Saturday, 24 March 2012

Aluminium Vultures

In the age of Iron, the Lydians were the power of the region. Their lands stretched from the azure blue coast of the Med to the sandy deserts of the east. Their king, Croesus, was the wealthiest man in the ancient world - you've heard the term 'as rich as Croesus' before. 

Yet one thing troubled him...


For out there, past the sandy deserts of the east were backwards types, the Persians, and they were building something. Nowhere near as rich as the Lydians, nor as advanced, but they were slowly rising in importance.

Croesus consulted the oracle, asking whether he should smash the Persians now before they grew to become a threat. The oracle emerged from the misty cave, turned its cloaked head and whispered:

 'If you go to war, a great Empire will be defeated.

Croesus nodded and prepared for war.

He defeated the Persians with ease. They fled into the hills. Content, Croesus paid off his mercenary army with his vast wealth, told them to go home, and he made for Lydia triumphant.

The Persians watched...they saw that he disbanded his army and marched home. They followed him and his small remaining force. They overwhelmed the Lydians, they routed them and captured Croesus. A great empire had been defeated. Not the Persian empire as Croesus thought....but his own.

The events were held up by Ancient Greek scholars as being an example of hubris and complacency. For a poorer, weaker force had destroyed an empire all because the King had counted his chickens before they'd hatched and sent his army away. The Persians sacked Lydia, plundered it of its wealth and profited from its technological advances.

And essentially, the Persians are the f**king Baggies aren't they?

Coming out of nowhere, from obscurity, but nicking stuff that doesn't belong to them.

I find them trying. How long have they been an irrelevance? 20 years? 25 years? 30 years?

And yet here they are, taking advantage of Blues' self-destruction, exploiting our misfortune to strengthen themselves above their fixed station.

The Baggies have never had good goalkeepers. Now they have our Foster keeping clean sheets.

The Baggies have never had competent defenders, yet here they are, with Ridgewell, radiating the semblance of defensive stability.

Their manager, a scrotal sack in a suit that's found a toupĂ© stares at us constantly. 

He is at our training ground, in a car, lecherously peering out the window and licking his crinkly lips, a frog-faced undesirable.

It's not really fair that a mediocre club like West Brom find a club on their doorstep with a treasure chest of tested premiership talent at knock down prices. We never had such luck. We rose to prominence through hard work, good scouting, sound investment and generally, being a better club.

Some Blues fans used to like the Albion, but only in the way that everybody likes Walsall. 

The Baggies were in perpetual threat of relegation into Division Two [hence the song 'youre going down with the Baggies'], and were pitied for being lead by mouth-breathers like Brian Little, Alan Buckey and Gary Megson.

They were poor Albion. Our plucky, strange, slightly inbred cousins.

Me? I've never really liked or hated them. They're just there, like the pigeons in the city centre, sometimes they'll get in the way and shit on your shoe but they're basically harmless.

I just saw them as being bland. 

They never challenged for anything, their ground is neither here nor there, the crowds were low, even their dark blue dreary stripes lacked the vibrancy of the royal blue.

But now they've found themselves in this fortunate situation and they do not conduct themselves with dignity. They treat their betters like we're a flea market.

They unsettle our players, treat our club with disdain, they make derisory bids. Wouldn't surprise me if they offer £1.5m for Curtis Davies should we not get promoted. They pick at our diamond corpse like aluminium vultures.

But, take heed yam yams, you should note that the cream always rises to the top. 

For Bolton will never stay above Man City too long; Bradford are always destined to lurk below Leeds; Boro shan't outshine Newcastle and the law follows that Black Country teams must also fall below their big city rivals.

It's football hierachy.

So enjoy god's graces while it lasts Albion, because fortune is a fickle wench. Last week you were a retirement home for Purse and Horsfield, today you take our stars, but tomorrow is a new day.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Insidious Workings

I'm seething.

Well, not seething in the way you might imagine - probably an effete Silhillian banging his feet on the floor, grinding his teeth and smashing treasured family heirlooms against the wall. Although, it's not far off that.

I'm flustered and...just..just going to come out with it, I've kept it in for too long and it needs to be said...ready?

