The rail strikes have really affected my football attending this season. I fully support the unions, but I can’t say it isn’t annoying. Especially when it affects the away games. Personally, I think it’s the wrong tactics to pull strikes on a Saturday. There’s more journeys made for work during the week, then there is for leisure at a weekend. By calling strikes during the week, you’re affecting other businesses. Businesses that would put pressure on a Conservative government. By affecting people’s leisure time, it just sets normal people against the unions. Long term, the confidence normal people have in travelling by train, will diminish to the point where services are not needed and will be chopped. Instead of campaigning to keep jobs now, there won’t be a chance to in the future, because along with the services, jobs will chopped too. Anyway, our RMT bloke in the know, had decided to drive to Sheffield, booking a family room for 3 at the same time. Ian gave me and Spoons first referral, which we didn’t, and offered a space in the car to anyone who wanted it. Daryl took him up on the offer. Ian turned up early and he was in his new car. I knew it was him, as his car hadn’t got a dent in it. I’m not saying that I live in a deprived area of Brum, or that they’re all bad drivers, but there’s a huge percentage of old, battered vehicles in the vicinity. His new car is all electric. That was a new one for me. I’d never been in one before. The last electric vehicle I travelled in, was a milk float when I was in my late teens. This was no milk float. It didn’t smell rancid for a start, and didn’t travel anywhere near as slow. If he’d have picked us all up in an electric milk float, we’d still be travelling up to Sheffield now. We picked Daryl up next. It’s always been a question between me and Daryl, as to who lives closer to Vile Pork. After picking him up, I can confirm that unfortunately, it’s me. It was then on to Jude’s to pick Spoons up. After saying hello to Jude, as she was waiting with Spoons, we carried on our journey up to Sheffield. Most of the talk up to Sheffield was about the car. In all honesty, it couldn’t and didn’t fail to impress. I knew they were supposed to be quiet, but I didn’t realise how quiet. It was nice just being able to chat without needing to raise your voice, or strain your ears to hear the people in the back. In fact, you could probably easily hear someone’s heavily muffled cries if they were stuffed in the boot. It has features you can use, that automatically keeps your distance from the vehicle in front and also in lane. It’s a step towards driverless cars. As I’m writing this, that actually raises a few questions. Hypothetically, you wouldn’t need a driving licence. Wouldn’t need to take a test. You wouldn’t have to worry about drink-driving either, as technically, you wouldn’t be driving. We arrived in Sheffield earlier than expected, and so went to charge the car up. The plan had been to do it in the morning, before heading back to Brum, but with being early, it did make sense to do it when we arrived. The revised plan however, fell to pieces. We got to Sheffield without a hitch, and parked up at McDonald’s with the idea of grabbing something to eat and charging the car. It was the first time Ian had tried charging the car. He’d actually only picked the car up the day before, and so hadn’t needed to do it yet. Although it would’ve been perfectly safe, electricity can be extremely dangerous, and so I could understand his anxiety. Cars are also expensive, and I could understand that he was worried he’d accidentally break the connector or even the charging station. Firstly, the machine wouldn’t work. It ended up with a fruitless phone call to the suppliers. Secondly, we decided to go in McDonald’s and have something to eat anyway. We must’ve entered some kind of parallel universe where all the staff’s brains had been taken out. Both me and Ian ordered bacon rolls. We even joked about Ian’s fatal allergy to eggs. We then waited for our orders before sitting down with them. I looked at mine, it was a breakfast muffin. I checked the receipt, it said bacon roll. Luckily, Ian looked inside his too. He’d got the same as me. He got the staff’s attention to complain. The manager then came to ask what the problem was. He then had to explain again. This wasn’t going well. After the McDonald’s debacle and the failed charging attempt, we carried on, parked up at the Park and Ride near to where we were going to be staying, and then got a tram back into the city centre. We started where we always start in Sheffield, the Sheffield Tap. Sitting at our usual table, at least some things were still the same. Steve and JK were already there, and then Nat joined us too. They’d all got coaches to Sheffield. Steve told us of their journey up from Brum on the National Express. It wasn’t filling me with great expectations. I’d been thinking of using National Express for away games and ground hops. From the Tap, we moved onto a pub me and Steve had drank in before, but not one either of us had been in since, and it had been a while since we’d visited it. The Queens Head is a Thwaite’s owned pub. One of the few pubs, they kept back for themselves, when they sold most of their portfolio to Marston’s. We were going in there, because they were showing the game. For the locals, that meant Spurs versus Arsenal. For me and Nat, it meant Hearts versus Rangers. We convinced the manager to show our game. By halftime, Nat was the happiest of the two of us, whilst I’d had enough and was moving on. Hearts 0, Rangers 2 and Hearts were down to 10 men after Cammy Devlin had been sent off. Leaving Nat to enjoy the rest of the game, l headed up to the Head of Steam to join back up with the rest. This time however, we didn’t see the Blues team doing their shopping, like we had done before the Rotherham away game. Perhaps they were at Meadowhall instead. From the Head of Steam, we headed down to the one pub in Sheffield that is simply a must for me.
