were queuing up to miss until they finally scored from what was the 3rd attempt of the move. Move was something that the Blues defence couldn’t see the point of, and so they hadn’t bothered trying. Jeacock had looked like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights. I joined the rest of the Blues fans who had decided enough was enough and filed out of the ground.

In their infinite wisdom, the Ol Bill had let the Away fans out at the same time as us. It led to a few skirmishes before they were able to rush between the warring fractions. I just picked my way through and carried on walking as if it was just another day at the office. With Millwall soon, I’ll be more on my mettle. I went back to the Dog and walked through a surprisingly empty pub and after getting a pint, went to see if anyone was in the garden. I found both Ian (Allen not Dutton.) Dave and Pat Webb. It was wonderful seeing Pat again after all the upheaval and recovery from two brain operations. It was great making her laugh again, like I always did. Whether that was because of or despite of the ops, I don’t rightly know, but it really was just great to see her back out. Ian went to get another pint, and found Spoons, Damien and Mal who then joined us. The defeat was a distant memory as the conversation and jokes flowed. More people arrived and the evening started getting hazy. Finishing up, I left before the beer fuzz got overtaken by heavy eyelids and got the bus home. After all, I had part 2 of a 3 game weekend to go the next day.

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