Arsenal vs Wolves And My Life In Pop Will Eat Itself

Bored of the glory I swapped Arsenal for Wolves, which led to fraught hours touring Scandinavia trying to find out results and onto a chance meeting with a train full of Baggies fans...
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Bored of the glory I swapped Arsenal for Wolves, which led to fraught hours touring Scandinavia trying to find out results and onto a chance meeting with a train full of Baggies fans...

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Bored of the glory I swapped Arsenal for Wolves, which led to fraught hours touring Scandinavia trying to find out results and onto a chance meeting with a train full of Baggies fans...

I wasn't really interested in football. Hooliganism turned me off.

As a kid in 1971 I loosely supported Arsenal, tantalised by the FA Cup Final and the beautiful image of Charlie George scoring 'that goal' and celebrating simply by lying on his back with his arms pointing towards 'the heavens', idyllic!

In 1989 when Arsenal won the league with a thrilling last minute all conquering winner over Liverpool from Michael Thomas I bored of supporting glamour. After jumping around the room in celebration I settled back and at that very moment I did what you can't do.

I changed my team!

My self deprecating manner and yearning for something different celebrated no victory but instead burnt a passion, a desire to embrace my hometown team and achieve solace and perhaps even the Holy Grail.

Already I gravitated towards my local team. I tried to resist but I relished the idea of supporting the underdog, the sleeping giant, the under-achiever. The Wolves!

Adam Birch one of our roadies when drunk would shout "C'mon you Bees!"

Little did I know it would lead to a life of depression.

Fellow 'Pop Will Eat Itself' member Clint Mansell and I were 'groomed' by Oscar Harris our lighting guy who had lovely hair and years of football pedigree.

Ultimately we aspired to have a gang attitude to football... now on tour three of us supported 'Wolves'... Graham Crabb was 'Spurs', our manager C.J was 'Birmingham', Sal our tour manager, 'Leeds'.  Others showed no interest in football. Adam Birch one of our roadies when drunk would shout "C'mon you Bees!" which we put down to a yearning for spring but later realised he had a secret passion for Brentford F.C.

Our love of football back in the late 80's especially in the Scandinavian touring wasteland was restricted to an appreciation for a new phenomenon that was 'email'. Two little rubber cups that were put over the mouth and earpiece of a telephone, connected to a little printer and, when dialled up to Sal's mate Stuart in Yorkshire, would, in the style of Grandstand's tele-printer, reel off the football scores on a Saturday..... well that was the theory anyhow!

We had Steve Bull and he made supporting Wolves utterly utterly glorious

For hours Sal attempted to connect Uppsala, Halmstad or Lund to Wakefield and in fairness we occasionally got some scores through, but generally these were restricted to Doncaster v Scunthorpe or Luton v Chester, never the Wolves, Leeds, Birmingham or Spurs scores we so desperately craved!

But we had Steve Bull and he made supporting Wolves utterly utterly glorious. He was better than Maradona and Wolves were better than Brazil...honest it felt like that!

You can shove ya Van Persies and ya Agueros...every British football fan wants a Steve Bull, he wants to be Steve Bull, he is Steve Bull!

Clint and I bought season tickets and truly revelled in the glory of spiralling up through the divisions.(Can you spiral up?).

Then there was Bolton... I hate Bolton! That John McGinley. Play-off hell. He should have been sent-off, he really should. It still hurts!

Confined to the 'Black Country', going nowhere, queuing to get out of Molineux, queuing to get out of Wolverhampton

Ultimately we stagnated as we super-glued ourselves to the old second tier of English football... cold... confined to the 'Black Country', going nowhere, queuing to get out of Molineux, queuing to get out of Wolverhampton, queuing to get out of depression, sitting in static traffic...Oh... and then be depressed for the rest of the weekend. I could take it no more. I relinquished my season ticket! Not a real fan I know!

I have been to support my Wolves heroes a few times this year and the feeling is wonderfully familiar, comforting, warm inside and ultimately just plain... DISAPPOINTING!!!!

In 1994 when PWEI played two nights at Wolverhampton Civic Hall we sponsored the Wolves V Grimsby game affording corporate hospitality to our Wolves loving friends, various members of the record industry, UK press and new to the mainland, support band 'Ash'. The quality of play did not match the quality of food.

Grimsby were dire, Wolves were grim. We won 1-0.

I remember when PWEI split in 1996 I worked in a Birmingham city centre bar, I was absolutely skint and pretty down. I had lost my identity, my friends, my support network, my extended family. People came to the bar to point and amuse themselves as to how low the arrogant, self-opinionated, sexist, rubbish PWEI had fallen. I was low, I was down, I was pretty desperate to be honest! Life was pretty 'embarrassing', I struggled to hold my head up. Without the love of family and friends I may have become an estate agent!

