Monthly Archives: March 2014

What’s it all about then?

I felt a bit bad after my last post.  I’m not one of life’s moaners and am fairly relaxed about most things, especially football.  After all it’s only game right?  Bill Shankly went to the extreme, with his quote about football being more important than life and death, and I certainly have a whole load of things in my life that come higher up the pecking order than football.  But it IS a big part of our lives  and whilst it’s not the be-all and end-all of life, most of us will follow a football club for longer than any other relationship in our life.  How does this happen?

In the words of the great modern-day people’s poet Ronan Keating; “Life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it”.

No truer words Ronan, No truer words.  Especially when it comes to taking about the lifelong support of a football club.  ALL clubs have ups and downs, ALL clubs have times when supporters fell like throwing their sseason tickets in the bin.  My club, Brighton & Hove Albion, are absolutely no exception to this rule.  Since 1983 for example, we have played in all four divisions been relegated 6 times, promoted 5 times, played at four different home grounds, nearly gone out of the league, played in two play-off finals and (very) nearly gone out of business altogether.

With this in mind, in our current position of 9th in the second tier of English football, playing in a beautiful 30,000 capacity stadium, it seems a bit churlish to be moaning about the football.  But that’s the nature of the beast.  As fans, we have an unalienable right to be as fickle as we like, fully entitled to moan at defeats and bask in the reflective glory of famous victories.  It’s what we do.

How does this lifelong devotion come about?  Is it some kind of Masonic ritual, the mantle of support passing down through the generations, via a ceremony of scarf-waving and chanting?  I’m sure that, for some people, it’s EXACTLY like that (you know who you are!) but let’s get one thing clear, your football allegiance arrives in your life in a variety of ways, but once it’s there, there is nothing you can do about it.  Life sentence, no parole.

For me, my baptism and conversion to a Brighton fan came about in a roundabout kind of way, via Devon, Torquay United and (I shudder as I write this) a brief flirtation with Manchester United.

I was born in Devon, in a town called Newton Abbott.  It’s the kind of place that you drive through, on your way to infinitely more interesting destinations in the West Country.  My Mum & Dad moved there after they were married, to follow their careers as teachers.  My Dad was a PE teacher so my life was always going to be surrounded by Sport.

And so it proved.  On the Saturdays he wasn’t playing rugby for Newton Abbott Rugby Club, the ‘All Whites’, he used to take me, in my pram, to watch Torquay United.  When I was three, we left Devon and moved to Bognor Regis in West Sussex, when my Dad got a job as Senior Lecturer at the Teacher Training College.  As I got a bit older, football became a more dominant force in my young life and at around the age of 7 or 8, my thoughts turned to which team to support.  Initially, my great brainwave was to follow the team that won the FA Cup.  The Cup Final was pretty much the only live football available on the TV, so to my 7-year-old brain, it seemed entirely plausible and sensible.  The fatal flaw of course, is that a successful, cup-winning, season is invariably followed by one of ‘consolidation’ so by the time the next Cup Final came around, it was all-change.

In May 1968, another televised event was coming up, the European Cup Final.  At this time, I had recently changed my allegiance to West Bromwich Albion, recent FA Cup winners.  The European Cup however, was a different beast altogether.  Not only was it at Wembley and on TV, an English team was playing.  Manchester United were the league champions and at the time, they were brilliant, with a host of fantastic players including arguably the best player in the world at the time.

In 1968, it was almost impossible to avoid stories concerning George Best.  It was a few years before his off-pitch activities invaded the front pages, so all articles in the newspapers and the proliferation of football magazines, concentrated on his mercurial talents.  To youngsters all over the country, George Best was a God, to be worshipped as a genius of his chosen sport.  For an 8-year-old in Bognore Regis, Manchester United seemed the perfect answer to my dilemma of footballing loyalty.  The 4-1 mauling of Benfica that night only seemed to reinforce my decision, especially as Best scored a trademark goal, waltzing through the Benfica defence, rounding the goalkeeper and stroking the ball into an empty net.  He, and they, were brilliant.

