well, that was interesting. off, on account of my dear mate Payney getting tickets at a reasonable price, James and i went to once again bear witness to Middlesbrough Football Club have a go at this playing football business. against Leeds United, no less. you will, no doubt, be all too aware of the result by the time you read this, but mention shall be made later.
the match kicked off, so to speak, a good deal earlier than usual - 12:15pm instead of the traditional 3pm. this was mostly for the benefit of the cameras of Sky, who were broadcasting the match to a no doubt enthralled United Kingdom and quite possibly around the world too. partially, though, i would imagine that the constabulary "encouraged" an earlier kick off for this match, lest a few too many fans got tanked up in the pub and had some fisticuffs later.
we went off to catch an early bus to town, then, since faffing with a car in town on matchdays is not all that wise. getting a bus was quite a tactically challenge, to be honest, but in the mean time here's a picture of James waiting for a bus, hoping i had worked out the new timetable correctly.
the people who do the buses and that, you see, have had a brilliant idea. they have cut down the buses from where we live to town to one an hour instead of one every half-hour. they have also issued a bewildering, difficult to interpret timetable (which me with my two degrees has struggled with) as well as a new route, going well away from where people might want to go to stop at places where no one seems to either get on or get off the bus.
if they don't want us going into town then they should just say so, really. this confusing us into just giving up on the buses is not nice, and many people rely on it. as things stand with the new timetable, well, if i have read it correctly, we can no longer get the bus home after a regular kick-off time match, so that's probably us not going - not if it means messing with the car and the inevitable traffic.
hey ho, the bus turned up at more or less a time that looked a bit like what was suggested in one element of the timetable, so we were on our way!
James, much like i, really enjoys the bus ride, so it is a shame they are trying to take it away. commerce, i suppose, although why the bus companies think having less buses equals more money would beyond my basic, rudimentary understanding of economics. perhaps they saw Jerry Maguire and thought that the "less is more" approach would get some nice big black dude shouting "show me the money" at them.
a bonus on the bus, for a reasonable percentage of the journey, was the presence of what one would call a "racist Nan" sat behind us. she regaled the stranger she sat next to, and us as a consequence, with her thoughts on Bulgarians (or "whatever they are") getting new kitchens and a "Paki" shop that rips her off and never has what she needs for baking in stock. there are some rather easy solutions to her plight, but far be it from me to trouble her with them.
in town, then, and we met up with Payney and his lads and made our way to the hallowed turf of the Riverside Stadium. as an absolute bonus, we arrived at the same time as a team bus did.
however, it was full of Leeds United players, so they boys lost interest and walked off.
we needed to wait for a few people to come and get tickets off, as James insists he should be called and he quite likes it so there you go, Payney. the perfect time to grab a few pictures, then!
here is James with the one he calls Payney, very much in endearment, as he likes him a lot. well, we all do. who doesn't?
is there a picture of me and Payney together? no, sadly. why not? medical reasons. we have this one friend, who we agreed not to reveal the name of, who would have an unfortunate reaction if he saw the picture. i mean, if me and Payney took a picture together and shared it with the world, Alex Brown would probably have such an erection that he would hemorrhage or something. it may well even set off his scurvy again. so it's best that we do not.
but there are, obviously, no problems at all showing off a picture of James, Elijah and Archie, all very keen and excited to get in the ground and watch the match!
well, they were sort of excited to be in the ground. they were also enjoying playing "tag" outside the stadium too, so there you go.
into the ground we went, then, and if for some reason you wished to see a picture of me in amongst all of this, James and i did have a go at one of them selfie things. actually several goes, as i kept pressing the wrong button, but here's just about the best of them. as in, this is probably as good as it gets for how i look!
if it looks like a nice, sunny day that is probably because it was a nice, sunny day. warm, you ask? not at all, dear reader, not at all. a ferocious, bitter cold wind drifted across the stadium from the Tees the whole match. James was in about 4 layers of clothes, and i was not, which led to James asked me why i was shaking and shivering so much!
perhaps if i had done some sort of warm ups or something before sitting down i may have been warmer. i mention that idea purely to link in to the next picture, showing the Boro team "warming up" as it were. one must be prepared, after all, if they are going to score absolutely no goals all afternoon.
not long after the above picture was taken we had the distinct and great pleasure of seeing one of the greats of the game. Jack Charlton, the World Cup winning, former Leeds player and former Middlesbrough manager, was guest of honour.
the Americans are welcome to their tales of that Chuck Norris bloke and all his invincible skills. we have Jack Charlton, thanks. he doesn't need to exert energy like Chuck does to impress. if you displease him, he just gives you a look that tells you to just basically punch yourself in the face and do not stop punching yourself in the face until Jack appears satisfied that you understand that you have displeased him. you can google all you want, you will never find a trace of those who did not obey with Jack's look.
i am not sure if my mate Fraser reads this blog at all. i kind of hope he does, really, as this video i took and uploaded here was done mostly with him in mind. anyone else interested is, of course, very welcome to watch it. although not many people that i know of get quite as emotionally involved or all worked up as Fraser does when the subject of Jonathan Woodgate crops up.
yep, that was four or so seconds of Jonathan "Woody" Woodgate warming up. if there is any cheering on the soundtrack for the video it was to do with the announcement of Jack Charlton being at the ground and nothing to do with "Woody" showing off his skill and prowess with hitting a ball on his somewhat surprisingly undamaged knee.
sadly i was a bit too far away and a bit too only had my blueberry phone on me in respect of the next picture. but it was a magnificent gesture that i tried to get an image of and here is that image.
that's the Red Faction corner, the ultra-loyalist Boro fans, holding up flags of the starting 11, in formation of the team that won Boro the league cup nearly 10 years ago. a reminder of hedonistic, brilliant times - many thanks again to Southgate and Strachan for ensuring the club will take another generation or two before we see the likes of that success again.
