The Kop To Kingston Town

19 Apr 2021 | 13 comments

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​“WhaGwaan ar kid” You can take the Brummie out of Brum but you can’t take Brum out of the Brummie.  Here I am a septuagenarian living in the Island paradise of rural south-west Jamaica.  My Jonathan Grounds donated shirt hangs proudly on the washing line along with my Jamaican wife’s bandana skirt and head-tie. We eat outside in the gazebo I built which is aptly named “Happy Abode” Every Sunday morning Harry Lauder’s refrains compete with the combined congregations of the three Churches within earshot. Thanks to lockdown Harry Lauder always wins these days.

Bit of a far cry from the late fifties. Those days it was the number 9 ‘bus to Town then hot foot to St. Andrews.  Cattell Road navigated and place taken as near to pitch-side on the Kop as possible.  It was the time of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.  Yes, we did beat Inter Milan home and away including the one I wasn’t allowed to go to at some San Siro Stadium or another. The home leg sticks in my memory, mainly because of the fashion of the day – winkle-picker shoes.  There was Jim with mates looking around for evidence.  “There you are, Italians, told you so” as we spotted the offending footwear.  On the pitch Jimmy Harris scored a brace to add to the earlier one scored at some other stadium.

Fast forwards some sixty years. For fish and chips read ackee and saltfish. “Town” is Kingston some hundred miles away. Sound systems abound at the local cricket ground that would never see the light of day at Edgbaston. I now live miles away from any semblance of a Football Stadium.  I guess that the National Stadium within the Independence Park complex in Kingston would be the nearest thing to St. Andrews but how the wind would blow without a roof over the terraces.

Football takes third place in Jamaica. Winner being Cricket with track and field a short way behind.  Football is a conundrum. True, cable and satellite TV bring the Champions League into our homes but there is no loyalty. Pinckney’s are not born into a lifetime of undying support. Ballard’s Valley FC v Mo- Bay United just doesn’t work.

Let me take you a short ride to our local “town” Yes I suppose Junction could be called a town by some stretch of the imagination. The shopping area must easily be as big as Bearwood. Now for the unreal. It doesn’t take long for an Arsenal “shirt” to pass by. Followed closely behind are Man U and Real Madrid. Another Arsenal passes and we are done. My unofficial count currently stands at Arsenal 104, Man U 90 with others varying between 10 and 50. No local teams or even shirts of the National Reggae Boyz. Then one day it happened. You guessed it. A shirt of claret and blue came oh so close. Close enough for me to have to comment. The rather startled passer-by on hearing my “sarky” comments spurted out that the shirt was sent to him from “farrin” He genuinely did not seem to know of offence he may of caused and  scurried away saying “sorry, sorry” I felt vindicated.

Given the track record of shirts imagine my surprise when it really did happen. There I was strolling down the isle of our local “supermarket” when I saw it. Walking towards me was a couple in their late sixties with THAT crest and logo clearly on display. A Blues shirt was making an appearance.  I guess it was a conditioned response but I found myself shouting “Blue Army” in their general direction. Sixty odd minutes passed and we had relived so many games of the sixties’ seventies and every other decade bringing us up to date. We parted the best of friends, Imagine the obvious confusion of the other shoppers upon seeing and hearing an ageing white man, a Jamaican and his wife linking arms dancing towards the checkout singing Keep Right On at the top of their voices. Vern you have since passed on to that stadium in the sky. Ron, I know that you are still Keeping Right On.

So how do I keep in touch with “whagwaan” at the Blues? Well. We do have the Internet. Okay so it’s only recently grown to 4Mbps but it works. Mostly. Saturday, usually Saturday sees me checking with Blues TV. Yes, after three years it finally works with some reliability. The dreaded Covid-19 pandemic has, ironically increased TV coverage of the mighty Blues. Here comes the downside.  Jamaica is not a “dark territory”  As a consequence I am often not able to sit in the comfort of my armchair Saturday mornings, early Red Stripe in hand with the curtains blocking out most of the fierce Jamaican sunlight tuning in to Dale Moon waxing lyrically about our fortunes.  No. instead it’s a frantic search for a “dodgy stream” which hopefully is in English and will last the full ninety minutes. The stream that is not the players you understand.

