Birmingham Away 17 August

Following football this way is impossible.

Once again we are away. Once again so am I but not quite in the right place. We are visiting my father in law in Oxfordshire. So same nauseating trip round the car park that is the M25, same turn off to the M40 but then not all the way to Birmingham. Perhaps it’s for the best. I don’t have fond memories of the place.

Back in the late 80s we won there. You did not want to win there back then. We walked back to the station by what we thought was a quick but quiet route, just me and a mate. We thought we’d done it when the two ‘faces’ in front of us got a cab. Worrying if they were escaping. We turned the corner to see a mob of about 30 blokes, some with unironic moustaches, waiting. They didn’t clock us but saw the guy behind who was wearing a Brighton shirt. We heard the noise of them attacking and crucially we stopped and turned. Now they knew who we were. We were chased through town and The Pallasades back to the station. Lovely place St Andrew’s.

This Saturday gone though my problems are different. My father in law is 93. He created my wife when he was 53 and every time I meet him I’m possessed with the urge to congratulate him on his sperm. His latest trick has been phoning up local undertakers and asking them to measure him up “just in case”. It’s like an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys without the drag.

While my toddler torments my sister-in-law’s Guinea Pigs I try to make the most of one bar of 3G reception and follow the game on twitter. From my timeline it seems that this is more effective than listening on Seagulls Player. Half time reports suggest we have had lots of chances and missed them all again. Further tweets tell me Birmingham then hit the bar twice. My father in law is on his 30th cigarette since we arrived. He’s trying to finish the job before the undertaker gets here. Toddler screams mix with Guinea Pug squeals. Someone’s looking after them, right?

Then we score. It’s Crofts. Always liked Crofts. Can we hang on? Twitter says we have and Final Score confirms it. I have second hand smoked a whole packet of fags and the RSPCA are racing Jones & Co Family Funeral Directors to the flat.

We go out for a family meal and I celebrate Oscar’s first three points with a manly Prosecco. On the way to the hotel Eels sing “Goddam Right, It’s a Beautiful Day”. Outside we are in the roughest part of semi rural Oxforshire and it’s pissing down, but they’re right.

Derby at home 10/08/2013 – Starring The D’Urso

It was all going so well pre-game. The sun was shining, the legs were out no matter what the restraining order says and my friends were all in The Swan. A couple of pints of Palmers later I went in to the ground and Scoffers arrived from the Burgess Hill Seagulls Express just as I got in the refreshment queue. After that though it all went wrong.

Once again we take the lead with a well taken goal. Once again we squander the lead before going behind to a couple of defensive howlers (Kuszczak appears to actually be Ankergren in a Kuszczak suit). Once again we squander decent chances. Once again we lose. Post game I get stuck in the world’s largest, slowest beer queue and end up going home in a sulk. But enough about me. I’m quite excited to say that this week I have a guest blogger to help me write the post. So without further ado here he is. Take it away Andy.

“Hi guys. I’m Andy but you can call me Mr D’Urso or “The D’Urso”. The D’Urso has noticed an alarming recent trend for footballers once again becoming more famous than referees. This is something The D’Urso intends to change. This Saturday I started implementing my plans. To start off with I think that there is far too much emphasis placed on handball these days. It’s a silly rule. You can use any other part of your body to control the ball so why not your hands? The D’Urso started to subtly make this change on Saturday and I’m pleased to say it went down well with many of the fans shouting their appreciation. Eventually The D’Urso can see the game changing so that you can pick the ball up and run with it. Of course this makes tacking harder so The D’Urso would then allow tackling by grabbing the legs of the opponent. In cases of disputed possession both teams could form a huddle and try to push each other over it while, when it went out of touch, the game could be restarted by throwing the ball straight between two lines of players. I like to think of this new game as D’Urso ball.

Also, for a referee to be really famous he needs to hand out yellow cards. Lots of yellow cards, preferably in a match that isn’t that dirty and for totally random reasons. The D’Urso will soon become super famous as the D’Urso is very good at this indeed. Add in a few obviously incorrect decisions and the tendency to go off the pitch two minutes after the players to soak up the applause and I’m sure you can see that once again the likes of Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale will soon be well behind the likes of The D’Urso when it comes to tabloid headlines and showing Hello magazine your new cushions.”

The D’Urso there. What a guy.

Home to Newport County 06/08/2013

The League Cup. Two things about the League Cup. Firstly not that many people care about it any more and secondly we’re rubbish at it. These were the things that dominated our pre-game pub talk (well, ok, that and the Poyet saga and the Leeds game and how much German lager you can drink without falling over and just what is the correct amount of cheese on cheesy chips). Just as well as we lost 3-1 and less than 9000 people attended.

I did though. First game of the season for me and all that. It was a chance to catch up with old friends (and new as it turned out) and sit in a new part of the ground since my normal seat wasn’t available.

