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Three star jumper halfway up me back …

 

by Shaun Smith

 

The Swine column written as an alternative to building a scale model of Genoa’s Stadio Luigi Ferrarisout of toilet roll holders, bemoaning the end of ITV’s The Bill and travelling on buses reading the graffiti about Glen Johnson’s B&Q toilet seat affairs ....     

 

A New Career in a New Town/On My Radio ….

... well perhaps not so much a new career but a return to the kind of skilled job I trained as a time-served tradesman for and actually enjoyed doing. Four months after walking away from a dead-end, supposed middle management role in a company going nowhere, having finally had a gutful of spending the past decade avoiding the sword of Damocles etched with the word “redundancy” that cut away and confined to the scrapheap a large number of workmates around me, I’ve been lucky enough to find work with people that - compared to my previous employers – if they were any more laid back they’d be limbo-ing in under the office door to General Levy of a morning ...

 

After spending an inordinate amount of time employment seeking on-line, attending interviews for jobs that didn’t even exist, cleaning training shoes, listening to music I’d not listened to in donkey’s years, sitting outside the alehouse in the sunshine and writing this shite, even the return to the daily slog of the commute has not been as much of a chore as I thought it would be. I find it helps maintain a healthy perspective to your outlook on life when sat on a train next to some IT wizard at least twenty years younger than yourself, who while leafing through Monocle suddenly stops and studies at length a page full of espadrille/borstal bopper type footwear being touted to those with their finger on the cultural pulse. At a mere £275 a pair (yes, I’m that much of a nosey fucker ...). I spend the rest of the journey mentally shaking my head in disbelief and wondering if the potential 4737 Carling Sir with shite haircut sat next to me is laughing his cock off to himself about the state of the old twat sat next to him in a battered Barbour waterproof and even-more battered Handball Spezials ....

 

The next stage of my journey takes me back out of town. For all the investment in city centre regeneration that the likes of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield have received and undertaken in recent years, travel outside the new builds, mill conversions and manicured ISDN’d-up office blocks to the next layer of the conurbation from the epicentre and you still find areas that could do a passable run-down impersonation of Detroit’s Woodward Avenue projects. The illusion that you might be passing through the Motor City is almost immediately shattered by a sighting of the council estate oi polloi’s holy trinity of Greggs, Iceland and Netto defiantly lumped together on one precinct. And a terrified young deer zig-zagging across the road dodging traffic, having ventured too far inland from the countryside - unless Greggs have managed to source and then lose the freshest locally-available venison for a new range of pasties. Confirmation that we’re definitely still in the north of England rather than Michigan is received via a British Home Stores stuck almost apologetically in the middle of nowhere but in sight and walking distance of a rugby league academy. Five minutes later, I’m in the middle of rolling greenery and walking to the office located next to a golf club via the kind of beautiful local park that I thought only still existed this side of the 1960s in a Julian Barnes novel ....


 

Nine hours reasonably pleasurable graft is made even easier by the fact that this is the first gaff I’ve worked in where the playing of music has not been viewed as a disruption to concentration. I’ve not really listened to much radio for years now. In fact, since John Peel died, the only thing I’ve made a concerted effort to listen to occasionally has been Trevor Nelson’s Wednesday night soul show on Radio Two. We have an office rota for radio station choice. The resident rock chic likes Planet Rock when it’s her turn. It might as well be 1980 as I perform tasks I first learnt back then as an apprentice with Van Halen, AC/DC, Rush and Led Zeppelin riffing away in the background. Bearable. The resident IT-savvy Stone Roses fan and decent fat lad likes 6 Music when it’s his shout and his choice is spot on. In the space of a couple of hours one afternoon, Nemone’s playlist included Naughty by Nature OPP, New Order Temptation, Lotus Eaters First Picture of You  and the Sex Pistols EMI – pure aural nectar. This also gets my nod on the rota. Two of the younger staff members still insist on either Radio One which to my old ears is fucking woeful or some local commercial station I cannot remember the name of (... I’m deffo at that age now ...) but which seems to consist of Katie Perry, Lady Gaga and Tinchy Stryder on permanent roatation, interspersed with adverts for the best special offer on drinks times to visit Tiger Tiger if you like to see student birds rohypnoled off their tits.


 

The team manager likes his daytime Radio Two. I’m on the fence on this one. The odd decent soul, Beach Boys, Beatles, Floyd or Supertramp track is counterbalanced by having to put up with Chris Evans ego in a morning (... wonder if he still speaks to his “best mate” Gazza these days?) and a man who wasn’t funny in the 1980s and still isn’t funny now. Steve Wright. In the fucking afternoon. Needless to say the team manager loves Wrighty and struggles to understand anyone who doesn’t think he’s a comedy genius when asked. It’s at this point I diplomatically switch off mentally and offer to empty the waste paper bins while picking my all-time five favourite Page 3 stunnas* or all-time best Everton XI drinkers**. I realised I was at the age when I should probably be listening to Radio Two (if I still listened to the radio) about five years ago while travelling overnight down to Stanstead to fly to Spain for the Toffees hastily-aborted Champions League campaign at Villarreal. Janice Long’s early morning hours show saw a playlist as varied as Half Man Half Biscuit, Joy Division, SLF, Underworld and George Clinton – marvellous stuff. I also experienced one of the eeriest, non-substance related experiences of my life crossing the Cambridgeshire fenlands in thick mist at 5am with this playing in the background:


 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mUmdR69nbM

 

Proper surreal, shiver-down-the-spine stuff. That you won’t hear on Steve Wright. In the fucking afternoon.......

