Justice for Rowett

Gary Rowett has been sacked as Blues manager and I am one seething individual.

I never thought I’d see this day. I always thought when Rowett leaves it’ll be after endless attempts by the Blues to keep hold of him but he’d ultimately be poached by a Premier League club who fancied taking a gamble on an up-and-coming young coach.

If Rowett was to be sacked I would have thought it would have been as a result of Blues floating around the bottom of the league and under serious threat of relegation.

Not when we’re 3pts off 3rd place in the league.

How the hell are you going to sack a guy who’s steered the club to being 3pts off 3rd place despite not having a pot to piss in? 

We’re out-performing Norwich, Villa, Derby, clubs who have spent multi-millions of pounds.

Not only is he over-achieving with the resources available at the club, but the guy has built a tight-knit team down at St Andrews in which the manager is a fundamental part. You’ve ripped out a guy who managed to win that rare prize of holding both the respect and the friendship of the dressing room.

The guy’s idolised by the fans, he’s a former player with local links to the club and you’ve sacked him a week before Christmas.

You vile vile c***s.

And there’s absolutely no justification for this. It is immoral and senseless.

Even if there’s a super-star manager lined up, even if my personal favourite Big Sam is lined up, this is still ethically wrong, on every level. It’s outright disgusting.

What this stinks of, unfortunately, is yet again another once-proud English club has been flogged on the free market to a bunch of clueless, top four obsessed Sky Sports app watching Chinese who want to massage their own egos and impress their friends by buying a football club and bringing in some clueless, cretinous, pigeon English-speaking ‘celebrity manager’ that couldn’t find their arse with both hands. Zola, Di Matteo, Solskjaer, all to give the Chinese a power-trip.

I thought we were past all this.

Just when your enthusiasm for Blues starts to grow and it looks like we’re building something,, you get zapped like this and the club is once again thrown into the wild.

I mean look at the bookies list of possible replacements: Billy Davies, Keith Curle, Zola, Kenny Jackett etc. They’re all shit. Massively massively shit. Bloody hell, It’d be a nightmare situation if we found ourselves thrust into their arms by chance, let alone actively putting ourselves into this situation through choice.

I can’t rationalise this. It’s not only immoral and unethical, it’s downright damaging and f***ing senseless too.

I don’t particularly want to go to St Andrews to prop these slime ball owners up. Not to associate myself with these low lives. This has put me right off.

And what is the FA doing? Nothing. Of course nothing.

Coventry, Portsmouth, and Blues, all proud, storied football clubs, all passed around the backrooms of Chinese nightclubs like prostitutes and sold from criminal to criminal.

Thousands of people in our working class towns and cities messed around as they watch something they have spent years emotionally investing in being ripped to shreds by asset strippers and Beijing Del Boys wanting 5 minutes of fame.

Will the FA step in and revolutionise club ownership in England?

Naah. It’s only two Midlands side and Pompey. I can’t see them being interested until it hits West Ham or one of the traditional top four.

We’re playing Brighton on Saturday and the game is no longer about the football. How can it be?

It’s now about sending a message to Super Trophies Asia, or Wicked Cool Cups Shanghai [or whatever the name of the fake companies these shysters are operating under] that the sooner they get out of our club the better.

Blues fans have a weird pride in that we don’t do what the Blackburn fans did when they gave Steve Kean shit every day of his life for being inept; and neither do we get the bedsheets out like Villa do whenever they have a downturn in form.

But I’m done with that. I’ll boo these f***ers and hurl cocktail sausages on the pitch until the cows come home.

Might not achieve anything, but it’ll make me feel good, and that’s an improvement on the seethe I’m harbouring at the moment.​

Justice for Rowett

Afternoon up the Toon – Entourage Day Out Special


The Mail opted not to publish the blog I produced in which I criticised Lee Ryder for his anti-Blues article.

I think if you are going to come out and slam a club and its fans in the public domain you then have to expect some sort of counter-argument. I’d say my article was balanced [*conceals smile*]. I quoted the guy verbatim from his Newcastle Chronicle piece, explained why these assertions were ill informed and outright wrong and finished by adding a few comedy metaphors about punching horses.

Perfectly reasonable I hear you cry! Yes, yes exactly.

In fairness to the Mail [who have given me free rein hitherto] they probably don’t want to trigger a public spat between a high ranking employee at a sister paper and themselves, no matter how funny and potentially lucrative [I reckon it’d generate a fair few clicks and shares] it might be. Ah well, water under the Tyne Bridge now.

Incidentally, as it came to pass, the Mail would ultimately spare my blushes, as all my pre-match bravado would be undone within just 30 minutes of the kick off.

There were 12 of us in total heading up to Newcastle from the Royal Duchy of Solihull and we’d arranged to stop in Newcastle on Saturday night and head home on the Sunday morning.

I was heading up with Chris, who was driving me, Paul and Martin up to the bleak North in his spacious Insignia.

This was going to be a long ass journey. I didn’t want to rinse all of my iPhone battery away and I thought conversation would probably run dry by Sheffield so I decided to bring a book with me, my Trump book: ‘Great Again – How to Save Our Crippled America’.

Trump was standing imposingly on the front cover in front of an American flag. The kind of strong alpha posture he might exhibit when he tells the Chinese that they can’t flood their steel onto the world market any longer, or that Amy Schumer is to be sent to the gulag forthwith.

I flicked through the book and looked at the contents page, the chapters were strong: ‘Healthcare is Making Us Sick; Immigration: Good Walls Make Good Neighbo[u]rs; Climate Change: A Lot of Hot Air’. I let out a short but punchy laugh and imagined just how angry these headings would make the Guardian’s Owen Jones. Good stuff.

We made a pit-stop at a service station north of Wetherby – full of Blues.

