Since the surprise away win at Preston, life in this country has changed a bit. We’ve had a change of Prime Minister and a change of Monarch. After 70 years of being on the throne, Thursday 8th September marked the death of Queen Elizabeth II. I’m going to say here and now, that I’m neither a Royalist nor an Anti-Royalist, and at 96 years of age, it was just a matter of time before the Queen died, and so it wasn’t a total shock, but what did surprise me, was how much it affected me. I’ve only ever known the Queen, and her dying seemed to leave a strange kind of vacuum. She wasn’t the most powerful person in the world (That’s probably attributed to Vladimir Putin right now.), but she was without doubt, the most important. The whole world was looking on at history being made. Ordinarily, I’d have been extremely indignant with the entire fixture list (Including Non-League.) being postponed the previous Saturday, but somehow, it had just felt right. I even half expected this game to get wiped out too, but it wasn’t. I got the bus into town, and getting off, everything seemed subdued still. A lot of advertising had been given over to tributes to the late Monarch, without recognition of branding. All were respectful. The next biggest issue after the death of the Queen, is still ongoing of course, and most people, myself included, are mindful of rising fuel costs. I’m in a unique position of having been brought up in the family and conditions I was. As stated before, we were poor as a family, I mean dirt poor. We adapted and coped. With domestic finances approaching an imminent hammering, I’m feeding off my childhood experiences. In other words, suck it up, and get on with it. I am though, obstinate. If I receive substandard service in a shop, I not only don’t go back to that particular branch, but I’ll boycott the whole chain. Therefore, I now won’t use Wilkinson’s. However, it stocks a wide range of goods that tend to prove useful, and it’s cheap. This country of ours though, is capitalist by nature, and so it’s a free market. Other shops sell what Wilkinson’s do, and so I just needed to seek them out. So what am I wittering on about? (Jeeez, get on with it Sid.) I went on a fact finding mission. (Wow, is that it? You’ve spent all this time writing rubbish people are not going to find even a bit interesting, just for that? You really do need to get a life Sid.) Anyway, after finding the location of B&Ms, and having a quick perusal inside, I headed for The Welly. The barmaid was surprised to see me, it being midweek and after I told her that we had a game, where it was, and the kickoff time, jokingly, she surmised that drinking early and enough, was mandatory to take the pain away of watching us. Daryl landed just after me, and after having that first pint, we walked round to the Colemore. Steve joined us and the conversation turned to UEFAs refusal to allow the National Anthem to be played at the home games of British clubs involved in the midweek European competitions. For me, it was nothing more than churlish from UEFA, and as far as I’m concerned, it should’ve been arranged and agreed between the individual clubs involved in that particular tie. UEFA should’ve kept their nose out of it. From the Colemore, we started to move towards the Hawthorns. A pub that always seems to be forgotten, unless travelling to or from Snowhill somewhere, is The Old Contemptibles. A Nicholson’s pub whose decor leans on the name of the place. A frieze has been painted above the bar, of scenes of British First World War soldiers. It’s both impressive and somewhat sobering. Whenever I’m in there, I can sense the ghosts of the ones full of high spirits, but foreboding on their journey to the killing fields of the Great War, and the broken spirits and bodies of the lucky survivors on the way back home to loved ones. The pub was filling up with a fair number of Blues also heading to Yam yam land. Jinksy was in there after finishing work, and both JK and Paul Mason landed back after their trip out to Kidderminster and various pub stops on the way back. I joked with Paul that we weren’t supposed to be fratenising with the enemy, as I said hello to him. Personally, I’ve no problem with the Buggies. I absolutely love beating them, but the nastiness isn’t anywhere near as intense as it is with their old gold bedecked, knuckle dragging neighbours, or the troglodyte slime of the Vile. One thing with doing a night shift, alcohol has more of an effect on you. It hadn’t helped with only having three hours of fitful sleep, but that lack of sleep and turning your body clock back the right way, has a detrimental impact. To put it into some kind of perspective, one pint equals two. Bottom line, you get drunk much more quickly, and you can find yourself in a right mess, if you’re not careful. Feeling the alcohol I’d already had, I should’ve just had a half. Instead, halfway down my pint and knowing I had still a fair bit to go before the game, l reluctantly left it. Wolf was next on the route, a place we were meeting Natt Peters in. I wanted something a bit different. Something of a livener. I decided on half a sour. In all honesty, a pint would’ve been far too much, both in terms of volume, abv, and price. A groggy through illness, Natt landed. You could tell by his eyes that he wasn’t his usual self, but that’s what football addiction does to you, pushes you that extra mile when you really should know better, and be at home in bed. It was Buggies away though, a game not to be missed. From Wolf, we walked up to the Jeweller’s Arms in the heart of Hockley. Because of its huge number of businesses dedicated to precious metal and gem production, Hockley is more widely known as the Jewellery Quarter. Even the train/tram station has been named The Jewellery Quarter. The world’s largest Assay office is located in Hockley due to the amount of items made in the many tiny workshops within a square mile of it. 40% of jewelry made in the whole of the UK, is produced within this square mile. Personally, I think that’s quite impressive, but then Birmingham doesn’t sing and dance about its achievements and what it has to offer. It just gets on with things. The Jeweller’s Arms is part of the Black Country Ales chain. Something else that goes under the radar. In fact, it was only when I recently went in the Prince of Wales, that I realised that the chain has its own identikit decor, so understated it is. If I tell you that the Welly is a Black Country Ales pub, as is the Post Office Vaults and The Bull, then you can see how understated it really is. The pub was full of a mainly different mix of Blues, with only a smattering of Buggies. I could see from the look in Paul Mason’s eyes, he was starting to feel greatly outnumbered. By this time, both Ian and Spoons had landed, and the