 

Groundhog Day

Blackburn Rovers away 14-08-10

And so it came to pass that the FA Premier League computer decided that our first game of the season would be the relatively short hop to Blackburn Rovers, only four months after our last visit there in April. I've never minded the first game of the season being away to be honest, with everyone full of hope, expectation and ale. And a 3:00pm Saturday kick-off as well, which in this day and age is a Brucie bonus.

 

 

In their infinite wisdom, Blackburn cut our official ticket allocation by around 800 from last season which helped result in nearly 2,000 less on the gate than April’s corresponding fixture, no doubt thanks to sound Lancashire Police advice. After a communication breakdown (ringing C when we were both half-cut), I’d missed out on a ticket but was always going to travel. Down the years, I've been to games of more importance and smaller official allocations than this without a brief and still got in, so it was never going to be an issue. I met C's lad in Blackburn station and we walked to the alehouse where our little gang were already putting away the ale in fine style and it was still only 

12 noon. Within 15 minutes of getting off the train, I had a pint in one hand and a ticket for the Jack Walker Upper Tier in the other, thanks to young J sending a Blackburn-based workmate up to the office for a brace of tickets for us. There is no such thing as no entry to an all-ticket game ......

 

 

Everyone was in fine form as usual. This is what going the match is more about than actually going the match itself and probably has been for years now. Sitting in the alehouse, having a crack with your mates, talking shite and generally ripping the piss out of each other. The clubs, police and the FA, along with Murdoch and his Sky Sports money-landering behemoth may have boxed-off the game to suit their own mercenary, blood-sucking needs but this is one thing they cannot begin to understand let alone even attempt to capture and repackage. We’ve done this for years from Prenton Park to Plymouth and Kilmarnock to Kharkiv. Candidates for Fanzone, we are not. Not unless Sky fancied having one of our lot sat with a microphone, wearing a Paul & Shark duffel combined with a Ukrainian Battle of Stalingrad veteran’s medal-covered hat and ignoring Tony Hibbert bursting down the wing at Upton Park to instead discuss Cass Pennant’s bid to join the GB 4 x 100 metre relay team on County one year ....

 

After several flagons of relatively-cheap lager, we jumped cabs to the ground. “Pound apiece gentlemen”. TC indulged in some good-natured banter with our Asian cabby about fasting for Ramadam which was obviously taken in the spirit it was intended with a pound discount proffered. While the rest headed for the away turnstiles at the Darwen End, J and myself made our way to the Jack Walker Stand. I’d been in this stand before in the mid-nineties when about 50 Everton had ended up in there after another shortfall on the away allocation and knew that if we went and sat up at the back there would be loads of empty seats and no-one to bother us. I was right. We had about ten rows to ourselves at the back and were joined by P and two Kirkby blues. P is a nice enough lad but suffers big time from travel kleptomania. ie - he simply cannot go anywhere without pinching something. This is a man who was almost in tears in Bucharest because there was nothing there worth stealing. His face momentarily lit up when we told him we’d found a Hugo Boss shop not far from Ceausescu's palace but then had to let him down gently by explaining that the entire stock looked like it had been bought straight from the Miami Vice wardrobe department. Even then, I’d still half-expected to see him in Dinamo Bucuresti’s ground that night in a bad Hawaiian shirt, white slacks and Malcolm Allison-style fedora .....

 

The less said about the 90 minutes football at Ewood Park the better. The Toffees played in the atrocious new pink away kit, Tim Howard gifted Blackburn the only goal of the game and despite having the bulk of the possession, Everton could have played until midnight and not created a clear-cut scoring chance. As Walter Smith said in just about every interview he ever conducted as our manager “... disappointing ...”. The highlight was probably J lighting up a joint at half-time that was so strong, half the stand around us possibly spent the second-half thinking they were at the Amsterdam ArenA watching Ajax .....

 

We met up outside on Bolton Road and managed to jump cabs back into town and to the alehouse we’d spent our lunchtime in. As we finished our first post-match drink and slaughtering another woeful performance by Fellaini, R came in and told us that a load more Toffees were in a pub just up the road. We wandered up and walked in. It was just like a who’s who of Everton aways from the last 25 years all in one alehouse. A group of lads I met on the train to Norwich years ago who offered me one of their cans and, even now, we still don’t know each other’s names but always let on to each other. The last time I saw one of them, he was trying to blag into Standard Liege’s ground in shirt and tie, complete with dubious press credentials. Propping up the bar was a quiet lad from Wallasey who once had trials for Everton. L from Huyton with his little lad in the new away pink covered in ketchup as he demolished a plate of chips. And in the corner, a big group of our young scallies – all J and C’s lad’s mates. One of our football intelligence officers, accompanied by his Blackburn equivalents, attempted to play good cop by talking to the young ones main head and enquiring as to what time they were getting off. “It’s not me Joseph, just the Blackburn police need to know ...”. Good cop’s efforts were rewarded with the following gem:

 

“... It’s like this lad. We met some birds from here the other week in Ibiza, so we’re meeting them later and they’re taking us to a techno club round here like, so yer could be looking at Monday ... lad ...”

 

Following PC Robby the Bobby’s boxing-off and placement in the pocket of a 20-year old Everton fan’s Hugo Boss coat, Merseyside Police were unavailable for comment ....    

 

 

 

 * Suzanne Mizzi, Keeley Hazell, Sian Adey-Jones, Jo Guest, Jakki Degg

** Southall, Labone, Bailey, Reid, Gray, Ferguson, Kendall, Morrissey, Hickson, founding editor of When Skies Are Grey, Eddie Cavanagh    

 

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