Date:Saturday February 25 2012
It`s Saturday morning and I am sitting on my bike on a turbo in the garage, banned from the road on account of my poorly neck. As I whirr the pedals, the events at Molineux over the course of the past fortnight scroll through my mind like the tape of a Hollywood film.
... or rather, a variety of films, starting with the Texsco Chain Saw Massacre in which Peter 'Leatherface` Odemwingie and his chums hack our team to pieces. It continued with repeat performances of a Whitehall farce, with managerial candidates coming on and leaving the stage with bewildering rapidity. It ended with SM and JM shuffling along, trousers round their ankles and their washed-up underwear in full view.
At this point I have to declare an interest. In my report after the WBA game, I called for the sacking of MM, a demand that the board instantly granted. I was pleased with this, having concluded that Mick had run out of ideas and that the players thought so too. They showed it on the pitch and admitted it after the sacking.
However, I had not factored in the bungling of the selection process by SM and JM. Plan A was a reasonable one: find someone with good PL credentials, who would galvanise the players and turn our fortunes round. To succeed there had to be suitable candidates available and, more to the point, willing to come. Only Curbishley fitted the bill but a chat with JM soon made him aware of the skewed vision and wonky priorities of our CEO.
Much to the horror of many fans, Plan B [for Bruce] looked likely to succeed, to the extent that a contract was drawn up for the sacked Sunderland manager to sign. At the last minute, the board tore it up and turned to Plan C, the pursuit of a successful Championship manager, that is, something that MM had been good at. It failed but on the plus side it enabled Brian McDermott to squeeze a better contract out of his Reading bosses. Here, at The Mol, we don`t do judicious spending of a little extra cash, no matter how valuable an investment it would be. For Plan D we approached a Scottish pensioner, who, unfortunately, had retained enough brain cells to recognise a poisoned chalice when he saw one.
As a result, we offered the job to the only person daft enough to take it on, our very own coach, TC. Hmm! Wasn`t he part of the problem? And why, given this outcome, which the board could have foretold early in the negotiations, wasn`t he offered the post earlier? At least, SM and JM have acquired the patsy, who, in the event of failure, will take the blame. And, he`s cheap too. But, if we were working our way through the list of potential managers, why didn`t we invite Ray Wilkins in for discussions?
Yeah!!! The match is now over and I have a recording of the Wales-England RU game to look forward to after I have written this report. All I need now is a Welsh victory at Twickenham to make my day.
A friend of mine, bearing gifts of Old Speckled Hen, came round to watch the WW game on a freeview site and neither of us were very optimistic about the outcome of the game. In this respect, we reflected the views of most bloggers, who expected us to go down by a few goals. The line-up, minus Fletcher and Bassong, deepened our feeling of doom, because it left us weak at both ends of the field.
Nor did the opening minutes of the game make us feel any better. In the 6th. minute, Berra, caught on the ball, gave away it away in our box. Hennessey brilliantly saved the shot but hardly had we breathed a sigh of relief when the ball was in our net. Demba Ba scored it but it only counted because Edwards, stuck on our goal-line, played him onside. Eleven minutes later and Gutierrez (who else?) picked up a poor clearance and hit a screamer from 25 yards that Hennessey was powerless to stop.
To be fair to our players, they were playing reasonably well but lacked a cutting edge up front and were still prone to making silly errors at the back. At least, the slow-footed Johnson wasn`t playing, though Stearman was his normal inconsistent self. I hope Bassong is fit for the Fulham match. Newcastle were allowed far too much space going forward. Zubar`s penchant for attack might have contributed to this but he was a joy to watch driving upfield, ball at his feet. It was great to see him back and he must remain in the team.
Henry`s return added a little more solidity in the midfield, too, allowing O`Hara to focus on his role as play-maker. He did this quite well but he, as other men on the ball constantly found, it was difficult to target a player in space. Even before the commentators made the point, my friend and I were noting that while we might pass the ball about, we were incapable of achieving an adequate level of penetration ... an old problem.
It was clear from the outset that the team was up for this fixture. They were working hard for the manager, though whether for TC or to make amends for their lack of effort in MM`s last few games is a moot point. TC`s pep-talk at half-time certainly did the trick because within five minutes Jarvis had pulled a goal back. Cutting inside, he fired off a somewhat speculative shot, which went into the net off a deflection. Game on.
At this point my wife, returning home from a walk with a friend, was greeted by two blokes punching the air and clinking glasses of beer (though not at the same time I hope, otherwise there`ll be beer in the keyboard). She even got caught up in the excitement and watched for a few minutes.
Emboldened by the goal, WW continued to push forward and looked likely to level the score. When it came, it was the result of a well-directed free kick by JOH and a lucky rebound off Doyle. Regathering the ball, our striker hit it into the net. At first, I thought that the ball had gone out for a corner but seeing the scrum of celebrating WW players made for even greater jubilation chez SB60.
At this point, if any team was going to score a winner, WW were the favourites. However, the replacement of JOH by Kightly removed our creative midfielder without strengthening our defence. Moreover, as Newcastle moved up a gear, we had to spend the final one-third of the game fending off waves of attacks. We survived, sometimes luckily, even with five minutes of extra time to negotiate. At home, we hugged and cheered and declared that it was a notable point gained.
And it was a good result for us, more so, given the events of the past fortnight. While I was a little miffed over TC`s selection at the beginning of the game, the players played with commitment and fully deserved their share of the points. If some of the old shortcomings were still visible - none more so than the tendency (especially Berra`s) to give away soft goals- the lads showed that they have spirit and can play at this level.
I am really pleased for TC because this is a promising start to his managerial career, achieved in the teeth of a huge amount of adverse opinion and in the most unpromising of situations. We will soon see if he possesses the nous and the tactical acumen to plot a course out of the relegation mire. And, there`s no better place to start than at Craven Cottage next week. I have my ticket and am looking forward to another gutsy performance and THREE points.
After that, I have a tough decision to make. My daughter has a meeting in London on the following two Fridays and will be staying with us over the weekends. I cannot expect to travel up to Molineux for both the Blackburn and MU matches. Which one should I choose?
Date:Saturday February 25 2012
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