Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Watford








You can be trapped for an eternity in the industrial backstreets of Digbeth. 

Whenever we meet at Hennessey’s and try to walk to St Andrews we get lost and walk in circles.

Like a bunch of teens in a budget horror film, we wander the dim-lit side roads, bypassing abandoned warehouses, occasionally stopping to check Google Maps for a few seconds before the phone battery conks out.

The place has the feel of David Bowie’s Labyrinth, where the young Jennifer Connelly tries to navigate through the giant puzzle but every night the goblins emerge from the drains and move all the walls and doors around to totally change the configuration of the maze and push her back to square one.

Except there’s no goblins here, just dodgy mechanics and clampers.

Of course we missed Gary Rowett’s WWF style entrance where they beamed his portrait on the titantron and the new messiah emerged from the tunnel to the adoration of the fans. 

We were jogging up the Cattell road at that point. As we entered the ground a bouncing, bespectacled, smiley woman in an oversized fluorescent steward’s jacket, resembling a Mr Men character, chirped:

“You missed the goal lads. The Blues are winning. Hurry up!

Bloody hell, we’d missed THE home goal. It might be another season before we saw the next one.

The pack of Blues dogs had pounced on Watford’s effeminate defence after sensing an opportunity and picked its pockets to recover the ball in a dangerous area. Donaldson smashed a deflected effort into the back of the net to set up the perfect start for the #RowettRevolution.

Watford quickly equalised with a really frustrating astro-turf goal. Lloyd Doyley ran to the left-hand by-line, Forestieri held his run and made himself available for the cut-back [which you could see coming a mile off]. Blues were slow closing him down and the dramatic Italian fired two attempts on goal with the second flying in.

The Blues fans started to panic – they’d seen this story play out before. The Watford 2nd was a matter of ‘when’ in their minds. 


  

My great auntie used to have a rescue cat. The poor bleeder had been locked in a fridge by its previous owners, so whenever we went to her house and opened the fridge to get a drink, the cat would scarper. When the Blues fans saw their players trying to play out of defence instead of just ‘getting rid of it’ they too allowed previous bad memories to freak them out. They started getting jittery, they shouted at the players, created a nervous vibe. Luckily the Blues players ignored it and played some lovely patient football.

The move of the game came about when Blues passed the ball from out of defence and worked it wide to Caddis who pinged a bullet cross to the back post which saw Shinnie misjudge the flight of the ball and head wide when it was easier to score.

Blues continued to carve Watford open and create a plethora of gilt-edge chances.

Like a scorpion, Blues held back, kept a controlled shape and when they saw a weakness in Watford they jabbed them with a stinging counter-attack. When the move broke down, Blues quickly re-assembled into defensive positions. Rowett had brought a plan to proceedings. A Blues manager with a plan, how….rare.

The game reached 40 minutes, 50, 60, even 70 and it played out in the same manner. Blues were in control tactically, creating chances on the counter, restricting Watford to pot-shots at Barry sitting in row Z in the Gil Merrick stand.

Shinnie was looking tired. Where other managers would have hauled him off for Callum Riley to shore up and take the point, Rowett knocked everybody off-guard and brought a second striker on.

Aye up! Make or bust time. Hold on to your hats.

It wasn’t too long before Thomas won a 50-50, held onto the ball, laid it back to Cotterill who bent a cross into Donaldson to powerfully head the ball into the back of the net - sending the crowd wild.

‘Gary Rowett’s blue and white army’ echoed around the storied stadium. Keep Right On was belted out, shaking the foundations of the stands as it reached ear-popping levels of volume.

Here we were, under the floodlights; the players were putting in a spirited performance; the Tilton and the Kop were packed; the atmosphere was electric. This was the Blues of old. The ghosts of Steve Bruce, Enckelman, Horsfield, Richard Wright, AJ, looked on from the old famous nights. BIH hadn't taken our souls.

The full-time whistle blew and the crowd continued to dance and clap and sing Gary Rowett’s blue and white army.

Rowett walked onto the pitch and saluted the four stands who cheered back. The Brummie hordes floated out of the stadium on a river of positivity.

We all melted back into the night, back into the industrial side-road labyrinth.

We got lost again and couldn’t find the bloody car of course, but nobody really cared about that…the Blues were back.