Forest Vs Blues – Avoiding A World Of Pain!

I had been promised a match preview by a well known and often well liked member of the Joys & Sorrows forum. So far it hasn’t arrived and as I type this, it’s 5 AM in the UK*. He’d better be up doing it or have a written note from his mother as to why it’s not sitting in my inbox yet! Actually, it probably won’t arrive before the game but if I mention that he’s let me down here, it doubles my chance of getting a match report. Or possibly means he’ll leave the forum and not offer another article favour ever again. Ah well, you got to be a gambler.

I’m still unsure about the format to take with the blog. Do I do match previews? Do I do match reports? Do I just blog when something interesting happens? Do I just blog when I want to get something off my chest? Do I just blog what I want and when I want? For example, if a big season ticket holder thing crops up and the fans are at war with the board, do I talk about it? As an exiled Blue, I’m pretty removed from it and although some might think that I should stick up for my fellow fans as a matter of course, I’m not so sure. Issues with season ticket holders and the like have never, unfortunately, affected me, hence why I’ve never really talked about them up until now either.

When I thought about a new format for the blog, I did say that I would blog what I want and when I want. I also said that if I missed commenting on some news or if I missed a match report or match preview, that’s okay. I’m think I’m going to stick to that. Hence, you should probably look elsewhere if you’re looking for in-depth team news or a place for a comprehensive Blues news stream. Maybe I’ll link to all that stuff soon enough. Maybe I’ll put together a blog chocked full of information on how and where to follow the club if you don’t live in Brum. It’s an idea.

Anyway. Nottingham Forest. No match preview as such, just my musings on how I’m feeling about the game and perhaps some insight into what it’s like to follow Blues from abroad.

I’m on 56k dial up internet at the moment. I pop by my sister-in-law’s place most days to use her wireless broadband (sometimes, if her three kids are screaming, I’ll pull up, quietly sneak onto her deck and use it from a distance on my laptop without saying hello! I hope she isn’t reading although that, of course is a joke and I love my niece and nephews-in-law lots!) and it’s been invaluable for keeping up with Blues news since opening multiple tabs of news from Newsnow takes hours on dial up. On broadband, I can do an hour’s worth of reading and research in about 15 minutes (or should that be ‘It takes me an hour to do 15 minutes worth of reading on dial up’?) Today, I went over there and did just that. Although today, I surfed to somewhere I hoped I’d never have to surf to again – the purchasing page for Blues World.

I have trepidation. The last time I spent a prolonged period away from the UK, I bought Blues World – just the radio commentaries. The majority of commentaries were from BRMB / 1152 and whilst many back home slate Tom Ross and his team, they do a passable job at communicating the excitement and occasion of the match across the globe in a way that I always felt Radio WM struggled with. So long as I didn’t rely too much on what he said to form my opinions of how Blues – and individual players – were playing, it was – dare I say it – enjoyable. In fact, it made me feel a lot closer to home and a bit more involved. Somehow, text commentary in the eerie 4 AM silence doesn’t really help one connect in the same way as three thousand ‘noses singing Keep Right On through the radio speakers. It was good – when it worked.

In my experience, the service was, to put it mildly, average. Upon connecting, it would regularly be dead, it would stream commentary from the wrong game and it would chop in and out (and I’ve had it confirmed by others that it was zero to do with my dial up connection) meaning that I’d regularly miss key moments and renditions of Keep Right On. It drove me to despair. However, despite my – and many others – complaints, the service didn’t improve and from what I’ve read from other people who still subscribe, it’s just as bad as it’s ever been. In fact, if you have access to BRMB versus Forest today, tune in and listen for Tom Ross talking to his back room team about 30 minutes into the game – “Are the Blues World people hearing us? Are we connected? Can you check that for me? Thanks.”

The problem is that Blues fans away from the UK – Birmingham specifically? – have no other choice. Last week against Queens Park Rangers, I trawled the web for radio links but the best I could do was Sky Sports’ live studio audio broadcast accompanied by text commentary on bcfc.com. Sure, it was passable for information but there was no sense of Blues playing. There was no nails being chewed, no Ohh’s! or Ahh’s!, nothing to suggest that nerves were being frayed, that we were falling from the top of the Championship tree. I hated that and I felt disconnected. I WANT to feel like I’m a Blues fan being put through the mill like my fellow Brummies 12,000 miles away.

