Once upon a time, boys and girls, long, long ago, when the trains were still driven by steam and nobody was interested in what sort of relationship Noddy and Big-Ears were having, things were different. They were innocent times and I never thought for a second why a lad with a bell on his hat, might have a best friend who could do magic things, or even, what they did with Clockwork Mouse and that roll of duct tape. And why shouldn't they have a plain but clever and kind girlfriend called Tessie? It never crossed my mind, why Mr Jumbo, might have such a name, or, what exactly, Dinah Doll sold down at the market.
Frankly, it all went right over my head.
Even football was different and in those days, and being seen in a rival's ground when your own team weren't playing, was not viewed as madness or would it incite accusations of disloyalty, or, any other kind of calumny. It was just accepted as part of enjoying the game for its own sake, which entailed the dispassionate analysis of neutrality and the quiet admiration of players, you might despise in a meaningful encounter with your own team. It was a different and yet rewarding experience and a healthy reminder that rival fans, on their own scruffy patch of terracing, were actually not really that different, to your own Villa Park kith. It was just going to a game, but on another level it was football diplomacy in action. Suddenly you were brothers in Bovril, with a rival, and it was a civilized feeling. Only Croesus could afford it these days and just as it divides everything else - money divides football.
It sounds like romantic tosh now but it did happen.
Things did change and I can't recall why, exactly. I seem to remember, I didn't meet my first authentic football hooligan until 1974, when it all suddenly got nasty. Just seven years after the Summer of Love, it was a sickening return to reality.
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But, judging by Birmingham City's policy of ripping off all visiting supporters, it seems that they are a club who have institutionalised their hostility to other clubs' fans, by charging £45 for a seat (£13 more than at the away end at Villa and £20 more than at Wigan). But I wonder; did the Liverpool fans find it poor value for money, when they beat Birmingham 7-0? Maybe there's the clue to the business plan - charge other teams for the privilege of beating them.
Although, the fact that Birmingham have only 13700 season-ticket holders, seems to suggest that they don't make their own fans very welcome either and it seems from what your long-suffering Blue noses have to say, they don't find the stadium a nice place to be, even if the football was worth watching.
Here's a quote from a Blue nose, about how well it is run:
' The ground. I know that this probably shouldn't be a factor, but it's useless... Couldn't get a pint...queue too long. couldn't get food....queue too long. Couldn't get to the toilet....guess what ! Now when I travel over 100 miles to support my team, I don't demand that they win, but I certainly expect in this day and age to have basic facilities. When I had a season ticket in the Olympic Gallery, my dad and myself used to laugh at the shock the servers had when people started asking for beer and invariably they had none, or it was 'off', or the gas had gone..you couldn't have written a better comedy script.'
So by the sound of it, Birmingham are doing everyone a favour by discouraging away fans from visiting. How loud does the message have to be?
It seems that Blues are stuck in that all too familiar rut of out-dated British management style, we got used to at Villa Park and which the knew management team are spending so much of their time and energy, trying to put right. Karren Brady is always on the telly, having her keester kissed for being the great business brain but how come she can drive her car past her litter-strewn palace of excellence and not notice? This is what a Blue Nose says:
'Smarten the ground up, make it feel like that the club care. Rubbish is still strewn around the base of the Railway End from when it was built. It's a s**t hole. Redevelop the other stand. I'm sick of hearing about the City of B'ham ground. Bring in decent players. Maybe if the ground looked like we cared, they may just come. Maybe..'
Its with all this in mind that I will consider the meaning of Sunday's result, whatever it happens to be. Even a Blues victory will not narrow the gap between the two clubs. Birmingham have allowed themselves to become a feeder-club for Arsenal and they have allowed the doubt about the future of their manager to run unchecked. That is just unprofessional. They have an owner, who spends his time criticising the club's fans and has made whinging the only sound that ever emerges from the boardroom.
They are an outdated cornershop, who are trying to adjust to the fact that a superstore has just opened, down the road. They're a club geared for the Championship - their fans actually prefer it there.
Beating Villa, in their 'cup final', will change none of this. Many will pretend that it does but it won't and never will. And the result should be viewed in that light.
But am I bovered, though? Yes I am a bit. And in the interests of maintaining present hostilities, I offer the message below, on behalf of Charlie Krulak, no matter what the result may be:
Blues quote: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/606/F8033988?thread=4496201