Chicken down at the Villa"The last time I had to wait this long, was when I was going down the Villa. Normally I used to see my girlfriend, well she's not my girlfriend anymore of course. Her old man was a Blues supporter so I suppose the whole relationship was doomed right from the start. He used to work at the Rover sticking windscreen wipers on land rovers. He was a know-all who, like most know-alls knew sod -all and I don't think he had ever gone to a match in his life anyway, like most Blues supporters." Sing when you're winning, you only sing when you're winning", needless to say there is a very quiet spot near Small Heath. He didn't like it much when I started singing that when I was round there for tea one Sunday. He was one of those Tory blokes who like to think they are a cut above everyone else on the estate. Mind you he had bugger all to be Tory about, but if you listened to him you would think that the Rover would close down tomorrow if he took a day of sick or something. It just came into my head as he was waffling on and acting like he was the Prime Minister at the other end of the table. To be honest I didn't even realize that I was singing it until my girlfriend kicked my shins under the table, at first I thought that she was just feeling a bit randy like until I saw the thunderous look on her face. Anyway that's how come we moved our date from Sunday to Wednesday, because on a Wednesday her mom and dad went ballroom dancing or something. He looked a bigger pratt in his dickey bow than he did in his Blues pom-pom hat. Her mom had knitted it, it had this stupid great pom- pom dangling around on the top, it looked just like a great big tea cosy stuck on his head. So on a Wednesday we had the place to ourselves. She was a right good looker mind, but after living with a plonker like that since she was seven her mind had become all warped and twisted, such is the power of education. The whole family had a great big chip on it's shoulder, she wasn't allowed to play with the other kids on the estate because they wasn't good enough for her according to her mom and dad. So we'd play records and have a snog and all that. To be honest with you Sunday suited me much better, I mean there's bugger all going on of a Sunday afternoon anyway, after the highlights of Saturdays games all they show is some naff old film or horse jumping or something, but Wednesday's did keep me from having to meet that stupid old bugger. I think it was my long hair that he disliked the most, that and me smoking in his house. Everybody had long hair in those days, even Kojak, but to hear him you'd think it was an act of treason. I've always had long hair except for one time when a kid school bet me half a dollar that I wouldn't have a crew-cut, I wish I'd just paid him the half-dollar Another thing her old man didn't like was that I played in a band which he didn't consider to be a proper job, like sticking windscreen wipers on land rovers. The band had to change practice night which ain't easy I can tell you when there's a hundred other bands, one practice room and five hundred girlfriends all sticking their oar in. Anyway on this particular Wednesday night I told the girlfriend that I was going for a job interview on the other side of Brum otherwise I would have let her moan me out of going down the Villa.
We were in Europe that year and we were at home to some Belgian team, I forget their name now. St. Something or Other. It was chucking it down, brass monkey style. I was standing there minding my own business when this old battle axe starts wingin` on about football and every thing, hooligans and all that and how a spell in the army would make men of us. There was just me and a couple of other lads and a few old blokes standing there. I don't even know what started her off, boredom I suppose, I expect she was married to a Blues supporter and they're famous for not knowing anything about football or anything else if it comes to that.
The trouble with Birmingham is that they never was a real club not like what we were, It was some old alderman who thought that because Brum is supposed to be the second city it should have a football team called Birmingham City, and that's why they're so crap. They ain`t got any loyalty like we got down the Villa. The Villa was a club before the league even started, in fact it was us and a few others like Preston North End and Accrington Stanley who kicked it all off. I tell ya, you get a better family atmosphere down at the Villa any day than having tea with a bunch of morons whose dad supports Birmingham.
Anyway I stood it for as long as I could from this old biddy. I thought I won't antagonize the old bat, I'll try reason but she was having none of it. Now I don't mind anyone having an opinion but I object when they try and shove it down my throat. Anyway, eventually the No.6 came but as usual it was packed, it always is when it's raining and there's a match on or something. The only places left were on top. I grabbed the one near the front next to an old Indian gentleman because in the other free one there was another old dear. I was sorting me change out when I heard the original battle axe's rasping drone going on to the other old dear about what a hooligan I was, what with my long hair and patched jeans and all. I turned around in my seat, looked her squarely in the eye and said ”Madam, people have been kicking a pigs bladder around since time began”. That's what started it really, she went up in the air saying how ridiculous it was for twenty-two grown men to kick a ball around a muddy field. I replied, “ I suppose you'd prefer twenty two thousand grown men to hack bits of each other whilst wallowing in the blood and guts of a muddy battlefield”. That really put the cat amongst the pigeons I can tell you. The whole top deck joined in, well except for the old Indian gentleman next to me who just kept on saying to himself “ Dear, dear dear”. Actually I was having a job to keep a straight face because the other lads sat behind her were flicking fag ash and bits of chewing gum into the rim of the old dears stupid hat, honestly she looked like a Toby jug with a plant pot on it's head. Then she had to put in her two-penny's worth, going on about in her day boys of my age would have been fighting for king and country instead of behaving like a bunch of hooligans. “Madam” I said “I'll have you know that on one particular Christmas day during the fourteen eighteen war the top brass from both sides very graciously allowed their troops the day off. The forsaken generation used this unexpected lull in hostilities by meeting in no-mans land where they exchanged gifts of chocolate and brandy tablets. They showed each other the stained photographs of their respective sweethearts, further more Madam they held a mass game of football amongst the carnage before being ordered back into the trenches to resume blowing each other to kingdom come. Now if that is not an act of barbaric hooliganism, I don't know what is.” Pandemonium ensued. The next thing I knew I'm standing in the pouring rain waiting for the next one and that's how come I missed the kick off.
