The International break was back upon us and thankfully only in Nottingham, so I had the more socially acceptable wake-up call of 07:30 on a Saturday morning. ‘you do know that it’s on TV right? You don’t actually have to go.’
I glared at the work husband/proof reader/one who’s BT sport subscription I use and abuse. ( Can you tell he proofread this particular one)
‘It’s in Nottingham, why wouldn’t I go?’ Was my rebuke.
Crick once again my partner in crime, this time with the added legend that is her dad. Although as he is a Methodist minister, I had to mind my mouth on this one. Anything other than PG was met with a sharp elbow and a reminder to face downwind. Am I allowed to blame the cockney on my foul vocabulary? Probably not.
Because heaven forbid the north and south of the country could be allowed to coordinate successfully, my train was 40 minutes before Crick’s. So I had a little time to kill. Unfortunately, Nottingham station is that little too far out of the town. Which meant for me, I couldn’t wander around the shops aimlessly, such is the great British past time.
After getting the obligatory Starbucks, I settled down on a bench to wait. Not really paying attention to my surroundings, humming to myself. Wait why am I humming we’ll meet again? Where did that come from? It’s coming up to the anniversary of my grandpa’s passing, probably subconsciously telling me to ring my nan. Except for the tiny detail it’s getting louder and is actually not in my head.
I look up and see a piano because of course Nottingham, you have a piano in your station. A man at the youngest in his seventies was playing war songs. Fitting since how tribal football can be, I smirk to myself. Just as I was leaving, he starts playing Lily of Laguna. My grandpa’s song for his old mum. I look up at the sky and roll my eyes’ message loud and clear gramps, I will call her tomorrow’
Finally, after a quick reunion at the departure boards, the three Musketeers were off to Meadowlane. Is Meadow Lane two words?
Sidebar why do so many football grounds have meadow in the name. I have been to at least three this season.
Walking down to the match felt like the few West Ham matches I went to when I was younger. Down Green Street, chanting that we were whoever’s claret and blue army. Though not necessarily the manager at the time, I mean no one was a member of Alydyce’s army. Buying pin badges from the dodgy sellers outside. Looking like that old Lowry painting.
This time we were Phil Neville’s barmy army and we still frequented the dodgy sellers all the same.
Jeff decided he needed something to fend off the rain and bought a fetching navy hat plus, very kindly, a scarf each for Crick and myself. I think we made the seller’s Christmas, so few stopping because of the rain. Come, guys, this is prime football weather.
Finally, in the ground, we quickly find our seats, taken up by some very soggy St George crosses. The promotion team had factored in everything except the British weather.
Just before kick off a young family sat next to me. Excellent, more children to annoy, at least this we were supporting the same team. I swear I like children, I am aware I am starting to sound like the child catcher.
As we were waiting for it all to kick off Jeff asked me if I played at all.
‘Oh no I never had the one thing you need to have to play… I am not blonde with a ponytail.’ I laugh
Crick groaned, ‘That’s not true. What about Demi Stokes or Alex Scott? You can’t generalise like that.’ I was vindicated about 15 mins later when she got Toni Duggan and Rach Daly mixed up. HA Point proven.
BANG, GOAL. England takes the lead in two minutes with a header by Kirby. Well, that was quick. I think a lot of people were still coming into the ground, having just finished off their pre-match pint. To be honest, I don’t know what was more surprising, the speed of the goal or that is was Kirby (at a staggering 5ft 1’) with a header.
Side note, my motto in life is “go into it as Fran Kirby goes for headers”. Jump and hope for the best. My other motto is “life is too short to care about matching socks”. So profound me.
Brazil are a fascinating and frustrating team to watch play. Their set pieces are something to admire, their pace hard to control but they suffer the same disease their male counterparts do. Cair de tribuo. I.e they dive a lot and fall over a lot. I swear Steph just looked at da Silva and she fell over clutching her ankle. Then again Manchester City had just been knocked out of the champions league by Athletico Madrid, I would have hidden from Steph too.
Because of Brazil’s start, stop, fall down and repeat style of play, it wasn’t the most fluid of games. But I was excited as Brazil has Marta who is consistently consider the greatest of the game. Having won 6 FIFA player of the year titles, she was going to be electrifying
After 20 mins superstar Marta came off clutching at her hamstring. So that’s a no to anything theatrical then.
Ill-prepared for the rain, I was frozen despite my new scarf. You would think after 28 years of football matches I would have learnt to layer by now.
Crick decides to go on the hunt for chips and brave the crowds, I decide sod that. So I stay with Jeff to keep him company or more importantly I can’t feel my feet, so moving wasn’t an option even if I had felt like it.
We chatted about what I did for a living, how long I had known Crick and how I became football mad.
As always I was wearing the faithful Claret and Blue, so my allegiances were clear.
‘So you’re a claret then’
‘Aye, the best and original’
‘I am a Villa Fan, I don’t know if Crick told you that’
‘Ok, maybe we stole the colours from you’.
He laughed and we started to discuss the similarities between the two clubs history, colour stealing aside.
’I think the proudest moment in my short-lived academic career, is managing to get West Ham into my masters’ thesis.* How the middle-class factory owners used recreational activities such as forming football teams. Made sure their working-class minions stayed healthy and off the drink’ Examples of these include West Ham and Millwall. It’s where the rivalry actually comes from. Nothing to do with football at all.
Jeff laughed and told me about his similar argument in his thesis but with the use of religion and the fear of hellfire and retribution for wilful disobedience. So engrossed in our conversation, we didn’t realise Crick had to come back.
‘What are the two of you talking about?’
‘Middle-Class control over the working class’s free time. You know normal football banter’
Crick did not look convinced. But I think she was grateful I wasn’t telling her father the Mary Earps story.
*actually faithful readers my proudest moment in academia was, in fact, getting a star trek reference in my final dissertation. Middle classes assimilating the working class collective for the win. I mean winning with phrasing, not the action.
In short nothing, much really happened second half, other than Fara Williams getting booked pretty much as soon as she came on.
However, I did find a new captive audience for my encyclopedic knowledge of the women’s game. I ended up talking the ear off the American lady next to me. Who did wonder why our players were so short?
Well, one Jill Scott isn’t playing, and two you were on the US volleyball team in the past, so pretty much everyone is short to you. I found out this information out in a very long lull in play and our minds wondered.
She was, on the other hand, horrified when I told her that her tickets weren’t just cheap because it was a friendly. That generally you pay peanuts to see the women games, even the World Cup was going to be next to nothing.
She promised to take her daughter to more games. I hope she made good on her promise.
When the game finished, I said goodbye to my new friend ( whose children I did not torment. See there is a soul in here somewhere ) and we wandered back to town. Starving!!! Crick’s chip hunt had been fruitless, at half time.
Walking past what looked like a pub, we considered a pub lunch till we saw the name.
Nottingham WHY do you have a Hooters. Like really. Needless to say, we did not decide on there. A minister, a cockney and wannabe vegan go into a Hooters. Sounds like the start of a Bernard Manning joke.
We settled on a chippy by the station, much more appropriate.
With that, we said our goodbyes as they got their trains and I waited around for another 40 minutes for my train. Hang on why I am waiting again, I did my waiting this morning. Ah well.