I couldn’t have timed my return to Shrewsbury any better.

In a strange sort of reverse ethnic cleansing, the beautiful market town I once called home was this weekend left practically empty. Its townsfolk – arguably its least appealing quality – had hit the road to Wembley to support their local team, who in a weird twist of footballing fate were to play in the country’s premiere stadium.

The streets were both eerily and delightfully quiet – football fans free to frolic in their fighting someplace else. All but one, I discovered, remained, here at Shrewsbury train station.

“You going to the match?” a lady shouted to another, who stood under the shadow of her hulking, skin head husband. She looked at him.
“Nah,” she said.
“Why not?” the other asked. “I didn’t think you guys would want to miss it.”
“It’s, er…him,” she said, craning her neck to look up at her man, who had the word ‘England’ tattooed on the back of his. “He’s got a football ban.”
With that he bowed his head – partly in shame, I thought. Partly to reveal another tattoo. It was of a dog, burned to his scalp, now forever burned on my memory.

The man had a tattoo of a dog on his head.

Before I had much more time to think about that, my train arrived. I couldn’t have timed my return to London any better, I thought. And with that left town.