14/1/23 Bristol City V Blues. A Bouncing Pair.

No. The subheading doesn’t allude to what you think it does. You’re reading ‘A Bouncing Pair’ and ‘Bristol’ and just linking the two things together. I honestly didn’t realise how perverted you lot were. Carry on reading and you’ll find out it’s entirely innocent. Sorry to disappoint. You’ll just have to get your smut from somewhere else, won’t you. Anyway. During the week leading up to this game, there’d been severe flooding along the river Severn which just so happens, empties out into the Bristol Channel. The Severn wasn’t the only river that had burst it banks either. Therefore I had grave misgivings about our trip down to the West Country. Between Worcester Parkway and Gloucester, two cities on the river, there was already planned engineering works and rail replacement transport was being used. Just to try and stay on a train, and not have to cope with being stuck on a coach, we’d planned to go through Oxford and Didcot. It meant changing, but at least we’d still be on a train. However, there had been flooding down that neck of the woods, and services we’d planned to catch, had been cancelled. Me, Ian and Daryl decided to bite the bullet and go down the usual route. JK and Steve chanced the Didcot/Oxford route. As per usual, rail replacement transport early in the morning tends to run smoothly. It’s in the evening that it gets a bind. When tiredness has seeped in, and tempers are shorter. It wasn’t the trip down that I was expecting problems, it would be the trip back, that I wasn’t looking forward to. As I waited for Ian to get our train tickets, I watched two lads enter the concourse, obviously inebriated themselves, they were attempting to walk/drag their drunken mate between them. It wasn’t so much the walk of shame, but the drag of shame. The lad was that far gone, that without the help of his mates, it’s quite possible he wouldn’t have made it home. The five of us parted, and headed for our routes. Getting off at Worcester Parkway, our coaches were indeed waiting for us. As expected, things were running smoothly. Right up until we hit the main road to Gloucester, that’s when the coach door decided to open by itself. Other than the driver having to pull over to sort it out, it wasn’t to happen again. Well, not on our journey anyway. At Gloucester, the train was already in the station waiting, and the last leg was to be uneventful. Touching down in Bristol, and knowing that Spoons and Jude were stopping in the city for the weekend, Daryl texted Jude to find out where they were. We met up with them in the Commercial Rooms, a Wetherspoons I hadn’t been in before.

“And quite impressive too”

Right. To the subheading. Now I absolutely hate Tuesday night shift. The euphoria of the previous weekend has evaporated, and the following weekend seems at least a month away. Jinksy posted on the WhatsApp group that Spoons and Jude had got married that day. My shift would be worked with a smile of happiness on my fizzog.

“So not a Kenyon anymore. It’s Mr and Mrs Walker. Though they were almost Mr and Mrs Spoons.”

So now you know where the ‘Bouncing Pair’ comes from. Seriously, I really can’t believe you lot would think it could be something smutty. Oh, and by the way Les. I kissed Jude on the cheek congratulations. She’s a Vile fan. An ex season ticket holder of several years in fact. Anyone who has followed this blog since day one, isn’t a resident of either a mental hospital or a HMP as a result, and has an eidetic memory, will remember that Les is my brother and the person who was responsible for my introduction to Birmingham City. He read my blog post for Hull City at home. Straight afterwards, he texted me about the Vile fan. The text he sent didn’t ask after my health, didn’t say that he’d enjoyed reading my blog, (Or not.) didn’t pick out any other bit or bits of the post. It simply said, “Fancy getting hugged by Vile.” All I’m going to say is, at least I haven’t bought a Vile scarf for anyone. Even if he was buying it for an Anty of ours. Now if you’re wondering why I didn’t attend the nuptials, they’d kept it secret until afterwards. Surprisingly given Spoons’ image, but neither he or Jude enjoy the limelight. They are though, both sociable, and extremely popular people. Had they notified even half a dozen people of when and where the service was taking place, several hundreds would’ve turned up, such is their popularity and how highly they’re regarded. I for one, wouldn’t have thought twice about using one of my precious holidays to attend it. I’d have even ‘thrown a sicky’ had I needed to. This way, they were able to enjoy their day much better. As we all left the Commercial, Jamie Teague and his mob were walking towards the place. Spotting Spoons and Jude, they broke into “Mr and Mrs_Love one another” the theme tune to the old ITV programme of the same name. Like I said, several hundreds would’ve turned up. From the Wetherspoons, we were going to go in The Shakespeare, but as it wasn’t opening until midday, we headed for NO1 Harbourside instead. By this time, we’d discovered that JK and Steve had been stuck at Bath (Ironic given the flooding.) and were now heading to us by taxi. As we were in the pub, this lot walked passed.

