A rather strange thing happened to me this evening. I popped into the local "24-7" store, the one that is not actually open 24 hours a day, nor 7 days week. I bought two pints of milk (green), one last minute Valentine's card (no expense spared, don't tell my wife) and a copy of the Surrey Herald (Chertsey, Addlestone, Byfleet and Woking edition). I don't always buy the Surrey Herald, but there, on the front page, was yours truly. I knew I would be in today's edition, so was not surprised. Alongside my mug shot (that same mug that is best suited for radio) was the headline:
"Fan-tastic! What starts in Chertsey and ends at Wembley Stadium? Find out on page 5".
Would that make you want to turn to page 5?
But the strange thing that happened in the shop was that the young Bulgarian girl (or is she Polish?) behind the counter smiled and pointed in the general direction of my picture on the front page of the newspaper and smiled again before she whipped a £20 note from my fingers. At least I think she did, it all happened so quickly.
Good grief. Have I been recognised? In this sleepy Surrey backwater, someone in my local shop associated me with the newspaper article? No, surely not.
When I started this blog, I deliberately wanted to keep my identity hidden, mainly because I realise how sad and inane all of this is. My real name is not Sniffer 72; I know my parents have a warped sense of humour, but not that much. I am not really 93. I do not have a photo of me on this site.
I have had my ramblings appear in a couple of magazines, in a number of football programmes. But no photos of me. My picture did appear on the back page of the Birmingham Mail (and within) two weeks ago but as I rarely visit Birmingham that blip in the revelation of my identity would hardly register. The South Wales Echo is due to call; if they do a piece I will send in a picture of someone else. Some "friends" would suggest Bruce Forsyth.
There are a number of reasons people choose to go incognito. But this weekend, at Cardiff, the Wolves fans are going to stick out like sore thumbs. For reasons of safety and for reasons of policing, this game at Cardiff will, as I have previously mentioned, be a bubble game for the Wolves supporters. They will travel from Wolverhampton on designated coaches. They will be met away from the ground by the police who will hand out tickets. They will be escorted down the motorway (all exits blocked) and rushed through Cardiff, ignoring all the red lights as they are waved through. They will be paraded to the ground in an envelope of blue flashing lights which will announce "We're Here!". Their arrival at the ground will be heralded by barking police dogs and on-edge policemen and policewomen barking instructions.
I have been made aware of the dilemma that a number of Wolves fans face. Not allowed to travel independently, those who do not live in Wolverhampton have a tough decision to make. Is it worth travelling up to Wolverhampton to then travel by coach to Cardiff? For two Wolves fans in particular, one who actually lives in Cardiff, another in Bristol, the answer is "no", it is not worth it. And that is a shame.
Some Wolves fans will have bought tickets through Cardiff, probably online to conceal their identity. So some Wolves fans will be sitting or standing in amongst the Cardiff fans. Is this what the South Wales Police had in mind when these travelling restrictions were set? Is this going to make it safe for all concerned? Those few Wolves fans in the home ends may chose to remain incognito.
One thing is for sure. I'll remain unrecognised in Cardiff despite the fact that I may have been spied in a local shop in Chertsey. Did I really get recognised in the shop? Perhaps not, I probably just imagined it. Then when I got back from the "24-7" - just before it closed - I realised my friend behind the counter had short-changed me.
Now that's why she was smiling.