We're being cheated

Come on, you know it

You've pondered it too.

It's happening on a weekly basis.

To the point where it's so obvious that's it's laughable.

Is it a conspiracy?

Hear me out...

First they had Blues play every league fixture away from home following a Europa game. Every single one.

Go and have a look at the fixture list if you don't believe me. It's ludicrous.

Madeira, North Africa on a Thursday night? We'll give them....Middlesborough away a couple of days later. Yes, that should ruin them.

The ex-Soviet bloc, Maribor? Forest away a couple of days later will do nicely.

Bruges, Bristol away. Braga, Cardiff away.

So we'd travel to these European destinations, fly for over four hours, play a game, fly four hours back, then land and get on a coach for a five hour trip to somewhere like Middlesborough.

Is that rational?

You tell me.

I'm surprised the players didn't have blood clots. They must have looked like the cast of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves with the long haul stockings on show.

Who's idea was that? And why? 

What's the thought process behind it? 

Why every game away? Why not just give Blues one home league fixture after a taxing European trip? Give us half a chance?

Unless of course......the people who compiled the fixtures knew what they were doing?

Crazy? Maybe...

Southampton have had nine penalties that I've managed to find this season, they might have had more, but they've definitely had at least nine.  That's 9 in 38 games, otherwise known as 'about 25% of their matches'.

Blues on the other hand have had 3.


You're not telling me that Southampton attack three times as much as Blues.


Every week we see Southampton getting soft penalties when we watch their highlights on the Maniche show. At Millwall they got a penalty for their own player handling the ball. The studio fell about giggling. I'm not sure it's funny? I'm certainly not laughing.

Blues are scythed down in the box on a weekly basis and get zilcho. At Coventry last week, Andros Townsend beat his man, ran towards goal and was taken clean out in the first half, every post-match medium confirms it was a penalty, did we get it, did we hell.

And there's been so many incidents like the above for Blues, it's weird, utterly weird. King must be dragged and pushed and thrown in every match, but they won't give him a decision because they don't like him for his off the field antics from the past.

Today at Pompey Zigic is fouled a good four yards in the box, the ref awards the foul and gives a freekick on the edge of the area almost causing a riot.

Mutch has been sent off for nudging a Coventry lad in the back, leading Claridge to shake his vulture neck in disbelief. 

Murphy gets sent off today for a shoulder barge, sending all of Fratton Park into hysterics.

Yet West Ham play Millwall, roundhouse kick the Wall goalkeeper knocking him unconscious, they slot home into an empty net, the ref points for a goal, Big Sam raises his arms triumphantly.

Imagine Blues getting a decision like that.

'It evens itself out' they mew.

I'm not sure it does.

At Pompey today Blues were comfortable, so comfortable. 

Skates get awarded a phantom free-kick and score with the subsequent deflected strike. Then, Murphy gets sent off for a nudge. They fling a cross into the box and punch the ball into the net with their hands, every Blues player turns to the ref expecting a free kick, the ref smirks and awards a goal.

Darren Carter - BRMB's answer to Jamie Redknapp - usually a cool and collected boy/man has to be restrained and held back in the press area by security. His face is red and he's lost his famed restraint.

The fact is: Blues fans and journalists are getting pissed off with this.

But will Hughton do a Fergie and question the competency of the officials making these season-wrecking howlers? Maybe imply they're not physically fit? Will he do an Owen Coyle and piece together a pathetic DVD of perceived ref mistakes?

No, you know he won't. 

Because he's got too much class. But I'm not sure class is what's needed. When you're fighting in mud with pigs and rats, it's maybe time to get dirty and hurl a brick, because Blues are paying dearly for their honesty.

When Blues were due to play Southampton at home, we were on a winning streak, they on a losing streak. A blizzard littered down rendering the pitch unplayable and vision limited. The powers that be demanded the game go ahead, effectively ending any chance of Birmingham clawing back Southampton in the league. The Saints needed not to lose, and in conditions where scoring became an impossibility, they licked their lips with glee. Why did the league let that game go ahead?