Isn’t it weird how you seem to drive past services every 10 minutes or so on the motorway, but no matter which one you decide to enter on a good #bcfcawayday, it’ll always be full of Blues fans who have set up camp and have seemingly been there hours.

Some youths in Blues Adidas sportswear were doing keep-ups with a miniature football in the car park. Fat types were standing next to the official coaches, sipping tea in steaming plastic ups and talking to the even fatter driver with a fag in his gob. Other Blues fans were whizzing about to and fro around the entrance looking for booze and Burger King.

When we went to Cardiff last year, one of the lads brought along his Uncle Terry who was introduced as a retired high ranking member of the Zulus and knew all the pubs we were to avoid if we didn’t want any trouble.

He was like some sort of Red Indian chieftain who knew the lay of the land, but instead of knowing what type of cactus to drink the water from on the red plains of Arizona; Uncle Terry knew the pubs to avoid if you didn’t want a glass bottle wrapped around your bonce in the post-industrial inner city suburbs of the Welsh capital – both, you’d imagine, are useful bits of knowledge in the right setting.

Uncle Terry had given us a dressing down within minutes of our meeting at Cardiff. We’d arrived late [at 10am] and our lateness had eaten into the drinking time apparently – he and our mate had been there since 8am.

As we queued up in Costa at the service station north of Wetherby and waited for three Venti Hazlenut Lattés with sprinkles and cream on top, we could only imagine Uncle Terry’s seething anger if he ever became aware of it.

Back on the motorway and after going under the Tyne and paying to get through a toll, in a really shitty Geordie version of the Channel Tunnel, we arrived at our pub/hotel, had a couple of quick drinks, dropped the bags off and ordered a taxi to St James’ Park.

The taxi driver collected us and was a Newcastle fan as you’d expect. Most of the journey was spent listening to him rant and rave about their fancy-dan players in the current squad and in the teams of years gone by.

‘Ah picked up Andy Cole once yer naa?’

‘Oh really?’ we enquired.

‘£19.80 the fare came ta. Gave me a 20 din’e? An tha’ c**t only asked for his 20p! Aye, he did!

‘Michael Owen like, ee’s anova mercenary. Total mercenary, a’said it at tha’time. Nae bother tho lads. One a’me maytes worked in his house on a building job for a while an ‘ad a wank in his bed! So we got the last laff!’

‘7 poun 80 please lads. An, on yer way home tonight, don’t let the robbin black cabs charge you more than 9 quid. I know what they’re like.

Into St James’ Park and the climb began.

Ok, this is the most niche [and therefore pointless] analogy ever, but there’s an episode of the 90s Nickelodeon TV show ‘Kenan and Kel’ where the whole episode revolves around them climbing up the tallest skyscraper in Chicago – well, that seemed like a spot of light exercise compared to this insane undertaking.

When we got to our seats and the teams came out, we were above the birds. You could see planes taking off in the distance. Looking down it was like watching that screen you used to get on the Championship Manager PC games where your players are dots moving about on the pitch.

From what we could see, the 11 blue dots were camped in their own half, and were being bombarded by the 11 black dots relentlessly.

What can I say about the game that hasn’t been said already and won’t bore you back to tears?

If you’re going to park the bus and hope to frustrate Newcastle, why wouldn’t you play a defensive midfielder? Surely Kieftenbeld has to play? An unfit Tesche and a feeble and irrelevant Gleeson won’t offer a shield for the back four.

If you wanted to nick a draw and keep it tight, why would you play a front four of Donaldson, Adams, Stewart and Cotterill? All of which will only track back and defend in-part. That’s a front four you’d expect to see if we’re at home to Rotherham and getting loads of the ball, not here where it should be all hands on deck.

Blues were set out in a bizarre way. We didn’t have a single midfielder who could tackle or track back, yet the mind-set was to sit back. So we essentially played ‘park the bus’ with a bunch of non-defensive players.

We tried to play on the counter but fielded no wingers capable of running with the ball. The Cotterill on the left and Stewart on the right experiment was disastrous again.

It was bizarre line-up, and Newcastle cut through the Blues like a blunt knife through melted butter. I’ve never seen a Blues team sit so deep and STILL let the opposition players get yards of space in behind them.

It was a shocking performance. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever been amongst Blues fans at a game when we’ve ironically cheered our first shot on goal [about the 80th minute by the way].

We took 3200 fans four hours up the road to Newcastle and what we saw was probably the worst away performance in decades.

The Newcastle fans on social media praised our support as the best they’ve had all season, but it was sub-par by our standards in reality. After the 2nd goal all the enthusiasm was sucked out of the away end and you saw everybody visibly deflate.

It wasn’t just the fact the game was killed after about 30 minutes, but the manner of how we were losing. We couldn’t even string three meaningful passes together. I think the Toon fans were impressed with our backing because of the numbers we took and we were admittedly loud while the game was 0-0 and 0-1.

By the time the third went in, I looked around the Blues end and it looked like the waiting room at a Dignitas clinic. All the build-up, excitement, planning, travelling, drinking, and singing had been nullified and erased by the most lifeless and gutless of displays.

The fourth went in and half our group left to go back to the pub.

We caught up with the others and spent the evening drowning our sorrows; refusing to take praise from the Geordies because of how shit we were and discussing our mutual hatred of Villa on a bar crawl around the toon.

Our Villa mate who now lives in Leeds drove up to see us for the night time festivities. He’d stuck 50 quid on Newcastle 3-0 – suddenly the 4-0 defeat wasn’t looking so bad.

His misery was compounded when an old skool transvestite [and im talking Pete Burns (RIP) / Lily Savage, not the new fangled ones they have these days like theres Something About Mirriam] who was sporting a big blonde beehive wig, scary clown-like make up and had tattoos all over her arms, was standing outside a pub entrance and found out our mate was a Villa fan.