From there, I took a slow walk to the ground.
The game had been unofficially designated for the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Zulu Warriors. I say unofficial, because it’s not not like the football club can officially acknowledge the importance that the infamous hooligan crew has amongst both Blues fans, but also the wider football supporting community itself. Unofficially the club recognises them, but it’s not like it’s the done thing to be associated with collective social violence, now is it? As for me, I’m certainly no Angel, but I’m no Zulu either. Looking around, except for the members who had lost their lives due to natural causes or otherwise, the full crew were there, it’s just that everyone were so much more older. Even the Telford branch were there. No names mentioned, but it was great catching up with them, as I was introduced to one of their sons. Time really does fly and life doesn’t stop. As a club, Blues have never been the best on the pitch. Trophy winning has avoided us like the plague. Off it, the Zulu’s stood shoulder to shoulder, meeting and fighting the best from all over the country, head on. They earned a reputation to be feared. Many other hooligan firms were to find out to their cost, that that reputation was well deserved. I’m being honest, that reputation, gave the rest of us a certain type of kudos. People were wary of us by association. Sheffield United this season, had won every home game going into this one, and I fully expected them to turn us over too. We may have won our last two away games, but I still believed we were a tad fragile.
The first half was close, and 0:0 at halftime was about right. In fact, I’d have been happy with another 0:0 draw at fulltime, had I been offered it. I spotted Rob and Si Noonan so went to chat to them. I also said hello to Sam and a newly dyed ginger haired Alex, as they went passed. Needing to produce some Carling, I went in search of the toilets. On the way there, I said hello to Hoppy. Now that bloke was a Zulu on the pitch, and he had permission to be on there. On the way back, I saw Bryn and Birdy. Birdy had driven up with Andy, Bryn was meeting up with his daughter who’s at Sheffield Uni. Back for the second half, could we manage that 0:0 draw and a point? Short answer to that, is a partial no. Sheffield United took the lead. I honestly thought that would be it, the Blades would go on to either win 1:0, or add to their lead. How wrong was I? Blues do seem to be made of stronger stuff. Not quite straw, but twigs. We still need those bricks laying before the big bad wolf comes along and blows it all away though. We equalised and with a goal from Deeney. I firmly believe in handing out praise, when I think it’s deserved, regardless of what’s gone on before, and Deeney had worked hard since Rotherham, and fully deserved the plaudits for his goal. Blues then closed the game down. I missed how many added minutes were put on at the end. Had I known, I’d have left as soon as the board went up. Instead, I left just before the final whistle.
It was too late. None of us were going anywhere. The Ol Bill had cordoned all the roads off. I was to learn later, that the South Yorkshire police force had drafted in officers from 4 other forces.
