Another Friday night home game, but one that signalled the shutdown for the World Cup in Qatar. I’m not going to talk about human rights issues or even the money led corruption at the head of FIFA. I’ll leave that to proper journalists whose job it is to expose the misdemeanours of the authorities involved. I’m just a mere football fan whose season of watching Blues has been disrupted. When I was a kid, and you’ve now seen a photo of evidence. (Whether you can believe I could ever be that cute, is beside the point. I was. I’m just not now, ok.) Anyway, when I was a kid, I used to love the World Cup. In fact, right up until it was held in America in 1994, I not only used to look forward to it, but used to plan everything around one of the many wallcharts that were issued. Even filled it in too. While the rest of the world looked in, nobody gave a stuff about it in the ‘good ol U.S of A’. In 94, it was just about how much money they could make out of it. I suppose it didn’t help that Graham Taylor had been so inept as a manager, that England hadn’t qualified, but I had more important things to concentrate on. Fast forward to this World Cup. Firstly, I don’t like Gareth Southgate. His image, his career history, his interviews and press conferences, his….well pretty much everything about him irritates me. I wasn’t alive in 66, too young in 70, and we didn’t even qualify in either 74 and 78, but the crop of players at Southgate’s disposal, is the best I’ve ever known, and the Muppet is clueless as to how to utilise them. In Jude Bellingham, he has the best player in the world, and yet he doesn’t realise it. He also persists on picking the monstrosity that is Jack Grealish. Whenever Southgate appears on the news on my television, I just want to climb inside the set, and give him a really good shake to wake him up. Secondly, and the most important thing, it’s stopped the season. For the first time in years, Blues are worth watching and we actually look like we could beat anyone anywhere. Now, all that momentum has to come to an abrupt end for an international competition in a country that should never have been awarded it in the first place. Mind you, if you were hoping for a rest from reading this bilge, I’m going ground hopping, so I’ll still be scribbling this rubbish. (Wow, I can hear the groans from here. I’ll have you know, I’m extremely sensitive….. Ok, I’m not the least bit sensitive, but I could be if I wanted to be.) Anyway, before I go landing on the unsuspecting, I’ll get back to Blues. Although I’ve stated I like a Friday night home game, getting a bus into town takes longer because of the traffic. Had I come out of the flat even ten minutes later, the journey would’ve taken twice as long as it does on a Saturday morning. I’m not moaning however, it’s still better than anywhere I lived in Telford, and if I was really bothered about it, I’d still be able to walk if I needed to. With it being a Friday night kickoff, and the last one for Blues for almost a whole month, I fancied doing a different ale trail to the ground. This in mind, I dropped in at the Colemore first. I hadn’t seen the barmaid working in there who used to work in the Welly for a few visits now, and I was starting to worry that she had left. To my relief, she was in there and had also gone back to sporting a crew cut. No idea if she’s aware of it, but the style alters her personality. It gives her more of a sense of invincibility. Creates a shield around her confidence. Bizarrely, she was happy to see me too. Now that is something I can’t explain. Just after I’d sat down, Steve landed, followed seconds later by first Russell and then almost immediately by Jinksy. Within a minute or two, JK arrived, as did Ian. The big news for me, Ian had managed to secure me an anywhere from anywhere Cross Country ticket for December 17th. Hearts here I come. I just needed to get a match ticket for the Jambos now. Steve was going to watch Hereford at Telford with his free Saturday, and we chatted about the best pubs to go to in Wellington, with a stop over in Oakengates being possibly a better option as the Ol Bill would be all over Wellington like a rash, making it oppressive. He’d still have a good day, he just needed to be clever about it and not get corralled in with the Carling Brigade. Instead of our usual order of pubs, we did it in reverse and went in the Welly next. My favourite barmaid was working in there too. Another whose eyes inexplicably light up when she sees me. I am amusing to look at mind. I love learning things about people and just from finding out she’s not a fan of dark beer, I sussed that she doesn’t like coffee or chocolate either. Most people are easy to read, only a few do I ever find a challenge. Mikey turned up, and we all found a table that had a Blues fan who turned out to be from Stourbridge, already sat at. Chatting to him, we found out he had no family connection to Blues, and although now in his mid twenties, had not been following Blues that long either. The conversation turned to music and the Beatles between me, Steve and Ian. Ian’s a huge fan of the band. Personally, I can take them or leave them, but Ian loves nothing more than talking about them. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate they were a good band and influenced a good many more, but for me, there’s far too much hype that surrounds them. There was a difference of opinion as to where to go next. Although we were all going to take in the White Swan at some point that evening, I’d got my heart set on going in the Lamp.
“But not before I’d taken a photo of one of these that have sprung up on the streets of Brum.”
A bit further out, it’s a proper little backstreet pub, ran by an absolute legend of Brum. Eddie Fitzpatrick has run the place for close to 30 years in his own indomitable style. Whereas a lot of places take ‘card only’ for purchases, Eddie only excepts cash. Now in his 70s, he keeps threatening to give the pub up and retire, and to be honest, I really wouldn’t blame him, but Brum will be losing a true character amongst the pub fraternity when he does finally call time.
