Clive Hayward – @ByeHorse
This piece was commissioned as a Wrexham (a) blog.
One of their former managers was Dennis Smith, and we have Dennis to blame or having no football to write about. The eponymous Storm (Dennis) put paid to that.
So, what are 7 thirsty blokes with non-transferable train tickets and a 24-hour pass from our better halves supposed to do?
One or two options were kicked around following the postponement on Friday, but we didn’t make a decision until mid-morning on Saturday, at which point we were ensconced on the always-handy Paignton To Manchester train.
From a final shortlist of three options we discounted:
· Cheltenham v Leyton Orient (several hours hanging around in an admittedly attractive Cotswold town held little appeal)
· Solihull v Hartlepool (a schlep to a pitiful ground for an unappealing fixture)
Which left us with an option we could all get behind: a day on the beer in Brum.
This was a very enjoyable day. Birmingham is a place that has grown on me over the years. As a kid, my only exposure to it was via Crossroads, Pebble Mill at One and holidaymakers with an accent that is hard to love. As an adult, I have had some great nights there, often staying with a friend who was more than happy to allow northward-bound Gulls to sleep on his floor (and even in his bath one weekend when 13 of us descended on his one bedroom flat either side of a trip to Shrewsbury!). He lived in Harborne though, and the city centre had rarely been properly explored.
We put that right over the course of 8 hours or so.
· We had a 3-pint aperitif in the always-inviting Shakespeare just up from New Street
· Up the hill, braving the whipping wind we dived into “The Old Joint Stock Pub and theatre Venue”. An old, roomy, building with some lovely skylights. It’s had several incarnations, including being previously being used as a library and a bank (presumably not at the same time). Highly recommended: https://www.oldjointstock.co.uk/whats-on
· We moved on from there to “Utopia”. That might be putting it bit strong, but the staff there were very welcoming and produced some decent lunches: it was very definitely a steak & kidney pudding day as far as I was concerned https://www.bar-utopia.co.uk
We went on to patronise, as far as I can remember, and more or less in this order:
· The Old Royal (beer & horseracing)
· The Old Contemptibles (beer & paramedics- called for an unfortunate young man who staggered in clearly under the influence of something far stronger and more dangerous)
· The Square Peg (beer and everything else Wetherspoons have to offer- 5 minutes)
It had been a great afternoon, with some interesting and- in fact- inspiring conversations, but by the time we got on the train home we were less in “fight or flight” mode and more “sing or sleep”. Happily, the choice was taken out of our hands by 20 or 30 raucous Bristol City fans who did the Robins proud with 90 minutes of vocal tributes to their new hero Nakhi Wells.
He hadn’t scored, and they had escaped Elland Road with a one nil defeat. Heaven knows how loud they are when they win! Fair play to them. Handy to have the Johnsons in common and we were happy to pretend we hated Bristol Rovers to keep the atmosphere harmonious!
Byehorse – Needed a day out more than Reidy needs a strike partner. Very enjoyable to have some proper conversations with a few good friends, old & new. Perspective regained.
The Tax Man – He’s our organiser. Ticket-splitter Extraordinaire. As he gets older he starts to repeat himself, but always good company. Holds his beer well.
The Mechanic – Mixes common sense, formidable practical skills & experience with a hatred of public sector workers. I still love him though.
The Builder – Longest chat I’ve ever had with him. Never realised he fostered. Would admit to having been a bit wild in his youth. Has matured like good wine. A good role model for troubled youngsters I reckon. Not a bloke you’d want to fall out with either.
Bert – Next generation down. Been at it for 20 years now though. Family man. Top lad. Good moral compass. Would be good in the trenches. Competent arm wrestler. Ginger.
Chelsea Youth – Next generation down again. It’s so hard for me not to sing about fathers’ guns when Ken Bates’ team are nearby, but I do make an exception for this lad. Slightly naïve but a very decent, likeable young man. I fear he may never get beyond his lager stage.
Hoolie – Showing signs of getting his act together. Not before time. Loves the Yellows. Man of the Match (see below).
MAN OF THE MATCH:
This was a fixture where keeping ourselves out of the referee’s book was important. Staying on our feet was vital. One or two of our team have been known to get a bit lairy once drink has been taken. The mechanic still shudders about Carlisle and I have been told more than once not to talk about politics on trains.
The hoolie can be a bit of a worry. I still regard keeping him upright, conscious and semi-hydrated between Canvey Island and Paddington as one of my best bits of community care work. He has embraced our new “No Spirits” rule though, and he didn’t put a foot wrong last week. For this, I am happy to give him the accolade. Keep it up Chimp!
Chaps in large drinking groups often now embrace the “kitty” formation. We decided, instead, to buy rounds in a 2-3-3 formation. The small groups worked well together.
There were some quietly-confident Brentford fans in the Shakespeare.
As the day wore on, we met supporters of West Brom and Birmingham’s third team.
Bristol City were the stars of the day though. I should think being top half of the Championship is as good as it will get for them and they seem to be loving it. Having the best manager in world football as a mentor to their own must help.
Train and bar staff all did a terrific job today, and we salute them all.
Bloody Friday afternoon- what do you mean the game’s off???
Some clouds have silver linings. We may have dodged a bullet. Wrexham is notorious for having been the first place in the UK where lager was brewed on a significant scale. I have never seen Torquay win there, and although I thought we had some chance last week, a postponement and a dozen pints of proper beer feels like a reasonable result.
COYY – Clive