An increase in our points total from 6 to 9 might not seem the time to complain. However, our inability to get away draws is getting as serious as our inability to win at home. Yet again we failed to do what most other teams manage several times a season. How frustrating.
We’d always drank at the Moat House hotel at junction 1 of the M5 when we’d been at West Brom before. This time we walked a few hundred yards down the side of the motorway to The Vine. What a champion pub it is. A small old style town pub at the front which expands into larger and larger food rooms and an entirely open area at the back. On top of that there is an underpass going under the M5 that takes you directly to the Hawthorns away end. I can’t believe that I’d never found this place before.
One of the food areas in the back of the pub was a barbecue and, while most were going for chicken or lamb, I went for the spiced trout. I hadn’t really thought this through. As it was a barbecue there were no knives or forks. Now I think most foods, except soup, are “finger foods”. However, a full trout with head and tail and bones still in it (plus covered in spices) is not the easiest thing to tackle. I did manage the process of extracting head, tail and spine (with attached bones) but gentle reader, you are better off not knowing the details.
Roger, the owner of this here website, turned up. People who haven’t met him before are always surprised when they meet Roger in the 3D world. It is like that moment in “The Matrix” when the guy from inside the matrix turns up in the real world. I think people see Roger as a mythical figure who does good things; you’d like to believe in him but you’re pretty sure he doesn’t really exist – like Santa Claus, Jesus or Stephen Elliott.
And so on to the ground. WBA were doing the kids for a quid thing so some of our lot were taking advantage, including one brave chap who had 17 kids of about 10-12 year olds. After the game he was screaming “one, two, three – STAND STILL! Look, we’re not leaving here until I can count to seventeen”. He might actually still be there. A quite fantastic crowd of about 2,500 (more than the “champions” brought to the SoL last week it is worth noting) were in great voice. We know we’re down and so we can relax. Well we could if the stewards weren’t quite so keen on picking a fight. We had something of a warning as we got a threatening letter in with our tickets. Straight away there were sweeps of stewards across the stand trying to provoke people. I was in the back row and, like pretty much everyone, was standing up. One steward came up to the lad in front of me and pushed his face right into the lad’s and screamed “we only give one warning, sit down or you’re out. We’re watching you”. The lad was so astounded he didn’t even get the chance to answer back, he just looked around at everyone else standing up with a look on his face that wondered why they had chosen him to abuse.
Like we do in the SWC, we were singing McCarthy’s name from early on. I always join in this. I’m not sure why. I don’t have an opinion on whether McCarthy is the man to lead us back up from the Championship. Maybe he is. I think the singing of his name is like a show of defiance. We refuse to play the part expected of us of booing and demanding the manager should be sacked. It is amazing how much unity there is amongst travelling SAFC supporters on this.
The game? Well, you know. We kicked the ball around. They kicked the ball around. The ref had a stinker. Neebody understand the offside rule any more – although linesmen seem to have regressed in knowledge back to a level we had when we were in the primordial soup (is this my first report with two soup references?). Davis made a canny save (particularly as the striker was offside) and err, nothing much else happened.
Second half Julio had a stunning chance as he ran on to a ball coming into the box, tightly marked by a defender. If he kicked it with his right it would be an almost certain goal. If he tried to use his left it would take a miracle to get it past the defender and into the goal. Guess which foot he used? Later he had a free kick in a superb position which he slammed straight into the wall. Never mind. He is indestructible.
Tommy Miller was certainly the hardest working player on the pitch. For 90 minutes he was running around trying to find someone famous to stand near to at the end to get their shirt. Sadly for Tommy he couldn’t find anyone and had to leave wearing a Sunderland shirt. I was gutted for him because I know how much he hates doing that.
Some time in the second half Darren Carter had the ball. Now he is such a pretty boy, he could be a Liberal Democrat pin-up. Lawrence came over to challenge him and pretty boy fell over, screaming like a bitch the rest of the game how awful that blonde man had been (and criticising his highlights – which is just going tooo far). Lawrence took the ball down the wing and it came through to Le Tallec who gave it a stab, it then coming off two West Brom defenders which wrong-footed the goalie. Tee hee, we shouted.
Gray came on (I thought it wasn’t for Stead – although Stead did go off at one stage – but someone said it was – go and have a look at safc.com if you care, I can’t be arsed). To be fair, although he is not liked he played his role well. At one stage he was about 8 yards out and if he had turned he might well have scored but he ran for the corner. I suspect it wouldn’t have been as clear to him as it was to us what a good opportunity it was – and he would have been given very clear instructions as to what was expected of him).
And so we got yet another away win on the telly. Hurrah! For us however the fun wasn’t over. As we were going out, a young lad was banging a chair in celebration. Very naughty I know. A division of stewards swept up the seats in panzer formation to apprehend this master criminal. The one who got to him first was doing the face two inches from his screaming at him routine – a much beloved way of trying to provoke a reaction from those around – when their radios went bezerk as something was going on outside. God only knows what it was but it meant by the time we got down there they had closed the gates from the away end down to the road. The steward came along to “explain” (code for telling us to “feck off”) and one bloke from the London branch made the not unreasonable point that the only people causing any difficulties were the stewards themselves – his reward was a torrent of abuse from said steward. We (broadly a group of a hundred or so middle aged people and youngsters) were informed that because “our lads” (who were now nowhere to be seen) had been causing trouble we weren’t to be allowed on to the well lit, well policed main road where our cars were. Apparently we were to go “that way” – the complete opposite direction, into a poorly lit, sprawling housing estate with no police or stewarding. Thank you. Such is the life of a travelling football supporter – the last group of people in politically correct Britain that you can group as a whole and treat like dirt.
Ah well, on to Brentford and our cup run. Really looking forward to this one. Just like being back in the Roker End. Let’s pray for no rain.