27/8/22 Rotherham United V Blues. Rotting Ham.

After missing out with going to Cardiff, it was actually great to be back on the road with Blues, or should that be rails? As it’s a long long road and not rail, I suppose I’d better go with what our unofficial athem states. Turning up at New Street, the lineup of ale trailers showed one change. Paul, coming back from injury, replaced the suspended Jinksy. Ian was also absent, but then that bit doesn’t fit in with the football analogy, does it?. I’m being flippant over Paul’s injury. Unlike having a mere compound fracture of the leg or something similar, having a serious heart condition does tend to greatly affect your lifestyle for a lot longer. He used to be a regular at away games, but it was curtailed by the blood pumping thing. In all honesty, it was great seeing him back to something like how he was before all the heart problems. He’s got his colour and a bit of bounce back. As for Jinksy, the suspension was just due to him heading up to Glasgow to watch Rangers. Again, in all honesty, with the way Blues are, I could understand the trip up to Ibrox. As for Ian, he was in Liverpool. Nope, I don’t understand why either. So me, Spoons, JK, Daryl, Steve and the aforementioned Paul, travelled up to South Yorkshire. The train going the back loop out of Birmingham New Street to Derby. Ordinarily, if I’d been on my own, initially I’d have worried I was on the wrong train, but even being without Ian, I was still with a couple of experts on the workings of the rail network in this country, and so I didn’t even give it a second thought, and sat back to enjoy going a different way. Even though it meant passing through a station that would’ve taken me just under 15 minutes to walk to, and also passed where I work. After that, the surroundings became unfamiliar and thus interesting. It was rather satisfying going passed where I work, knowing that due to the Bank Holiday, I’d an extra day off from the whine and grind though. Although its destination was Sheffield, it was to wait at Derby for just over half an hour, so we got off and crossed platforms to catch an earlier train to South Yorkshire. Getting off at Sheffield, it was straight round to the Tap. Well almost. I got a return ticket to Rotherham just in case, first. Sheffield is one of my favourite places in the country and the Tap is one of my favourite places there. We took root at the tables we always take root at, and kept an eye on the next arrivals from Brum. Steve had joked that we needed to get in the Tap early, before it was invaded by hundreds of Forest Green fans heading to Hillsborough. I did see two Forest Green fans, a Dad and Daughter team, but unless they were off to get themselves photocopied, that was it. The humour on the WhatsApp group we’re in, can get quite surreal at times, something I’m guilty of indulging in. I’m not going to go into details, as it’s just too weird to explain, and I’m not naming the usual perpetrators, as it’s far too incriminating. It’s certainly not for the faint hearted, and a strong character and personality is mandatory. If your ego is fragile, then walk away. In fact run. Run as fast as you can and just don’t look back. On the way out, we said hello to Jeff and John, before heading up to the Head of Steam.

“Pints and shorts”

Once there, we headed outside to enjoy the sun. That’s the shinny, bright thing, not the rag that masquerades as a newspaper. I’ve got to say, you don’t half see some sights when you haven’t got a gun. (Don’t worry, it’s just an old family ‘in joke’. Besides, I’d have run out of bullets by now, had I been able to physically do it……and get away with it.) For whatever reason, the Blues squad walked passed us.

“Jobe Bellingham trailing. He’s getting used to that.”

We found out that they’d stuck the Test match on the telly, so we went back inside to watch it. We were joined by the Dad and Daughter team from earlier (They hadn’t found a photocopier.) and we started chatting to them. I was asked by the Dad about the convoluted ‘Takeover’ at Blues, and so I tried my best to explain the situation. Explaining quantum physics would be a lot easier, and also quicker. I’m not actually too sure who ended up the more confused, him or me. I know I wish he hadn’t asked me, as I just haven’t got the arms out wide, shoulder shrug, blank expression and noncommittal reply down to a fine art yet, and I’m still at the stage where I think I vaguely know what’s going on, and feel obliged to offer an explanation. From Sheffield’s HOS, we went to The Dog and Partridge. Unfortunately, my pint was off, and instead of going for the stout which would’ve cleared my palate, I went for a citra. D’OH!! Spoons wanted to go to the Dove and Rainbow, a rock pub round the back of the Banker’s Draft Wetherspoons. However, when we got there, it was shut. We weren’t the only ones who had been caught out by the opening times though, as a huge number of the regulars in the D & R were holed up in the Banker’s Draft until the pub did open up. We were then to find out that the train service to Rotherham had been greatly slashed and that the most viable alternative was to catch the tram. So we did. It also meant that we were in grave danger of making kickoff. Touching down in Rotherham, we headed over the bridge to the aptly named Bridge Inn. The last time I’d been in there, it was very much covered in football memorabilia, including scarves from all over the world pinned to the beams. This time? Well just look at the photos.

