Rubber Bullets and Euro Mullets
Italics by B. Simmo and normal text by me
I’ll be honest I was laughing. Here I was in Poundstretcher listening to Cosmic Ray waxing sweet lyrics to me about Wolves in Europe while I was looking at 49p boxes of strange flavoured soup nobody bought. That’s why they were in here. So Green vegetable (which looked very unpalatable, and Roasted Garlic and Mushroom, which when I cooked it up looked like wallpaper paste and didn’t taste much better. So Braga away. Europa League group game. They slathered some butter on us up here at Molineux and I wonder how we will do there. Win probably, draw maybe. We wont lose. Not now.
The squad is bare minimum. There is talk of ‘quality’ on the bench or the lack of it. I think about the Villa squad for some reason. Plenty of ‘quality’ there if you cast the costs of that bunch into the equation…but still shit. Quality is an all encompassing word kind of like how you would wax about a Winters day walking the dogs down the cut. How’s the weather? Cold. Quality mate. I think the January window will be an important time for us. Maybe we do lack that killer substitution. Something to change a game. We are working very hard…well the squad are. Fosun are very quiet, have you noticed? That means they are busy sorting shit out. Busy tapping phone screens talking to people, cajoling and convincing players maybe? Wolves have taken a couple of under 23 lads with them to the game tonight. This is good practice. Is it too early to see the fruits of the past couple of years at the Academy start to ripen. Are they ready to be flung into the madness of games at this level. Nearly I think, very close.
Braga away. I’m watching Standard Liege Paedophiles getting ragged around the streets of Porto. Take a sip of tea while I wait for this stream to stop juddering around. You can hear the Wolves fans in the stadium. I’m laughing again it’s great. The stadium at Braga looks like it’s been put into a hole in the ground. It looks like a quarry. It probably is. I don’t care about it’s history or it’s quirks. I don’t care about Portuguese fucking egg custards. I don’t care that half our squad are Portugeezers. A Wolves fan has been caught by himself outside a bar and has had a knuckling off the Belgians. I wonder how Bart and crew are getting on…
2004 was the last time I was in this part of Portugal. Sitting here reflecting on what happened yesterday reminds of that time. Excitement at your team playing well in a major tournament, believing that they could go far. Enjoying Super bock or Sagres for 1 euro a pop and Hot dogs with crisps (it shouldn’t work but it does, trust me), and realising what genuinely nice people the Portuguese are. I was 28 then. No Facebook, no Twitter, no iPhones.
Team news. No changes from Bournemouth. Nuno is a hard task master. That’s what you get paid for mate, to play football, stop crying and get out there or we’ll flog you to Leeds mate. But our team do perform of course. Even if Jimenez must feel like being sick every time he jogs onto the green grass of another pitch. This pitch looks like they have just laid it. I’m expecting some bloke on there with a shovel whacking it flat. No changes. OK. It’s pissing down too. Man, people would have been on the piss all day and are now standing outside a non too pretty stadium getting whacked by Paramilitary Cops in the pouring rain. I dip another biscuit in me tea. Hope everyone I know is OK.
Stephen Smith was a nice person. If some people don’t remember, he was the Wolves fan who was stabbed and killed in Lisbon In Euro 2004. My friends and my folks all thought it was me. 2004 doesn’t sound a long time ago, but in 2019, when you see now how everyone appears to expose every part of their day to day life online these days, no matter whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, 2004 seems a lifetime away. Ironically, it probably would’ve helped back then, at least my family and friends would’ve known I was ok without worrying.
Yes the pitch is a bit wild. Have they bunged some sand around? It’s five or six minutes it and one of the enemy Portugeezers whacks the ball towards Rui Patricio and Neves helps it through goalwards as it hits his knee. 1-0 to them. I mean, I’m not too bloody fussed at the moment. Wolves just lately come out to play with bed fluff still in their hair for some reason. They take a bit of starting for sure. Even Nuno doesn’t look too perturbed about it. Neves looks bashful and he keeps furrowing his brows a bit. But Moutinho God bless him is starting to flex around in midfield. As he does everybody else seems to start to settle down a little. The Spanish Assassin Jonny Otto darts into a crossing position and sticks the ball onto the head of who else? Raul fucking Jimenez mate. He nods it in the net. Equaliser. Gew on. Fair play. I’m making noises like there are people in the room with me celebrating but it’s just me and the dogs and the warm Co-Codamol feeling.
