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St Andrews
  Birmingham City v West Ham United
Premier League

Saturday August 18th, 2007, 3pm
Championship League
Scott Bowman
(West Ham United)

My first away game of the season with West Ham and it didnít half get off to a bad start. I had to be at the coach for Brum for 9:30am; I left from Mile End station to Victoria and was due to meet a mate there at 9. I get there at 8:30, very optimistic, excited for the first away game of the season and in buoyant mood. I get there and decide to pick up a copy of 442 magazine as I had half hour before my mate arrived and something to keep my mind at ease from the excitement and tension that goes with being a football fan. Also due to getting battered by Man City in the previous fixture, I was unaware how our season was going to pan out.

I digress. Itís now nine and thereís no sign of my mate, but give the lad the benefit of the doubt, itís not life or death just yet as heís still plenty of time, but as you can imagine, Iím anxious enough as it is. Time goes on and thereís still no sign of him, so with 10 minutes to go I rush to the coach thinking heíd be there, because without him I canít board as he has the tickets. By now Iím red faced with steam coming out of my ears as the coach is about to go and thereís no sign him, and I suppose I deserved it relying on a Chelsea fan! Coach goes, Iím peed off and now have to fork out an additional £15 quid for a ticket to Birmingham, and wet myself because itís a Saturday and 90% of the coaches are fully booked. While waiting in the queue guess who turns up? Yes you guessed it, my mate; with a sheepish ĎIím sorryí look slapped across his mush. After a few choice words and £15 quid later we get lucky as there are a few empty seats on the first coach from 10am to Brum, so now from a horrible start things are starting to look good. Birmingham here we come! 

So we arrive in Birmingham about half one with enough spare time to get some food down us and hopefully a few beviesÖ No such luck! Not knowing Birmingham all that well, we wanted to be near the ground as to not be too late for the game, so there wasnít enough time or opportunity to go into the town centre and sink a few before taking our seat, and as football grounds like to take the Mickey with us football fans, it wasnít really an option to drink in the ground (or so we thought).  

First thing we see as we approach the ground is a McDonalds; ďThatíll do usĒ I say, as itís close enough the ground, cheap enough and will fill a hole long enough until after the game. Ok, so thatís the food sorted, but what about a boozer? As I said before, no such luck. We passed a shifty looking gaff on the way to the ground, which is next to a bridge that leads to the coach station/ground but itís full of casuals/wannabeís and being a chap with a thick Cockney accent and wearing a claret and blue shirt, I can say without hesitation that I wouldnít have been welcome. As we get outside the ground we ask the Old Bill if thereís any boozers that cater for away fans or maybe a Wetherspoons near by, and he didnít brighten the day by telling us no and that we could try our luck in one of the Blue nose pubs, but that it wouldnít be advisableÖ Err, cheers mate thanks for the wisdom!  

With no luck finding a watering hole, itís off to the ground we go. Thereís a good half hour before kick off, so a pie and larger are in order and by now weíre gasping. Prices weíre fair enough and what youíd usually expect from a football ground, and so was the quality of beer unfortunately! What gave me the hump were the staff and their attitude to serving customers. Pig ignorant and wanted to get you away at the first opportunity. What also was very noticeable was the fact that the concourse lacked any screens to show what was happening at the other grounds, so it was straight to the stands after the drink and a read of the programme.  

What I liked straight away was the look of St. Andrews. Itís not the best designed stadium in Britain that Iíve been to, but itís comfortable and just needs a few finishing touches, like the old stand to the left of the away end. We ourselves have that at Upton Park with the Chicken Run being the only part of the ground that needs development.  The leg room at St. Andrews was decent and the view I had was fantastic and never missed a moment of the game, so top marks on the seating.  

First half for the football was dire with neither side playing decent football and keeping the home fans subdued, only making noise to give stick to new West Ham boy Matthew Upson. Our fans were in good voice from start to finish, with our Cockney swagger and humour, we were most definitely on form and there was some good banter with the home fans.  

First half comes and goes and itís time for the second round of beers as well as the opportunity to go to the toilet. Queues were quite bad and you had of around 5 people at a time waiting to use the urinals, and I almost missed the beginning of the second half because of it. 

Second half is much better as we come out and go straight for Briminghamís jugular. Good passing, Etherington and Bellamy linking up well and we look the far better side. Both sets of fans have picked up and thereís much more singing going on between fans as the tempo of the game picks up. We get a penalty which we deserved, local boy Noble puts it away and the day now feels fantastic. That electric feeling you get when your team scores and we look like weíre gonna have the three points, which of course we did.  

After the game the walk back to the coach was eventful as we didnít have much time to get back to the coach and we had the pleasure of walking past that shifty pub I wrote of earlier. As weíre walking under the bridge, a loud scream of ĎZuluí goes up and then missiles start to be thrown, but as soon as that starts to happen the Old Bill are on the scene chasing them offÖ Well all but one who had the embarrassing displeasure of falling flat on his face trying to make chase! Poor sod had me in stitches!  

Despite some of the bad luck earlier on the day, getting there and getting the win made it all worth-while and it made for a decent enough day and was a shame that we didnít get enough time to spend in Birmingham to sample to nightlife and the local talent and hit them with some Cockney charm, but then thereís always Villa away!

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