“Two feet in the grave”

I do actually love rock pubs. Whereas it’s obvious with Spoons, not so with me. I like the alternative decor, the music, and the ambiance of them. They’re always just so friendly in them. Whereas Spoons gets the curious looks in the mainstream places, I get the suspicious looks in the rock pubs. As a personality, I’ve always enjoyed smashing the stereotype image I portray. Beer drank, it was mission accomplished, we were late for kickoff.

“Strange sort of ground”

Rotherham were the second successive promoted club we were facing. As a football fan, even ‘knowing’ that the club you’re facing will have won far more games than they drew and lost the previous season, there’s still a part of you that dismisses it because it was in the Division below. Regardless that your club just escaped relegation, you still have an unfounded arrogance that you’ll win the game. I half think that arrogance spreads to the team. As I watched Rotherham completely swamp us and dictate the game, it was difficult to point at an outfield player for Blues and claim they were having a good game. It was just as difficult to point at the worst player, as they were all rubbish. Possibly Sandison could’ve taken a seat next to the, once again, excellent John Ruddy on the coach home. The rest, I would’ve made make their own way back to Brum. Special mention has to go to Troy Deeney who spent 67 minutes pointing and moaning at his own teammates, whilst contributing absolutely nothing. I’m now of the opinion that he’s toxic. Berating any young player with less than 25 first team appearances under their belts is detrimental to their development. Especially when Deeney’s own performance comes up so far short of average, that it’s like playing with 10 men. It was an easy victory for the home side, and would’ve been a much heavier defeat had it not been for Ruddy. As you well know, if you read the match report bit of these blog posts, I’m not a fan of Neil Etheridge, but in Ruddy, we have a great keeper. I’d even go as far to say, he’s our best goalie since we got relegated in 2011. Seeing Ruddy lining up at the start of the game, certainly gives me peace of mind. It’s just a shame none of the rest of the team instills the same confidence in me. After this game, he’s now even got a penalty save on his Blues record. A special mention also has to go to Mark Roberts too. There are times when I think he’s truly useless. There are other times, when I don’t think he’s even that good. Watching him trying to defend is akin to watching a giraffe who’s wearing roller skates for the first time. The highlight of the whole game, was seeing Steph in a reproduction round neck Adidas top that we wore in the late 70s. I’d seen the reproduction V neck Adidas shirts from the very early 80s, but it was the first round neck one I’d seen, and I’ve got to say, it was beautiful. I consulted Justin on where he’d got it from. To his credit, he’s now on the lookout for one for me.

Giving up that we were ever going to get even a consolation goal, I left. On the way, I bumped into Daz Fleetwood. He informed me he was at the game with Gaz Spencer. Sure enough, he joined us. It had been several years since I’d last seen Gaz, and Blues had been rubbish then too. I left them to go and find their car, and I went back to the station to discover I’d just missed the train back to Sheffield. The next was a tram, and I’d time to go back to the Bridge Inn. Whereas the vast majority of Blues waited for the soon after train, several Blues caught the tram back into the city centre. For some unknown reason, Sheffield University seems to be a ‘go to’ University for student Blues fans. Getting off, I walked up West Street to the Bath Hotel. Yeah yeah, boring. So what can I say? It’s a beautiful pub. Don’t believe me, then go and find out for yourself. Maybe my sister Chris is right, I am predictable, but as it’s real ale and they were playing 50s Rythm and Blues in there, I’m really not apologising. Needing to not give myself too much to do. I’m old, my running for trains days are over, I headed back towards the station. I’d got just enough time to get a last pint in, and so it was to The Rutland I went. Look, it’s my favourite pub in Sheffield. It’s got a great jukebox for a start, and it’s quirky. Anyway, boring and predictable or not, I’m me, so leave me alone. I caught the train back home. A good day out, tainted by an inept, soulless performance from Blues. And for the record, they lost 2:0

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