28/10/22 Blues V Queens Park Rangers. Range Finders.

The scheduling God’s at Sky Sports had cast their beady eyes on the Championship table, seen that two of the more younger coaches were doing well, in Michael Beale’s case, exceptionally well, and decided the fixture between Blues and QPR worthy of Friday night top billing. I didn’t mind, I’d get a bit of sleep after my final nightshift of the week, have a night out watching Blues and then ground hop somewhere the day after. I’m not going to lie to you, finances are a lot tighter at the moment, and like the rest of you, I’m feeling the pinch. For instance, I’m now drinking supermarket brand champagne as opposed to vintage Bollinger, and I’ve cut back drastically on my monthly order of caviar, but yeah, things are a lot tighter. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely happy with importing caviar from Russia anyway. Obviously the vegan substitute stuff is still simply ghastly. It’s spelt Kaviar for a start, but at least I’m not continually being shunned by my friends and colleagues at my Gentlemen’s club, and the staff at my country house aren’t passively aggressive towards me anymore. Daryl was already in situ at the Welly, but not at our usual table. Nonetheless, without protest, I joined him. Along with a friend of his, we bemoaned modern life. If I’m being completely and utterly honest, the variety of real ale and the plethora of breweries that create it, is the one and only good thing. Absolutely everything else is mediocre at the very very best. In fact most of modern life is just slogging through a deep sludge of inept, inexcusable inadequacy. Nothing is simple, everything just sends you on an Esher style treadmill of frustration. Rose tinted spectacles? Nope, I have tangible, vivid memories of life as I grew up. Give me a straight choice between life and society now, and that of 45 years ago, I wouldn’t be choosing today’s. In that 45 years, it’s been turned upside down. That’s not my personal life itself. That’s a totally different matter. It’s everything else. Before I go all out on a full on rant, I’ll stop before the veins on my neck burst through the stress. We were joined by Russell, Jinksy, JK and Mikey. Once Steve arrived, we consulted on sketchy plans for Stoke. After the announcement of the rail strike for that day, we’d all been searching for a way of doing the game without having to do a coach straight to the ground and back. It had proved to be impossible. Stoke isn’t far away from Brum, but unless you get a train, it’s unfeasible. There and then, I decided to look at what local Non-League games I could do for a ground hop. The galling thing, is that I really wanted to do Stoke away. Well, to be precise, Newcastle-under-Lyme. It’s a great area for drinking. Although a Friday evening, we still moved onto the Colemore. Both Spoons and Jude were in there and I was able to ask her what she thought of Hull. She liked it. Since she retired from work, she’s a lot more relaxed about things and is able to enjoy more. It’s just Spoons that she has to worry about now. I’d noticed a beer from First Chop brewery on the bar, and with my recollection of the beer I’d had in Harrogate from the same brewery, I had that. Although a different style of ale, it was just as good a quality, though not better. The chocolate vanilla stout I had in Harrogate was truly gorgeous. From the Colemore, me Daryl and JK went in the new Dig Brew bottle shop. To say it was rammed in there, is to say the least.

“Not that you can tell from this”

“Who needs to read a paper, when you can read the table instead”

I usually have a sour in Kilda, but one took my eye in the bottle shop. It was the first time I’d been in the bottle shop, and I quite liked it. Very hip and trendy, it’s another option for the home game trail. From the bottle shop, we did actually go in Kilda, where Paul had already landed. I had another sour, and wished I hadn’t. A half is fine, a pint is too much, and effectively, I’d had a pint as the sour I’d had in the bottle shop was a half. In my blog post for Buxton, I’d written that Paul’s son lived there. I’d got it wrong, it was actually his daughter who’d married and moved there. “It’s an easy mistake to make”, said the Dalek dismounting the wheelie bin, said Sonic the Hedgehog, climbing back off the hairbrush, said Sid, because he gets just as confused with things. After Kilda, I really fancied something to eat. It was either that and a slow walk up to the ground, or one last pint. I suppose you could say I chose the sensible option and got myself something to eat. The slow walk hadn’t been required to miss kickoff, there were big queues outside. Even with the game being shown on Sky, there was a huge interest.

Getting in. I went to the toilet. Hearing the cheer, I’d missed us scoring….again. Getting to my seat, at least I hadn’t been the only one to miss it. Blues settled down back into shape like a well oiled engine. Eustace has us very well organised in defence, and a good QPR side were finding us hard to break down. I’ve mentioned how well Auston Trusty has been playing, but on loan from West Ham, left wingback Emmanuel Longelo, has fitted in perfectly too. The position of wingback isn’t an easy one to play. To play there, you need to be fast, strong, forward as well as defensive minded, have boundless stamina, and be selfless. It’s an artform. We may have had overlapping fullbacks in systems gone by, but primarily a fullbacks job was to defend. A wingback is a specialist position. The wrong player can make a right hash of it. For a few seasons now, successive managers/head coaches, call them what you want, have tried getting a stream of different players to play wingback with no long term success. Longelo looks like he was born to play the position. So much so, that it was great seeing him stretch our lead and with the way he scored it too. Cutting in from the left, he bent it into the bottom corner. The big away following were stunned into silence. In the second half, Rangers pushed and pulled the resolute Blues defence. You did feel however, that if they could just pull one back, they’d then go on to equalise. All the good work, up in smoke. I mustn’t have been the only Blues fan thinking this, because there was a collective groan when QPR were awarded a penalty. Harsh on Longelo? It didn’t matter, super John Ruddy saved it and saved it well. A powerful, defiant rendition of ‘Keep Right On’ rang round the whole of the ground. Except for the silent away end of course. It was to be our night, our three points.

Walking away from St Andrews, I felt for the first time this season, that we really could beat anyone, anywhere in our division. I’m not going to get all exited and make wild predictions of promotion, but we’re in front of schedule in terms of staying up for a change, and reaching the playoffs doesn’t look beyond us. As long as we carry on like we have been doing since Rotherham away of course. Digbeth High Street is a right mess at the moment, as they continue to lay the tram tracks that will eventually reach the airport. Working how to get across it, is akin to navigating the Hampton Court maze. The only difference, is they don’t keep moving the hedges at Hampton Court. So instead of going back to the Spotted Dog, I went in the ailing White Swan. There are certain bits of advice in life that gets ignored by people who wrongly believe they know better. The bloke who took over running the pub, was advised not to get rid of the tellies and Sky Sports. He did, and a lot of the pubs loyal clientele went elsewhere. As I write this, it’s soon to be shutting the doors for the last time. It’s a shame but at the same time, I can understand why. Blues had won, it had been Blues’ biggest attendance since the bottom tiers of the Kop and Tilton had been closed, and yet there were very few people in there. Yes I know I’ve mentioned the tram track groundwork, but it’s a flimsy excuse. It was essentially a Friday night. If you can’t fill a pub on a Friday night, what chance have you got the rest of the week. It really is a beautiful pub, and in the right hands, has the potential to be a goldmine. Even in these austere times. Mind you, I’m only ever a customer, so what do I know. The customer isn’t always right.

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