“Oblivious to the lengths us supporters go, to watch them”

My days of hero worship are long gone, so although I took the photo, it was only for the purposes of this blog. Once Steve and JK had landed, we moved on to the Lime Kiln. It was here that I treated Spoons and Jude to a pint to truly congratulate them on their marriage.

“No, it’s not modelled on me. I’m not that good looking.”

As the rest of us headed to the Bag of Nails, Jude accompanied Ian to another pub. The reason being, are these things in the photos below. Personally, I prefer to see pussies of a different variety. I’m on about Lions and tigers in the zoo. Good grief, you lot have filthy minds.

“Why do the things know when you don’t like them?”

I have no idea why. Maybe I need to change my aftershave, but this wasn’t going to be the end of my day’s encounters with animals.

“Spoons looks for tips”

“So true”

After being plagued by one of the many resident moggies, we moved on to the Grain Barge, where we met back up with Ian and Jude. Last season, it had been warm enough to sit at a table on deck. Not this season. From there, we moved onto what is turning out to be the traditional last stop before a game at Ashton Gate. I like The Merchants. It’s got great beer, good food, football on the TV, friendly banter with the home support, and just as long as you follow the locals to the ground, you don’t, or shouldn’t get lost heading to it. I have to mention here, that I’d been the only one of us that had thought United would beat City in the Manc derby. If only I’d stuck a bet on it. Mind you, had I, then City would surely have won.

Our record against Bristol City is good. In fact it’s that good, we could be and are classed as a bogey side of theirs. It’s almost like all we have to do to gain three points is just turn up. Since the turn of the Millennium, of the 21 games we’d played up until this one, Blues had won 15, there’d been only 3 draws and we’d been on the losing side only 3 times. With the dramatic drop in form and results, this surely would be a good match for us to get back on track. Football doesn’t work like that, and certainly not for Blues. Sticking with the playing side, we’d brought in two players, and two had left during the Transfer window. We’d signed Kevin Long, a reserve centre-half from Burnley, and Reda Khadra, a reserve forward on loan from Brighton. Neither departure from Blues was a great loss. The disappointing Przemyslaw Placheta had returned to Norwich, his loan termination paving the way for Khadra, and the immensely frustrating Jonathan Leko had left for Milton Keynes on a permanent transfer. Placheta’s contribution was small and inauspicious. As for Leko, consecutive managers at Blues waxed lyrical about his performances in training. According to them, he was consistently the best player. However, as soon as he crossed the touchline for a competitive game, he went to pieces. I firmly believe that Leko has some kind of mental blockage when it comes to a match played in front of a crowd. I’d watched him playing for his former club Charlton, he had played with a freedom that he was never to show at Blues. A skillful player in his time at Charlton, I thought he would be a good addition for Blues when he signed. It wasn’t to be. That skilful player I remembered at Charlton, looked like he was playing in lead lined wellies at Blues. Back in October, Blues had taken Bristol City apart in a 3:0 victory at St Andrews. Brizzle were out for revenge and went about us with gusto. Ironically, they hadn’t won at home since October, but you couldn’t tell. As a football fan, if you like a manager, you will look for the good bits, the qualities. Vice versa, if you don’t like the manager, you’ll look for the bad stuff. With John Eustace, I’m smack in the middle. With both his inexperience and with the lack of support and investment from the owners, he’s not exactly exonerated, but it’s hard to be critical. It is what it is. You turn up, watch whatever happens, celebrate anything good, try and not to let the bad stuff get to you. It’s difficult to be like that, as supporting a club means that you always want the best, or at least as close as you can get. Sport is about ambition, pushing to the limits of ability. In team sport, spirit of togetherness is incredibly important. If you haven’t got that mentality, then you might as well give up. That momentum we’d built up pre World Cup, had ground to a stop, and the team spirit is melting quicker than an ice cream on a baking hot summer’s day. With Long making his debut, I spotted an old friend of mine. With the defence still adjusting, I caught up with Sean. The home side sensed and made use of it. (The adjustment that is, not me and Sean catching up.) 1:0. A bit shell shocked, 4 minutes later it was 2:0. It really wasn’t looking good. Even then though, the jinx reared it’s head. Chong was upended in the box and Deeney put the penalty away. It was good to see Sean, great catching up with him, but Blues were ragged. A shadow of the team they were before the World Cup break. I could point to a whole host of different reasons as to why, but picking faults is a waste of time. If cutting the deficit had been a positive, then the positivity vanished almost immediately after halftime. 3:1 was a cue for Steve to go. It was just too early for me, and besides, I was enjoying catching up with Sean. The forth though, was enough for me to take, and I bid farewell to the lad I’d known for over 30 years. Chances are that it’ll probably be another couple of seasons before we meet again for a proper natter. It’s barmy how life works, how you can have circles of friends that change. You grow apart, lose touch, move in different directions, but still retain the link that is Blues

