Where’s the holiday gone? I’d one last day of freedom before embarking on yet another year of wind and grind down the metaphorical salt mine that is work. With Jinksy heading up to the Weegie for the ‘Old Firm’ game, the rest of us had plans to watch its early kickoff in a pub somewhere. With Blues being a 3 o’clock kickoff due it being a Bank Holiday, I headed to the Welly. As I sat with my first proper pint of the year at our usual table, a mob of Wrexham fans landed. I’d been expecting Taffy, but it appeared he’d not be the only Wrexham fan drinking in Brum before heading off to Solihull. In all honesty, even without the Hollywood involvement and investment, Wrexham has a big enough fan base to not only be in the EFL, but be in the Championship. It does though, seem like Taffy’s been right all along, it’s not only gathering momentum, but has truly taken off in the newly created Welsh city. If anything, coupled with Jinksy travelling up to watch Rangers v Celtic, it just strengthens my desire to get back up to Embra to watch Hearts, especially as I was feeling strangely nervous about the Jambos game v the Hobos that was kicking off at the same time as Blues were. I also don’t think it helps with the situation up at Tynecastle being the polar opposite of what’s going on at St Andrews. My enthusiasm for Blues is somewhat diminishing at the moment. Taff was indeed the next one through the door, and telling him about the knot of Wrexham in there, he went off to say hello to them. Steve was next in, and with the Transfer window now open, the talk quickly turned to it. Having had my spirits squashed with the AGM upshot, my optimism level extends to just getting through it with the minimal of damage. I certainly didn’t believe we’d be proactive in it. It’s been my experience in life that lack of interest leads to lack of investment. Either emotionally or financially. And with the lack of interest from our Chinese overlords, I don’t expect any investment at all from them either. To be ambitious, you have to invest. Again, either emotionally or financially. I’m not ambitious, and so I’ll just carry on drifting through life. The owners of Blues hold no ambitions for the club, and so that’s what will happen to us too. I’m not one that believes in luck in football. For me, the only luck in football is down to the decisions made by the officials who control any given match, and in the Premier League VAR is even removing that element out of the game. In reality, good or bad luck, can always be traced back to a good or bad decision. Even a losing Lucky dip lottery ticket is down to the stupid decision to buy it in the first place. What can appear as an amazing piece of good fortune, will always be down to a great decision at a specific point. Hindsight is a useless thing to possess, as it happens after the event. No point saying what you should’ve done, because you didn’t, and so you’ll still look like an idiot. And believe me, I’ve looked like one of those many times over the years. The more research you do, the better the decision you will make. Knowledge really is power. As for what will actually happen in the transfer window, we can speculate as much as we want, but until it slams shut, as fans we won’t really know. Taffy rejoined us, and they continued with the teasing over the Vile fan. Everytime the door to the pub opened, a remark was made on whether he was coming in. Both Daryl and Paul Mason landed, and we migrated to one of the tables by the window again. Talk was of Sunderland and pubs before a game up there. It really is one of the benefits of being in the same division as the Buggies, as we can share some priceless information on real ale pubs for an away game. Both Ian and JK dropped in, as well as Badger. This season has been Badge’s most prolific season for watching games for several years. He was once part of the furniture at a Blues game, both home and away. He, and a now absent, Johnny Rafters were responsible for some great original Blues songs. Personally, I miss the dynamic duo and their unique songbook. It used to bring sparkle and entertainment to an otherwise dull game. The chants at a Blues games these days, are mainly generic and show a dearth of imagination. It’s almost embarrassing and cringe worthy what we sing. We moved on to the Colemore, and joined up with some more Buggies regulars. One was wearing a retro Brazil shirt in honour of the recently deceased Pele. Learning Pele’s full name was mandatory for a serious schoolboy football fan, when I was a kid. Knowing it, would earn you much kudos amongst your peers, in a time when foreign players in the British game, were as rare as a seeing an advertisement on the TV for vegan substitute meat products. No lettuce leaves were painted to look like bacon back then. It led to a conversation about the greatest players we’d seen, both on the telly or at a ground. Thanks to the already mainstream, BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 and along with, Sky, BT, Amazon, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, media platforms I don’t yet know of, and media platforms yet to be established, all players, even amateur ones, never mind the great ones, are committed to some digital format for eternity. Before the BBC took the unprecedented leap, and launched Match of the Day back in the ‘Swinging 60s’ (No, not THAT kind of Swinging. Good grief, is there nothing innocent anymore?) We had to make do with fleeting news footage, and before televisions started to invade our living rooms, Pathé news preceded the main feature on your weekly trip to the cinema (Or the pictures, or the flicks, depending on how posh you talked.) It