‘I’ll spunk on ya face and clear your spots ya Villa bastard’ was hurled in his direction.

‘Eh Proclaimer, wheres ya brother?‘ (The Villa fan is ginger and wears glasses) the tranny heckled .

All genders of Geordies seemingly hate the Vile as much as we do.

As we traveled back to the Midlands the next day Martin got a text off his Blues-mad Mom.

Brownie had the right idea taking a book to read by the sounds of it‘.

She was half right. Newcastle was great, its just a shame our players didnt get the memo and offer some kind of input in making the whole day one to remember.

On to Ipswich.

Afternoon up the Toon – Entourage Day Out Special

Smashing The Geordie Establishment

lee-ryder

2016 is the year the establishment around the world has been smashed.

In America, the God Emperor Trump was elected President, and here in Britain, Brexit won out in the EU referendum, against the odds, and against the desire of the elites.

In both the Trump and Brexit movements it was remarkable being witness to the war of words between the mass body of working class people, and the establishment journalists and media types who apparently knew better.

Blues fans reading this will be nodding their heads and recognising this phenomenon. For we have already suffered these smears and attacks.

It wasn’t Brexit, and it wasn’t Trump, but our anti-establishment event occurred two years prior when we dared to desire a change from the Lee Clark era, when we had the audacity to dream of something better, of something more.

The Geordie establishment were not happy and boy did they let us know about it.

Fast forward just two short seasons and when Blues take to the field on Saturday at St James’ Park, we will do so as a top six side and as a serious contender for a play-off finish.

Should we beat the Magpies when the final whistle sounds – we’ll find ourselves just six points behind them.

Presumably, over in the press box, Lee Ryder of the Newcastle Chronicle will be choking on his greasy mystery-meat parmo in disbelief.

Back in October 2014 Ryder used his platform to spit fire at Blues, and tear the club to shreds for daring to sack Lee Clark, the article read like an embittered Geordie love letter of loss.

Ryder declared that Clark had ‘worked miracles with Blues’ steering us to a lofty 21st position, as we survived on goal difference thanks to a dodgy penalty in the Leicester/Doncaster game.

Our sacking of Lee Clark, apparently, underlined Blues as ‘one of English football’s comedy clubs’.

I had to sit down for a moment.

I mean, can Newcastle hurl that smear at us? Really?

A club with a fan base famous for jeering their own team; picking fights with horses; engaging in mass walkouts in the 60th minute of games they’re losing; whistling in high pitched accents; and getting individuals with gynecomastia to show off their beer belly tattoos to the Sky Sports cameras during winter fixtures?

If Blues are one of England’s comedy clubs, Newcastle are world class.

Back into the article and Clark was depicted by Ryder as a ‘Geordie hero’ with ‘fresh ideas’. Blues fans who saw us 4-0 down to Blackburn after 40 minutes when Clark decided to play Caddis in the middle of midfield, Packwood at right back and Callum Reilly at centre half certainly found the ideas…fresh, to say the very least.

Apparently, Clark could wield an ‘incredible book of contacts’. Unfortunately for Blues most of these contacts appeared to be relatives of the 1995 Newcastle side, and not the good ones either. Olly Lee. OLLY LEE. Released by Barnet for being surplus to requirements, but then somehow he made his way up two or three divisions and into a Championship XI.

Freddy Shepherd’s agent grandson was allowed to represent young Blues prospect Demarai Gray, and later played a pivotal role in negotiating Gray’s disgustingly low release clause, which ultimately paved the way for Gray to leave the club for a good £10m below the market rate.

Sweet revenge for sacking Clark.

Like the bite of a dying snake, the poison of the Geordie establishment was still being felt well after they’d gone.

Ryder ended his tirade by suggesting Blues fans who harboured ambitions of seeing the blue machine up the other end of the table were living in ‘cloud cuckoo land’.

Well, it looks like the cuckoos have come home to roost Mr Ryder.

Prior to the blip against Barnsley, Rowett [with the same level of resources Clark had at his disposal] had adroitly marshalled a Blues team of free transfers, loans and youth team players into the top 4 of the division and hot on the heels of Newcastle – the most expensively assembled squad in Championship history, with a pissin’ European Cup winning manager at the helm.

And on Saturday, you have to say that whatever the result, Blues’ decision to move on from Clark and on to the professionalism of Rowett has been vindicated and then some.

The Geordie Establishment scoffed and mocked Blues, they suggested we lived in cloud cuckoo land and were a comedy club – but over the course of the subsequent two years Blues have been quietly building a unified, hard-working, dark horse [put your fists away Geordies] side that now has more than a shot at making the play offs, while Newcastle continued to disgrace themselves on the national stage, culminating in another comedy relegation.

As the saying goes, those East End of Newcastle types supposedly never walk away from anything, but ignorantly commenting on the affairs of a club you know nothing about and hurling around insults is probably one undertaking they should have made an exception for.

 

 

Smashing The Geordie Establishment

L’Horreur d’Oxford

Paris

It was Oxford at home in the League Cup.

The first game in the League Cup? Midweek? Against lower league opposition? You better believe I’d normally be washing my hair, but one of the entourage was an Oxford-supporting-Silhillian, so this wasn’t a meaningless cup game for our groups of mates.

The contest now had enough of an edge to alter our status from ‘couldn’t give a toss’ to ‘mildly interested’, and so we decided to attend.

I’d got back from work and found my new Blues shirt had arrived. It was a warm August evening, the sun was giving off a deep orange light and the soft breeze rustled through the trees; a faint smell of nearby barbeques permeated the mild air.

I’ll wear my Blues shirt’ I decided. Medium. I’m a medium in Nike football shirts, my England and France shirts are a great fit, so this shouldn’t be a problem. I ripped open the bag and pulled the shirt over my head.

Shit.

