Saturday, 28 April 2012
A bloke on the Internet called 'Thongs' posted a link to the Reading fans' forum.
It was named after a biscuit. Eating biscuits. Biscuits. Some biscuit pun. Something about hob-knobs, it's funny you see, because it's 'wacky'. Biscuits, get it?
I noticed that the name fitted Reading well. When I think of somebody making puns about eating hob-knobs I think of a cringey, lamentable arsehole. And if that cringey, lamentable arsehole was personified as a club, it'd be Reading.
On the hob-knob forum one guy with a peach as an avatar mused:
'Birmingham was a dump'
Why couldn't the ground be isolated off a motorway and annexed to a Pizza Hut and a Mothercare on a tacky shopping complex?
That's what the Reading people like you see. The family club. Football, pizza and wet-wipes, all within reach of a solitary car park.
Of course, Small Heath isn't the greatest of places [I'm allowed to say that] but Reading? Come on. A tired, dated, commuter town where lowly office staff who can't afford to live in London dwell. A peeling, dilapidated vacuum of culture.
A town which produced Ricky Gervais. A tubby southerner who spends all day tweeting pictures of his cat and ramming home his militant atheism into people's bored faces.
If you drive in the triangle in between Bristol, Birmingham and London you'll see these places like Reading.
Creepy towns with wooden Safeway supermarkets from the 1970s; asbestos-ridden blocks of shops; a wetherspoons full of toothless locals, a café nero and a church.
'What more do you need!' I hear you cry.
At the game, at one particular moment, I stood up. Turning my head to the John Merrick stand, I viewed them in their end...
Plump women with frizzy uncombed hair smiling vacuously in spectacles as they banged clapperboards. Idiots in jester hats clapping their hands with mundane glee. Kate and Wills masks.
A tapestry of 'Fruits of the Loom' jumpers dancing around, hoping that waving inflatables conjured up the false illusion of good support.
I shook my head in disappointment.
4,500 Reading fans - you'd have been lucky to receive 450 four months ago.
The Reading fans on the biscuit forum were falling over one another to congratulate such 'magnificent support'.
Was it? Really?
After mewing out couple of muted post-match 'Championees' chants they slunk off out the ground.
Another 'nice', 'family' club of no importance in the Premiership then.
Let's see if we can't join them. A film or play with too many 'nice' characters is rather....dull.
There should be room for the bad guys.
There's no goal music at St Andrews. You can't buy ciabatta in the kiosks. We don't sing 'we follow, we follow'. We are overly hostile and partisan. We're not a family club. The ground and local area can be intimidating for away fans.
But you know what?
I wouldn't swap that for all the hob-knobs in Berkshire.
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
I'm in an unnamed burger bar at a service station near Peterborough, and I'm shaking with anger.
You go on a Blues forum post-match and you see the same thing on a weekly basis....Laughing legions of bleary eyed well-wishers chitter-chatting about nice days out they've had this season - totally plastering over the latest result with happy clappy nostalgia.
I've just driven on nothing but A road from Norfolk and I aint laughing, that's for sure.
'Don't matter that we d'aint win tonight, it's been a great season, Chelsea, Europe, great days, marvellous, KRO!'
An FA cup exit and a piss up in the Benelux countries suddenly eradicates the need to get promoted?
No No No.
For me? The season has been a disaster, for sure.
As we watch Reading get promoted, we scratch our heads wondering why a team that is so vastly inferior has so markedly outperformed us.
The Birmingham team is packed full of internationals and players with premiership experience - most good enough to still play at the top level.
Yet many Blues fans thought we'd finish mid table and are now trying to twist our top four status into being a 'remarkable achievement' - we must dismiss these people as being clinically insane.
A team with the players Blues have at their disposal must always compete for promotion, it is a fundamental bare minimum. Player for player we have no equal. Carlton Cole and Tomkins aside, even West Ham fall short in a quality comparison.
Today we drew again, this time at Ipswich after taking the lead. No team in the league has surrendered so many points from winning positions as Blues have. We took the lead at West Ham, and we dropped points. We took the lead at Leicester, and we dropped points. It's a familiar tale.
Let's be frank here...
Does Houghton know what he's doing?...
That's ultimately for you to decide.
