You join us today on a day of split loyalties, as you see it is the game that sees the Bluenoses come to town. Which means the little pocket rocket, the human dynamo, the all-round sweetheart Bri Visalli would be returning to her old stomping ground.
Except…we love Bri, but we love West Ham more. So, maybe not-so-split loyalties at all.
This time it’s not just me and Kate, but mum was making use of being a season ticket holder and coming with us for the first home match. Which could only mean one thing. I was going to get picked on today.
Things were chugging along nicely without incident until we reached our first stop. Service stations are condensed microcosm of society all coming together to ponder life’s age-old question; do I really want to pay £1.50 for a Kit Kat?
I also believe people leave their manners at the door of service stations. Maybe because they are tired, maybe because they know that they won’t need to return. Or maybe they haven’t discovered the word ‘please’ in their vocabulary. Either way, we had yet another coffee shop incident. I feel these maybe these will replace the odd ducks on the Megabus.
For this week’s guest on the service station hall of shame, we have a tourist at the Corley south services. As we wait patiently for our drinks, a woman comes barrelling in front of us, looked peeved to say the least.
“No ice in my coffee, why is there Ice in my coffee.”
We all look at her coffee that she is holding. It’s iced coffee folks, it’s not like someone put ice cubes in her soya caramel macchiato – which by the by is my drink of choice if anyone sees me in a coffee shop and wants to bring me a pick me.
Back to the angry ice lady. The barista explained that iced coffee contains…you know…ice, but she was not having it. So the poor barista had to scoop out all the ice cubes of this coffee and handed it back. The coffee was then promptly returned to the barista demanding it be topped up with coffee. For a third time, the coffee handed back and not even words this time just gesturing she wants it wiped down. The poor barista was so flustered when she got to us I felt we had to be even kinder to her then we would be normally, and we are pretty damn cordial.
Other than the bizarre coffee lady we made it to Rush Green with no major incidents, only to discover that we were dressed completely inappropriately. You see, coming from the North at such early hours it is inevitably raining. So you dress accordingly, i.e. not to get pneumonia. However, when you go south of Watford Gap the clouds part and the magical yellow ball in the sky appears. Basically, what I could’ve said in three words is. IT GOT HOT. [Typical Allie. Why use 3 words when 60 could do the same job? – A very sleepy proofreading Kate]
We roll into Rush Green where I am greeted not by one Ambiguous Staff Member but two. Original Ambiguous Staff Member (from hereon in known as O.A.S.M.) greeted us by warning the ball girls that we were trouble. The aspersions cast on my character I tell ye. This was then compounded by another staff member who shall be known as N.A.S.M. Once again casting aspersions that us three were trouble. Well, just me as I was the only consistent fixture. I shall not stand for the sullying of my reputation. I am nothing but courteous to the staff. I might be a little rambunctious but what West Ham fan isn’t.
We finally get into the hallowed halls of Rush Green in time to see old favourite Bri Visalli in her new kit come out of the tunnel. She looks bamboozled as we cheer her name, we put this down to the heatt. We also found Ed with his brand-new pro camera. Oh goodie, more pictures for me to steal. As per usual we traipse around to follow Ed to get his perfect angle. Today was behind the far end goal in the blazing heat, things I do for good pictures.
Whilst waiting for the kickoff, we talk about the other fixtures we are going to. For me obviously all of them, Kate as well. [This is a bare-faced lie. See below. – Kate] Mum as many she can stomach the coach for. Ed as many as he could amidst the four teams he was flitting between. This led to a discussion about the big game in March at Leigh.
“Yeah, the Manchester United game falls on Mothers’ day this year. So, A) I don’t have to abandon my mother this year and B) we can have the bonding experience of being beaten up by marauding Man U fans.”
Ed gives me a withering look.
“Because Chelsea away was on Mothers’ day last year” I explain. Though thinking about it now I think Ed’s judgement may have been more about the second half of my statement than the first.
The Birmingham subs were finishing their warm-up when one of them skies the ball over the crossbar as if they were going for a three-point field goal. Quick as a flash, a blur in a tracksuit jumps the hoardings and vaults over the seven-foot-high wall behind us. Which is no mean feat.
“Is that Rach Wiliams?” says I.
“What’s she doing? They have stewards for that” says mother.
“God knows what’s behind there, she could do herself an injury.” says Kate.
Ed says nothing.
A ball comes flying over, and then so does the blur in a blue tracksuit. It IS Rach Williams.
“Hey Rach, it’s a good thing that knee’s better.” says I.
She turns and gives us a thumbs-up. “Definitely couldn’t do that if it wasn’t!” and as quickly she appeared she disappeared.
My mother turns to me, “Do you know her?”
Kate laughs. [I don’t believe there’s anyone in the world Allie hasn’t met – Kate]
“Nope, that there just Rach Williams, England legend and an all-round good egg.” I have briefly met her before. See blog post here.