meant that you got to see very little of players you didn’t either see play regularly for, or rarely against your local club. (And it was local back then.) The written word can be quite illuminating, (Not this rubbish, obviously.) but there’s no better witness than your own eyes. As football is now well over 150 years old, if I was able to borrow that blue box that travels through space and time, or the DeLorean with the Flux capacitor, I’d spend my entire time travelling back to watch all the great games, and all the great players we’ve never got to see. Players like, Caesar Jenkyns, and Billy Beer, Harry Hibbs and Joe Bradford, the 9:1 victory V Liverpool, both the F.A.Cup semifinals of 31 and 56 that we managed to win, more of Francis before he left in 79. And that’s just Blues Billy Meredith and Steve Bloomer, Frank Swift and Dixie Dean, Arsenal championship winning side of the 30s, Spurs 61 double side, the Busby Babes, I could go on and on and on, and that’s just in this country. To be able to compare the worlds greatest players from all the different eras, would be a joy to behold, and keep me occupied in a suspended state of sheer bliss. As I write this, I can just imagine my Sister Chris screwing her face up. Well Sis, imagine if it was cricket and you could do the same. The idea was to go from the Colemore to the Head of Steam to watch Rangers v Celtic, but the place was inexplicably shut. Not wanting to go to the North Bar with the rest, I headed for The Good Intent instead. It wasn’t that I was bored of going to the North Bar already, but I just fancied going somewhere we rarely go. In fact, I went upstairs in the Good Intent, as I’d never been up there. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.
“The view was good too”
After their sojourn in the North Bar, the rest joined me. I honestly don’t know why we don’t go in the Good Intent more often if I’m being honest. It made a nice change. With Bob’s bar now shut, but some of us still fancying another beer before the game, we split again. Some wanted to go to the Rainbow, whereas I didn’t. It’s got a couple of key keg craft beers, but I fancied something cask. This in mind, I went to the Spotted Dog, where I had a quick chat to John and Andy.
When I went up to Middlesbrough in early October, they’d just sacked Chris Wilder and put Leo Percovich in temporary charge. I came out of the ground back then, feeling that we should’ve at least got a point, and all 3 wouldn’t have been a robbery by any standards. Had Chris Wilder still been Boss, there’s a good chance we would’ve won, but although the spirit had been lifted somewhat, Boro were still fairly hopeless that night. Fast forward 3 months, Michael Carrick is now the bloke in situ and he’s managed to completely turn the Teessider’s fortunes around. Instead of heading up to the North East believing we could get something out of the game, I wasn’t optimistic whatsoever that we would get anything out of the return. Especially after we got beaten so lamely by Hull. My pessimism wasn’t going to be left disappointed. The first half was fairly equal, but we were disjointed. Injuries and loss of form had forced Eustace into changing the team round. He is though, still playing the same system. Now I’m not going to bemoan him for sticking with what has worked so far, but it does highlight how threadbare the squad is. With systems, you have to have players that are comfortable playing it. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but a shire horse is never going to win the Epsom Derby. That’s not to say, it’s still not a reliable horse for pulling a loaded wagon though. The defeats against both Burnley and Hull had taken their toll on the spirits of the team. Whereas the Burnley loss was expected, it hadn’t helped with knowing that an unexpected victory would have been enough to plant us in the playoffs. Although I didn’t travel up to Turf Moor, from what I’ve read, we were outplayed. Hull should’ve been a bonce back. Injuries, loss of form, disappointing news from China, so many games in a short space of time after a month’s layoff, too much turkey, delete where applicable, but it just didn’t happen. The importance of momentum should never be underestimated in football, but it’s a fickle friend. Keeping it going can be just as difficult as getting it going, but regaining it though, can be virtually impossible and has signalled the end for many a managers job. It’s not an exact science and there’s no coaching manuals for it. What works for one team, at one club, won’t work with another team, at another club. The most successful attempts go down as legendary anecdotes to be regurgitated in after dinner speeches for decades afterwards. The attempts that don’t work, get ridiculed in the media when said manager gets the sack, and just become memories that are raised in pub conversations. From showing relegation form early in October, Middlesbrough showed their promotion credentials in the second half. Two quick goals took the game away from us, and although Tahith Chong pulled a goal back in his uncustomary striker role, the away side restored their two goal lead.
It signalled my exit, and with it, my enthusiasm for going back to the pub evaporated. With the onset of my return to work the next day, I decided to head home and wallow in my self pity.
Footnote:- Apologies for the lateness of the last few posts, but procrastination is a symptom of depression, and although for the most part, I get through it ok, there’s still the times I find it hard work, and let’s be honest, it’s not like Blues is giving me much cheer at the moment. Oh, and no horses were hurt in the production of this post.