It was soon apparent as I moved from a very empty pub to the North Stand concourse where I got a pie and pint instantly, that this was not going to be another bumper Amex crowd. I met Darren and Seagulls Anty from the Amex North Stand site and, as we checked the teams, it was also apparent that we’d selected an ‘experimental’ team with Kemy Agusien making a debut, Ince and JFC from the development squad starting and Ashley Barnes leading the line. As kick off approached I bumped in to Raf, an old mate I used to stand with at the Goldstone and we resolved to sit together if we could. Not too much problem there. We pretty much had the choice of the whole North Stand.

What we needed was a relatively comfortable game for our confidence with ideally no further issues in the troubled full back position. We started brightly enough though Newport always looked like giving us a very good game and we were playing far more long balls than under Poyet. We needed to score. Luckily I needed to point percy at the porcelain, an event that pretty much guarantees we’ll score. Sure enough as I emerged back on the concourse Barnes gave us the lead. I made it back up in time to see the replay.

From here on in until the 67th minute we looked comfortable but failed to take any further chances. This was unfortunate as the game was about to change. As the ball was played out towards the West Wing (see what I did there) Inigo Calderon and Newport captain Anthony both dived in. It looked 50/50 or, if anything, that Anthony was the aggressor but Calderon was ok while Anthony suffered a suspected broken leg (talking on the train home to someone who was closer to the incident they said they heard a crack – nasty). The referee played the injury instead of the incident and sent off Calderon. So much for getting through without full back issues.

We were still discussing the challenge when Newport equalised and I therefore missed the second goal of the game too. The equaliser took the game to extra time (after nine minutes of injury time) but there was no missing the next two goals. Firstly Danny Crow hit a superb curling shot in to the top corner before Washington was released clean through our tiring defence to round Ankergren and tap in to an empty net. Cue mass exodus.

And so our rubbish League Cup form continues. But if that was to be expected we could have done without it costing us a 120 minute run out and our only fit, experienced specialist full back. I wonder now if we will turn our attentions from a long term experienced full back to a loan to shore up a back line that already looks like it’s creaking?

OscarVPoyet-O-Meter

Last season we lost our first league game away from home and got dumped out of the cup by a side lower than us. Ditto this season. The OscarVPoyet-O-Meter is stuck firmly in the middle though it must be noted that Oscar sports the more daring trousers.

Leeds Away 03/08/2013

Imagine the scene. It’s the first day of the new season, we’re away and there’s a sense of keen anticipation. I am at the station to catch an early train heading to Brighton before taking another north. The train rattling towards me is full of people looking forward to a day of excess, many already tucking in to beers even though it’s just about breakfast time. Off to Leeds?

Sadly not. This is Brighton But Only At Home remember. With me on this early train are my two children, a pushchair, three rucksacks and a carriage full of drunk queens, some in drag, heading to Brighton for Pride. Or at least the drunk queens are. I’m taking the kids to sightsee round London then stay up there at my mum’s. It’s the only weekend we could both make it and neither of us registered it was Pride, The Prudential Cycle London weekend and, most importantly, the first day of the football season. Bugger.

“Why are all the people painted?” The Boy had asked me as we got on the train to Brighton.

“Because they’re going to a party.”

“Why are they having a party?”

“Er. Um.”

Eventually we extricate ourselves from the party people and get on the Express to London Victoria. In between handing out crayons and colouring books and explaining that, no, we were not there yet, my mind was wandering. Who would start? Would we definitely be 4-3-3? Would Leeds have a player sent off again? Could we nick three points, get off to a flyer? Would we be hammered, starting the first Oscar out thread on NSC? How could I listen to the game when potentially I could be anywhere from the Science Museum to a Finchley drawing room?

We get to London and The Boy wants to go and see Big Ben and go for burgers. So far so good. No football fans around and I have to concentrate on finding it and answering his questions. We meet my mum and go sightseeing but then she decides we’ll go back to Victoria for the burgers. We bump in to some QPR fans in shirts. Over the road some Arsenal fans are drinking in Weatherspoons. In fact there are Arsenal shirts everywhere, 90% of them being worn by tour groups. I’ve never seen so many football tourists in all my days.

We take on a couple more sites then decide to head to my mum’s. It’s a half hour before kick off and I am going to have to pray for 3G signal on the bus and follow the game by twitter.

Amazingly I check in after 13 minutes just as the tweet comes through that Ulloa has put us 1-0 up. I send a virtual goal celebration tweet and switch accounts and back again. By the time I have it’s 1-1. And so it stays. We get back to my mum’s and The Ashes goes on while I remain glued to the smartphone. We seem to be taking a battering. Or competing and trying to win it. Playing well. Or not. Following football this way is impossible and frustrating and yet somehow compelling. With 5 minutes left I switch to Final Score. I think we’ve held on. Oh wait a minute. “Here’s Harry Gration with an important goal from Elland Road.”

Please let it be us.

It isn’t. Bollocks. I let out a yell of frustration and my mum stares at me sternly before she puts two and two together. I go back to the children and join in a game of snap. “Just like last season” I think. Snap indeed.