Jamie Pollock in a boob-toob.

No way around it. Everything was hanging out. I couldn’t wear it now. I’d have to exchange it at the club shop for a large or, the alternative option was to be like one of those women who buy wedding dresses too small and go on a crash diet to try and fit into it, but this task wouldn’t just require a crash diet; I’d need to shrink a couple of inches to get below 6 foot too.

I whacked on another top and made my way to the train station. Immediately my phone buzzed with a call, it was my mate Chris:

“I’ll meet you guys in the ground, We’ve got people from our company’s French branch over in Birmingham all this week and I’m bringing Frederick along to his first ever football match tonight so I’m going to be a bit late.”

“You’re taking him to Blues/Oxford?! Don’t you think the French have suffered enough?” I replied.

“Naah, it’ll be great. He’ll have a fantastique time”.

“Ok…well…we’ll see you in the ground then.”

Frederick was going to hate this.

Here was a man used to the Louvre, used to sipping cappuccino near the Seine. A man dragged from the poetry clubs and jazz music of the artistic corners of Paris and forced to endure the spectacle of Jonathan Grounds slicing the ball out of play, in a half empty stadium, while the whiff of Balti pie farts molest his nose and speckles of spit rain upon the back of his neck.

Frederick would never go to the football again. Quelle tristesse.

I met the entourage outside the Blues shop.

“Where’s Matt [the Oxford fan]?” I inquired.

“Not coming now”.

Even the Oxford fan wasn’t bothered about turning up; we’d soon find out that this same apathy would be displayed by the Blues players too.

We had a short while to kill, so we went into the Blues shop. They’d actually done the place out since Adidas had become the kit manufacturer. No longer did it look like a bomb had gone off in TK Max, there was a seeming order to where the clothes were, and there wasn’t anything on the floor, and everything looked clean. Things were looking up.

I went over to the Blues shirts to peruse the selection. A youth in an all-black Adidas tracksuit approached me.

“Lookin’ for large?”

“Cheeky cow” I thought.

“All we gots is medium. Everyone’s lookin for large but they aren’t coming in for two weeks.”

Drat. I’ll have to come back in a couple weeks.

We took our seats in the ground, and the game commenced. Chris and Frederick shuffled in five minutes after kick off. Frederick was a short, bespectacled fellow with eyes like buttons, he seemed confused, as if he’d been frogmarched here against his will – which was probably the case.

Blues were marginally the better side in a slow, pedestrian game that saw a succession of people mis-controlling the ball; attackers shooting from distance only for the ball to sail out for throw-ins, midfielders over-hitting passes that whizzed under the recipient’s feet bringing about a football match that was turgid and dreadful in the extreme.

The defence saw Paul ‘Unsung Hero’ Robinson partner Morrison, and young prospect Cogley replace Spector at right back. Caddis was played on the right wing in an experiment to test his attacking prowess. The Teutonic duo of Kieftenbeld and Tesche comprised the middle of midfield, with Vicious Viv on the left, and Vaughan and Storer up top.

On paper this wasn’t a bad Blues side. But we were awful.

I’m a fan of Vicious Viv, as I’ll always favour pacey wingers who look to take the opposition on. They open up the game, take the team up the pitch at speed, win free-kicks, corners and penalties – but Viv looked out of match practice and extremely raw. His first touch saw the ball bounce three yards away, and he ran down more than a few blind alleys. If we do manage to bring in a winger before the transfer window shuts, I’d like to see Viv go out on a six month loan to somewhere like Coventry to get him up to scratch.

I’m also a strong Caddis fan and believe that his over-laps from the full-back position are crucial to our attack. He takes a player away from Cotterill, giving him time and space to pick out a cross, and he also has a great little move where he feigns to cross and cuts inside, running into the box unlocking the opposition’s defence, but in truth, bar a couple of decent forays into the Oxford penalty area in the second half, he looked out of position overall.

The game was stale and in between the empty blue seats were groups of depressed Blues fans staring wistfully into the distance, only ending their trances to scratch their heads to satisfy an itch . You could hear a pin drop. I looked over to Frederick, he was sitting and smiling uncomfortably, the same kind of smile you put on when you’re looking at photos of somebody else’s baby or holiday, feigning interest to maintain politeness.

Half Time. The fans that hadn’t been totally sapped of their enthusiasm booed and jeered.

Frederick had got a baguette, where from, nobody knows. They say Napoleon invented the baguette so French soldiers could carry it down their trousers, so there’s always that option.

The second half continued in the same manner. Slow, stale, tepid, nobody taking a risk on the ball, a lack of ideas, no creativity, only this time Oxford looked the marginally better side. Rowett had seen enough and decided to bring on the big guns, Maghoma, Donaldson and Gleeson were thrown into the farce, but in truth Blues only seemed to get worse.

Full time and the people in front of us decided they’d had their fill.

‘We can’t take another 30 minutes of this’.

It was so bad that it became really funny. Fans in the stand were becoming delirious, and chuckling manically to themselves every time Blues players mis-controlled possession or ran out of play trying to get a cross in, others were pointing to planes in the sky, kids were hitting each other over the heads with match day programmes.

I can’t accurately describe how bad the game was. It’s got to be a serious contender for the worst game ever, because it wasn’t just shit, it was 120 minutes of shit, so it beats any league game in the shitness stakes because had this been a normal Saturday the torture would have ended half an hour earlier.

And we didn’t even get the booby prize of a penalty shootout to take the edge off,  because 30 seconds before the end a non-descript Oxford player rose like a goldfish in between Robinson and Morrison and nodded home to secure the victory for the Oxen.

The half empty ground emptied in seconds.

Chris and a mentally-scarred Frederick disappeared into the darkness of Small Heath.

Myself and a few members of the entourage made our way back to Bordesley station.

