8/4/23 Bilston Town V O.J.M. Black Country Rangers, Midland Football League Division One. Get With The Program.

There was a time several centuries ago when I was still in my teens, that very few matches were played on a Good Friday. In fact, you could count the amount of games on the fingers of one hand, and probably still have at least a finger left over. With having six fingers on each hand, obviously Vile fans would have even more left over, but as they can’t count anyway, it never really mattered to them. These days, there’s a full fixture list in the EFL on Good Friday. However, as there’s less games in the Premier League, they only play one fixture over the Easter weekend. Below step 2 in the Non-League pyramid, there’s also a full fixture list for the Saturday and the Monday. However, that’s possibly either because they’re all part-time players, or they’re just made of stronger stuff than the much more pampered full-time professional players, and especially the over paid mercenaries plying their trade in the Premier League. It of course gave me the opportunity to ground hop somewhere. Having worked with a married couple from there, albeit more than a quarter of a century ago, I fancied doing Bilston. It wasn’t like they were always waxing lyrical about the place, it’s just that they were from there. I got the bus into town, and dropped in the Welly for a pint. Tash had her back to me when I went up to the bar. I said “Hello” to her, and she fair jumped out of her skin. Sitting at our usual table, I overheard her ask the other barman who were playing who. I was never going to leave it like that, and as she went passed me a little later, with a grin, I pulled her up about her insistence I only ever frequent the pub when I go and watch Blues. I did though, admit to still going to a game though. After my pint, I went down to New Street to get the train over to Wolverhampton. Even with it being only a short journey, I still jammed my earphones in, and tapped into my playlist. Arriving at Wolverhampton, I left them in until I was walking up from the station to the first pub. I’d done a little itinerary for Bilston, including directions to the ground, but for Wolverhampton itself, it was just all about opening times. Hence why I went in the Hogshead. It had a rather expensive bar takeover by Tiny Rebel. Although there’s always a decent range of ales in the pub, it’s not one I ever find myself warming to. It’s more of a nightclub feel than a proper pub feel. Mind you, I am a dinosaur these days. Now the next one I went in is a Wolverhampton pub I do like. The Lychgate is much, much more my kind of pub, but then it is a Black Country Ales pub. With Wolves at home to Chelsea, there was a heavier than usual presence of the Ol Bill around the city. (Nope, I still really can’t get my head round Wolverhampton being a city now.) After having a pint and ham cob in the Lychgate, I moved onto my favourite pub in Wolverhampton. The Great Western is probably now the town’s worst kept secret. (I can’t keep calling it a city. Anyway, if you’re thinking of complaining, then please direct all correspondence to someone who cares.) The Ol Bill must’ve advised about door security for the game, as there were two sentries outside the place. “Can I see your ticket?” “I’m not going to the game mate, I just want a pint.” I was wearing a royal blue sweatshirt, and it brought a quizzical look. I pointed to the Lacoste insignia that my coat was hiding. I was then allowed in.

“For a game at the Molineux.”

Exiting after a lovely pint of Batham’s, I remarked to the doorman who’d grilled me, that I was in fact Blues, just not Chelsea, and that I was going to a game, just not Wolves. I then went and found a tram to Bilston. I could actually have caught it from Brum and missed out Wolverhampton altogether, but the tram would’ve taken a lot longer, and with visiting the Great Western, I could guarantee getting a pint of Batham’s Bitter. With touching down in Bilston, I was transported to a place that’s in a weird kind of limbo. It has little bits of the modern day, sprinkled amongst a town that is very obviously stuck somewhere between the 80s and 90s, with even a few bits of the 70s still in there too.

“Proud of individual sacrifice in a heavy industrial past, which now no longer exists.”

Walking through yet another deprived, depressed area of the Black Country, I happened upon a shop that was a hybrid of antique and second hand. Sheer curiosity pulled me in there, but I’m really glad it did, because there were several plastic containers of old football programmes. Now in my elements, I rifled through them, pulling out a good handful of Blues ones. Some of which were from games I’d been to. I was even more delighted with what I was charged for them. Now feeling rather pleased with myself, I went in the first on my Bilston itinerary, it just so happened to be virtually next door.