And so my long distant love affair lives on. I keep up to date with far too many Blues sites and pages. My ‘phone bursts into action constantly with the latest updates.  I’m probably more up to date than I was when reading the FT scores that someone had pinned to the wall of the viaduct on the Coventry Road after leaving the match. Thanks whoever you were. Okay I don’t have the satisfaction of going into work after yet another Blues win and the “other lot” losing with a wall to wall grin on my face but that’s a small price to pay.

I look back at my lifetime as a Blues Fan. Wasn’t so bad eh!  Lost a few, drew a few and even won a few. My adrenaline pumps just as fast now as kick-off approaches as when Eddie Brown kicked off to start the game back in the day. I feel so lucky that Mum and Dad had moved to Birmingham just after the war looking for work and settled for the Blue half of the City. The other option doesn’t bare thinking about!

And as I move into extra-time with the inevitable full-time whistle looming I offer you all a little thought. You do know that Owners, Managers and Players all come and go yet we, the fans stay ‘till the end of that oh so long, long road?  KRO

Mr Jim

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13 Comments

  1. Sausage n Egg

    Bostin that Jim!!! Enjoyed a slice of your life there.. Dirty vile shirt sneaking up probably didn’t smell it because of the fish.. KRO you are a true Blue

    Reply
  2. Jon Berry

    Jim – Jon Berry, author of Hugging Strangers here. Can I ask you, probably in a DM, about something non-Blues related Birmingham history for my new book?

    Reply
    • Jim Hill

      No problem.

      Reply
    • Cliff Horrocks

      Loved Hugging Strangers Jon – please let us know at the Trust about the history of Brum book – look forward to it

      Reply
  3. John

    Absolutely wonderful Mr Jim, as S&E says you’re a true Blue.
    KRO my friend

    Reply
  4. Wilf Puffett

    Bought a tear to my eye there Jim.
    I started supporting Blues in 1952 and have
    also had some really memorable moments at Stan’s
    as well as elsewhere. I have been to over 80 grounds in the
    league with Blues as the away team (now also including Stan’s), also some that are no longer in the football league. Just wonderful days out.
    I am still a season ticket holder and hopefully will be able to return to my seat sooner rather than later.
    (Covid and ground repairs allowing!!!!!)
    As you said ‘it has not been bad’
    Even the really bleak periods do not seem as bleak anymore.

    KRO SOTV

    Reply
  5. Mitchell Bray

    Mr Jim. It is great stuff like this that keeps us ‘tired and weary’ Blues writers going. Keep it coming and look forward to the next article.

    Reply
  6. Steve Dennish

    That was a wonderful read there Jim , it is brilliant being born a Blues Fan , we are salt of the earth & reading your story proves it . I was born on a Council Estate , by the Rover Factory , went through Elmdon Park to see the Blues train at the old training ground, during the Stan Cullis / Fred Pickering days , I’m 64 now, living in Hawaii ( after 30 years in California ) We too have no football teams here on the Big Island but the internet is a wonderful source of all things Blues. Keep Right On my friend . Up The Blues.

    Reply
    • Kevin Hill

      And not even a mention the £1.00 hot dog burger after going to escalator palisades out to the market next to the arm navy store. Then a mad rush up digbeth passing the oldest pub in brum and me jim aka dad. Saying he drank in there when it first opened. Man rush to get to the ground before dad went for a swift one under the main stand before the might KEEP RIGHT ON amends shives down spine and goosebumps up my arm. One thing I owe mr jim apart from hes looks is the fact he gave me the royal blue blood running through my veins. Maybe it’s my turn for a letter.? Hmm kro

      Reply
    • Cliff Horrocks

      Hi Steve perhaps you may be able to write us a few words on following the Blues from across the pond. I am enjoying the stories from Bluenoses around the world

      Reply
    • Neil Yeomans

      Steve
      Don’t remember the name but I am 63 and come from Eden Road backing onto the park so we probably kicked each other in the many games of 20 aside we had on Elmdon Park as kids.
      Was also a regular at the training ground watching our best ever front three.
      You wouldn’t believe the development around there now.
      It’s a long road to where you live , I made London my bro Dubai and Sis in Portugal must have been something in that lake water!!
      Up the Blues always seem to find each other on our travels and thanks Jim for your article.

      Reply
  7. henry dyer

    great to see the Gunners winning in something !! great read Jim !

    Reply
  8. Paul

    Love this Jim. Thank you and keep keeping right on buddy

    Reply

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