The second game of the new season and the second time we’d failed to score or even trouble the opposition keeper.

Blues look slow in their build-up play, the counter-attacking of Rowett’s early days seems a long time ago. Progressive full-backs have been replaced by centre halves. Our game plan now revolves around chipping the ball at Donaldson and failing to offer any support when he nods the ball down or controls it looking for a lay-off.

The signing of Che Adams will hopefully help, but it also suggests that Rowett blames the personnel for our offensive impotency instead of the system itself.

There’s work that needs doing, whether the change in personnel will provide a quick fix, or whether we need to rethink how we approach our home games moving forward will be an issue that is debated in the weeks to come.

All I know is that Frederick won’t be back any time soon to see what the answer is. He might even have to Irish up his cappuccino next time he’s down by the Seine to blot the memory out.

L’Horreur d’Oxford

Aston Has Fallen

Villa

‘Blues, Blues, always lose, ‘cuz they wear their ballet shoes’.

That was my first experience of the being annoyed by Villa fans.

‘But we don’t wear ballet shoes’ i’d snap back.

I was about 7 years old, and even then, in those old times, the Villa fans were irritating little weasels.

To be sure, this was Solihull, and it was a majority Blues school, as it was a majority Blues area, but there were just enough Villa fans to get under your skin – a glory-hunting, gobby, vociferous minority.

And they were glory-hunting, make no mistake.

People of my age, or my mini-generation [ages 24-34] remember going to school in the mid to late 90s, and enduring their shit.

Because even though there’s that old joke, that Villa have only won two trophies since Queen Victoria died, they still presented the glory option for the weak-minded local fan.

They were consistently finishing in the top 6. Sometimes at Christmas, they’d be top of the Prem, I think they were a fair few points clear the one year under John Gregory. They’d reach the latter stages of the FA cup, they were playing in the UEFA cup and they attracted big name signings.

Blues by total contrast were still recovering from the crash of the mid-80s, and were down in the footballing doldrums having snowball fights at Exeter, laughing their way through the Barry Fry years, getting into punch ups in the Anglo-Italian cup and winning the Leyland Daff / Auto Windscreen shield. Villa were the Hollywood option, Blues were the Hollywood, Birmingham option.

And so for a minority of those 7 year olds in the playgrounds at Ulverley School, while the loud smashing, bashing and thrashing of the machines of the Land Rover plant nearby echoed abound…supporting Villa was an obvious choice for some.

Not for me. I was always destined to be a Blues fan.

With my dad there was no other possibility.

The man despised Villa.

The man loathed Villa with a passion.

Muller yogurts?

BANNED from our house. I think I tried my first one when I was 18.

If he saw a Villa fan in the street, he would fix them with a glare.

He tutted at children in Villa shirts. ‘Disgusting, disgusting‘, he’d lament and shake his head as he walked away.

I remember being in the car with him when he noticed another car had broken down. He slowed down to offer help. As we approached this ramshackle little vehicle with its hazard warning lights flashing, my old man had noticed something in the corner of its back window…a cartoon, a cartoon sticker of a man in a Villa shirt pissing on a Blues shirt.

That was it.

WRRRRRRRRRR!

In a split second, my dad had spun the wheel to the right, put the car into 4th gear and sped off at a rocket velocity.

Villa twat‘, he muttered in disgust as he left the Astonian stranded at the side of the road.

He took pride that Solihull and most of South Birmingham was majority Blues. He would drive around with me and point out just how many car-stickers were Blues, compared to the few Villa alternatives we saw.

He would tell me that in the 70s, Villa were North Birmingham and the Black Country, Blues were South Birmingham and Solihull. Although the lines had blurred now, and people had moved about, this was generally still the case, and is still the case today.

Many of the Villa fans at my school in Solihull had Blues supporting parents. This was the most sacrilegious of sacrilegious behaviours for my dad, I won’t repeat the language he used about them. Suffice to say, we couldn’t take him to parents’ evenings.

He never quite grew out of his dislike of everything Villa. I’m sorry to say I’ve softened as I’ve grown older, I still dislike the club, but not to the point where i’d tut at children and judge a whole person’s worth on whether they don the pink and blue – in many respects my father was a better man than I.

But I was like him when I was a kid.

And going to school in the 90s was testing as a Blues fan, even being part of the majority.

Blues weren’t on the FIFA games. That puts you in a shit situation right off the bat. Villa were. They were on every FIFA game.

Blues weren’t on Match of the Day. Villa were.

Football stickers were a nightmare. At first I started collecting the Football League stickers, from about 1995. But it soon became apparent that it wasn’t that fun when you’re the only one doing so.

I had so many Per Frandsen, Tony Naylor and Eric Nixon swaps that I couldn’t pay people to take them off me.

I remember having hundreds in my hands and just giving up and chucking them in the air one day.

I quickly realised that with these things it’s best to follow the crowds, and so I started collecting Premier League stickers – but with the Villa page torn out.

Whenever I got a Villa sticker in a pack, it’d go in the bin. Villa were not officially recognised in my sticker book.

And so my childhood relationship with football went.

It was a struggle of tainted football computer games and half-destroyed sticker books, of seeing Villa on TV everywhere you looked, of seeing them linked with international stars, of seeing Blues suffer in comparison, losing in heart-breaking play off finals, suffering from the most chronic bad luck you’ll witness – multiple penalty shootout defeats at pivotal moments, massive injury crises, being stung by changes to the away goal rule at Preston in the play offs, and general kicks in the nuts every season.

While Villa seemed to bathe in the rays of never-ending good fortune.

One year, might have been around 1996 ish, I seem to recall they had a freak bad season and almost got relegated – but for some Ipswich player scoring an own goal in the 89th minute of the last day of the season and securing Villa’s survival.