Finally, the teams are lining up, Bubbles is blaring, we are ready to go.
We begin pretty even stevens from kick-off. An attempt on goal from us is matched by their attempt goal. A foul by our midfielder resulting in a free-kick against us was later played in reverse with a foul by their midfielder conceding a free-kick to us. Once again Martha Thomas was winding up defenders to the point of frustration. Her speed alone was causing some very sloppy fouls. Before the first half of the first half is out, Birmingham captain Kerys Harrop has been carded for a bad foul trying to outpace our number 9.
After many foiled attempts from the girls in claret and blue (OK, like…four) [The rabbits in Watership Down count 1-2-3-many…Is Allie a Rabbit? – Kate] we finally broke through the iron-clad Birmingham defence. Once again Thomas showing her absolute class in winding up the Birmingham midfield working on a cracking run from the centre spot. A slip pass to Dri Leon who found the bottom left corner.
1-0 to the cockney girls.
This spurred Birmingham into overdrive trying to claw back into the game. In the space of five minutes they had four attempts at goal. All were denied by our super new keeper Courtney Brosnan.
During the dying seconds of the half, Bri Visalli came barrelling down the left flank. Looking dangerous with her speed, she was attempting to execute one of her trademark pinpoint crosses into the box. Except she had not contended with her former midfield compatriot who shall remain nameless. Said midfielder went in for a bruising tackle and Bri ended up in the dugout. Welcome back Bri.
Very uneventful half time. We swapped ends, we wound up O.A.S.M. and we cooed over the diddiest ball girl. [SO DIDDY, honestly I was close to tears – Kate] 15 mins just flew by.
Keeping up our dominant display from the whistle. The Skipper Gilly almost replicated her headed goal at Chelsea last season. Denied by Birmingham’s young keeper with a fingertip save.
Leon was denied two minutes later; her shot was just wide, dragging across the goalmouth after a West Ham set piece.
We had a muddled middle in this game. End to end with silly free-kicks and unnecessary corners from both sides trying to cement the points. Birmingham City was probably the team on top to be honest. Edging further and further into our third. Things started to get frantic and then PANIC! We could see a player on the floor and Courtney frantically beckoning the ref over.
“Who’s down? I can’t see from here.” I ask. Kate using all of her 5ft 11 ness to stretch over and see. [Technically I’m 5’10” but I’m happy for any of you to think of me as 5’11” if you want – Kate]
“Looks like its Gilly, she is clutching her face.”
After some long agonizing moments, Gilly clambered to her feet, looking slightly dazed but ready to carry on. We all let out the breath we didn’t know we were collectively holding. It later transpired that Bri might have allegedly been the cause of it by accidentally kicking Gilly in the face. Oops.
In the last dying seconds, drama occurred. The controversial decision over whether the Staniforth goal should have stood or not.
Lucy Stan’s (the people’s republic of) long range shot seemed to skim past Courtney’s outstretched hand. Except she pushed it into the goal post and out for a corner kick. Everything was such scramble we couldn’t see clearly. Birmingham celebrated the goal, West Ham cried that it was never over the line. Shockingly the referee sided with us and indicated no goal. The resulting corner ended in nothing and the final whistle blew.
Our first win of the season.
Afterwards, we waited to see Bri as it had been a long summer since we last had the pleasure. Of course, Bri was still super popular so we were waiting a little while.
Never fret as this gave us a chance to catch up with captain fantastic Gilly after her blow to the face. She had a thumping headache and was a little dazed but she was still raring to go.
As she was leaving she asked who was coming to the Conti Cup match the following week. Ed bowed out stating he was off to watch one of his many teams. Gilly turns to me
“You’re coming, right?” I shake my head. She looks shocked. “What do you mean you’re not coming?”
“Sorry Gil, I’m away. This one booked a weekend away in Edinburgh’
Gilly looks at Kate, “Oh I see how it is, you get yourself a girlfriend and suddenly you’re skipping games.”
Kate felt well and truly admonished. I am sure Gill loves you really, hun. [For the record, I did consult Allie before we booked the tickets – we both forgot that the Conti Cup fixtures hadn’t been announced yet. – Kate]
After a little while, Bri finally makes her way around to us. After a round of hugs, she smiles at Kate.
“Finally, get to meet you after seeing all of you on the social media posts.” Kate also gets a massive hug. Bri laments on the game and try and cheer her up and show her I am wearing last year’s shirt with her name on the back.
“That’s great but we didn’t win.”
I laugh “Yeah but we did.” She glares at me but I placate her with a hug.
After a long chat it was time to go home. Via many attempts of finding a Luton Chippy. Just don’t ask
Next time it’s the big one. We take on Tottenham in the London Stadium.
How claret is Kate? Well after the ’telling off’ from Gilly not very I would say. [Look, I just edited 2,000 words at 10pm, if that isn’t dedication I don’t know what is. – Kate]