Wolverhampton Wanderers U23 v Middlesbrough U23, Wednesday 4th May 2022, 7pm

One of the Premier League grounds that I’ve never been to is Molineux. odd really, as it’s probably somewhere that most Boro fans of my age, or even a fair bit younger, will have been to on at least a couple of occasions.

I should have gone for the sixth-round replay in ’81 when half of Teesside headed down the A19 mid-afternoon. For some reason I’d been singled out at school and told if I got away early then they wouldn’t enter me for the exams. In hindsight, what a load of bollocks. I should have called their bluff as we weren’t a school that had many kids who were capable of a handful of ‘O’ Levels and if mine were taken out of the equation it would probably have dropped their average score for our year by a couple of percentage points.

The other one I missed was the promotion game under Lennie. I was married then to a wife who didn’t like me having fun without her. Instead, we were at Newmarket to see Lester win his final classic. I’m not sure she enjoyed that very much either but at least she could see what I was up to.

The evening got off to a good start when I parked up and spotted a rat.  I’ve nothing against rats. They get a bad press on account, I think, of their tails. If they had fluffy jobs like squirrels, people would be putting food out for them.

I’d bought my £4 ticket online and had to register as a Wolves fan. I’m ok with that although they are already spamming me with season ticket offers and last year’s kit. This morning they tried to sell me a guided tour of their museum accompanied by a legendary goalie. The only Wolves goalie I could think of was the other Phil Parkes, the one who didn’t have half a game for England. Although I’ve a vague recollection that they loaned us a goalie a few years ago who did ok. I’ve forgotten his name though.

Fortunately I wasn’t required to put on a Black County accent to get past the stewards and I was soon inside the Billy Wright Stand. The ground looked pretty new to me. I can remember them building a stand down one side around thirty years ago that was constructed behind the existing one, leaving a large gap to the pitch when the old stand was eventually removed. It was hard to picture Bosco and the like playing here whilst I remained at school forty-one years ago. There were rail seats behind the goal to my right, something that I didn’t realise had already become a ‘thing’ in England.

There were a few hundred people inside, all in the lower tier of the stand I was in. Prior to kick-off the announcer played ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ and the crowd sang along to the chorus, replacing ‘Silver Lining’ with ‘Wolverhampton’. I suppose it’s no worse than Pigbag.

The song brought back memories of my time working in Rumours, an over the border nightclub. Silver Lining was always the penultimate song of the night signalling the time to cast your eyes around for a partner for the smooch that followed. There was no time for grabbing grannies here though as the ref blew the starting whistle the moment the chorus was done.

This game was an U23 fixture in the semi-final of the Premier League 2 Cup. Boro haven’t had a great season in that division whilst Wolves, with some much more expensive players, are up in second. Still, the cup’s a great leveller, or at least it was until Wolves took the lead inside the first minute.

Boro had a few players who I was keen to have another look at, Brynn in goal, Wood at the back and Payero in midfield. Joe Gibson is usually the star man whenever I’ve seen the U23s but had a quieter game this time.

Apart from Neil Bausor, who I’d seen outside looking a bit lost, I didn’t see or hear any other Boro fans in the ground. At least not until half-time when I spotted a fella with a red and white scarf on. He clearly had taken no notice of the Home Fans Only edict. I bet he nicked off school in ’81.

Whilst we drew level midway through the first half, Wolves regained the lead just before the break and then doubled their lead in the second half. A late consolation for the Boro wasn’t enough to prevent us from getting knocked out.

I headed back up North with the Real Madrid-Man City game on the radio. I bet there were a few City fans in Madrid who wished they had a wife who stopped them from going to games.

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