Almost inevitably, Bashley’s FA Cup adventure came to a stuttering halt at the very first hurdle this season, not that I expected anything less. That’s naturally heartbreaking, because regular readers will know the FA Cup is my favourite competition. It’s up there with my other favourite things, like Sauerkraut. I love Sauerkraut. Travelling to watch football ain’t half bad either.
With Bashley’s dream crushed in August, my dream of watching Bashley as the big boys entered in January was already out of the window. We had a league game lined up against promotion chasing Swindon Supermarine though, which I suppose would have to do.
The football world had different plans for me though, as a message from former school colleague Jamie decided that I would instead be heading to the Midlands, all the way to Birmingham infact with his beloved AFC Bournemouth. £10 a ticket is something I’m not going to turn away, and with Jamie driving us up in Tyrone (his Seat Ibiza with the coolest name in Seat Ibiza history), I didn’t have to worry about planning my day according to train timetables. Bashley’s game was postponed as well, meaning I’d have a chance to watch us get beat 7-0 again on a Tuesday night.
We arrived in Brum with plenty of time left to spare, and collected Anthony from New Street before heading off to park up somewhere near the ground. We found some free parking within sight of St Andrews, and a friendly woman advised us that we’d have to go out through the McDonald’s car park after the game as the road would be closed to filter away the football fans. Her parking left much to be desired, but at least she did it with a smile.
A quick McDonald’s lunch nearly turned sour, but thankfully a friendly employee was on hand to make sure we felt safe in our new surroundings. I don’t know if we were looking worried, or whether she needs some serious help with her pick-up techniques, but her line; ‘Don’t worry lads, this McDonald’s is perfectly safe for away supporters, you’ll be alright in here’ unnerved me. If anything, she’d made me more wary of the people around me. I didn’t walk in expecting to get bottled whilst chomping on my Chicken Legend meal, but I guess she was making sure I was completely aware that it wouldn’t happen.
Suitably fed, we headed over to the ground with a good hour before kick off, enough time for a beer and to take in some of the atmosphere on the concourse before the game. Typical, shitty Fosters on offer here, nothing of any special note, but we drank it anyway. Away days after all.
Concourses tend to house weird events for me, and Birmingham was no different. With pints in hand, I got a nudge on my shoulder that I simply brushed off as somebody bumping into me. When an eerily familiar Welsh accent piped up, the three of us stood frozen. An old geography teacher of mine walked out in front of us, and offered his hand to shake whilst excitedly discussing the game ahead. As far as I was aware, his assemblies at school had mainly consisted of religion and his love for his dear Swansea City, so I can’t say I was much less than confused. He soon waddled off, and the three of us laughed in our bemusement. I thought I’d got away from you for good.
Sadly, it seems that City struggle to get crowds in their post-Premier League days, and that was noted by all very quickly as an attendance of just over 13,000 meant the stand to my left hand side was closed completely, save some plusher seats on the halfway line for the bigwigs. It’s a simple enough ground, with the away end and closed stand both self-standing, whilst the main stand to my right and behind the far goal are filled in to form one.
City’s inability to attract a crowd was forgotten as they took to the game to their top tier opponents, and truthfully, probably deserved to win the game, or at least force a replay. AFCB fielded a much weakened side, and that showed as the hosts almost led within a minute. As it went, they did break the deadlock some 40 minutes in, as Michael Morison rose highest to nod home a set-piece. The sides were level at the break however, as Bournemouth’s Lee Tomlin smashed his penalty straight down the middle for the equaliser.
The second half wasn’t too different as a combination of a missed Birmingham penalty that was blazed into orbit and some poor finishing, paved the way for AFCB’s Glenn Murray to come on and slam home a scrappy finish with five minutes left on the watch, taking the South Coast outfit into the Fourth Round in the process.
Bournemouth’s fans weren’t at their usual best, but they didn’t really have a need to. I did note a few comments from the people around me suggesting that they missed away days at places like this though, but seriously, who wouldn’t? Last time you wandered out of St Andrews, you’d just witnessed your side win 8-0!
We were straight out of the ground and heading for home on the final whistle, with a further pitstop at our third fast food chain of the day en route, who ever said that watching football was good for your health.