yes, they are watering the pitch. they were watering it when we arrived, and were watering it mere seconds before kick off. why? certainly not because of the tropical heat up here in our corner of the world, believe me. watering down a football pitch is usually one of them tricks you do when you don't want a faster, flair-loaded team running wild on the day. that Boro were so paranoid about the Leeds attack and pace tells you much of just how well my team is doing at the moment.
but anyway, another picture of James, possibly with Payney lurking in it? sure, why not!
we had some interesting commentary from behind us during the match. not quite along the lines of "racist nan" on the bus, i must say, but from gents of a similar age all the same. it was wonderful hearing well thought out criticism like "i don't know what his name is but i think he is probably rubbish whenever he plays", to be followed by "ayes" of approval of the review. hey ho, if you are going to knock someone, at least know their name.
although in fairness it was not like Boro were all that impressive. i think it now must be close to 10 (ten) match hours (!) since Boro last scored a goal. in this game there was no excuse for them not scoring, really. some of the misses - and i believe we had eight shots "on target" - looked far more difficult to engineer than simply scoring would have been.
Leeds were, frankly, there for the taking. for some reason they looked exceptionally nervy, making mistakes all over the field. we kept the ball, won it with ease of Leeds and got forward frequently, but for some reason just couldn't bury it in the back of the net. frustrating to watch, frankly.
well, when i say we won the ball "with ease" off of Leeds, they were of course prone to being the dirty bastards they have a proud record of being. there was a claw to the face here, an elbow in the back there and of course a right royal hack festival when they couldn't get the ball. only one yellow card, of course, as it "was only Boro" they were doing this against. hey ho, it's not meant to be an entirely non-contact sport, and nor is it meant to be played by pansies. well, not only pansies.
the match was, strangely, entertaining when it should not be. there is such a thing as a good, entertaining, well contested 0-0 draw, but this was not one. Boro were so dominant we should have won this one at least 2-0, or perhaps 2-1 with the greatest respect to the one or two swift counter attacks Leeds had. evidently they had not watered down the pitch quite enough to stop that.
at an attendance figure of around 20,200 the ground was fuller than it has been for a while - i think that's about 5,000 more than was at the FA Cup game we went to earlier this year. applause to the Leeds fans, too, who brought about 3,000 of that number. and despite their reputation of sometimes being a bit physical with expressing their sentiments, it was 3,000 very decent fans too. i had a chat with one or two outside the ground, they were all hoping for a good game, just like us, and just like none of us, in truth, did not really get.
still, what the game lacked in goals it more than made up for in songs about Jimmy Savile from both sets of fans. the lyrics are, alas, something i suspect that from a legal sense i cannot repeat here.
i think the above picture was one i took of a balloon that floated around the ground and eventually ended up in the back of the net. an unexpected and exciting thing to have seen, that. didn't inspire the players to "balloon the ball", but maybe next time. although, having now stumped up close to sixty notes on tickets alone and having been treated to 3 (three) hours of no scoring, i shall not rush to be back at the ground, sadly.
oh yeah, here's a linesman bravely signalling for a free kick, throw in or goal kick for Leeds before the ball has even gone out of play. it was this linesman's special move, that, just awarding everything to Leeds whenever he could see the ball. the Boro fans were enthralled by this and treated him to a rather moving serenade, expressing their passion about him doing this.
and that's that for match pictures. if i recall the signs right you are not supposed to be taking pictures in the ground except for "personal use". as this blog is not really for commercial things, although feel free to throw either money, a job or both at me, i suspect i am not transgressing this rule all that much. by a couple of toes, at best.
anyway, if they don't like it, that's fine. the new bus thing makes going to games all but impossible as mentioned above, and i don't particularly like throwing money at the club to watch a side throw away chance after chance to score.
at the end of the match there was not too much of the boos and jibes you would expect after such a match. instead there was applause and thanks for Shay Given, a gent and a great of the game, who has been at Boro on loan for a few months. this was the last time he would appear for us now that the loan spell has ended, he is returning back to Aston Villa or wherever it is he usually plays.
with Given no longer in goal for us, there is every chance that Boro fans at the next game will see a goal or two, but perhaps not goals scored quite as much by Boro as they might have hoped.
hey ho, here's the best that my blueberry phone could do with zooming in on the players after the match, with one or two of them presumably being interviewed by Sky.
i wonder if the Sky people asked the Boro players why didn't they rather just score instead of belting the ball into the stands. i suspect they take a rather more subtle and respectful approach with the line of questions.
anyway, after that, it was time to bid farewell until the next time to Payney and his lads. we then made our way to town to do a bit of shopping, as was promised to James, and indeed, as he wanted to, off to Burger King for a late lunch / early tea.
and then, with some deft decrypting of the complexities of the new style bus timetable, it was back on to a bus and back on our way home!
the game was disappointing, of course, but the day out was brilliant, amazing and just a general, all around example of excellence. perhaps, depending on what they do next to the buses (and i do not rule out them cutting it down to one a day at some point. buses should note that they always have a train tapping on their shoulder), we should actually just go for a wander and mooch around town without troubling the turnstiles of the Riverside. that would at least be a thirty note saving and would also mean a vast reduction in not seeing goals scored.
oh go on then, on the off chance that my mate Fraser is reading, a look at Woodgate in the match programme.
yes, that is me hiding behind it.
as i am getting on it years (yes, birthday pics post to come here eventually), i have a rather bad back and am somewhat sort of knackered from today's adventures. i am off, then, to have a nice sit down that does not involve typing much of anything!
cheers, as ever, for reading!
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!