The Football Neutral: Match Two – Shrewsbury Town vs Coventry City

SPIRIT OF 79!

SPIRIT OF 79!

This is now an edited version of the original blog… you can read the full one by downloading my Football Neutral 2013/14 season review on Kindle.  Well over 300 pages of daftness. Less than £2! Thanks!

…I set off for the game from North Wales fairly late on, forgetting that the A5 between Oswestry and Shrewsbury has more roundabouts than some kind of playground supplies warehouse.  Parking was easy though, as I massively cheated.  Kev let me park on his drive and it was a short 15 minute walk to the ground.  It seems that everyone else going to the game thought the same thing, as Kev noticed hordes of Coventry fans wandering by his window during the afternoon.

Kev started in comedy at roughly the same time as me eight years ago and also used to run a fantastic gig at the Old Post Office in Shrewsbury (which is still going under new management).  It’s a shame for the comedy world that he packed it in (due to clashes with his other career, I believe) because I used to look forward to working with him no end.  Brilliant joke writer, lovely chap and knows his football.  He isn’t a Shrews fan though, despite the season ticket.  He’s a staunch West Ham supporter, but buys a season ticket for him and his 7 year old son Jonathan every year almost – as he put it – “as a community donation” as they can’t get to every match because Jonathan is both an aspiring footballer and cricketer.

I do material onstage discussing how much I love my daughter but I generally pretty much hate all other children. This isn’t just a joke, I really hate them.  I can honestly say that Jonathan is now on the list of cool kids that I can happily hang out with.  On the walk to the ground he listened eagerly to me and his Dad chatting away, he asked about my tattoos and at one point offered me sweets in a brilliantly suspicious way, like a diminutive dealer of jellies.  Not the ones they like in Glasgow.

He was in fact trying to alert me to the Shrewsbury mascot, who throws sweets out at the fans.  I presumed the mascot would be a giant shrew, but it turns out it’s a lion. A bloody LION.

My first ever sticker album was Football 86.  Shrewsbury were in the second tier back then, and you got a sticker of their whole team posing along with half a shiny for their badge.  Their badge – this being the eighties – was a wonderful line drawing of a Shrew.  I can still see it now, what an amazing badge!  There needs to be more line drawing badges like that and Leicester’s awful walking fox one from the same era.

But a lion?  Kev explained the evolution of the badge to me as moving from a Shrew – IT’S IN THE BLOODY NAME OF THE TOWN – to what he called a “generic clip art lion”.  I could not be more disappointed.  Why must clubs shun the tiny woodland mammals in favour of the big cats of the Serengeti?…

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The Football Neutral: Match One – Bristol City vs Wolves

Look at this over-excited idiot.

Look at this over-excited idiot.

This is now an edited version of the original blog… you can read the full one by downloading my Football Neutral 2013/14 season review on Kindle.  Well over 300 pages of daftness. Less than £2! Thanks!

…Miniscule Potential Problems For A Worrier

Ashton Gate is a proper stadium.  I know we don’t get standing at many grounds these days, but there’s something charming about Bristol City’s little ground.  Some fairly new stands, some corners that look like they should be condemned, each side a different height. I’m never one for those “bowl” type stadia.  Research told me that, in theory, there are two popular ends – fitting in with my rules of going where the noise and the fun is.  My decision was made for me though, as the small area (1200 seats or so) that are allocated to home fans in the Wedlock Stand – more affectionately known as the East End – had sold out upon my arrival.  Apparently this is where the “East End Ultras” congregate.

I have an issue with British fans using the term “Ultras”.  In Europe, Ultras are both massive in number and noise, with choreographed displays, enormous flags, flares and occasionally despicable political views.  In Britain this just seems to translate as “the small section of the crowd where we’ve got license to act like knobs”.

I certainly didn’t see any such behaviour from the City fans on Saturday from the East End, but equally they didn’t seem to be louder than the end where I ended up – the Atyeo Stand.  Buying a ticket there led to my first problem of the day.  As I queued up with the locals, I became incredibly aware that my accent is closer to Wolverhampton than Bristol, and also that I had no idea how to pronounce the name of the stand I wanted to sit in.  This caused genuine panic for several minutes.  Think about it.  How would you pronounce it?  I reasoned that AT – YE – OH was the best option.

I was wrong.

Luckily, the woman in the ticket booth gently corrected me – it’s ATTY – OH – and immediately made my day by asking how old I was.  When I replied with the genuine answer – I’m 35 – she giggled and told me that I looked 21.  Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight in my life, maybe it was the baseball cap covering my male pattern baldness, maybe she had glaucoma.  She was nice, as was the woman who sold me a burger and the woman who sold me a pie, all ruddy cheeked 40 or 50 somethings with glorious west country accents and I imagine 3 or 4 well turned out kids each and a husband with a well stocked shed and a lot of tomato plants.

My panic over pronunciation led to me starting to fear other aspects of the game:  Would I stick out like a sore thumb and be somehow rumbled as an interloper by a cabal of City fans?  Even worse, could I check the Leicester score without looking like some kind of disheveled hooligan scout for a game that wasn’t even on the fixture list?…

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