Guest Post by the Voice of Reason
Not all members of the Infirm City Firm went to all of the away games we attended but the organisation (I use that word very loosely) was represented in some form or another at 13 of the matches during the 2016-17 season.Of the 13 games we went to we won 3, drew 5 and lost 5. That works out at more than a point per game and any of you who have spent more than 10 minutes supporting our club will realise that, by our standards, that ain’t half bad as we have never been the most solid away team around. Not as good as the previous season but that was an exception.
The birth of the Infirm City Firm:
It’s actually the previous season when the green shoots of the Infirm City Firm started to sprout.
I had been going to away games regularly but over the years the guys I went with drifted away. I say drifted but that’s not entirely true. One drifted (or his wife drifted him), one moved abroad and another had the audacity to pass away. This meant that for the previous few seasons I had mostly been going to games on my own from what was then my base in Gloucestershire.
BSB had, in years past, been a rabid away fan but had not been for some time and was now just rabid. He got the flavour back, however, when he went to the FA Cup game at Blackburn (Emineke’s finest hour) and decided that he would like to start going again.
Safehands was also keen to go (when filming permitted) and, as I had by now moved back to London, the three of us went to some games in the second half of the season.
The games at West Brom, Stoke and Manchester United in the Cup passed without incident and we just managed to keep Safehands out of the massage parlour opposite where we parked at Leicester, dodging certain mayhem.
So we decided that we would go to away games on a regular basis and it was the three of us who started off although Original Russ (previously an Away Virgin) soon became the fourth full member. It was the branding and marketing expertise of BSB that developed the Infirm City Firm name, although he hasn’t come up with a logo yet.
The full time members fell easily into positions of responsibility:
Director of Travel – BSB
Deputy Director of Travel – Russ
Ticketing and Logistics – VoR and Safehands
Executive Distributor of the Mints and Smoked Salmon Rolls – Safehands
We also picked up some Associate Members who attended one or two games with us over the season. These include Chicken Run Boy, Irons 1959, Tom and his son and my mate Stuart.
We were even honoured with the presence of the Earl of Canning Town, Nigel Kahn, on one occasion as well as a state visit to Liverpool with Hamburg Hammer.
It was HH’s first away game and I will never forget the looks of awe on the faces of the Liverpool fans as he strode purposely towards the burger stand. “Isn’t that Hamburg Hammer?” they whispered to each other. “Wow, we are in the presence of greatness”.
They might have been in the presence of greatness but, by the time HH had had his fill at the burger stand, they certainly were not in the presence of many meat-based snacks.
From a football point of view the three away wins we saw (at Palace, Middlesbrough and Southampton) were all obviously good days but there were also good performances / results in the draws at Man United and Liverpool and the only times we were truly under the cosh was the first half at Man City and the second half at Arsenal where, having defended well in the first half, it all went the shape of a well-known fruit once they scored their first goal.
Another really positive happening came at Bournemouth where, inside the ground, a member of her Majesty’s Constabulary spoke to Safehands by name which, at the time I found unusual. This was actually a rozzer from West Ham who attends away games so there is prior knowledge of any trouble makers. Once I realised this it all fell into place as Safehands would obviously be known to many of the boys in blue. Made me feel safe being with our own inbuilt security and having the police touching their forelocks in recognition.
I still think that the way the club sell away tickets could be improved. I fully understand the points system and it’s right that regular attenders are first in the queue for tickets. The system that means you have to go online on a particular day at a particular time must cause problems for some people as they have to work and cannot guarantee being able to do it at their allocated time.
We were fortunate that one of either Safehands or myself was always available at the right time and, with the exception of Bournemouth, we were able to get tickets that we wanted. The Bournemouth issue was due to the small away allocation but, due to a couple of Liddy’s friends being unable to go, Safehands and myself went on their tickets.
Unfortunately, we had tickets for two games that we were unable to get to due to unforeseen circumstances. Swansea, where they unfortunately went to waste, and Burnley, where the tickets were taken up by the Leader Elect of the newly formed Northern Branch of the Infirm City Firm, a man, David Murray, who is suitably qualified due to both age and experience. I guess that this last bit of information could be in the “Good” section instead of the “Bad”.
Like every other club we have our share of ‘Erberts following the team, although it has to be said that the vast majority are fine. There is, however, a group of young guys who get perverse pleasure in chucking their beer in the air on the concourse (and, at West Brom, in the seats) and soaking anyone who happens to be in the vicinity. I guess we just have to hope that they grow out of it eventually and become miserable gits like the rest of us.
There were also cases of “doubling up” in the ground when someone had not got a ticket near his mates so goes and stands with them. This almost always means someone’s view is interrupted and happened notably at both Palace and Stoke. An indication of a complete lack of awareness of the people around them.
The 2016-17 Infirm City Firm Awards (made with no discussion with anyone else):
Best Away Performance: Any of the three wins we saw could win this but my view is that the 1-0 at Crystal Palace was the best. They had been playing well and we had been struggling but we turned in a very good professional performance.
Best Individual Performance: Andy Carroll at Middlesbrough. I’m not his biggest fan but he turned in an almost complete centre forward’s game that day.
Best Stadium: For me it is Liverpool. A proper football stadium with a great atmosphere. Others may plump for Old Trafford, I guess.
Best Car Park: Bournemouth. Right by the ground and £1 entry – plus the politest car park attendants you could meet. “So where exactly would you like to park sir?”……
Best Pies: From a Pie Shop in Middlesbrough, discovered by Russ when he went hunting for change for the car park. Homemade, proper pies for £2.40. What’s not to like?
Best Pre-game Location: Longton Rugby Club at Stoke. Easy parking, bar, food, table and chairs, carpets on the floor, football on the TV, fans from both teams, nice people, 15 minute walk to the ground.
Best Medical Support: Sunderland. Those there with us will understand. The rest of you don’t need to know.
Most Patient Law Enforcement: Two policemen on the train between Watford Junction and Watford High Street who resisted using their tasers in the face of severe provocation from one of our number (clue: huge person, likes cake).
Least Legroom: A tie between Man United and Everton where you can only just get your knees between the seat when you are standing up!
The Fat Fingers Award for Sat Nav Operation: This goes to BSB for taking us on a tour of rural Staffordshire and ending up in a farm gateway 15 miles from the Stoke ground. He claims it was a malfunction by Google but I am not so sure. And he claims to have done the Knowledge!
Who knows, but we will probably go through it all again.
I would imagine that there will be a big demand for tickets at Brighton and Newcastle coming back up is good news as that is one of the best away fixtures in one of the best weekend cities.
I can’t say that trips to Middlesbrough or Hull will be greatly missed but all away games are good, sometimes in a masochistic way.
If you are at an away game next season, look us up.