As a projected visit from my younger daughter had prevented me from watching my favourite team play at the ground of my local team earlier this season, I was determined to remedy the situation by making a trip up to Molineux to see the return fixture.
It was the ideal day out, including all the features that one looks forward to on such a trip: a visit to a favourite location, the company of like-minded people, a good deal of excitement and a perfect outcome.
And I did make a day of it. I was on the road by 7 am because, although it does not normally take twelve hours to drive from Surrey to Wolverhampton, one never knows with the M25. In fact, I crawled round it at roughly the same pace as I travelled between Chapel Ash and Tettenhall after the match. I returned home at 1.30 am and spent another half an hour, luxuriating in the reports of the game. I would have arrived a little earlier but I was so euphoric, I forgot exactly where I had parked my car at West Park, compounding the error by missing the turn down Albert Road. As a result, I found myself heading back into town at Chapel Ash.
I drove to West Park in plenty of time to obtain a good parking-place opposite Devon Road (if only I had remembered that after the match) and then started walking to The Moon under Water. I got out my ticket as I approached and felt cheated when no-one asked me for my 'membership card` at the door. At least, I would get a meal: for a bloke, who lives in Surrey, a plate of Lasagna and a pint of Banks`s Mild for well under £6 seems like heaven (especially if topped by a Wolves victory against Chelsea). I waited at the bar for ages, giving up when the barman told a customer in front of me that food production was 30 minutes and rising. I had plenty of time but I don`t do patience: hence, my occasional outbursts against the team!
Having eaten at the Indi across the road and recovered from the shock of being locked in (I am normally happy with a lock-in), I set out for the ground at 7 pm. On the way, people, trying to give me leaflets for a race meeting at Dunstall Park, kept accosting me. I had told a couple of them that I did not live in the area before I realised that this gave me the appearance of a Chelsea supporter, whereupon I shut up.
At the ground the announcer surprisingly informed us that Ward and Milijas would be sitting on the bench, evidently too valuable for the longer-term fortunes of the team to waste in an unwinnable match. I chatted briefly to my neighbour about team selection but, as a non-season ticket holder, it`s difficult to break into the little knots of supporters who attend all the home matches and get to know each other ... and share their flasks of tea or coffee. Fair enough! Of course, at the end I talked to everyone in sight! It`s funny how a Wolves victory helps to improve the community spirit. The world would clearly be a friendlier place if we won every match. I wondered whether I should spread a little love and happiness when I spotted some Chelsea supporters at Warwick Services but thought better of it. I am glad I did not come up by train.
As for the match, the manager has finally revealed his plan to secure survival: it`s called one win for the price of two, a ploy whereby players can be rested, even though on the pitch, thereby avoiding the censure of the F.A. and the penal costs involved. Remember, you read it here first (in my last report) and MM confirmed it in an interview in the Express and Star earlier in the day.
Bizarrely, I have to wonder if this is exactly what MM is striving for. How can a team that plays so abjectly against such modest opposition as Wigan and West Ham, perform so well against the top sides ... and occasionally defeat them. As against Liverpool, the players upped the tempo considerably and, in spite of a good deal of pressure, ran out worthy winners. Even more bizarrely, that was my wife`s opinion too. I had asked her to record Football First and she actually watched it. As a shock that registers on the Richter Scale! Observing the Chelsea stars troop out onto the pitch at the start of the match, I relished the prospect of seeing them in action. As it turned out, they were human after all.
All our defenders were heroes, with Berra and Stearman putting in commanding performances. Even Stearman`s obligatory mistake went unpunished. Zubar was outstanding, making up for his recent lacklustre performances. He was everywhere, charging upfield, outjumping challengers in the air and harrying them on the ground. Elokobi had a great game too. Naturally, I was sweating in the last few minutes and not merely because I had put on too many layers of clothing (it had been cold at the Birmingham match).
Up-front, what a difference Doyle made. The ball stuck to him like glue and he won a lot of ball in the air. Fletcher did not have the same degree of control but he is improving and one can see the beginnings of a good partnership there. Even so, at times we still looked hesitant going forward. There were occasions when one wanted the player with the ball to be more positive and dynamic, whether a more decisive run on goal, a snap shot or a quicker lay-off. On the wings (sorry for the anachronism: it`s my age), Hunt played better than Jarvis, of whom I noted at 20:13 pm that he had been anonymous. He still needs to weight his crosses a lot better too. As ever, his ability to track back quickly was a bonus. Overall, too many passes went astray.
On occasions like this I feel a rosy glow of warmth towards the manager. However, he and the team have got to keep churning out the results. A victory every other game will suffice but in reality it is not going to be that easy. According to his own admission, MM is now in the most feared of all positions: his team is out of the bottom three but hardly out of the relegation zone. As New York City Wolf puts it, it`s going to be emotional.
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