I know it’s a few weeks away and the way we are playing, it’s more likely to be a funeral than a festival fancy dress away day at Preston … but the lads from MIB/KRO/SHA/J&S etc have picked a theme for the Preston game. If you don’t mind us being so bold!
It’s great to see the inventiveness and variety of Bluenoses at our traditional last away game fancy dress. Who can forget the Gorillas/Batmans and Robins/Elvis impersonators/Nurses outfits/Ninja Turtles etc but in the words of Martin Luther King … I have a dream!
As it stands we have about 2,000 tickets allocated to us at Preston North End. How good would it look if we all turned up in the same gear?
Dig out your black funeral suit and tie (we might need it the way the team are playing) get a pair of dark glasses and a black trilby from any charity shop and we will be ready for the biggest Blues Brothers party ever. Get the only suit you will ever need, get ready to do the silly John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd dance, get your old soul records and CD’s out.
We are the ‘real’ Blues Brothers, come rain, hail, sleet, snow, thick and thin we support ‘our’ team – The Blues.
‘It’s 109 miles to Preston, we’ve got a full tank of gas, four cans of beer, it’s dark and we are wearing sunglasses. HIT IT!’
After the garbage served up at St Andrews against Burnley this Bluenose was going to spend his Bank Holiday Monday at home. However, the lure of the Blues and a big following up at Oakwell saw me heading up the motorway.
It was a lovely morning and I set off about 10. I didn’t see a single Blues coach or another Bluenose. ‘Strange’ I thought. Ah well I was going up the M69/M1 way from my part of Warwickshire so I tootled onward.
I found a great place to park and a great pub, the Holleywell Inn, on the Oakwell road right next to the Barnsley Brewery. I walked in and found Bartley Jim and A&E already in there among other Bluenoses. The place was friendly and not only did they have a pool table and a slot machine, they served hot food so the few Bluenoses who knew about this gem of a boozer were well happy.
As I sat outside in the sun, I thought about the blue hoards on the coaches who would not be able to get a beer and be shunted into the ground. I sipped my lager shandy, with a smile. Sorry, I don’t mean to be nasty to those who caught the char-a-bancs but I’ve seen it and done it in the 70’s and the mayhem of the cup trip to Spurs is still the main reason why I travel independently.
Let me explain about the locals in the pub. Salt of the earth, ruddy Yorkshire folk who lived right opposite the pub and the pub was the centre of their world. It was a community centre/nursery/counselling centre/ank/employment agency and everything else rolled into one. I sat there listening to the life of ‘Yorkshire folk’ and the theme from the Hovis advert came into my mind.
I guessed that the coaches had arrived when I heard the familiar sound of KRO from the ground, just up the road. As normal I had sorted my day around the game and having got to the ground, found a parking place, a pub and some people I knew, I was ready to set off for the game.
‘Where you going?’ A&E said as I announced that I was off to the ground. ‘Why you going so early?’
‘Arrrgggh!’ I had thought it was a 1.30 kick off and was mystified as to why I got that time into my head.
So I went back to my car to eat my sarnies and listen to the footie on the radio, like billy no mates. I ambled up to the ground and the noise from the Blues fans was great. I saw all the coaches parked up near the ground and impressive sight it was, fair play to the Blues for putting them on and also fair play to Barnsley for selling us 7,000 tickets. Mind you they did the same to West Bromwich Albion/Derby County/Sunderland so their attendance figures will be up this season!
The Blues fans were singing away and it was good to see so many youngsters. I could do without our travelling army of chavs who were intent on causing the stewards as much trouble as possible. The whole of the North Stand was rocking to Blues singing, the high point of the day for me was during the warm up when the ref got hit by a ball on the head from ‘Bendy’. He stood in front of the Blues fans and milked the applause.
We could have been 4 down at half time through some awful defending. The fans gave the players a great round of applause as they trooped off at half time. It must get better in the second half.
Blues started brightly and a truly fantastic KRO reverberated around the ground, you know the one that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you think that the players must respond to it by upping their performance? Well Blues let Barnsley run down the left and score!
Some Barnsley idiots to the left of our support started to give it the real ‘big un’. There was only about 10 of them and one fat ugly girl in green. There was plenty of gesticulating and the Police decided to video the Blues fans! I will leave the the lads who write the football report to tell you about the missed chances and the team Bruce picked etc, I’d just like to say that I thought McSheffrey was truly awful today, mind you most of you reading this will have been at the game. The result, you already know and I am still in shock that we could throw away the chance to go top and have a game in hand over the holiday period.
You know just when we could be on the edge of something big, just when you think ‘This is it!’, that Blues will always let you down, break your heart and leave you to think ‘Why do I bother?’ Ah well!