Even in recent times, they’ve managed to somehow escape relegation over the past few years simply due to West Brom lying down and giving Villa 6 easy points, then playing like Brazil 70 whenever they faced Villa’s relegation rivals.

It prompted one of my gobby Villa supporting mates [whose parents are Blues fans by the way] to come out with the line ‘Villa are too big to get relegated. The name ‘Aston Villa’ alone ensures we’ll never go down.’

Of course Blues fans and Villa fans are totally different, despite sharing the same city and its outskirts.

There’s probably some psychological, scientific reason that some of the kids in that Solihull playground chose to support Villa, whereas the others chose to support Blues. Is it to do with brain chemistry?

If opting to support Villa in the 90s was the ‘easy’ option, the ‘me me me, now now now’ option, whereas opting for Division 2 Blues was the harder decision, perhaps it’s no surprise that the fans have grown up to display wildly different traits.

It might explain why Blues fans generally don’t tend to take themselves seriously. Why their internet sites are places of light banter, fun, joshing, and general amusement, whereas you look at places like VillaTalk and it’s full of the dullest, most serious, sterile, humourless boors you’re ever likely to come across. It might be why my Blues Blog in the Birmingham Mail was celebrated as a comedic poke at Villa, and yet the Villa representative in his retort seemed to totally misjudge the mood by responding in an almost autistic-like reeling off of Villa’s achievements over the past century [most while Queen Vic was scooting about].

It might be why traveling away with a bunch of Blues fans is like being on a 17th century pirate ship with loads of ugly, balding, idiots pissed out of their faces from the minute the sun rises, all singing ditties, having a great time but being the salt of the earth and willing to do anything for you. Whereas Villa fans come across as a bunch of sneering librarians.

When the cameras on a match day pan to the Villa crowd, everybody looks the same.

Everybody looks like chubby lobotomised versions of Lee Hendrie. Gormless, decked out in official club merchandise and utterly bored with life.

And so, as I write this, it is the eve of Villa finally getting relegated from the Premier League.

It feels weird.

For people my age, Villa have been perma-fixed in the Prem for pretty much our entire lives – but all that is changed tomorrow. The world is turned upside down.

It’s been unthinkable for decades. It’s been the natural order.

My dad would tell me of the ‘before time’, before 1986, specifically in the late 60s and the 70s when Blues were the top dogs. Blues had a swagger about them, in cool royal blue kits, playing electrifying football with a team of eccentrics, superstars and the cream of the crop. In those days Villa were languishing as low down as Division 3.

This was the natural order after all. This is where we should be. Since 1986, we’ve been stuck in a time vortex, where a small suburb of librarians have kept the people’s club, the royal blue of Birmingham subdued. Bland, boring tyranny has ruled.

But tomorrow, all that changes.

The time portal explodes. And Blues will have the chance from next season to fix the damage and restore the local football hierachy to how it should have been.

This is the beginning of a new football era.

When the referee blows his whistle at Old Trafford tomorrow and Villa will have been relegated the best part of three decades of hurt, of ridicule, of mockery, of injustice, of ruined sticker books, of half-played Nintendo games, of unwatched Match of the Day shows all get sucked into a black hole and disappear.

When the ref blows for full time at St Andrews and the announcement rings out that the vile club up the road have finally been defeated and are returning to their natural level, I will have tears in my eyes. Tears of joy and tears of nostalgia, and my footballing childhood spirit will ascend to the heavens.

And I know that somewhere, just somewhere, my Villa-hating dad will be looking down on me and smiling…….

…I mean he likes to beat the traffic so he usually goes and stands at the top of the Tilton corner for the last five minutes of the home games, but still.

Tomorrow is the day Blues fans have been waiting for.

Enjoy it. It’s been a long time coming.

– Chris Brown

 

Aston Has Fallen

Greatness Delayed

Here at MakeBluesGreatAgain.com we’re focusing on the day Blues’ famous former greatness is restored.

However, after tonight’s disgraceful defeat to Leeds it looks like the play-offs are pretty much dead, so restoring Blues’ greatness will have to wait for another season.

A few things to say post the Leeds debacle:

13 hours ago I tweeted the following…

rowett tweet

 

Well we got a resounding answer at 7pm ….

‘No’.

Most of us knew it would happen, but starting with three extremely limited, defensive, holding midfielders was a massive error and cost us the game before it even started.

I love Rowett. I’m a Rowett loyalist. The guy is young, bright, articulate, a master man-motivator, he is at ease with the media, he has performed great things with a limited squad, the guy is one of the hottest managerial talents in the game and there is no ceiling for his abilities….

…but that doesn’t mean he is beyond question or scrutiny, and it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have blind-spots.

Persisting with the same team that beat Reading at the Mad Stad last week highlighted one of Rowett’s major blind-spots – his utter obsession with sticking with a winning team.

Such loyalty to his players is arguably why he is so effective at keeping morale high and bringing out the best in limited footballers, but you have to analyse the results and performances of late and conclude that such rigid thinking is costing us dear.

Simply put, each game in the Championship is its own individual self-contained contest, with specific requirements. What’s good for Reading away, isn’t necessarily good for Leeds at home.

And so it proved.

Blues fans don’t mind 30 odd % possession away from home and winning on two breakaway goals as we did at Reading. But when you’re at home, against a lower mid-table club, the onus is on you to dictate the play, especially when you’re playing catch up with the play off pack.  By flooding the team with holding midfielders who lack ability and creativity and, well, general technique, it sends out the wrong message.

Watching a team saturated with stunted holding midfielders attempt to pass the ball around and over-lap and create for the strikers was like watching two boxers line up to fight, but they each have both of their arms tied behind their back – a tedious, pointless and bleedin’ frustrating spectacle.

The ‘playing three holding midfielders at home’ experiment [if you can call it an experiment, it certainly appears to be a decision based in emotion instead of logic] was attempted and ultimately failed at home to Fulham a few weeks back, when Rowett had to spare his blushes and haul Kieftenbeld off on 50 minutes for the more progressive Maghoma.