real old school Blues songs were being sung. Not loudly, but obvious to who we all were. I like moments like these. It’s more a curiosity than obtrusive for anyone who isn’t a football fan. It was then the news filtered through that the kickoff had been delayed fifteen minutes due to congestion. However, a rumour emanated through Twitter, that the real reason was the Blues coach had broken down. Joke or not, it was taken as true, and in all honesty given the situation at Blues, highly possible. When a kickoff is delayed, it takes out all the urgency of getting to the ground. Apathy takes over in its place instead. As some wandered on up to the station to get a train or a tram, the rest made use of the delay, by getting in another pint. Keeping a check on how the alcohol was effecting me, I felt ok to have another one. Final drinks drank, we sauntered up to the station, and waited for the next tram. Still feeling a bit outnumbered, Paul struck up a rendition of ‘God Save The Queen’, followed immediately by a rendition of ‘God Save The King.’ Both were heartily sung by all, and felt like a genuine outpouring of emotion. The domestic, social landscape, suspended in a surreal kind of limbo.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always enjoyed going to the Hawthorns. It does actually help that I’ve not only seen us win there, but a couple of them have been important victories mind. This game I personally wanted to win, because of one person in particular, Steve Bruce. I have of course, been quite disparaging about this mercenary before, but he just gets worse as a person and a football manager. He simply has no footballing morals. He’s despicable. He is though, in footballing terms ‘passed it’ as a manager. His most successful days are behind him. Football has evolved since he last managed in the Premier League. He hasn’t. Something that is starting to dawn on the board of directors at the Albion and Buggies fans. At the rate he’s going, I can’t see him lasting the season. He can then slope off into obscurity with one final payoff. No doubt he’ll rock up on a TV screen somewhere, as a so called ‘expert’ on a football show. *Makes note to save up for a new television set for when that happens, as I will no doubt put my foot through the screen*
Since the Albion were relegated, they’ve had the upper hand in games against us. I really can’t say it’s a level playing field now, but it’s not such an uphill battle anymore. In Eustace, we have a young manager with fresh ideas. Considering his hands are pretty much tied in the transfer market, he’s actually doing ok. Not uprooting any trees, but ok. Given the circumstances surrounding the boardroom antics, he’s doing a really good job. First top job or not, it’s not a job I would take on, and I support the club. The Albion on the other hand, have Steve Bruce in charge. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see them going down, but if I was a supporter of the old Tesco bag, I’d be even more disgruntled than I am now, as I just couldn’t see West Brom being any higher up in league than us at the end of the season. Unless they sack Bruce and start again of course. After Rotherham, except for John Ruddy, I would’ve made them train Twelve hours a day, every day between that game and the Preston game. Against Norwich, I would’ve played the Academy team. I am though, not Eustace and whatever he’d been doing at the training ground seemed to have worked. Well it did against Albion anyway. Deeney had his best game for Blues. Bacuna was a revelation. Combined with Hogan having one of his clinical games, the result was never in doubt. It wasn’t a totally smooth ride. It hardly ever is with Blues. Games like Luton away last season, only ever come round every 4 years or so. After Hogan’s neat finish for the opening goal of the game, Buggies equalised. 1:1 at halftime, I spotted Ian, and also Rob and Leo. The general consensus was that we were doing alright. The second half tipped my fears of Blues having no pace upfront, upside down. The second goal was as swift as it was clinical. As it left his foot, I thought Bacuna’s pass was just hit and hope. I even started to moan about it. The moan died in my throat. Bacuna had not only seen Hogan in space, but delivered a delicious, inch perfect pass to the Irishman, who gratefully dispatched it passed the Buggies keeper to regain the lead. We were cutting through Albion at ease and Hogan was metaphorically filling his boots. Blues went 3 up with Hogan’s hattrick. A half chance from a tight angle. The goal must’ve been looking like twice the size as a normal goal to him. Every chance he got, was going in the net. Like I’ve said though, Blues very rarely give us easy ride, and the deficit was cut in half after the Buggies were handed a lifeline with a dubious penalty. I am obviously biased, but even from my vantage point at the other end of the pitch, it looked outside the area. With technology and social media these days, even before the end of the game, it was confirmed that the challenge had actually happened just outside the area. Although the striped hordes in the Smethwick Road End sucked for all their worth, an equalising goal wasn’t going to ruin the Brummies night.
As I exited the ground, I was surprised to see Jeff and John. Mind you, like I wrote earlier, Buggies is a game, you don’t like missing. It’s probably why I saw Toddy, up from Devon too.
I was lucky on the way back to Brum. I got back to the station just before the queue started forming, and I was able to sneak passed the manned barriers and only had a couple of minutes to wait for the next train back to civilisation. Getting off I headed for The Welly, where Steve, JK, Daryl and Ian were already in residence and in a celebratory mood. Daryl had even more reason to celebrate, he’d had a tenner on Blues to win at 6/1. He really was on a hot streak. It won’t last, but I really don’t begrudge him his luck whilst he has it. So the mood was buoyant and everything positive, including me. I’m pessimistic by nature. (It’s a symptom of depression), and even given that, I try not to be fickle. Football fans are fickle enough at the best of times as it is, some worse than others, so I do try to reign it in when we win, but we really had played well. We’d been resolute in defence and lethal in attack. It was nice just to bask in the afterglow for a change. There are wins and there are victories. This was a victory to savour. Jinksy finally landed, after having got caught up outside the Hawthorns station. He’d already been in touch with his boss to say he was celebrating and not to expect him to be in early. Daryl, with having the Thursday off, and with being financially better off after the bet, joined him in a whisky. Last orders were called, and we all made off for our homes.