We then got the tram to the digs, so we could check in. Once checked in, it was back on the tram to Kelham Island, the area. Fat Cat was first. Although he wanted to go in the D & V, the Fat Cat is Spoons favourite pub in Sheffield. It holds a lot of happy memories for him, and it was great listening to him reminiscing about them. It’s at times like this, I learn most about people, work out how they tick. From there, we went round the corner to The Kelham Island pub itself. Both the pub and the brewery, were in danger of closing, but a couple of local people that are well known and respected in the brewery trade, have joined forces to take both over. It was a bit of a relief hearing, after the closure of several fare sized breweries in the last year. We don’t want to drift back into the dark ages, where there was hardly any real ale. I didn’t fancy a visit to the Shakespeare. Not because I don’t like the place, but I was beat. Spoons went off for a pint there. Ian stayed and had another pint. We waited a little while for Spoons to come back, but gave up. This is when Spoons’ refusal to have a mobile phone, can be a bit of an obstacle. We couldn’t get in touch with him to tell him we were heading back to the digs. I wanted to go and find him, but Ian said he’d be fine, and as Ian knows him better than I do, I bowed to his greater judgement. Catching the tram back and then walking back to the Queen’s Ground, I was glad to climb into bed. I didn’t even hear Ian go back out to get something to eat.
The next morning, I woke to stereo snoring. It hadn’t woken me up, and it didn’t stop me from sleeping either. My body clock was the thing that was stopping me. That’s what doing a night shift does to it. Never mind the time, if you’re not tired, you can’t get to sleep. I just lay there, reading up on all the news on my phone, waiting for the other two to wake up. Once they had, we took it in turns to grab showers, and checked out. After the hassle of McDonald’s, it was with trepidation we approached Costa Coffee. There couldn’t have been a bigger contrast. Both the charging station and Costa Coffee itself, was a polar opposite to what happened at McDonald’s. First of all, I have to admit, I’d never ever been in a Costa Coffee before, so didn’t really know what to expect. Bar jars of instant coffee, I haven’t a clue with the stuff. Latte and mocha could be exactly the same thing, for all I know. Ironically, I am partial to a coffee stout, but the ordinary stuff, I only tend to have mid Christmas morning with a tot of something alcoholic in it. Not wanting to look any more of an idiot than I already do, if that could be at all possible, I still refrained from ordering one, instead, I had a bottle of pop, and a toasted sandwich. Well, I was going to have what I thought was a toasted sandwich, but luckily for me, the assistant noticed it was a vegan substitute one, and enquired if that was what I wanted. I hadn’t seen the word ‘vegan’ in a lurid green emblazoned on the front. I had been lured by the ‘meat’ ingredients. Absolutely not pointing any blame at Costa Coffee, but why do vegans and vegetarians feel the need to eat things that are made to be, and taste like meat? You don’t see meat products masquerading as vegetables. For instance, you can’t buy sausages that look and and taste like carrots. A joint of lamb that is really supposed to be a cauliflower. If being vegan or vegetarian was as good as it’s cracked up to be, then they wouldn’t have to do this. Take your lettuce leaf in the corner to nibble on, and leave us meat eaters alone. What’s next? The Beefeaters at the Tower of London’s uniforms being changed to a dark shade of green, and their very name, being changed to Asparaguseaters? Ok, rant over. Relieved that she’d pointed it out to me, I chose a ‘proper’ sandwich, and had it with coke. By that, I don’t mean I went in the toilet and had a cheeky line, I mean the soft drink. Ian, checking on his phone, as it was linked by an App to his car charging, kept up-to-date with how quickly the car was charging. It really is space age stuff. I couldn’t have imagined this five years ago, let alone when I’d just left school. It’s truly scary when I see how life has changed. A life that is rapidly passing me by. I’d even go as far to say that I’m being trampled underneath by it’s juggernaut progress. Car charged, we moved on to pick Daryl up outside his hotel, before heading back to Brum to drop me off. It had been interesting for so many reasons, and a lot different to the usual Saturday trip to Sheffield. Ultimately though, it had still been great fun, with great friends.