Just three months later, I had swapped the glamour and sophistication of Old Trafford and Division One, for a Third Division club, playing in an (even then) slightly ramshackle stadium, seemingly happy to meander along in the third tier of English football.

How on Earth did this happen?  Manchester United were European Champions for goodness sake!  It came about because my Godfather decided to take me to a proper, actual, live, real football match.  His brother, at that time, was a fairly robust centre-forward playing for Torquay United (see the neat little link with my past) and he had provided tickets for their game against Brighton and Hove Albion on 28th August 1968, the day after my 9th Birthday.  The date is etched on my mind for ever.

This is why

Page 01 torquay

The programme from my first Albion game

You can watch as much football as you like on the TV, nothing beats the thrill of going to a live game, seeing the lush green turf, the floodlights, the packed (well, nearly) terraces and the unique smells associated with football.  I was absolutely smitten on that summers day nearly 46 years ago.  It didn’t matter that Kit Napier had never played for England, or that John Templeman wasn’t quite Nobby Stiles.  George Best was an icon of the time, but I hadn’t seen him play in the flesh.  Those journeyman Brighton players were real, and gave me an identity, a reason for loving the game.  I finally had a proper focal point for my support and it was the men in blue and white, just down the coast in Brighton.  I haven’t loooked back since.

I’ve often wondered what it would have been like if I had taken a different (footballing) path all those years ago.  Despite all the trophies Manchester United have won over the years, I’ve seen the club become a huge multi-national beast of a corporation, about as far-removed as you can get from the eight-year-olds looking for guidance.  Brighton have remained a club close to its fans and the community, together, through everything the footballing world has thrown at them.

I will always be eternally grateful to my Godfather for taking me to The Goldstone that night.  I’ve had some pretty shitty times over the years following Brighton and Hove Albion, but you know what, I wouldn’t change a single second of it.  Any parent wanting to show their children what football is all about, take them to a game, don’t sit them in front of the TV.  The game as a whole has changed massively in those 46 years, but the buzz I get from seeing my team play live, in the flesh, has not, and will not, go away.

I love Brighton and Hove Albion

 

Advertisements

Oh dear

I cannot even begin to describe how disappointed I am after the result today. I’d love to know if the players feel it as much as we fans do. I hope so.

We were awful, fucking awful. If you’ve ever read any of my blogs before, you will know that I am an eternal optimist when it comes to The Albion so for me to be writing this, we must have been bad, right?

Before I talk about the game, a bit about the stuff that goes either side of the 90 minutes on the pitch. For various reasons, we haven’t been as much this season and today was my first big adventure after my ankle operation so it was all a bit of a trial and error process.

First off, I got my children to wheel me to the train station in a wheelchair. Not a particularly elegant thing to watch, but it served a purpose. I drew the line at taking the chair on the train and to the ground (something I am regretting now), so after arriving at the station, I cast aside my wheels and took up the sticks.

The train journey was pretty uneventful, apart from the strange lack of Portsmouth shirts as we passed through their territory. Normally, we see a fair smattering of them at Havant through to Chichester but today, nothing. Very strange, as I thought they were the greatest fans in the World, with the league table not influencing their loyalty in any way…………….

At Brighton, it’s all very smooth these days.  Gone are the days of chaos, as the staff attempt to cope with hundreds of fans trying to get to Falmer.  It’s much, much better and the staff at Brighton Station should take a lot of credit for this.  The train from Brighton to Falmer wasn’t even jam-packed so I didn’t have to concentrate on stopping my foot from being trodden on.  I hopped up the steps then glided down the ramp towards the ground.  ‘Glided’ is probably not the right word, but that’s what was happening in my head, so it will do.

