4/3/23 Wigan Athletic V Blues. All Fired Up.

There’s always something happening at Blues. Whether it’s on or off the pitch, the football side or ownership side, good times or bad times. There’s always something. It’s never ever boring. On the back of being charged by the EFL, there was a fire at the training ground. Immediately the sceptics amongst us all point at something underhand. Gallows humour was abound. It’s Maxco getting their own back, never mind Carsen Yeung, it’s Arson Yeung. Surely it’s an insurance scam. Truth is, it’s not. It’s just another great big dose of ineptitude. Firstly, the training ground at Wast Hills isn’t owned by Blues, it’s actually leased from Birmingham University. Now as far as I’m concerned, that’s actually not a good start, but before you start thinking that maybe the current regime must have sold it in a money making exercise, they didn’t. The fact is, Blues have never owned it. We actually haven’t ‘owned’ training facilities since Ken Wheldon sold the last one, just off Damson Lane in Solihull, way back in the 80s. When the West Ham spivs took over, they set about correcting the nomadic situation of training. Just like absolutely everything they did at Blues, they took the cheapest option, and put spin on it. That ‘state of the art’ training ground, simply wasn’t anything of the sort. If you really want a conspiracy theory to hang your hat on, then is it any surprise that there’s a fire at the training ground, due to faulty electrics, at roughly the same time as half the ground lays derelict? Stands that were commissioned by the West Ham spivs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not exonerating this current regime we’ve been lumbered with, but just remember who sold the club to someone who turned out to be a criminal. I’m not saying they would’ve known that Carsen Yeung was dodgy, but it was suspiciously convenient seeing how much they conned him in to parting with, especially knowing that they’d been cutting corners with both the training ground and the stands. ‘Sold as seen’ has never rung more true. Like I’ve said though, I’m not exonerating this current regime in the slightest, as they have shown, and continue to show that they are completely incapable of running a football club properly. Once the investigation into why the fire started, has been fully carried out, then the questions of culpability can be asked. It’s clear that warnings about the degeneration of the stands were ignored by Xuandong Ren when he was in charge, were warning signs with the electrics ignored too? It’s a question I’ll just leave hanging. Anyway, onto the day out to the pie capital of the world, Wigan. With, the appearance of Paul, Rich and Malc, there was a larger than usual, bunch of ale trailers heading up t’Lancashire. Judging by all the other usual suspects on the concourse, they’d had the same idea to get the early train too. On the train up, Nat posted on the group about the supposed interest from Sulivan in returning to Blues. Now, I do understand that some might be looking back on the spivs time at Blues whilst wearing rose tinted spectacles. Especially as the last 12 years at the club have been little short of a disaster, but simply, no. No way do I ever want David Sulivan or that pig in a wig, Karen Brady, anywhere near the club. Even if it’s just in the capacity as representatives for another club. Touching down a good quarter of an hour before 10, we headed up to the Wetherspoons, only to be told by the waiting staff, that they wouldn’t be opening before 10 o’clock. Some made use of the nearby Gregg’s, but knowing that Wigan has a several independent local bakeries, me and Spoons went in search of one. We settled on Greenhalgh’s. Resisting the urge to sample one of the different pies on offer, I plumped for a Lancashire pasty. After eating many different Cornish pasties down the years, the chance to sample a Lancashire version was too impossible to ignore. Similar to, but definitely not like the usual Cornish variety, it was gorgeous, and definitely hit the spot. With the Moon Under Water now open, we went in for a pint. As per usual for the Wetherspoons in Wigan town centre, they were only serving in plastic beakers. After us all having something to eat, the banter subsided into a conversation about cheese. With some of the puns that had been uttered, I suppose it was a natural progression onto the proper stuff. Personally, I’m not one for cheese with fruit in, yet I always make a beeline for the plates of cheese and pineapple on sticks, at a buffet. In mitigation, I’ve never said I’m not mixed up. Look, we’re all mixed up in one form or another. It’s what makes us interesting……or in my case, just a freak. Beer drunk, we moved onto The Raven.

There’s someone celebrating half a century in that lot”

I quite like the Raven. A little bit of TLC and it would be a superb place. It’s got some fantastic original features but it’s looking a bit dogeared now. With the town’s beer festival being held on this same weekend, the talk was of when to turn up to it. Obviously Daryl was eager to get there, but I must admit, I was almost just as eager and so was Jinksy. The rest wanted to do a couple of pubs first, and headed off. The festival was laying on free transport to venue, and they were using vintage buses. I didn’t take a photo of the double decker we travelled in, but it threw up some contented evocative memories of childhood trips to and from Wolverhampton. After the Covid gestapo stopping so much of this stuff, it had been an awfully long time since I’d been to a beer festival, and I was really looking forward to it. I wouldn’t be disappointed.