“Cosier on the inside than the outside”
I must admit though, whilst in there, I did find myself having to resist donning my anorak and National Health glasses before jumping in to fully explain the infamous ‘Gypsy curse’ that is supposed to hang over St Andrews. An obvious part time Blues fan was making a right hash of explaining it to a couple of Sunderland supporting mates. No, I’m not going to explain it here. I could, but I won’t. I’m not going to explain what’s happening with the ground now either. Again, I could, but I won’t. All I will say, is at least something is finally happening with it. So it was off for a last visit to the White Swan.
“Even more beautiful on the inside.”
“A pub I’d love to buy”
Walking in, I was expecting to see a few more of the ale trailers. Russell had posted on the WhatsApp group that the pub was fast running out of real ale, so I can only assume it put some off. However, Bryn, Gav and Craig were in there and so I joined them. Apparently, after reading in my blog post for the QPR home game that the place was shutting, they had made the decision like me, to have one last visit. Craig’s son Edward arrived to join us. Two things, I feel so sorry for the lad for having to put up with the name Edward, and he looks uncannily like his Dad. The only difference being the hair. Craig’s is now grey, Edward’s (Seriously. Poor kid.) is a lot more curly. Personally, I’m just jealous as they both have hair. Leaving me to it, they left for the ground before I too followed having finished my pint.
There’s few times when I desperately want to make the kickoff of a game. Remembrance weekend is compulsory in my eyes. Home or away, it doesn’t matter which, but I just feel it’s important to recognise both the commitment and sacrifice that all involved in whatever conflict, make. I’m not religious in the slightest, so football gives me the chance to pay my respects. RIP ladies and gentlemen, and thank you. Now I’m going to say this quietly, 3 points from this game, would’ve taken us up to 6th and the last Playoff place, albeit for less than 24 hours. I wasn’t expectant either way. We had been playing well, and we were more than capable of doing it. However, Blues have a history of pressing the self destruct button. Never mind the league positions, or opposition, players, coaches and managers involved, we can pull a defeat out of any set of victory jaws. Blame the so called curse if you want to believe in it, but it was supposed to be only for one hundred years, and so that’s now been over since 2006. It is what it is, we are what we are. A lot of fans can get carried away with their hopes and dreams for their clubs, a lot become jaded and cynical. In reality, neither position is good to be in. It’s much better to just watch what happens in front of you, and then react. Whether it was because it was another Friday night kickoff, the chance that a win would take us up to 6th, or that Blues weren’t going to be playing for almost a month, but there was yet another good crowd (Reduced capacity taken into consideration of course.) Unfortunately, Blues weren’t at the races. Players who had been performing well, weren’t, and nobody stepped up to the mark. Nerves? Hardly. It wasn’t like Blues hadn’t got over half the season still to go. Apathy? Again, half a season still to go. Lethargy? Possibly. Because the season was stopping for a month, games have been squeezed in. Mental as well as physical tiredness could have seeped in. Maybe it was just the mindset that was wrong. It’s now limbo time. Should they go full out, risking injury? Nobody likes being ill on holiday, it’s the same with footballers and injury. It’s a month, could they really let themselves go during the break, or keep at it. There’s a difference between fit and match fit. Never mind how much you can train and practise, you can’t match exactly what you do in a game. Whatever the reason or reasons, Blues were just rubbish. The big news, was Jobe Bellingham started the game. Knowing what his brother Jude was like on his debut and how much hype has surrounded Jobe, I decided to focus my attention on everything Jobe did. As Sunderland opened the scoring and Blues toiled, so did Jobe. Toiled that is. He never looked like scoring. None of the Blues did. Had I been Eustace, I’d have made changes at halftime. I’m not and he didn’t. Would’ve any changes have stopped Sunderland increasing their lead almost immediately after the restart? Well until he did actually make changes, Blues continued to look poor. The ineffective Jobe was one of those changes. Obviously my opinion is worth absolutely nothing, but I honestly don’t think Jobe will make it. His attitude is first class, just like his elder brother’s is. He also looks to have a footballing brain, but he simply hasn’t anywhere near the ability Jude had at the same age. There is time, he could turn out to be a good player, but I just can’t see him playing at a higher level than what he is now. George Hall on the other hand, is a different proposition. He’ll not only play in the Premier League, but he’ll play for England too. Like Jude, Hall gets better and better. Strong rumour has it, that Leeds are extremely interested and are preparing a bid in January. My fear, is if he is to be sold, then it’ll be on the cheap and Leeds will get an absolute bargain. With what’s happening behind the scenes at boardroom level, who knows. The changes certainly altered Blues’ tempo, and one of those pulled a goal back on the 75th minute. A good finish from The Juke, and it didn’t come from his head either. We continued to pepper the Sunderland goal, looking like the team we had after Rotherham away, and not the team we had before that trip to South Yorkshire. Like I’ve said, had I been Eustace, I’d have made changes at halftime. I’m not, and he didn’t. So that was it then, we’d lost our last game before the break for the World Cup, and thus, missed the opportunity to climb to 6th. It now remains to be seen whether we can pick up the momentum again, when we all start once more.
With a ground hop the next day, and the affects of nightshift kicking in, I headed home to bed. I just haven’t the energy anymore. The body was taking over from the mush in between my ears.