Club shop, into the ground, chicken and ham pie, seat.  All very straight-forward and we are looking forward to the game.  Three points outside the play-offs, everything to play for, three difficult away games coming up, so surely the players would be mad keen to put on a show in front of yet another large Amex crowd.  For the first five minutes we looked good, slick passing, a couple of attempts on goal and a decent tempo.  For some inexplicable reason, from then on it all went downhill.  I don’t mean a gradual decline in the way we were playing, I mean a noticeable change in the whole demeanour of the team.  Will Buckley went off injured after just half an hour and after that, we just mis-controlling the ball, giving it away in stupid places.  There didn’t seem to be any fight in the team, and that’s what hurts the most.  We had heard reports of a mystery illness going round the squad in the week.  On the evidence of Saturday, I reckon it was an outbreak of Ricketts.

Most of the crowd, in fact ANY crowd, would give anything to be out on the pitch, playing for the team we love.  The problem for most of us is that, even though we would be prepared to work our bits off, we just aren’t good enough to be professional footballers.  When you see people who ARE good enough, but don’t seem inclined to put in the work, that’s when it hurts.   They are paid a lot of money and part of a player’s responsibility is to show the fans that THEY care about the fact that WE have paid a lot of money to see them.

It was scoreless at half-time and there were a few rumblings in the stand about the lack of effort and commitment.  We all hoped that Oscar dished out a few hair-dryer treatments and we would go on and win.

No chance.

If anything, it was worse.  The mis-placed passes continued, players weren’t fighting to get back into position when they lost the ball and it just got poorer.  Of course Middlesbrough scored.  They were the team attacking with pace, exploiting the gaps we had left.  At 1-0 we still had a chance, but no-one around us gave us a prayer.  Until Solly March was brought down for a penalty.  Leonardo Ulloa grabbed the ball and I though ‘brilliant, he really wants to take this.  I like the fact that he has taken responsibility’.  He placed the ball on the spot, retreated, turned round, ran up to the ball and struck it sweetly…………………………………..

And BALLOONED it about 15 yards high and wide to the right of the goal and into Row z at the back of the North Stand.

Northstand v Middlesbrough 29 Mar 2014

The North Stand on 88 minutes

This just about summed our day up.  It was a DIABOLICAL penalty, absolutely AWFUL.  One of those where you groan in disbelief then burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of it.  Hilarious, but not in the context of the game, obviously.  Five minutes later ‘Boro scored a second, at which time the loudest noise was the sounds of seats flipping up as droves of fans left the ground.   We stayed, as we always do, but I can totally understand why people left.

Speaking in the bar after the game, the general consensus was that Ulloa’s penalty was second only to Ryan Harley’s pathetic effort at Millwall a couple of seasons ago.  High praise indeed!

It was good to see everyone in the WSL concourse.  Getting a pint was a bit tricky (and slow, so some things don’t change in the matchday experience!) but it was good to have a chat.

So, the return journey.  They are tedious when we win, as I just want to get home, but when we lose, it’s even worse.  Because of the way in which we lost, it was a very depressing couple of hours.  We got home at about 8.45pm

I’m finishing off this post on Monday, and trying to think of some way of extracting some positives from the game.  I’m struggling.  We looked disinterested and that’s what worries me the most.  You can just about cope with being beaten by the better side when we have given everything for the cause, but this was a million miles away from that scenario.  It reminded me of the gutless capitulation against Palace in the play-off game, as if the players just didn’t care.  We play Blackburn away tomorrow, Barnsley away on Saturday and Leicester (also away) next Tuesday.  If we play like we did on Saturday, we will lose them all.

Even though it’s mathematically possible we can make the play-offs, I am resigned to the fact that our season will peter out in an ocean of mediocrity.  If by some miracle we put on a show tomorrow night, then this will obviously change, because I am naturally a ‘glass half full’ type of bloke, but I am most definitely NOT holding my breath for that.

We will see.  By the way, my knee on my good leg is absolutely killing me, so it was perhaps not such a good idea to give up the wheelchair.  Not a good day really.

See you soon.

Time flies when you’re having fun!

