Something about this international break wound me up. A scarcity of Blades-related excitement and the presence of international football did, I think, do me a mischief. I developed a twitch in my left eye giving me the winking squint of a pervy uncle, but my right eye could see clearly – oh yes – very cleary indeed.
And what could you see Steve?
…I saw the opportunity to be a good husband.
It being mine and Dawn’s anniversary on the 20th of October, I made the prerequisite celebratory arrangements. We were to stay at #38 on the TripAdvisor list of Derby’s best hotels.
That bright Saturday morning, as Dawn broke with a sharp flex of the ankle, I was flung forward into what felt like a fictional parallel universe, but what was actually the dashboard. As I raised my head, I saw the name of our hotel spelt out in bold, red lettering: ‘Silver Fish Bar.’
The Silver Fish
Walking into the chippy with our suitcases, the staff recognised we had a room, showed us around the back and told us that somebody would be along shortly. We sat in the waiting room with Trepidation, Dawn’s forty-year-old Sea Monkey, who she takes everywhere with her.
After a while, the hotelier strolled up to the desk, a blue Chelsea jersey about his person and poor Lampard imitation haircut. “Evening guys,” he said with Derby-London twang. It came to my mind that he carried himself with the assuredness of a Werther’s Original being prematurely masticated in the black abyss of Theresa May’s mouth. Then, I thought, he reminded me of an awful neighbour of my mothers, who spent all his time telling me how good the cuts to social security were, only to die of deprivation due to his benefits being stopped. Stricken by this tautological nightmare, I almost missed him say, “Please come with me, Sir, Madam.”
In fairness to our hotelier, whose name was Ryan Field, he showed us to our room without much fuss. It was only after we had packed, readied ourselves and opened the door of Room 2 that we realised he’d been standing outside waiting for us.
“Football fans?” Ryan asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Frank Lampard?” he asked.
“What about him?”
“He’s Derby manager. You know Frank Lampard? He’s one of the best English players of a generation, the best manager we’ve ever had. A genius. Outstanding. And -” he spoke in a whisper now, “I have a theory. A theory that Frank Lampard was predestined to be our manager.”
Now, I wasn’t sure at first if this Ryan Field guy was trying to be kooky or whether he was just a fucking weirdo, I soon realised it was the latter. Dawn twiddled her thumbs, and I didn’t, as we were exposed to a wild monologue about how Derby is the centre of the universe and now that Lampard and Derby have aligned together, both the city and the club and it’s manager will become the greatest city on earth.
“We all come from Derbyshire,” he said.
“Really,” I replied, “I thought we all came from Africa.” So taken aback was he by this statement, that he puffed on his inhaler and rolled himself a cigarette. At this show of logic-spangled idiocy, I decided to walk out and get on with my day.
The match..of sorts
Championship fans are being subjected to a new world of stickiness with the unendingly witless recapitulation of Frank Lampard’s Derby.
Those with eyes and ears are subjected to this squash court of LAMPARD LAMPARD LAMPARD LAMPARD LAMPARD LAMPARD LAMPARD LAMPARD LAMPARD competing with each other in a war to stick to our brains like gum on the tyre of a jaded old bastard’s wheelchair.
Not only does Frank take the biscuit, he takes the Hot Sauce and the Derby County too. Getting in where water can’t. What else does he want? Frank Lampard’s Christine Bleakley (sexist), Frank Lampard’s Children (patriarchial twat), Frank Lampard’s novel called Frankie’s Magic Football (self-indulgent horseshit), Frank Lampard’s Nissan Cube (unlikely), Frank Lampard’s The Shirt Off My Fucking Back?
I don’t know what the fuck I’m even writing here, I just know that I’m bloody annoyed and I need to be angry at some other and Lampard, well…it just feels right.
ANYWAY…United. Back to United.
Dawn went off to enjoy the #1 attraction in Derby (the A38 northbound) whilst I went off to sample the delights of a couple of pubs and then Pride Park stadium. The Blades versus Frank Lampard’s Rams and, I admit it, I felt a little sheepish.
Sheepish because not only had I left my ticket at the hotel above the Silver Fish Bar, I had also got Dawn to book the ticket for me and therefore had no proof of payment to grab another. Nightmare.
I headed back to the hotel knowing that there was Sky television in the room. (I haven’t left that room yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever leave.) I flicked it on, and as soon as I did, the ball hurtled into the back of our net. 1-0.
The commentator on Sky, without showing any outward signs that he was a biased prick, said, “Just as Frank Lampard planned it”. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of the session where Lamps tells his players to score in 19 seconds.
I counted the descriptions on the lips of the commentators: masterminded, out-thought, won the tactical duel, masterstroke, taken to management like a duck to hoisin. It was boring. They were so content to put their nose up Fat Frank’s posterior in an unending Great British Beak Off.
Anyhow, as the love-in quietened down (it never did), DEM BLADES did the opposite. We got on the ball. We played nice one-touch stuff in key areas. We failed to provide picture-perfect service to Billy Sharp, but we did play well. Our performance, which merited a goal, got one: Fleck dribbling through the Derby defence, skinning a final defender before laying it on a plate for Bash to score.
The sides went into the break at 1-1 and I went into my suitcase and dug out a packet of Curly Wurly’s that I chomped on until Dawn returned, in the fiftieth minute. “Your not missing much ‘ere love,” I told her.
“But you bloody are,” she replied, “why aren’t you there?” I explained to her about the ticket and, frustrated as I was, I just wanted a win…
…but then it happened: 65 mins Coutts and Clarke came on for Sharp and Duffy and, if we were on the back foot before, we were on the floor after that. We lost all creative spark and, after a pre-international break where we held firm in those big moments, we went limp in this one. In the 77th minute, Derby pressed forward and a curling cross to the six-yard box was met with a neat finish by Jack Marriot.
The final moments of the game hung in the air like bags of flour; the task felt impossible once we’d conceded the second. Derby knew how to hang on for the win and did so admirably until the game ended. Rubbish!
I didn’t fancy going out after the loss. I had it in my head that I’d bump into Ryan. Or, by virtue of him waiting outside the door, that he’d bump into me. I’m still waiting to leave, typing this from the hotel room. Does anybody have a ladder?
On to the next one: DEM BLADES vs Someone’s Stoke City.
Man of the Match