My feet are fucking soaked. Cold and soaked. I’ve been wet at the football before, same as everyone, but this has took the piss. Not sure why they sent everyone up this muddy bank, when there’s a perfectly good bit of tarmac on the left. Fuck it though, we’re in Europe and 1 point off qualifying for the last 32. What a time to be alive. It could rain all day for me as long as we get through. Not sure why they’re taking people’s umbrellas off them. Or flags. That’s a bit shit. Blokes have spent good money on those. Police don’t like football fans at home, bit of an understatement, but abroad, they proper fucking hate us. Never sure whether it’s because we’re English or whether they just hate football fans in general, or both.
I think about Smithy. I was wearing this old Wolves shirt and carrying a sack of spuds out of Marks Veg shop on the Broadway in Bushbury. Smithy is always happy talking about Wolves. Sometimes I see him on the 33 or the 32 bus up town, I always nod hello, going to the footy ay we. We talk about Lescott I think, I’m sure there were rumours about Joleon being sold. Smithy is off to the European Championships to watch England. ‘Watch what yam doing’ I say to him as I piss off with my spuds back to my battered VW camper with the door hanging off. He says something but I can’t hear him.
My shitty little Nokia that I only charged up on a morning in the campsite shower block rang off the hook, as people saw the news and read papers back home seeing “28 year old Wolves fan stabbed” the messages of “call home”, “are you ok” and “ring me ASAP” were mental. Was different then you see. I hadn’t checked myself in at stupid o’clock dancing on a table in a back street Lisbon bar. There were no selfies in front of a Wolves flag. My life, in that beautiful 3 week Portuguese bubble, was completely off the radar. Black Ops man. Incognito. No funny quips on Twitter about being lost in a taxi 15 miles from where I was supposed to be. Nothing. But they’re still things that’ll stick with me forever it’s just they don’t exist on the interweb.
Then it’s BAM and WHAM. Doherty on the end of a lush stick cross from Raul heads it in then what seemed like seconds later Traore lets the Juice dribble down and lays the thing bunted under their Goalie. 1-3. I’m laughing again, it’s so fucking easy…but you know only the hardest practice makes stuff look effortless. Traore is the flavour of the week now despite him being vilified for 12 months. Wonder who the next whipping boy will be? Jota probably…in the absence of Jesus. But hey it’s happening on the pitch, we are controlling. Here is work for sure. Here is intent…
I never knew Stephen, and whilst the only 2 things we ever had in common were age and Wolves, I do think about him, particularly in the context of the things I’ve done, the places I’ve been, and the things that I’ve seen following Wolves since then. Whilst other people won’t think about dedicating their trip to Portugal to him, I will, and I’ll raise a glass in his memory, as he should’ve been here enjoying the madness as well.
So the pitch is getting a pummelling a bit like the Wolves fans outside. Now of course the ball is taking that little bobble. Traore stumbles and reins back his take offs. Jimenez continues to roam backwards and forwards stalking and pressing. Jota has a chance and Eduardo their Goalie makes a brilliant save to deny him. Jota aint happy. He wants things to happen here and it’s not. Sometimes you can want too hard. Sometimes it just isn’t going to go the way you want it. I think Diogo is a Warrior. A Wolf for sure…
Robocops. Pretending they don’t understand English. Course they fucking do. They just stand there looking at you with that smug fucking “I’m getting paid overtime to be here” look on their face. Was the same in Turin but at least it wasn’t shitting it down. Always understood people’s frustrations in situations like this but shouting “fucking come on”, or “hurry up” has never seemed to make any difference. Fact is, there’s enough Wolves fans here to force our way through these wankers if we wanted to, but, well, no one likes getting hit with a baton do they? Fuck it. 1-0 down. Piss wet through and muddy. Daren’t look at the gazelles and realise I’ve only brought one pair of jeans for 3 days. Hang on, another roar. 1-1. Get in.
I’m watching the videos people are uploading to Twitter. Old Bill are baton happy. I wonder how many times I’ve been chunked on the head with a Truncheon. A lot I think. Spurs away in the 80s was one I remember. It made me puke up and I couldn’t see anything on the pitch because I had double vision. Sheffield Wednesday as well, away. Dinked right on the forehead and I was eating a bag of chips at the time. I got run over by a Police Horse too by the subway steps. I’m reminiscing while I’m watching the blue helmeted Riot Goons flinging shapes. I watch some Standard fans running around. One of them has a fucking Mullet. I’m crying. Euro Mullets. It’s 2019 for fucks sake. He has what look like stone washed jeans on. Jesus Christ.