By the time I got there the Belgies were one up and it was nearly time for Bovril. I found a few of my mates in the Holt End, and that's another thing about the Villa , you can always find a mate or two in the Holt. I even went down to Plymouth Argyle during the dark old days of division three. The minister of sport was also there to open their new floodlights, I think he was a Villa supporter as well. It was an awful experience, everything painted yokal green and to add insult to injury the lucky so and so`s managed to score a goal, it was no use us even claiming off side because one of our lads got something in his eye and kicked it in our net. I had all these old farmers poking me in the back with their sheep crooks going “OOH AR; OOH AR” But the Holt End faithful were there and we just made light of it even though we were as sick as parrots. The Blues have a job even to get eleven players to turn up for away matches.
Any way, when the second half started the Belgie keeper played a blinder, our winger hit this one ball and if it had gone in the net, it would have been a certain goal, as it happens the keeper got his knee to it, so we had another corner. You won't believe it but half way through the second half the ref fell over and broke his leg, he was writhing around in agony and all that , when some wag at the back of the Holt started up the chant " Bring on the Bostic.......... Bring on the Bostic " It only took seconds before forty thousand faithful were chanting, "Bring on the Bostik". Poor old ref, bad enough falling over without forty thousand people standing round chanting "Bring on the Bostic" but that just shows how loyal Villa fans are to each other.
I find it incredible that fifteen thousand hung over fans can turn up on a Sunday morning to repaint the ground when we were a bit strapped for cash, I think Tommy Docherty was the manager then. And that's another thing, no matter where a bloke may roam, he'll always show allegiance to his team, unless of course he's a Blues supporter, but that's a contradiction in terms.
We had to laugh down at the Villa when the Blues (Do I have to keep using a capital B for them?) opened their new stand and believed they were going somewhere. Basically what happened was, so rumor has it, that when the Villa rebuilt the ground for the World Cup, they flogged off the old corrugated iron from the bogs to a scrappy, who having a sense of humor, flogged it to the blues (small b, I've decided) and that what constituted their new stand.
I digress, as the St. John's were stretchering the poor old ref off I was reminded of the time I was pulled out from under the truck at work, mind you I didn't have forty thousand people chanting "Bring on the Bostic". I was working for the council as a mechanic at the time, I had all my papers and every thing. I was working under a great big bin wagon when it came crashing down on me. My leg was trapped and I couldn't move. It was agony. Eventually they pulled me out and whizzed down the Queen Lizzy but the leg was knackered, the doctors tried really hard to repair it though. Any way the union got me compensation and the council gave me a pension.
It took ages to get used to my new leg, learning to walk again and all that. That's when the misses left me. I was a bit depressed and so was she because the money wasn't coming in like it used to. So she started knocking around with other blokes and all that. My mates used to come round and cheer me up, take me down the Villa and they never let me feel sorry for myself. That's when I got my name, what with the leg and all the weight I'd lost and being quite tall, I suppose I did look like a old hen hopping around the place. Course I don't play much these days.
Mind you I'd rather have me mates call me Chicken than boy or you or thing or some of the other things our teachers used to call us. I only had one teacher who I respected and he was a Beatnik who taught me to play guitar. We did a brilliant revue one year, the hall was packed for three nights and all the parents said it was the best school gig they had ever seen .The Beak of course stood up and took all the credit The games teacher was an old pervert as well, trying to catch the girls in the showers and all that sort of thing. He smelt of horse liniment and stale sweat. He was always bragging that he was going to get us trials for Birmingham Boys. I for one am glad he was full of bull, I could never have lived it down, playing for Birmingham, worse than being sent to Coventry. Mind you there was one lad on our estate who really good, a few big clubs were watching him, no thanks to the games teacher I might add. One day he was playing bows and arrows on the green when the arrow came down and hit him in the eye, just like Harald so that was the end of his career. The Beak must have been a blues supporter as well, he certainly had the intellect for it. He used to stand up in assembly and ask God to make the blues successful and to help the poor starving millions in Africa, I think the Good Lord must have been having a lie in that morning.
When I was a nipper our village team was playing a match against the neighboring village. I wasn't playing because I was too young. I was leaning on the goalposts talking to our goalie whose name was Steven when this ball came flying at us and I instinctively stuck my foot out and stopped it crossing the line. There was a hell of a stink about whether it was a goal or not, bit like the one in the world cup. That was the last time I saw our goalie alive. He died of kidney failure soon after that, but that's it really isn't it. No matter what happens, no matter what new crazes come and go, kids the world over love to kick a ball around together.