I've never known a side try to compete in such stifling conditions before. They're consistently playing against all the elements and all the officials.

Why though? Why are we handed impractical fixture lists, poor officials and a third of the penalties that the teams around us enjoy?

I believe that, as it's London 2012, the FA are desperate for teams in and around the area to return to the top flight.

'Tis embarrassing for the Olympic Stadium to host second tier football after the 2012 games. And how nice if Southampton and Reading could join West Ham [the three teams at the top of the 'penalties awarded' for this season column by the way] in the prem. A global city hosting a global games with tens of premiership venues on its door-step. Investors eyeing up South East clubs, their money for the regeneration project.

The top flight with West Ham and some commuter belt town sides - Bobby Moore's wet dream.

People think this doesn't go on in the English game, but after the spot-fixing scandals in cricket; the blood tablet farce in rugby; the corruption surrounding FIFA; and the fact that match fixing and ref-bribing in football has been outed in leagues as close as Italy - I wouldn't be surprised.

Forget the fact we've sold every squad player and are using the smallest pool of players - if we somehow beat Soho and get promotion it'll be the greatest triumph in the club's history, even surpassing that of the league cup win.

Make no mistake, it's now us v them. But for all the skullduggery going on, this hated platoon can make one last stand and they won't like that much.

Ta ra! 

Monday, 12 March 2012

Sent to Coventry

The day started off high octane. At the train station I had ten minutes to buy a ticket to Birmingham from Solihull but two doddery, confused Norwegian women were registering some problem in broken English at the ticket booth...

' Reading [pronounced 'reeding'] and to Birmingham,'

Bleedin' nora!

7 mins...


4 mins!!...

The lethargic train office man yawned....he stared through these plump, Nordic, human space-hoppers decked out with confused faces and multi-coloured patchwork coats and told them to go to Birmingham's New Street station as 'the customer information there would be better help'.

Got my ticket with a minute to spare.

Six thousand Blues fans were to go to the Ricoh this day, most travelling from Birmingham to Coventry via train. My scouts informed me that the Ricoh is just as close to Nuneaton station as it is to Coventry. 

We decided to go to Nuneaton and then get a taxi from there to the ground, but, alas, a miscommunication between the entourage meant we needed to go to Coventry. We were sent there.



I'd never been before, despite living not 5 miles from the place. I'd been forewarned though.

The Luftwaffe blew it to dust in the war, it meant that almost every building was destroyed, so in the following two decades a mass building project took place. Unfortunately for Coventry, this coincided with the rise of brutalist architecture. 60s buildings. Christ. Everything's grey, everything's concrete, everything's cuboid and gloomy and melancholy and...

Like somebody found a huge nugget of asbestos in a field and decided to try and carve a city out of it.

Like in the film 'Logan's Run' where Logan and his lady friend run into a monorail and flee to the sanctuary. Then the camera man pans out and takes an aerial shot of a toy town that looks like a shite Epcot in order to give the impression of a bird's eye view.

Coventry, the futuristic city imagined in the 60s when nothing was futuristic. I'm sure in those days the place looked hip, I'm sure it looked like the moon, but now it looks like the Soviet Union.

I reckon when they drew up the plans they were hoping for this...

But in the end they got this...

At 12pm, with half an hour to spare we strolled out the pub into the Coventry wilderness looking for a taxi. 


We asked locals for taxi ranks, each one gave us conflicting information. 

We ran through Coventry city centre scrambling for a ride looking like an Apprentice team who have 5 minutes to find the last ridiculous object on Alan Sugar's list, a monkey's arse, or an Ant and Dec calendar or a chocolate car bumper sticker or something. 

Coventry city centre, aka the Swan Market - all it's missing is a 'Crash, Bang, Wallop' shop.

Found a taxi rank outside an Iceland store from the 70s, but no taxis. We rang the number on the sign, a muted Cov type awoke to answer, sounding like he was in the bath: 'We'll send some out to yer' he splashed.

Nothing came.

With three minutes to go until kick off a taxi came flinging down the adjacent road, we ran towards it flapping like chicken prats. It screeched to a halt.