It’s hard to believe that a month has gone by since the operation.

I’m all settled now, apart from a few hiccups, and just counting off the days to when the cast comes of (25th April if you’re interested).  I had a bit of a set-back last week though.  I’d had the proper fibre-glass cast put on but a couple of days after that, I noticed a big blister under the front of the cast.  The nice people at Google told me that it was OK as long as it didn’t burst.  Sure enough, it burst.  I called the Hospital, as instructed, and they told me to get down to the Plaster Room and they would have a look.

Not as easy as it sounds.  As I’ve said, Justine is out of action as well, with her shoulder, so neither of us can drive.  To get to the hospital, we had to cadge a lift from a friend, then on the way back, it was a combination of a taxi and train from Winchester, then another lift home from the train station.  A bit of a trek.

To cut a long story short, all was OK.  The stuff in the blister had leaked on to the dressing a bit, so I did right going back in, but it was all sorted and hopefully this will be the last time I go back, apart from the final removal.  I’ve settled into a routine now, where even the ridiculously easy tasks, like making a cup of tea, become triumphs of organisation and planning.  The kitchen is next to where I work, so I have to try and shuffle along on one crutch, whilst holding the cup of tea, hoping it doesn’t slop all over the floor.  On the whole this works OK, but I literally cannot wait to be able to walk properly again.  Still, it won’t be long.  The first month has gone pretty quickly anyway.

So, what of the football.  When I last wrote, the mighty Seagulls had drawn with Reading and beaten QPR and Bolton Wanderers.  Nicely poised for a push to the play-offs then, just like last year, Right?

Wrong.  In true Brighton and Hove Albion style, the hopes of the fans are dashed with a performance of ineptitude.  And so it proved.  Ineptitude might be a bit strong, but we just can’t score goals.

Last Saturday we played Ipswich Town at The Amex.  The largest crowd of the season, just over 29,000, was hoping the good form would continue, against one of the teams snapping at our heels for those play-off places.  I was safely tucked up in front of my PC and once again managed to find a stream of the game on the internet.  This was fine, but it was slightly disconcerting to see adverts for local cougars popping up all over the place.  In the end, I gave up – the pictures were so out of synch with the commentary, it was pretty pointless.

A fairly dour first half was scoreless, and the eternal optimist in me was convinced we would go through the gears in the second half, and put the Tractor Boys to the sword.  Not quite.  Despite early pressure from The Seagulls, Leonardo Ulloa didn’t have his scoring boots on and Ipswich took the lead.  Back we came, but it was all a bit toothless and Ipswich clinched the win with a second near the end.  It was made even more galling by the fact that one of Ipswich’s more influential players was Johnny Williams, on loan from Crystal Palace.  He was brilliant against us last year and seems to to be getting back to his best after a nasty injury – bastard!

Ok, so another home defeat but we had the chance to put it right on Tuesday against Sheffield Wednesday.  Where we don’t win.  Ever.  At all.

My radio companions for the evening were commentator Johnny Cantor and summariser Warren Aspinall.  Warren lives near me and I often bump into him at Tesco.  He is an absolute mine of information about all sorts of random players and works hard for the club in his scouting role.  His main claim to fame on the commentary however, is his complete inability to pronounce names properly.  Leonardo Ulloa (properly pronounced as Oo-Joe-ah) enjoys multiple pronunciations and it makes for some funny moments.  No problems on Tuesday though, because that man from Argentina wasn’t playing, having picked up an illness.  Alarm bells immediately started ringing, because  he scores most of our goals.  Would David Rodriguez step in and fire us to our first ever win at Hillsborough.

In short, no.

As is becoming the norm, we (in Aspinall’s words) battered them and created plenty of chances, but just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.  As the game wore on, Warren and Johnny in the commentary box were getting more and more worried that we would be punished for this profligacy.  Yet again, this was proved correct, as we conceded a last minute goal following a mistake by Bruno, which led to a bit of a bust-up with Thomasz Kuszczak – more handbags than actual fisticuffs but not good.