To make the same mistake again, tonight, was bamboozling.

I understand that the players executed the game-plan well at Reading and it might have been a ruthless decision to drop one of the midfield spoilers for the home game with Leeds, but it was a decision that needed to happen.

When Rowett caved in tonight and substituted off one of the holding midfielders [this time the woeful Gleeson] and brought on the majestic Toral, Blues looked a far superior outfit and could have easily scored 3/4 goals in the space of 20 minutes but for some poor finishing and even poorer decisions from the officials.

There are other areas of concern, other ‘blind-spots’ such as the seemingly ill-thought out purchase of Fabbrini in January, the length of time it took to recognise that Shotton was centre half material and the bizarre loyalty to the ageing, and unpredictable Paul Robinson, but a deeper discussion on these issues is for another time.

—————————————————————————

On a slight tangent, but another issue that needs to be addressed and one that is becoming more prevalent in modern society, is that of online ‘trolling’.

Where once, internet forums and social media were platforms for informed and reasoned discussion, as with most forms of communication, they are quickly becoming mediums for comedy, parody and spoof.

We see this happening with the Blues forums, especially Small Heath Alliance.

In greater numbers every year, the online millennials are finding that an enjoyable way of spending their free time is to hide behind online ‘characters’ in order to be mischievous, have a laugh and a bit of fun. Some of the characters will be slightly exaggerated versions of the poster themselves, whereas others will adopt totally different personalities in order to add to the online spectacle.

This is happening on Small Heath Alliance with the upsurge in ‘ironic Rowett hatred’.

Posters are falling over themselves to pretend that they’re ‘outraged’ with Rowett. Others ironically and sarcastically call for Rowett to be sacked. Some pretend Lee Clark did a good job. A few opt to operate under the charade that Rowett is a secret Villa fan, giving him the moniker ‘DVB’ [Dirty Villa Bastard].

This is a consequence of the trolling culture that prevails on the internet, but it’s also a backlash to the Cult of Rowett that has sprung up over the past 18 months. It is true, that whenever someone or something is held up as being brilliant and infallible and worthy of high regard, there will be a rebellious counter culture that emerges to act ‘edgy’ and to sail against the tide. This is normal.

Thongs, a good e-friend of mine on Small Heath Alliance is a leading figure in the ironic anti-Rowett counter culture. If you ‘get’ the joke, it’s quite funny, it’s quite intoxicating too and you can find yourself hilariously agreeing that Rowett is worse than Hitler. But it’s all a bit of fun to help the dull working day pass by.

My one concern, and the reason I have mentioned this issue in the blog, is that increasingly the internet fence between us mere proles and footballers / managers is getting thinner and thinner, and I am of little doubt that Rowett and perhaps his younger family members read the fan forums and see some of the comments.

I hope, I truly hope, that Rowett et al, see the mischievous jokey nature to the Rowett-slamming and don’t see the often outlandish criticisms as being serious. It is, truly, just a bit of fun.

There are genuine areas where Rowett deserves to be scrutinised, I have touched on his myopic fixation with remaining loyal to teams who win the week before, that is certainly one area Rowett should be probed on, but the vast majority of the other internet comments are derived from the jokey ‘Isn’t Rowett terrible’ comedic mindset and should be read as such.

Because even though mistakes have been made of late, Rowett remains the best manager outside the Premier League and is idolised by the overwhelming majority of the fans, myself included.

If our tame end of the season ensures we keep hold of Rowett over the summer, strengthen by bringing in better players, sort out the lingering ownership problems off the field and continue to move forwards and build on what we’ve accomplished so far, then surely it won’t be too long before we finally, finally, Make Blues Great Again.

 

– Chris Brown, @vivabrownie

Greatness Delayed

QPR – Against the Gates of Loftus Road

loftus-road

It was a record turnout from the entourage.

Nine of us had arrived in West London to watch the irrepressible Blue Machine sweep away the debauched, soul-less mercenaries of QPR and continue biting away at Sheffield Wednesday’s trotters in the race for the play offs.

We left the Brewdog in Shepherd’s Bush and made our way towards Loftus Road.

Where are ya? Upper or Lower?” snapped a policeman on the street corner.

Upper” we replied.

Like the Ghost of Christmas Future from the Muppet Christmas Carol this morose figure closed his eyes and slowly pointed to the side street on our right.

We nodded back in appreciation and rambled into the street.

In the distance were Blues fans. A disorganised rabble. But there were lots of them. I mean too many to be outside the ground at this time. There was a huge circular gathering, Brummies crammed together ,like a bunch of pissed-off penguins, but they weren’t huddling for warmth, they were close together due to a total a lack of space.

At the front stood a thin line of police and stewards. It was 2:55pm.

Ah this must be QPR’s version of the terrorist searches. Nae bother. We’ll just wait here, get frisked and we’ll get in the ground for kick off. No problem. I’d rather have a five minute delay than find out i’m taking a piss next to a shoe bomber when I go for a slash at half time.”

Five minutes passed. Ten. Fifteen.

We hadn’t moved.

The crowd wasn’t moving. We hadn’t even moved forward an inch. What the hell was going on?

Oooohh!’ the noises from inside the stadium indicated somebody had gone close to scoring.

COME ON! LET US IN! WHATS GOING ON!?’ a desperate Blues fan shouted over the top of the crowd in the general direction of the stewards. People were getting frustrated.

Five more minutes passed. It was now 3:15pm.

We want our money back. We want our money back!’ chanted the Blues fans, who were now in danger of missing the entire first half as the clock continued ticking.

What the fuck is going on? What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck is going on?’. The Blues fans were getting angry, hundreds more had joined the crowd from behind us, we were now encased within the crowd.