And therein lies my trepidation. Firstly, will my connection handle Blues World now? Has it been upgraded (does it stream quicker now?) and I don’t know about it? Secondly, and more worryingly, will I be paying for a service that STILL isn’t up to scratch but I can do absolutely nothing about? I can’t help but feel that tonight, I’ll be frustrated and it’s a case of those in charge knowing that the football fan can go nowhere else to get his ‘hit’ and that poor service will be gotten away with simply through a lack of choice.

(I must point out that I complained to Blues many, many times about poor service. They were sympathetic, polite and appeared to try and get something sorted. They were not at the time, directly responsible for the commentaries Blues World provided – in fact a lot of official team sites seems to use the ‘World’ service and from what I’ve read, a lot of exiled fans are not happy with the service. However, it is not necessarily the fault of the individual clubs when commentary etc goes wrong. Although, that said, I would imagine that clubs could go elsewhere for their official sites.)

I remember when bcfc.com first started over 10 years ago. Audio commentary was, amazingly, free! It was regularly rubbish but it was free and so there was a sense of shrugged shoulders and a “We’ll put up with it” attitude from exiles. I was around the official forums quite a lot back then and I remember reading a lot of threads. I didn’t realise back then just how frustrating it must’ve been though – so close yet so far from a link back home. I just hope that at 2 AM tomorrow morning, I am hearing my fellow ‘noses sing Keep Right On and not the sound of frustrating silence – or even worse, a game I have absolutely no interest in.

And speaking of my night, it starts at midnight. Arsenal versus Manchester United is being screened live here and I’ll stay up and watch that and then tune in to try and listen to Blues away at Forest. I’ve read quite a bit today and I must say that I’m feeling typically optimistic. Calderwood and Forest are talking about their last two results and how they may well be getting back onto a sound footing – but I’m thinking that this is a positive for Blues. Forest will get a big crowd for this one and with results picking up, there’ll be expectancy. With expectancy comes pressure (ask any Blues player!) and if Blues can take that pressure and use it to their advantage by starting well, it’ll hopefully cause frustration from the home stands. Couple this with our strength on the counter and with them hoping to fly out the blocks… well, it might play into our hands.

Both sides have injuries to contend with and our list made me smile when I saw it. Could any other side in the Championship be missing so many good players and still be such heavy favourites away from home? I’m thinking perhaps not. Murphy, Kelly, Parnaby, Johnson, O’Connor, Nafti, McSheffrey all missing and yet we’re still able to put together a formidable side with options.

I’d expect Quashie to start tonight and I’m backing him to do well. There’s something in his character, something in his make up that says that he’ll be a success here and after the prolonged loan negotiations and underwhelming welcome from the Blues fans, he’ll have something to prove. Anyone who read up about him in the Mail upon him joining will see that he’s busting a gut to get a move here as well as prove himself still capable. You don’t put all that in just to let it all slip. I like the guy and anyone who can pass the ball and fire the side up is someone I want next to the best midfielder in the division in Lee Carsley. I’d also like to see Bent given a proper chance alongside McFadden with Quincy given the nod to start on the left with Larsson on the right. I’d also like to see Austar add Sky Sports News to its channels package because I’m missing Georgie Thompson!

Seven hours to go here in Australia. I’ll be counting them down, minute-by-minute, second-by-second.

* It was 5 AM in England when I started typing this article. By the time I’d finished, it was 8:15 AM. However, it didn’t take me three hours worth of work. In the middle of the article, I had to pack up my laptop, drive home, look after a headachey Mrs Aff and then read a couple of chapters of ‘Survival Of The Dumbest’ by Wil Anderson before I could continue… as always, when I got home and got out of the car, I had a quick look at my bedroom window. When I did so I pumped my fist and muttered “Come on you Blues” as I spied the mini scarf that hangs there. Come on you Blues.

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