To make matters worse, results went our way, with Derby, Forest, Wigan and Reading all losing.  This made the pain of the defeat slightly better, but as has been the case so often this season, we are left wondering what might have been.  We still have a game in hand, against Blackburn next week, and this is preceded by a home game against Middlesbrough.

I’m going to the Middlesbrough game – very exciting!

I’ll be sitting in The North Stand, just in front of where we had our season tickets.  Getting to and from the ground on the crutches will be interesting but i’ll let you know how I get on!

We have to win.  The next three games are all away (Blackburn, Barnsley and Leicester) so we need to go into those with a bit of momentum.  Things aren’t entirely in our own hands but there is still loads to play for.  Forest are seemingly in freefall and Reading Derby and QPR are all capable of slipping up, so we could sneak in, if only we can convert all the chances we create into goals.

Come on Albion!!!!

My New Ankle – week 2, a new cast, 7 hours in A&E and 7 points

Well, it’s 15 days since the op and I feel that I’m making bit of progress at last. The week hasn’t all been plain sailing though, with a nice little 7 hour visit to hospital on Wednesday. Just to let you know, later in this piece, I will be posting a picture of my scar. It’s fairly grim, so if you don’t like that sort of stuff, please look away now!

It’s been a pretty good week for The Albion as well. A draw against Reading last Saturday was followed by an excellent home win against Harry Redknapp’s group of highly paid ‘bare bones’ players. As I write this on Saturday evening, we have rounded off a good 8 days with a superb away win at Bolton.

OK, so let’s start with the progress of the ankle. You can cope with pretty much anything on the back of a good nights sleep and it was this that was lacking in my first week out of Hospital. I just couldn’t get comfortable – do I tuck a pillow under my leg? Do I angle the leg, sleep on my front, my back? Nothing seemed to be right. Last weekend however, it all changed and although the Tramadol might have had someone to do with it, I think a good nights sleep is the first sign that you are getting better.

It all carried on well, until Wednesday morning, when I was having a bit of a rummage round under the cast over my foot, and saw a very strange rash by my toes. This got worse during the day and I ended up at the Doctor. She had a look and said ‘get to A&E’. She seemed to think it was some sort of infection. Human nature being what it is, you naturally think it is something serious. What if I’ve picked up MRSA or the wound is infected.

So we went to A&E and sat around waiting for the nurses. They cut off the cast and I could see that this rash didn’t really spread all over my foot but it did look bad. So here is the photo. As I say, if you’re a bit iffy with this sort of stuff, look away.

20140315-175832.jpg

So despite that, there was no infection, although the cast was pressing on bits of my leg that it shouldn’t. A very meticulous and friendly Health Care Assistant called Jonathan re-did the cast and I was sent home at 1am. They did say that I had to try and keep the leg elevated as much as possible. Not easy when there is stuff to do,

So here we are. Two weeks on and the next milestone is Monday, when I get the proper fibre-glass cast. Lighter, which is good, but I’ve got to keep it on for 6 weeks.

And so to the football. Last Saturday’s visit of Reading was the first of three games that we had to get a decent return from, if we were to push on to the play-offs.  As i’ve said in previous blogs, it’s different this season, as I’m worshipping from afar.  Work patterns meant I couldn’t have my season ticket and my weekly fix has been via The Seagulls Player, Twitter, dodgy internet streams and northstandchat.com .  It’s amazing how many different interpretations of the same game emerge after the final whistle and last Saturday was no exception!  In my previous post I admitted my dislike for Nigel Adkins, Reading’s unspeakably smug-faced twat of a manager.  I would have loved to have beaten them but ultimately, a point after going down to 10 men for half the game is ok.

