As soon as the 3rd round F.A.Cup draw was made, and I discovered who Blues would be playing, I instantly knew I wouldn’t be going to it. I’ve been to Forest Green Rovers and that was before I learned more about the autocratic, vegan dictator that owns them. Dale Vince, Vince Dale or whatever his tree hugging name is, is a self-righteous hypercrit of the highest order. As people in the public eye go, I dislike the bloke with the intense passion I reserved for Margaret Thatcher. Although the disdain I hold for Sir Kier Starmer does run both of them close. That was before the game was moved to a 12:30 kickoff for foreign television and also before the RMT decided to call a strike for the same day. Not that I was ever going to go to the tie anyway, but those things by themselves would’ve been enough to stop me from attending the match. As I headed out to go and see this game, it was announced that there was to be a pitch inspection at the New Lawns. New Lawns was effectively a paddy field. Good going for a ground at the top of a hill. It would turn out that the pitch failed the inspection, but not before most of the Blues fans who were travelling down to Gloucestershire for the game, had started their journeys. It would also turn out to be the only tie of the whole round that would be postponed. I suppose it’s what you get for using the pitch as a compost heap, or letting either a herd of cows or a flock of sheep graze on it. Yes, that’s right, I have nothing but contempt for the Forest Green set up. The fans of the club that I’ve met so far, are ok, but the club itself should be thrown out of the EFL as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, back to what I was doing. As I’ve already stated, the RMT had called a strike, so my ground hopping adventure would have to be somewhere I’d have to be able to get to by either bus, tram or a combination of the two. I chose this one obviously. I only wish the government would realise that they need to come down harder on the energy providers for hiking their prices up and also offer striking workers rises in line with the inflation that the government has allowed to increase. Anyway, enough of the politics, and on with the day. Knowing about the pitch inspection in Nailsworth, and having it on great authority off my ground hopping inspiration nephew, David, this time of year is notorious for games falling foul and being called off late. Having already been a victim of one game being called off on me because the pipes to the changing rooms had frozen, it was with trepidation I ventured out and got the bus into town. Postponed games leave you feeling flat. Something that isn’t great for mental health. Especially mine. Football is a release, a safety valve on an otherwise boring, mundane life. I’m being totally honest here. If I didn’t do what I do, I’m not actually sure what kind of mess I’d be in. What I do gives my life structure. That one day of the week, two if I get the chance, drags me through the rest of the black fog. I’m not going to say it gives my life meaning, because I probably could think deeply enough to write down a plan to completely change my life, but for now, football is enough. I have no dependants and only need to bother about myself. I can cope. With the new Wetherspoons open in New Street, I went there first. The London North Western is still getting going, but I have no doubt it’ll be a hit with travellers and shoppers alike.
“A Tardis feel”
From there, it was to the Welly. If I’m being honest here, it was mainly to see if my favourite Welly barmaid was in there. Unfortunately she wasn’t. Least the beer was good. From the Welly, I went up to the busstop I usually get the bus back home from town from. I did however, get the limited stop X51 instead of either a standard 51 or a 33. The X51 would still take me up the Birchfield Road, so it still felt strange passing the road I live on. Even if it was from the vantage point of the flyover. Why it was, I don’t know, but I felt strangely rebellious. Is it because I’ve subconsciously departmentalised my pasttime from my everyday life so strongly, that it feels like I’m escaping? Like a subtle alter ego, I’m me, but not me. Will the real me please stand up……….or run away. Run away as fast as you can. Don’t look back, and keep running. The dogs will catch you. Touching down in Walsall, the first on the itinerary had a poor choice, so I went to the nearby Wetherspoons. I’d been in St Mathew’s Hall before. It’s one that’s more of a night haunt than a day pub. It still had a good selection though. The first proper pub on the itinerary, I’d not been in before. Mainly because I very rarely ever head over to Walsall, although it’s fairly close to where I live, but like Dudley it’s quite rundown. The Fountain was good.
“A proper community pub”
From the Fountain I moved onto The Victoria. Even more of a locals pub than the Fountain. A locals pub almost always has horse racing on a TV, and that was true of the Victoria.