I’m in but the fuckers have taken my ticket. Twats. I like to keep them, but worse, I don’t know where the lads are, so spend the first half on my jack. 2-1. 3-1. Get fucking in. Hugging strangers, lay on the steps, this is what it’s about. This is what you get up at 3am to get a flight for. Half time. Find some of the lads. Ones glasses got bust when the 3rd went in. He quite rightly couldn’t give a shit. One of the older boys has pissed himself but you can’t really tell. Words getting round that the coppers have been heavy handed with people. Women, kids, old blokes. Wankers. Knowing that they’ll keep us in for at least 1/2 an hour makes me think there’s a chance of this kicking off. It doesn’t. We throw it away really. 3-3. Fuck it, I don’t care. We’re in the next round and could get drawn against anyone.
It is what it is. Nuno takes off players and puts players on. Jimmy gets booked and I’m crazy. Why? How? What the fuck are you doing Jimmy? But then I look at Twitter and someone is explaining why he got himself booked. Then it’s that quiet zen moment when you realise you’ve acted like a Tit and you should sit down and shut up if you don’t know what you’re talking about. But Braga now have something of a lob on flapping around and they navigate the potholes appearing in the pitch to stick another two goals in and we are equal. But it’s a point lads. That means knock out stages pal. That means more European madness. I bet North Birmingham Albion fucking hate this. I can feel their pain pulsing away across the M6 into WolvoLand. They will never have this you know.
Food wine and bed. Up at 8 for a day/night in Porto. Missed calls off some of the lads who can’t find one of the lads. He’s had a whack off a Robocop on his way in and no one knows where he is. It’s ok. He was drinking in the square until 1.30 with the other lads and got back safe and sound. This is good news as he hasn’t lost his wallet, phone and glasses this time.Bus to Porto. Piece of piss. Let’s get back on it. This ends up being an error. Loads of Wolves in Porto. You’d think we were playing them on the Friday night. Liege nowhere to be seen. Fuck them. Picking off people and then shit themselves when Wolves numbers turned up. 3 o’clock, let’s have some port.
Rubber bullets winging around in this video Steve Plant puts up. Fucking hell. I’m glad I never went. I remark that I would be in some restaurant somewhere in Porto eating fine food, looking at the wine list, ticking off Museums and places of interest. Showing people my Porto Fridge magnet and going ‘Hola’ at every doughnut I meet. But I wouldn’t I would be didging rubber bullets and chasing Belgians around…well shambling around on my floppy leg being a twat…
Get talking to a bloke who worked with a mate of mine who died. This is lovely. Exchanged some great stories and raised a glass. Next 4 hours are a blank. We’ve had our picture taken by a shop that says “Neves” on it. I have no recollection of this. It’s 9 o’clock, where the fuck am I? I’m in the hotel. Right. Back on it. Let’s head down to the river. Find a bar. Bloke with a guitar doing Oasis. This is great, everyone singing, dancing, drinking. Are those 2 women hookers? Not sure. Some lad gets on the mic and starts doing the corner shop song. Pissed. Think he’s looking at his phone for the lyrics, messes one line up. Gets pelters. Let’s help him out. Fuck, I’m forgetting the lyrics. I know, do the Jeff Shi, “she loves you” line. Perfect. That worked. Shit everyone’s filmed that, never mind, I don’t care. Scouser there that we start rattling to. Turns out we were at the same game in the World Cup 2006. Great. Shots, port, more port. Fuck it, let’s do the corner shop song again without the mic. This works. It’s absolutely pissing it down again, let’s walk back. For the 2nd time in 2 days I realise my Barbour coat isn’t waterproof. Shit. Never mind, it ain’t far. Is that a church? Let’s get out of the rain. Oh, it’s a soup kitchen for the homeless. They offer us tea & coffee. No I’m good thanks, here, have some money. I should’ve turned left not right. I’m soaked. I’m sure the hotel wasn’t this far. Google maps, you are full of shit. 1% battery and I’ve ran out of fags. Shit, no battery now. That’s ok I think I know where I am. Ah, the hotel. Bugger the doors locked. Ring the bell. Night porter gives me a smoke, but I’ve forgotten what my room number is. Shit, I’m really in trouble here. Beep. No not that door. Beep. No not that one either. What’s that at the end of the corridor? Bonus. My mate has done the old “shoe in the door” trick. Thank fuck. I could kiss him. I’m home but it’s 3 o’clock and I’ve got to be up at 6 for the flight. Doesn’t matter though. We’re through to the next round which means we’ve got at least one more of these to do. Oh and Sheff United Sunday.
I listen to my mate snoring and whilst I listen to his grunts and squeaks, struggling to get to sleep, I realise how lucky I am to be here. Stephen Smith would, I’m sure, have loved this.
I’m glad the people I know have got back safe. Things are good. Even if I’m not there I know people like me will have had some crazy times. This is what this madness is, a time to generate stories and madness, something to remember and wax about to people who perhaps weren’t there like me. Euro stories man.