At a sudden, the idiocy of the QPR authorities became tolerable no more, hundreds of Blues fans surged forwards and broke through the police line. The police got their batons out and tried to beat back the crowds, but sheer numbers overpowered them.

This was a small, narrow, residential street with lots of fences, railings, cones. Blues fans were falling over the cones and getting trampled on before people helped them to their feet. I was crushed against a wall and had to swivel here and there to create a bit of breathing room. I looked over to the right and a dad was holding his son aloft, above his head, who was crying in a flood of tears and was scared for his life.

I couldn’t believe this was happening. This is 2016. Why are QPR doing this? They’ve locked us out the ground and we’re now trapped.

I saw NattyBopper of SHA fame about twenty people in front of me, he was being dragged along in a river of bodies, he was like a twig in a stream speeding along in the quick rapids, before he disappeared. His friends, the Boppettes, had white faces of sheer terror and had become separated from their pal. They cried out, like lost Syrian children in the crowds at Lesbos, but Natty had been carried away and his fate was unknown.

I struggled through the people and got to a police officer.

‘What the hell is going on? We’re being crushed here. Why won’t they let us in?’

The police officer responded ‘Apparently two Birminam fans were drunk going through the turnstiles and had a little scuffle, so QPR have shut the gates and they aren’t letting anybody in.’

I replied ‘That’s ridiculous. We’re being crushed here, and we’re missing the game. Why don’t they just let the drunk people in, they can take a seat and sober up. Or just arrest the two drunk blokes and let the rest of us in ffs.

‘We can’t do that. It’s private property. It’s up to QPR if they want to open the gates’ lamented the over-worked copper.

What a disgrace of a club are QPR. A disgusting club.

More children were crying. Fights were kicking off behind us. Abuse was hurled at the police. Meanwhile QPR staff were sticking their heads out the windows of Loftus Road and smiling, before disappearing back in their offices.

BANG BANG BANG. I could hear Blues fans at the front trying to kick through the gates.

The gates opened. I was carried in an almighty surge into a narrow alleyway enclosed with bricks, before I got into the entrance of the ground. There, a Red Indian, who looked like Chief from the film ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ was trying to frisk supporters for bombs. He half-heartedly tapped one fan on the rib cage and then sighed…

‘Fuck it’.

He gave up. The Blues fans poured past him.

We managed to get in our seat about 25 minutes into the game.

We were ‘restricted view gold’. Top tier, above the goal. Battered and bruised we took our seats. The QPR fans were like 12,000 people waiting for a bus. They were silent, disinterested and took on a cardboard-cutout quality.

They were terrible, but they did have a Moroccan in a Mexican hat who continually shook a rattle and danced around like a Medieval Jester in ignorant delight.

‘One fan, you’ve only got one fan‘ – mocked the Blues hordes.

The ball trickled down the line. Shotton went over to kick the ball out of play….but he totally missed it, and now the oncoming QPR player had got to the ball and was in on goal. 1-0.

Cue darts music.

The hitherto bus stop QPR fans burst into life.

Moments later the blonde-headed QPR striker got the wrong side of Morrison. He moved away from the ball, backed into Morrison, bought the contact and flopped over like a fish. The ref had no hesitation to award the phantom-foul.

Penalty. 2-0. The fat chavs were dancing again.

The broken, bruised and shook up Blues fans who had narrowly escaped another Hillsbrough outside had taken their seats half way through the game just as QPR scored two soft soft goals and this did nothing to quell their irritation.

I could sense the anger boiling. Over to my far right the QPR fans were animated, and the Blues fans were shouting and cheering. There have been reports some coins were thrown in both directions. Footage has since emerged of a QPR fan invading the pitch, running over to the Blues fans to attack our traveling contingent only for a Brummie to jump over the sponsor board and with one punch, plant the QPR fan flat on his arse. KO.

The game quickly petered out into a non-event as QPR settled for their 2-0 win, and our lack of quality meant we couldn’t break them down or even muster a single half effort of note.

After the game the entourage and I went to a few bars around Covent Garden, grabbed a bite to eat and got the last train back to the Motherland. We were entertained by two rival gangs of extremely posh, sexually-ambiguous ‘rugger’ fans from ‘Royal’ Leamington Spa who spent the whole hour and a half arguing about which side of the river was the best.

I logged on to Twitter and saw the news breaking…

‘Evil Birmingham fans cause mass disturbances at Loftus Road’

‘QPR to launch probe over coin throwing allegations’.

The Hillsbrough-antics outside the stadium had been covered up. QPR had seen to that.

Instead the Blues fans were having their names dragged through the mud over a minor incident in the corner which saw both fans hurling missiles at one another for five minutes.

QPR, not content with charging me £32 for a restricted view ticket and denying me entry to the stadium for almost a third of the game; not content with getting away with almost killing innocent members of the public by creating crushing conditions outside the stadium; not content with cheating to win a penalty to steal the 3pts, it seems they now wanted to use their contacts in the cockney media to attack the Blues fans again.

I saw journalists from the Daily Mail, the Mirror and the Telegraph retweeting QPR’s lies. I swtched my phone off and threw it against the seat of the train and wiped a tear from my eye.

‘When will somebody stick up for the people of Birmingham?‘ I asked myself.

‘Why don’t Brummie lives matter?’

‘When 21 are blown up in a terrorist attack in the 1970s, its covered up and swept under the carpet. When hundreds of Blues fans are crushed against metal railings and children are screaming in fear, we’re met with the London Press attacking us and talking about coin throwing.’

Sooner or later we’re going to have to say to ourselves, we aren’t second class citizens, and if the likes of QPR want a fight…well, they picked on the wrong club.

 

– Chris Brown, @vivabrownie

 

 

QPR – Against the Gates of Loftus Road