People came to the bar to point and amuse themselves as to how low the arrogant, self-opinionated, sexist, rubbish PWEI had fallen

Out of the blue I got a call from Derry, ex keyboard player from EMF another firm Wolves fan. I was potless but desperately needed a boost and definitely needed a hug.

We arranged to meet halfway to witness the 'in-form' Wolves massacre the 'whipping boys' of Oxford. It was scheduled to be the early Sunday mid-day kick off.

I bought two tickets and got an early train to the popular university 'seat of learning' destination. The sun was shining, I was excited. We arranged to meet in a pub by the ground. I had enough money for one drink, Derry was to pay me for his ticket when he arrived. I waited, then I waited, Oh yeah I waited some more. His phone was permanently off but this wasn't unusual for Derry.

Kick off time arrived so I went to the match. Alone.

We got slaughtered three nil!!!

It turns out Derry had a massive Saturday night in London and overslept by a day!!!

(This is actually highly plausible. Last summer I went to stop with him for a few days in Devon where he lives. He doesn't get up in the light!)

Anyway back to the story. I was really down...I had no money, Wolves had just got stuffed and I had a lonely journey back to Stourbridge.

I arrived at a Birmingham station and caught my connection to Stourbridge. The train was empty, I began to forget the horrors of the day. A couple of stations passed and then there was 'Smethwick West'.

I puffed my chest out, the chest proudly boasting my old gold and black football shirt, the shirt loudly boasting my 'wolf head' logo

Yes, that's right...SMETHWICK WEST!!!

Smethwick West train station, you know the one that gets absolutely crammed with people wearing blue and white striped football shirts whenever Albion play at home, like today at this time, after the normal Sunday kick -off time!

I have never been a tough guy, more a 'worrier' than 'warrior' but sometimes I am a bit 'daft', sometimes I just can't be bothered, sometimes I can't be arsed, sometimes I am reluctant to hastily zip up my jacket and keep my head down. At that moment it just 'didn't seem the right thing to do'.

I puffed my chest out, the chest proudly boasting my old gold and black football shirt, the shirt loudly boasting my 'wolf head' logo and the same shirt worn earlier that day by 11 men that had retreated, capitulated and essentially let me down.

The same people now most likely relaxing in mock Georgian houses in Cannock and about to sit down to a double dose of  'Songs of Praise' followed by 'Antiques Roadshow', about to enjoy a lavish Sunday dinner cooked by a 'pleasing-on-the-eye' blonde housewife with an amazing figure.

I figured my early Sunday evening offered an altogether different menu.

It was most likely I was sitting down to a double dose of 'a right good kicking' followed by 'another right good kicking' served up this time not by Thora Hird or Harry Secombe nor by Arthur Negus or Hugh Scully. This tasty treat would be served up by a horde of 'non-too-pleasing-on-the-eye' much uglier figures.

I was in for a roasting of my own.

I considered what popular christian hymn I would NOT be hearing sung by friends and family in the next week or so at my local church. I amused myself as to whether Derry would even turn up.

As I looked down at my 'wolf head' Wolves logo emblazoned on my shirt I felt a sense of passion and of pride. Like the warriors in '300' I prepared for glory, unlike the warriors in '300' I prepared to die!

I looked to the heavens. God must have been watching over me that day.

As he peered down at this pitiful scene he must have visioned a sad, lonely and forgotten little golden satsuma cowering at the bottom of a large 'Tesco' carrier bag, a little golden nugget; a glowing beacon in a sea of blue and white stripes.

For your information the hymn the gathered congregation travelling from Birmingham to Stourbridge that memorable Sunday chose was...

YOU'RE SHIT AND YOU KNOW YOU ARE, YOU'RE SHIT AND YOU KNOW YOU ARE, YOU'RE SHIT AND YOU KNOW YOU ARE, YOU'RE SHIT AND YOU KNOW YOU ARE!!!

Just for me and for probably fifteen minutes three to four hundred of our fiercest football rivals sang this song, that's right from 'Smethwick West' through 'Langley Green', through 'Rowley Regis', through 'Cradley Heath' the 'Black Country Express' rocked to the sounds of a wonderful song composed by poetic footie fans just made for a moment like this...and just for me! Just me!

Aggressive looking men, women and children laughed and pointed, smiled and ridiculed, gestured and cheered.

For one moment in my life I was pleased that West Bromwich Albion had won, their players had given them a good day, their players deserved their Sunday dinners, their players deserved their warm cosy mock Georgian houses in Sutton Coldfield and their fans deserved to celebrate, and have a right good laugh at this Wolves fan. Good on them and thanks for not killing me!!!

It's unlikely the Birmingham to Stourbridge train journey will ever nestle alongside 'The Orient Express' or even the 'Ffestiniog Welsh Highlands' as 'Great Train Journeys of the World' but to me on that balmy Sunday early evening I had my personal favourite train journey of all time.

The humour and banter to be had from such an experience is why we love 'our game'. Long may it continue.

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