Coming out of the ground, I managed to time it just right. The Ol Bill were still preparing for the mass exodus of Blues, and I evaded the cordon they were setting up. After discovering where the rest were, I headed to meet back up with them. Just as I got to the pub they were in, so did the taxi they’d booked, and I jumped in with them to the Seven Stars. Apparently Reda Khadra had scored for Blues, but we’d still lost 4:2.

“I definitely need to change my aftershave, but at least I’d pulled”

With all due respect to the dog in the photo, it was only after the crisps I was eating. Yes, I did give it a few. I’m not that heartless. After the Stars, we moved on. Just as Steve, Daryl and JK were going over the carpark to their last in Bristol, JK was blatantly taken out by one of those metal bollards that had been folded down for access. As he got back up, the referee just gestured ‘play on’. It was even more of a penalty than the one that Tahith Chong had been awarded earlier, but with no VAR in operation and CCTV taking even longer to make an assessment, no foul was forthcoming. After a mix up in communication, Ian had headed back to the station, and had had a pint in the nearby Wetherspoons. I managed to meet back up with him and we got the train back to Gloucester for the rail replacement. As always with rail replacement transport, it runs perfectly fine up until about 10 o’clock in the morning, but by 5 o’clock in the afternoon, it’s turned into a nightmare scrum as the fleet of coaches has decreased and passenger numbers have increased. I honestly cannot think of many more stressful times than attempting to travel by rail replacement transport after midday. Not quite childbirth, but it’s up there with moving house, and easily more stressful than a first day at a new job. With the coaches not ready to depart, me and Ian made use of the time and went to The Regal, a very good and also busy Wetherspoons I knew from my ground hop at Gloucester City. As the name might suggest, it’s one of the company’s cinema conversations. Similar to the frontage to the Avion in Aldridge, The Regal’s frontage is striking with its neon signs standing out, enticing you in off a now completed, central shopping square. It was still a building site when I ground hopped there. Only a quick pint in a place full of Leinster rugby fans, it was enough Dutch courage to embark on the rail replacement. As we sat on the coach waiting, the last connection from Bristol docked. Along with Daryl and Steve, the Carling Brigade arrived to get on. Fortunately, the Carling mob had enough sense to stop with the singing enough for the coach to start, but there were a few worried glances from the staff of the coach firm to the Ol Bill that were monitoring the situation. Thankfully the train was waiting for us when we got to Worcester Parkway, but with rail replacement transport, the trains are never the problem, it’s always the coaches that they put on that is the headache. Getting off back in Brum, we all split to go our separate ways home.

Footnote:- Although I’m posting this on the 1st of February, I would like to take the opportunity to wish Les a happy 65th birthday. Thank you my brother for introducing me to a contrasting life of watching rubbish football combined with the most amazing social life. Supporting Blues might be immensely frustrating and depressing when it comes to matters on the pitch and at boardroom level, but there’s no other set of fans like us. We truly are a unique breed. We’re the ones who make it all bearable and have great fun doing it.

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