Playing the 'Get out of Jail' Card
Everyone from MM down - certainly us bloggers and the Wolves fans I met at Warwick services yesterday morning- knew that we had to beat Blackpool. Defeat was unthinkable as it would almost certainly signify relegation, if only as a reflection of the mental state of the players and their ability to achieve the necessary results.
And I have found out how Mick did it. He played his 'Get out of Jail Card`, something he can only use in a real emergency. This convinces me that we will survive. How else can one explain such a bizarre season? We give away the game at Bolton, take three points from the must-win match against MU (of all sides to play in such a situation) and follow that up by throwing away two points against WBA (of all teams).
Travelling home after the match, I put on my Wolves woolly hat to identify myself to fellow-fans at the services I stopped at. Surprising, I saw no-one at Warwick, which I always think of as the Clapham Junction of travelling support. Luckily, I recognised a Burrda anorak at Oxford and enjoyed a chat with a guy, who, like me, has supported the Wolves since the 1950s. As a Londoner, he chose our team because it was the best in the land at the time. As a lad from Albrighton it was my local team. Thankfully, I had had an opportunity to share my joy with someone who appreciated the reason for my euphoria because when I turned the key to our front door ...
At home my wife was in no mood to humour me, especially as I had arrived twenty minutes later than anticipated and she wanted her curry. Strangely, the explanation that I had been talking to a fellow-supporter at Oxford services only made matters worse. Apparently, I had abandoned her that morning, leaving her to cope with our daughter`s job application forms alone. I had received a warning. When I parked the car at West Park at noon and phoned her, she acidly remarked that she cared nothing for football matches. Perhaps I should have bought a bunch of flowers at Oxford. At least I said nothing that I would later regret - perhaps provoking a travel ban to Molineux - because the Ibrupofen stopped me from uttering anything inflammatory.
I lunched at The Varsity, though I had to turn my back on the Banks`s best bitter pump which the pills had rendered untouchable, even as they heightened its seductive power. After showing off the contents of my rucksack to the security man at the gate and struggling, as ever, to operate the turnstile with my ticket, I was in the ground and heading for my seat. This time, the guys either side of me were friendlier than normal and actually spoke to me. One operated a blogsite, while the other kept me informed of the passage of play at the far end of the ground. It was a pleasant experience, enhanced, of course, by the action on the pitch.
I was somewhat surprised at the team selection, confidently expecting MM to play a 4-4-2 formation, with Fletcher and Doyle upfront. Can it be that MM pays no attention to the advice offered to him on blogsites? I was also disappointed to discover that Milijas did not feature in the starting line-up. Even so, credit where due, the plan worked and every player performed well. We completely dominated the match and, although we might not have scored four goals against a full-strength Blackpool side, we would have won anyway. So, thank you DJ Campbell for easing our task and improving our goal-difference.
The boys were clearly up for the match and played as they do against the top teams rather than against the ... well, Blackpools of the PL. I was particularly pleased with Jarvis`s goal, given the two he has missed recently (this was the most difficult of the three), as it will boost his confidence. He ran rings round Eardley and we would have scored more, had he weighted some of his crosses more carefully (it`s something he still needs to work on). SEB also looked sharp, being on hand to tap in the first goal and displaying considerable skill when slotting home his second one.
Doyle was back to his best; his running with and laying off of the ball, complemented his customary holding skills. O`Hara was outstanding. He is certainly making a difference and his influence is growing as he gets fitter and stronger. We have to stay up if only to hold on to him. Presumably, he will not be able to play in next Sunday`s match, which might be a blessing in disguise, since it will not allow Harry a glimpse of him.
I also need to praise one or two other players, the ones I have criticised in the past. Henry, for instance, had an excellent game, proving that he has overcome his injury and match-rustiness. His passing forward has improved too. Berra and Stearman are also forming a strong partnership, one, moreover, that is not based on pulling shirts, illegal blocking or tripping opponents up (well, up to a point). The look of bewilderment on Stearman`s face, when confronted by an irate DJ Campbell, was a joy to behold.
Perhaps we have turned the corner and that, as MM and players have always insisted, the team will come good when it really matters. Even so, there remains a nagging doubt that, as after the Birmingham game, we won only because of the weakness of the opposition (clearly, without Adam Blackpool are a vastly inferior team). Banish the thought: we played good, flowing football and would have been a match for anyone on the day. If only we could avoid the occasional dither, always choose the correct option and cut out sloppy passes, we will survive at a canter. But am I taking too Olympian a view here: everyone makes mistakes (remember Fortuné`s miss for WBA last week)?
I am so pleased with yesterday`s result that, should we win against Spurs next Sunday, I will wear my Doritos shirt to the following home game against Everton. Mind you, losses against AV and Newcastle might force me to change my mind!