So on to Tuesday and Queens Park Rangers.  Expecting to storm through The Championship and return to The Premier League, it hasn’t quite gone according to plan for Harry Redknapp and his merry men.  It just goes to show that a group of players on massive wages doesn’t necessarily mean you have the best TEAM.  And so it proved.  I endured a nerve-wracking 90 minutes in the company of Johnny Cantor and Adam Virgo on Seagulls Player.  To my mind, it seemed as though QPR had a lot of the ball but didn’t really trouble our goal.  We obviously had less of the ball, but when it mattered in front of goal, we delivered.  A driven cross from the swash-buckling Bruno Saltor was hammered in from close range by that man from Argentina, and right at the end, a corner on the left was turned in by Stephen Ward.  2-0 to The Albion, job done.  Redknapp’s post-match press-conference was hilarious, as he struggled to try and justify why his multi-millionaires failed to deliver, yet again.  It doesn’t look as though they will go up automatically, leaving them at the mercy of the play-off lottery.  Redknapp and his players are playing a dangerous game with Tony Fernandez’s money.

This Saturday, we were looking at a potentially tricky away game at Bolton Wanderers, another team who have gambled insane amounts of money on promotion to the so-called ‘promised land’.  At the present moment in time however, Dougie Freedman seems more likely to take them down to League One and glamour games against Crawley Town, rather than lead them out at Old Trafford.  I actually watched this game, on an internet stream.  There was no commentary, just crowd noise, and I found it impossible to synch the pictures with the radio commentary.  This made for a slightly surreal experience, with Johnny Cantor and Warren Aspinall describing the action around 5 minutes AFTER I had seen it.  We played well, and goals in each half from Will Buckley gave us a 2-0 win.  Bolton were poor I thought.  They had a goal disallowed for a slightly dodgy-looking offside but apart from that, the youth of Jake Forster-Caskey and Rohan Ince was more than a match for the experience of Bolton’s midfield.

So, seven points from 9 in an 8-day period.  We are tucked in nicely in 8th place, level on points with Reading in 7th and one behind Nottingham Forest in 6th.  We are a further point behind Wigan in 5th, then come QPR.  It’s bunching up nicely and the season is beginning to look remarkably similar to last year, when our surge to the play-offs started on March 17th with a 3-0 thrashing of Palace.  It’s a bit early to think of a top-6 finish, but we are looking good.

That’s it for now – see you soon.

My new ankle – Seven Days on

Well that week has gone by quickly!

It’s crazy that, just 8 days ago, I’d just come round from the operation and was embarking on my morphine-fuelled marathon! I came out of Hospital on Sunday, which is where we left my musings.

Coming home after an operation is always a bit weird. There really is no place like home. You know where everyone is, the bed is comfortable and (hopefully) you have a posse of slaves children to run around after you, pandering to your every need. On the other hand, hospital gives you a kind of comfort blanket. You know, above all else, that if there is a problem, a nurse is there to give you medicine, call a doctor or generally reassure you that everything is going to be alright. On balance though, home is always preferable. And so it was.

Now we have a strange situation in our house. I came home on Sunday after my op, then on Monday morning, at 6.30, my wife Justine went in for an operation on her shoulder. Bad timing I hear you say. Yes, absolutely, but when you are at the mercy of the NHS waiting lists, you can’t afford to set out a realistic timetable for surgery! So I was at home nursing my plastered up leg, whilst Justine was having her very poorly shoulder reconstructed.

Monday was ok actually. I couldn’t really do anything, our eldest Son Ben had some time off, so he was carer-in-chief, ably assisted by Fraser and Macy. The remainder of the anaesthetic block was still working its way out of my system so the pain levels were ok.

Monday nights are usually good for a decent game of football on Sky, so I was looking forward to maybe watching the silky skills of two Premier League teams in a classic encounter. Wrong. This Monday was a night when Sky decided to dip into the murky world of the Football League, and the even murkier world of League Two. Sky are amazing at what they do and can make a game between two Premier League mid table teams seem like the 1970 World Cup Final (one of the greatest games of football EVER, by the way). Unfortunately, the ‘hype’ surrounding Chesterfield v Portsmouth was restricted to various shots of the ubiquitous John ‘Portsmouth FC’ Westwood. Every club has their fanatic supporters, those who go the extra mile for their team, but Westwood has gone round the world about four times in his support of Pompey. In these troubled times, he is a bit of a sad figure, ringing his bell (incessantly) and trying his best to whip up enthusiasm for a midweek trip to Chesterfield.