Another in my occasional series of away days following Ireland;
Up before the crack of dawn for the drive to Holyhead to catch the fast ferry, I dumped the car in the long stay car park and waited for the bus to the terminal. The number of red shirts and strange language told me that the ferry would be full of Welshmen, most of them seemed to be related and from Wrexham.
I don’t normally wear colours but out came my Ireland scarf to show that the ROI were represented on the HSS Explorer, ‘the biggest and fastest ferry in the world’ as the lady on the tannoy system kept saying. Green, white and gold stood out among all that red and I was getting a few glances from the red hoards. ‘Alright Paddy?’ someone said and that was that, they all headed for the bars… it was only 8 AM!
The Irish Sea was flat and the journey passed. The noise from the boyo’s was getting louder as the consumption of Guinness and Magners increased. At customs the laconic Garda asked ‘Nationalities please?’ Welsh was the answer from most of them, except one bloke who wasn’t paying attention and said ‘British’. All his mates stopped and slagged him off!
I was looking forward to my visit to Croke Park as I hadn’t been there for a few years and to see a soccer match, not to be confused with ‘football’ which is what is normally played there along with Hurling. I am an Ireland season ticket holder or ‘block booker’ as it is called over here.
My cousin, Dublin Bluenose, picked me up and after dumping his car. We were in the Lord Mayors pub in Swords, downing our first beers of the day while we waited for our mates to come and we booked a taxi for the trip to Croke. The Welshmen would be on their tenth pint by now, I thought!
As I can’t go to the Slovakia game on Wednesday, I sold my ticket to a mate for face value, 50 Euro and that would fund our beer for an hour or two.
We decided to have a beer in the Prison Officers club and were met by a load of Cardiff fans in there, where our Blues badges didn’t go unnoticed and we chatted to the merry Welshmen.
This pub is next to Fagans Pub, it won’t mean much to you, except that it’s Bertie Aherns (the Prime Ministers) local and he can be found in there on a regular basis or in the curry house opposite or failing that in his office over the road.
A few beers later and it was onward to the huge edifice that is Croke Park. Three tiered on three sides and the open terrace, Hill 16, where the away fans were housed and temporary seats erected for the day. The Hill will be covered eventually but, will still retain the terraces for GAA games, as it is made from the rubble from the Easter rising of 1916 and has a special meaning for Irishmen and Dubliners in particular.
The view from my seat was truly spectacular, although the pitch was made to look very small as GAA games are played on much bigger playing surface and there was about 10 yards between the white lines and the stands.
After rousing anthems I looked around and saw many members of the Midlands Ireland supporters club, including one eejit wearing a Vile scarf, the Midlands branch is one of the biggest Ireland supporters club and attracts allsorts I suppose. The unwritten rule is that no club shirts or colours are on show, everyone supports the national team. I also saw a number of mates from Digbeth.
What can I say about the game? We were slightly better than Wales and they were rubbish, yep, that about covers the 90 minutes of football. One thing, although it was sunny, in the stands the sun never shines and I was bloody freezing, again. But not as cold as the West Bromich Albion game.
There were over 72,000 at the game and unusually, a Garda helicopter hovered over the away end. I didn’t see any trouble, just the roads thronged with fans trying to get away from the ground for a beer. Although there had been rumours in the Irish press of an arranged ‘meet’ between the Soul Crew and Zulus! Everyone kept asking me about it and I said I knew nothing about it at all, just some strange rumour I suppose.
After the game we headed for the Goose Pub and more beer, this time in the company of Stephen Kelly’s dad and his mates. We had a great chat and they are all coming over for the Southampton game and a tour of Digbeth. No one noticed that England were on the TV and big screen, people only paid attention at half time when the listened to the ‘talking heads’ having a go at England and McClaren. Everyone cheered when they found out that ‘The North’ had won.
The boys from County Dublin, headed back to Swords and another beer and that was that, a few hours kip and back on the ferry!
No red shirts on show from the Welsh but, plenty of red eyes, from the look of it they had spent all night in Temple Bar where no self respecting Irishman would drink.
Hundreds of Welsh turned up late and delayed the ferry by half an hour, lost tickets, carrying beer glasses, at the wrong ferry port etc… your typical international away trip. Most of this lot seemed to be Cardiff fans and were a bit leary.
The sea was a little bit choppy and many of the lads were turning the colour of my scarf. It didn’t stop them drinking though! On arrival in Holyhead, I picked up the car and I was back in the ‘shire by 5.15, dog tired and sipping a cold beer (or two) before heading to bed.
So, just like a Blues awayday, good company, a mighty craic, crap football and home for a beer.
KRO and ‘Come on the boys in Green’ (and I don’t mean the sea sick Welshmen!)