'To the Ricoh'

We hurtled towards the stadium, I was hungover so poked my head out the window clamouring for fresh air but I couldn't find any. Everything smelt like poison.

We missed the first ten minutes of kick off when we arrived in the ground.

No big deal though, the game and the fans were subdued as is the tendency for these morning kick offs, forced upon us thanks to hooliganism [I'm blaming Block 11, as I must for everything].

After the game we strolled across the car park and nimbly meandered in between the dancing, bobbing hooligans on either side, provoking one another, into Pizza Hut we went.

Margarita medium sized for a fiver, and a free salad bar. 

I bit into a bread roll, softened with thousand island sauce as the flat-cap teenagers were chased from beyond the window by the police. 

'Come on then pigs!' 

Squeaked a pre-pubescent in chinos.

We left Pizza Hut and made for the taxi rank next to Tesco, next to the bus station.

Here were local Cov types who had commandeered a shopping trolly and were taking it in turns to climb inside it while the other pushed the thing into a bus shelter.

'Huh huh huh Ba-reh, give me a gow mate laike'


Into the perspex flew a toothless local.

Coventry for you.

We taxi'd back to the station, went back to Birmingham on a packed train, I gave up my seat for an old lady with a dog to the delight of the carriage.

It had been a good day. The pizza was reasonably priced and tasty and the salad bar was a delightful added touch, oh and a football match had taken place or something, but the less said about that, the better...

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Rams

Do we have to talk about this?  

No? Yes. Ok, but let's focus on the game as briefly as we legally can in order to continue to pass this off as a football blog. 

I mean, it weren't the worst of games was it? Blues played well for...pretty much the whole match.  

On the Maniche show - in that rented-out steam-room where the heat's been turned off and an increasingly bent, rocking, vulture-like Steve Claridge murmurs over epileptic footage of lower league football - they showed a rampant Blues display.

We had shots hit the bar, off the line, and Derby scored twice with their only two efforts, how annoying. The vulture Claridge pecked over the performance, nodding incoherently, giggling, having an internal dialogue with himself. Think that means we played well.

We need one of those Southampton phantom penalties that I hear are all the rage these days. They seem to be the difference between 3pts and 1pt, we'll have to ask the Physio if they've got any spare going.

Yeh we should have had a penalty when the tree-like Zigic was chopped down in the box and the ref, the shepherd, blew for a dive [delighting his flock]. But the reason we didn't win lies solely with the defence.

Derby were pretty poor. 

If you got a martian and landed him in the East Midlands apart from saying 'why are so many towns named after cakes?', 'what a dive this place is' and 'how do I get out?' he'd probably put Forest as the early season promotion chasers and Derby as the relegation fodder if you demanded a football response from him.

Nevertheless we let them score two goals.

Both were brought about by half the defence playing the offside trap [unbeknownst to the other half of the defence], totally leaving sheep open in the pen, or the pen open for the sheep to escape, and by escape I mean score - I'm not sure that makes sense.

It meant that Curtis Davies and Caldwell stood on the edge of the box with their arms aloft, looking smug and appealing for offside, whilst first N'Daw, and later Ramage, stood confused, scratching their heads on the penalty spot as their opponent fired home.


There's rumours Caldwell is out of action for tomorrow's game against Chelsea with bruised ribs. Probably brought about by his penchant for waving his arms around at the linesman, appealing for bonkers offside decisions and not playing to the whistle, probably dislodged a shoulder rib.

Can't be too harsh though, they've been nigh on impenetrable this season. Perhaps an off day. 

Southampton, the fixation this season for my myopic hate, were once again mind-meltingly lucky as they beat Leeds 1-0 despite having 2% possession and their goalkeeper making 22 point blank saves. It's led some people to say the top two dream is over.

10 points the difference?

We'll shit that in four games. We're more than capable of going on another winning run. Yeh we dropped points against the East Midlands types, but in both games we made enough chances to win ten games. It's not like we're clueless.

The Blues promotion bus might have veered off down a country lane and slowed down after getting stuck behind a flock of sheep that are loose for some reason, but it's not stopped to a halt just yet. Once we get past these sheep we're in Coventry, an ideal location for refuelling.