“An early panoramic view”

“Busy busy busy”

Although I did have this strange compulsion to want to have a game of 5-A-side football, I wouldn’t want to leave for the game. The rest filtered in after their brief sojourn, and it included the lot from the Spotted Dog, the Dad and lad team from Steve’s village, and a Nat wearing what can only be described as a roll of carpet. I’m sure he must have been impressed in the shop before buying it, but he really should’ve taken independent advice over it. Maybe not as hideous as Badger’s chequerboard effort, but then that one really is a 10 out of 10, Nat’s roll of carpet is definitely still a 9 though. I could only think that he’s looking for the Wetherspoons it came out of. Throughout this season, I’ve been plagued by bad beer. Only recently in the Rat and Ratchet in Huddersfield, did I have one, and I got duped with one in the Head of Steam in Brum before the Luton home game. The one thing that you can guarantee with a beer festival, is that the brews will always be in tip top condition. After the Russian roulette of this season, it was a blessed relief. I love real ale, I love the different flavours, but getting a bad beer is such a let down. Talking to John, I asked where Jeff was. It transpired it would’ve cost him over £200 by train to and from Bournemouth, to get to Wigan. Coupled with the time it takes, and the Blues performances, I could understand why he hadn’t bothered. Considering we were stuck in the same place, the time absolutely sped by. I had been keeping my eye on the gymnasium’s clock from time to time, but with the venue being less than 100 yards from the ground, we’d been lulled into a false sense of security. The ground may have been less than 100 yards away, but the away stand was at the other end, and we made the mistake of leaving it until 10 minutes before kickoff to exit the festival.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, we missed the first goal. We only just missed it though, at least we’d got though the turnstiles, but yeah, we missed Junior Bacuna’s well taken free kick. Along with having far too many bad beers this season, I’ve missed far too many goals too. The thing is, and this game for the most part, was no different, the football that I’ve watched us play, hasn’t exactly made me desperate to get in before kickoff, and it’s been that bad, that leaving before the end hasn’t been much of a wrench either. So settling down, I watched another load of bilge. The goal I missed was the only highlight of the first half. At least we were still winning, but as I sound like a broken record, I was under no illusion that it would last. In fact, I wasn’t the only one. Spotting Si Noonan several rows below, I managed to grab his attention, motioning towards the pitch, I stretched my arms out as if to ask his opinion. Using his fingers to indicate 2:1, he then pointed towards the home support. I couldn’t help but nod my head in agreement. As the second half started, I also spotted Birdy. Apologising to Paul who I was stood with, I moved over to chat to him and Bryn. Whilst finding out Birdy had just turned 60, Wigan equalised. Chatting to Bryn about Belper, Blues got a penalty. There’s times when you just know something is going to happen but you desperately want to be wrong. This was one of those particular times. I knew he was going to miss it, even before Hogan stepped up to take it. With my prediction frustratingly vindicated, his kick hit the inside of the bar, before it bounced away. Broken record playing again, momentum is important. When you’re on a good run, it would’ve hit the inside of the bar, and gone in. Even had it not gone in, when you’re in a good run of form, someone would’ve been on hand to score the rebound, or we’d have just had other chances, but with Hogan’s miss, I couldn’t help thinking Blues’ chance to win the game was gone. Rejoining Paul, he then generously shared the rock cakes that his missus had made him, with me. I can honestly say, they were scrumptious. Rock cakes can be a bit dry, but these weren’t. What was a pretty flat game anyway, fizzled out completely. There’d be no late goal. Even if they were still playing now, there wouldn’t have been. Just 2 poor teams cancelling each other out. It really does come to something when the highlight of a Blues game is eating a couple of homemade rock cakes.

I walked back to Wigan Central. The micro pub is probably one of the best in the country. It’s certainly the must go to place in Wigan, that’s for sure. Except for Spoons and JK, who are on the same railcard, and with Spoons needing to get back to Brum for the Levellers gig at the Symphony Hall, the rest were either already in there, or were to join us. Knowing how good the place is, Birdy, having to use a walking stick, Bryn, Craig, Gav and Ed came in too.

“Been awhile since I’d taken pics of the place, so here’s some rubbish ones of a great place.”

Regardless of your disposition, it had been a draw and another point. We perused the rest of the results to see how it effected us. It’s getting to that stage of the season when every point becomes even more valuable. Unless of course, you’re safely stuck in mid table with absolutely no chance of either promotion or relegation. In which case you’ll probably be already looking for a book to occupy you whilst the remaining games are going on. In terms of results, it had been a mixed bag for our basement rivals, but it’ll definitively look more and more likely that the penalty miss by Hogan will prove crucial as the remaining games are played. On the train back to Brum, we stopped at Wolverhampton. An ickle mob of kids that were still growing into their Stone Island gear, were giving it large from the safety of their train on the adjacent platform. While trying to work out who they were, one of them made the mistake of proudly showing us a Derby County screensaver on his phone. This just incited any Blues within the Derby mobs eyesight into gesticulating at them. It was definitely immature of us all, but it passed the time, and gave us a new conversation thread. Touching down back in Brum, me and the two Steves, Messrs, Whalley and Jinks, decided on the Colemore to end the day. An already inebriated Daryl was to follow us five minutes later. With his eyes already starting to roll, he was only to stop for one, before making the wise decision to get off home. The rest of us chatted away before first, Jinksy left to get last orders at his local, and then Steve went to get the train home. Sitting there, remembering the day, and contemplating life, Jude spotted me on the way passed to the toilet. Informing me, her and Spoons had just come in from the Levellers gig, and were at the end of the bar, I joined them. It was the perfect end to an almost perfect day. Thanks Scott Hogan, you really could have made it perfect. Seriously, how do you miss unchallenged from 12 yards with only the keeper to beat?


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