As you get older, time goes by so much quicker. It doesn’t seem five minutes since I stood on the steps of the Olympic Stadium in Munich watching Diego MaraGovern lifting the European Cup for the Trickies and yet they tell me that was 31 years ago. Worrying! In fact this corresponding weekend in 2009 I was in Holland, getting ready to watch Twente Enschede take on Vitesse Arnhem in an Eredivisie game. Another year flown by.
It always seems to be cold whenever I go to the Netherlands, and I generally wrap up in a jumper, fleece AND big coat, not to mention a wooly hat. Today I’m just heading down the A42 to Coleshill and I’m wearing exactly the same gear. It might only be November but I’m feeling the icy draught already, and only the thought of ticking off another new ground drags me away from an intriguing TV game between Arsenal and Spurs, and the prospect of the England v Samoa rugby international coming up later.
The wife and daughter have disappeared to a ‘baby shower’ so I have my son with me. I’m not sure if he is expecting a Wetherspoons lunch, or another one of the Premier League stadiums I’ve been taking him to recently, but he’ll have to settle for a bit of stray-ball-chasing today as I’m trying to save the pennies, with a weekend in Brighton coming up plus Christmas just around the corner.
Coleshill is only 38.5 miles from where we live, but it’s like arriving in a different country. Everybody is talking in that nasal drone that clearly identifies them as Brummies. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but having worked in the Black Country for a while I got used to it and even adopted a subconcious Wolverhampton accent for a while, much to the irritation of my then girlfriend. When in Rome…
Pack Meadow is on the outskirts of the town and you could really say it is set in open countryside. There’s a chap manning the wrought iron gates as we arrive by car, and we pay him before parking up. £5 for me, £3 for the lad, and a couple of progs sees off the first tenner of the day. The clubhouse looks welcoming and we enter to find two big screens showing the day’s live game, with Spurs having overturned their half-time deficit to lead the Gunners 3-2. The bar is well stocked with a variety of lager and smooth products but sadly has no cask ale, nor even a bottled beer worthy of the name. Outside is a hatch bearing the legend ‘Tuck Shop’ where a group of students are pondering whether to purchase chips or not. With only meat pies on offer, that’s my choice too, but their shipping order means we will have to wait.
You might wonder how I know they are students. Well, with no discernible Midlands accents and no discernible fashion sense – it’s a no brainer! Actually, my close acquaintances will confirm that I have a thing about students. I suppose it stems from the fact that I never was one. That, and the fact that many a classic punk gig in the 1970s was staged at the local Students Union, with the likes of me forbidden to enter. I’ve never forgiven them for that, so don’t get me started on tuition fees – the higher the better!
We finally get our chips and set up camp behind the goal. Most of the stadium is flat standing, the only exception being a low, seated stand on one side, and a taller covered terrace on the other. It’s a strange construction, barely able to hold fifty souls, and looking all the world as if they’ve just not got round to installing any seats yet. Maybe they haven’t. Today’s game is a mid-table Midland Football Alliance clash against local rivals Alvechurch, and to be honest much of the first half rates barely above the tedious. We do get to see a goal at each end – the visitors equalizer coming just before the break – but it’s not a classic ‘derby’ match.
It livens up a minute into the second half with Alvechurch taking the lead. It then becomes an end-to-end encounter which swings towards Coleshill when the visitors get a man sent off. It’s a bit harsh but the referee has become very fond of his book and waves cards at regular intervals. There’s a few near misses at either end before the home side level things with 25 minutes to go. They huff and they puff but don’t manage to make their one-man advantage tell, and to be fair 2-2 is about the right result.
We retire to the bar for a bit of warmth and to get the full-time scores. The buzz of convivial Brummies fills the air but my mind drifts back to twelve months ago and the looming prospect of a session in the Wildeman in Amsterdam. I know where I’d rather be…
Programme: £1 from the bloke at the Wrought Iron gates. Not very thick but does not contain any adverts. Not sure who thinks it’s a good idea to print black type of a dark green background, though!
Floodlight pylons: 8
Parakeets: Not a chance. Nice cat, though
Club shop: No
Tannoy music: Not even a tannoy
Toilets: In the clubhouse
Player with the quirkiest name: I’d just have to give it to Alvechurch’s Charisma Agbonlahor – you couldn’t make up a name like that!