At home to Bristol City the game was poised at 2-2, and the spaced-out Zidic walked around in a haze. The fans were mouthing:
...but Houghton stood in the breeze and stared at the clouds in blissful ignorance.
Tonight, wave after wave of Ipswich bombardment. The away fans lament:
...yet Zidic gets 85 minutes, and when he does go off it's for Rooney!
He's even started taking Townsend off and bringing Redmond on.
What's that all about?
The equivalent of shooing the Stone Roses off the stage in order to make room for the Stoned Daises - Bolton's tacky tribute act.
I'm not one for stats. People who live and die by stats are the 'geeks'. Strange people who said Gareth Bale was rubbish because Spurs didn't win when he played, or that Barry Ferguson was the best midfielder in the world because all 983 of his one yard sidewards passes were 'completed'.
But if we view the stats, as we should, we see that Blues haven't beaten a single team in the top ten this season away from home.
Houghton...MUST...start reacting to games quicker, or these 1-0 away leads will continue to turn into draws and defeats. In the play offs a couple of goals conceded can be the difference between going up and staying down.
Our promotion hinges on that away leg. But at this level we tend to lose narrowly to decent sides in their back yard.
That, is why, I want us to play the away leg second.
When I met José Mourinho at a Motd NEC function in 2005 he took me to one side and told me that in two-legged cup games you must 'always go out to attack in the first leg, and then stifle the second game.'
So let's play the opposition at St Andrews first, and build up a score, 2-0 or 3-0. Then we can afford to go away, play out our obligatory narrow away loss and still go through to Wembley.
I'll be able to finally forgive Houghton for a catastrophic stuttering league season. And the bleary-eyed well-wishers can have another day out on the piss.
Everyone wins. Huselklepp might even get a game.
Now I am talking crazy!
Sunday, 8 April 2012
As we sauntered up the Cattell road towards St Andrews we saw them coming towards us.
Three pre-pubescent youths trumpeting down the hill. Thin, gangly, ill-complexions; a wayward nose here, a large forehead there. They were not 18 years old and were decked out as if kicked backwards through a Topman sale.
Yet here they were....marching down the Cattell road singing:
'She said no Marlon, she said no'.
True, they were droning it out the sides of their mouths - almost humming it.
And true, they weren't stopping to check the reaction.
But what front!
I fixed them with a cold steely stare.
Suddenly, Rowett senior burst across me, I held him back as he snarled 'PRATS!'.
They carried on walking, never stopping, they soon melted into the crowd.
Rowett senior had a mad glare in his eye - like the Ancient Mariner but with a beer belly and no beard.
This had ruined his day. He shook his head in dejection and whispered:
'How did it come to this? We've gone soft'
The middle class readers of you will roll your eyes and see it as petty tribalism. But there's something to be said for this crazed bloke's fury. I'm a fan of hostility at football as long as it doesn't spill into hooliganism, and the sight of seeing smug Croydonians marching around our end chanting anti-Blues songs without apprehension, well, it were particularly sickening.
Rowett senior stopped suddenly at the side of the road, he turned and pointed at the back of the TK Max with a remorseful and a wistful demeanour...
'There was a pub there my son, it had a horses trough outside the front of it....and away fans would be dunked into it.'
I forced a smile of pity and patted the old man's shoulder in consolation. It was a small gesture, one to help soothe his woe.
He looked up to the sky and sighed.
Birmingham had once been tartarus....now the Inbetweeners had unchecked reign here.
We settled into our seats and allowed the first half to beam into our faces.
It was beauty. Pure art.
One touch; pass move; stretch the game use the wingers; one two; keep ball; relentless attacks; shooting at will. Like Barcelona.
Blues went 3-0 up after 35 ish minutes with the first half performance of the season. In the stand I cried.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I saw the team, this team that should have won this league. No team is better player for player. Alas, the thin squad and the extra games have done for us.
If we beat West Ham on Monday we go 3pts behind them and the top two opens up.
Blues are now back to being the most inform team around with three consecutive 3-1 wins [two coming away from home].
As we left the ground we walked past the away end to see police vans dividing the home fans from the away. The Inbetweeners were cowering behind the fence.
I turned to Rowett senior and he gave a Buddhist nod of satiety, no words were exchanged, none were needed.
The Blues had won, and Rowett senior had calmed.
Equilibrium had been achieved.