“The selection wasn’t as good as the blackboard suggested it might be.”
If truth be told, I was disappointed with the Victoria, but then I had been the last time I’d gone in there too. Nothing had changed. Either for the better or worse. It was time to get the 529 bus to where Darlaston play. Just as I was getting on the bus, Mick from Willenhall was getting off. He’d started off down to Nailsworth to watch Blues but had had to turn round when he heard the news of the postponement. He really wasn’t happy about it.
Where Darlaston now play, is part of a sports complex. That actually sounds much more impressive than it really is. The ground is in the corner of a large field. It does mean that it’s got room for expansion, but although the spirit is there, the club is so small, I can’t see that happening. So to the obligatory photos first of all.
“And another view of this thing to come”
“Cheap, nasty but effective”
As you’ll have learnt from reading this blog over the years, (Or not, if you’ve just had the misfortune of stumbling on it for the very first time) then you’ll know that I don’t like arena style stand constructions. Imagine letting the average 8 year old loose with a bucket of Lego and Meccano, and the result is arena style stands. At the level of Midland Football League Premier Division, I have less of a problem with it. It’s a cheaper option to something permanent, and only takes about half an hour to put up. No doubt, once whoever has the task of putting it together, will be puzzled by the leftover bits and bolts. They’re the equivalent of ‘starter kits’, and like I’ve said, at Darlaston’s level, I haven’t got too much of a problem. However, these things should have rules governing them. They are temporary and should be either replaced by a permanent construction if the club is financially better off, or taken down again. I’m all for a club getting on its feet, but these things are being exploited. For instance, Salford City have built an entire ground using both arena style temporary stands and shipping containers. Their owners and the club’s rise has been well documented. Time to start replacing each stand with a permanent construction. Yes it’s expensive, but they should’ve thought about that when they started. As far as I’m concerned, clubs should be fined every year that they don’t replace and it should be relative to the club’s league position. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but don’t try and do it on the cheap. Market Drayton Town aren’t having a good season. In fact, except for beating Worcester City away 1:0 in the very first league game of the season, they’d lost every other game. I honestly don’t know what’s gone on behind the scenes, but at one point Market Drayton were upwardly mobile and had got their eyes on the Northern Premier League, Premier Division. Just one step beneath the National League North. Money will have played a part somewhere along the line. Financial backing will have been pulled. Whose and why, I don’t know. Up to you if you want to try and find out the reasons why. I’ve searched a little and not found out anything. On paper, a home win looked odds on, but Drayton had other ideas. Darlaston weren’t going to have it easy, and although they took the lead, it had to be worked for. Even then, when capitulation was expected, Drayton fought hard, and the equaliser was well deserved. I was surprised by how many Drayton fans there actually were at the game, as the equaliser was rightly celebrated by them. I’ve lamented the demise of Blues since Christmas, but it’s nothing compared to Market Drayton’s league record this season. Seeing them celebrating, gave birth to an instant respect. A point would not have been a travesty, but a defeat probably was. A point wouldn’t have made too much difference in Market Drayton’s plight, but it would’ve been welcomed. For Darlaston on the other hand, a victory, however expected, or hard fought would be important for their push for promotion. As the rain lashed down, both teams had great chances to take the lead, but it was the home team that scored the winner in the dying embers of the game. It was harsh on Market Drayton and the celebrations the home side met the final whistle with, showed just how close the game actually was.
I caught the 529 back into Walsall, as the rain carried on lashing it down. No trip to Walsall is complete without a visit to the Black Country Arms, and it was there that I headed. The Black Country Arms is one of the best pubs in the West Midlands, the Midlands, England, the United Kingdom, well, the world really. In fact, if Aliens from out of space have discovered real ale, then they’ll know about the place. Let’s put it like this, even the locals know about it, and they’re as strange as the folks from out of space. Only kidding you weirdos. Some of my best friends originate from the darkest corners of the universe. They still shake their heads when trying to understand Yamyams though. I left the BCA and got the bus home. Another interesting and good day out ground hopping and ale trailing, and enough to get me through another week.