Anyway, onto the game. 0-0. Enough said. The best tranquilliser I could possibly have taken.

Tuesday was not a good day. Still delirious after the football, pain levels were not so good. Ben was still down to help so I had an endless supply of tea, but it was all a bit rubbish. Justine came home in the evening and she was in a LOT of pain, an awful lot. They had opened her up and found a complete tear of all the rotator cuff, plus a complete tear of a couple of tendons round her shoulder. Sling on 24/7 for 6 weeks, and very limited movement. We had expected something like this, but it was now starting to sink in that the next couple of months were going to be interesting to say the least!

As we woke on Wednesday and the children went off to School, we looked at each other and said, “how the fuck are we going to manage this?”. At that time, we had absolutely no idea, but we’ve always been a pretty resourceful family so, to use one of my favourite phrases, “it’s all do-able”. Justine struggled all day but I was starting to see some signs of improvement. I even got up for a short while, to see what devastation the children had inflicted on the kitchen. By their standards, not a lot actually. There wasn’t even any football to watch.

Thursday and Friday were days of steady improvement and the start of the (gradual) process of working out how to do things when you’ve only got one leg (me), or only one arm (Justine). It’s surprising how inventive you become and although it’s hard work, you do get it done, eventually.

Into the weekend and as I said at the start, it seems hard to believe that it’s been a week since the op. We are both feeling a bit better but it’s easy to get complacent and let the pain-killer schedule slip a bit. Talking of pain (mental this time), Brighton had a massive game today, against Reading. Nigel Adkins (him of the most smug, self-satisfied, patronising demeanour known to man) brought his team to The Amex, two points ahead of us. As the cliche-slaves would say, “a real 6-pointer Brian, at the end of the day”. Come 3 o’clock, I was settled with Seagulls Player on the headphones on my phone, and Soccer Saturday on silent on the iPad. Thank The Lord for technology!

An own-goal gave us a 1-0 half-time lead, but the sending off of captain Gordon Greer let Reading back in and honours were shared. No real damage was done though, with Ipswich losing. I then watched Spurs commit defensive suicide against Chelsea.

You may be reading this thinking, ‘his poor wife, all he ever does is watch/listen/think about/write about/dream about football’. The truth is that yes, I do love football, but I like to think I strike a reasonable balance in my life. I would never compromise our family life for the football and would certainly draw the line at changing my name to ‘Brighton and. Hove Albion’.

So, until the next time. I don’t know if this blog is interesting or not, but I’m enjoying writing it and it will be good to look back when I’m cavorting around the campsites of Cornwall in the summer, showing off my new (pain free) ankle. I literally cannot wait.

See you in a few days.

X

My New Ankle – Recovery, week one

Ok, so it’s Tuesday morning, four days after the operation and I’m sitting here in bed with my ankle in a ruddy great big bandage!

20140304-104455.jpg

That picture was actually taken in hospital, the day after the op, at a time when I was going crazy with the patient-controlled morphine drip. It’s great stuff and I took full advantage of the facilities. So much so, that the nurses said ‘morning record-breaker’ when they came round on Saturday lunchtime. Apparently, I had gone through more syringes of morphine than they had ever seen. Is that something to be proud of? I reckon so.

Going back to Friday morning, I left the house at 6.30am, armed with the essential supplies, I.e. iPad, phone and chargers. Oh, and some clothes. I have been struggling so much in the past few weeks, so although I was shitting myself very apprehensive about things, I was really looking forward to being pain-free. However, I still had one little trauma to get through.