“Well worth blowing your own.”

The Trumpet is a fantastic little pub, and a place that if it was a lot nearer, I could quite easily see me visiting on a regular basis. I was only regretful, that I wasn’t staying for the musical entertainment that the pub had got booked to play that evening. As I sat there flicking through my new purchases, I had an overwhelming urge to go back in the shop to get some more programmes. It was an urge I wasn’t able to resist, and so basically, I went and got some more. Now even more pleased with myself, I went to one last pub on the itinerary, before going to the game.

“They don’t half like their music in Bilston”

There were actually quite a few things that Cafe Metro already had going for it, but the best thing, lit up like the long gone furnaces the town was renowned for, Sarah Hughes, Ruby Mild. I was never going to have anything else. Firstly, a pint of Batham’s Bitter, and now a pint of the greatest Ruby Mild, ever developed. Along with the programme discovery, I was one happy bloke. You could stick a fork in me, I was done. From Cafe Metro, I walked up to the ground.

Bilston Town is a club that’s been going for a while, and possibly/probably should be a lot higher in the Non-League pyramid. But for whatever reason, it isn’t though. I suppose it mirrors the town itself, if I’m being honest. Tired, proud, and in need of investment. Want some photos? Oh go on then.

“If this turnstile block isn’t screaming to be preserved and used, then I don’t know what does.”

“Not sure what the cage like construction was all about mind.”

I bet you’re still wondering what O.J.M. stands for, aren’t you? Hands up who thinks it’s something to do with advertising? You’re wrong. Thankfully it’s absolutely nothing to do with advertising. Now I could say, do your research if you’re that interested, but quite frankly, I believe it deserves a mention on this blog. In 2007, Oliver James Mee 24, was brutally assaulted and murdered. A Sunday League club was was then set up in his memory. A handful of years later, that club then merged with Black Country Rangers. As a continued remembrance of Oliver, O.J.M. was added to the start of the freshly merged club’s name. I never knew Oliver, and I don’t know what he was like as a person, but to have a club set up in your name, points to someone who left a huge impression on the people who loved him. That in itself, deserves respect. His memory lives on. R.I.P. So to the game then. Going into this game, only one space separated the two teams. Promotion Playoffs were very much within the grasp of either. A win then, would be vital. Defeat, although not catastrophic, would be a blow. Even with Wolves at home, there was still a fairly healthy crowd for the clash. It truly had the makings of a really good game, and it proved to be one. With halftime fast approaching, the home side took the lead. It really could’ve gone either way before that opener, and it indicated the second half would be just as good as the first. Believe me, it was. O.J.M. managed to earn themselves a penalty, midway through the second period, and they duly despatched it. Neither team looked like they were going to settle for a point though, and it certainly didn’t have you looking for the exit going into the last 10 minutes. Just as the added minutes were announced, Bilston retook the lead. That wouldn’t be the end to the drama though, as deep, deep into that added time, and with virtually the last kick of the game, (Well, header actually.) the away side got a well deserved equaliser. It was harsh on Bilston, but only because both teams deserved to win.

I then headed back to the tram station, and although technically, I could’ve caught one back to Brum, I instead wanted one last pint in Wolverhampton. Checking the results in the Premier League, I found out Wolves had won 1:0. The town would be full of ecstatic gold and black bedecked Yamyams. Bizarrely though, I fancied another visit to the Lychgate and not the Great Western. After chatting to a friendly girl on the tram, I got off at the end of the line, and walked through the town to the pub. (I told you, I just don’t see it as a city.) Unsurprisingly, the pub was full of contented Dingles, but spotting an empty seat at a nearby table after I’d got my pint, I asked if I could join the two ladies who were already sat at it. Obliging, I then engaged in conversation with them. Now if you’re thinking, oh here we go again. This bloke will ‘chat up’ anything. I’d just like to say here and now, that although I am actually a natural flirt, I’m not always on the charm offensive. And no, it doesn’t matter what they look like. It really just does depend how I’m feeling. Look, I’m just chatty, ok? Anyway, once I’d drank my pint, I left them in peace and got the train back to Brum and the bus back home. Happy now? Good grief, I really don’t know what you take me for.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s