Winchester Hospital is, like many old Hospitals, comprised of a main building, plus a whole load of other, more modern buildings, that had been tacked on over the years. Walking into the main entrance doesn’t necessarily mean you will be anywhere near your final destination, and so it proved. After going down a few endless corridors, my ankle was starting to hurt, like really hurt. I was carrying a bag and this made everything worse. Surely I wasn’t going to fall at the final hurdle, gibbering in the corner of a forgotten corridor in a long-deserted annexe of an old Victorian Hospital?

Luckily, because of the time of day, shifts were starting, and a very kind nurse asked how I was, then went to fetch a wheelchair. She then took me to the ‘holding area’ where I was signed in, tagged, gowned, drained of blood and left to sweat. The anaesthetist came round and went through my medical history and departed to get ready. I took various good-luck messages from family and friends then, at about 9.00 came the call and down I went.

I was wheeled into the Theatre area and then started on the crazy pre-op ritual you get in all hospitals, where the anaesthetists chat about the most random stuff they can think of, to take you mind of the fact that they are just about to send you to sleep. As an added nightmare, I was having a spinal block put in, so that meant me leaning forward and a needle inserted in my back. Once that was done, I had to get back in the trolley before my legs went to rubber – cheaper than 10 pints of Weston’s Cider anyway!

And that, is pretty must the last thing I remember until I woke up in the Recovery Room. That’s obviously a good thing – I cannot imagine what goes through the mind of people who say they were ‘awake’ through an operation!

So back up to the ward to see who my ward buddies would be for the next couple of days. They were all hip, knee and ankle men and we were all in varying degrees of discomfort. I was feeling great, with little pain and all was rosy.

Until the spinal block wore off and my morphine marathon started. It was really painful but do you know what, it’s worth it, when you know that the pain will be followed by no pain and a new lease of life.

A real benefit of being in hospital for me, was the opportunity to watch loads of sport without the usual distractions of family life. I started off with QPR V Leeds United at lunchtime on Saturday. This was of great interest to us Brighton fans and I suppose the 1-1 score was a decent result for us. It kept QPR just about within catching distance, and Leeds behind us by 2 points. It’s always good to be ahead of Leeds! I then had Soccer Saturday to watch, with all the usual shenanigans from Jeff Stelling and the boys. We were away to Millwall, a potential banana-skin, so updates from The New Den were listened to from behind a wall of apprehension. A first-half penalty gave us a 1-0 win and kept us well in touch with the top 6 (and more points ahead of Leeds!).

Justine and the children then came into visit – so good to see them – then it was the second half of Southampton v Liverpool. You can certainly see why Saints have done so well but at the moment, they just lack that little bit of extra class to turn games in their favour. Talking of class, in Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana, they have two absolute gems and, with all due respect, it will be difficult to see how they can hold on to them both, but especially Shaw, an 18-year-old with massive potential.

All this football and the family visit was a bit distracting, but pain will always force it’s way through and sure enough, by the end of Saturday, my leg was killing me. Sleep in hospital is always a relative term and so it proved. I was woken at various intervals through the night by either: the nurses taking my blood pressure, the other patients snoring, or other patients getting out of bed when they shouldn’t and having the press the button to get a nurse in. I didn’t have my little syringe of comfort this night so it was a question of asking the nurses for pain relief – not ideal.

Eventually, I woke up on Sunday morning. Actually, that’s not quite true. You don’t wake up of you own accord in Hospital. After a night of fractured sleep and countless distractions, it is brilliant to finally drop off into a deep, comfortable slumber. Until the nurses come round (usually at around 6.30am), switch all the lights on and start their day with a cheery “wakey, wakey”. I’m a big fan of NHS nurses, they do an unbelievable job for a small pay packet, against a background of budget cuts and economy drives. But to be woken up like that, when you’ve had a RUBBISH nights sleep, is NOT ideal, I can assure you.

Sunday was a good day, because I was hopefully going to be coming home, but I’ll leave that to my next update.