The Diary

26 August 2008: 'Im Indoors, Myself, And A Genuine Video Nasty!

Being a long-term Baggies diehard, and therefore easily qualifying for automatic entry into any ?Great Let-Downs Of The 20th And 21st Centuries? competitions you?d care to mention, I?ve always placed great faith in the comforting maxim: ?There?s always someone worse off than yourself?. Disastrously easy to say to someone totally enveloped in genuine grief of one sort or another, of course, but in the case of football, and those who support it, it?s the dead truth, swear on any Boy Scout?s life, cross my fingers, and hope to die. Just a scant 12 hours ago, I obtained what I regard as incontrovertible proof; not to the exacting standards demanded by modern research, ?tis true, but just about enough to suggest that I may have Got Something Right, for once in my little Baggie life.

It was His Nibs who served as my serendipitous ?Orrible Example, and right when I was getting well stuck into my daily newspaper ?fix?, too. In our conservatory, he was, bashing away on the old PC like there was no tomorrow; bog-standard background noise in our household, of course, and soon mentally banished to well short of the threshold of irritated distraction by this column. Then, in the midst of my mid-morning cogitations upon the football bits, something made me pause. The frenzied keyboard-bashing had stopped: in its place instead were muffled noises strongly suggestive of some kind of video clip being replayed. Over and over again, in fact. And then, the blood ran ice-cold through my heart as I suddenly realised what was going on: in short, Bristol Rovers 6 Hereford United 1.

With visions of Vietnam-esque 10,000-yard stares from ?Im Indoors flooding through my brain faster than water from a dam breached by Guy Gibson, I shouted in the vague direction of tormented hubby, ?Why are you doing this to yourself? Here, I?ll bring you that bloody knife you bought the other day, the one that nearly did for my sodding thumb, so you can slash your wrists and finish the job off properly?.? Rotten, aren?t I?

Oh dear. First, our defeat last Saturday, then, on arrival at our car once more, closely followed by the equally depressing news of bloody Stoke winning theirs, Kevin Phillips grabbing another three points for the St. Andrews oiks, the resultant trauma only concluding with the ultimate insult of the Dingles also registering a win ? then this. Poor sod. Watching that clip was clearly prompted by the sort of strange, vaguely destructive, urge that makes people standing upon the very edge of mighty precipices feel sorely tempted to shove themselves off the bloody thing, or, alternatively, chuck themselves underneath the wheels of a passing train. (While standing on a station platform, I mean, not the edge of a precipice.) Having had the entire weekend to ruminate over what was happening at both our place AND Edgar Street, the siren-call of that videoclip had finally proven irresistible for the lad. Do the Samaritans do counselling for this sort of thing, I wonder?

Having been so dramatically interrupted in my post-match perusal of the tabloid in question, it quickly became clear I?d have to enter the conservatory also, if only to see for myself how bad the damage, collateral or otherwise, had been, and would be. Hoping to get things into proper perspective for hubby by watching the entire thing through neutral eyes, then coming forth with appropriately soothing remarks, I asked him to do yet another rerun, which he did quite quickly ? once you?ve replayed the same film-clip for about the 20th time of asking, all that mouse-pointing-and-clicking stuff becomes second-nature, doesn?t it?

Trouble was, when I did get to watch the visual evidence, within a matter of milliseconds, it became abundantly clear that nothing I could ever say or do could put even a smidgen of positive spin on The Bulls? ghastly predicament. In short, they were truly crap. Oh ? and another thought. What Hereford did last season, Championship title apart, very much mirrored our own goal-strewn achievements: even their style of play could have been cloned from cells tenanting Mogga?s big toe (or whatever), had the necessary technology existed. That, as much as anything, was the prime cause of His Lordship?s glass-shattering wailings and lamentations; unless something?s done, and soon, both clubs are destined to slide down the pan quicker than the remains of an ultra-hot Vindaloo after well-oiled Saturday night potations.

After that mutual (and harmonious!) ?EEK!? from us both ? by rights, and in true ?Doctor Who? fashion, we should have both ended up squinting fearfully behind our sofa, watching through half-opened fingers ? we then decided to watch something far more positive, Hughsie?s Saturday hat-trick for Oldham Athletic. Two of them were typical Hughsie efforts - he was in the right place, at the right time, with a combination of natural striker?s instinct and godawful marking doing the rest ? with the third a header, something of a rarity for him, it has to be said.

It sure looks as though he?s beginning to regain something of the form he?d enjoyed when with us ? and that could spell danger. The old instinct for goal has returned, so his face is once more becoming very well known in that part of Lancashire. As far as Oldham are concerned, he?s fast becoming a big fish in a little pond, with all the myriad temptations that tend to accrete around someone enjoying such a massively changed public profile. And no extended family around to keep him on the straight and narrow, either. Will he have the good sense to keep well away from the hangers-on, with all their myriad temptations, chemical and worse, this time? It?s his second chance, and despite what he did, he?s always come across to me as someone worth salvaging. Let?s all hope he doesn?t blow it.

Having read of my other half?s various self-inflicted traumas, now for one of my own. It all started when I finally got around to picking up Saturday?s Guardian magazine - on Sunday night. (How come I was so late? Easy, after our Everton defeat, the only thing I wanted to do was sit in a padded cell, and sod the magazines.) Anyway, to cut to the chase, while idly flicking through the pages, I came upon a very strange article indeed.

It was all about a 32 year-old lady, married, one nipper aged 11, who retired to her bed one night ? only to wake the next day genuinely believing herself to be 15 years of age once more. (See, I told you it was strange?) Confused? You could say that again: instead of occupying the lower berth of a bunk bed adorned with a Marylyn Monroe bedspread, shared with her sister, she was in a council house, room full of books, a cat, and said 11 year old. As far as she was concerned, the year was 1992. No wonder she was confused!

Unsurprisingly, she quickly sought medical help, and as it turned out, her GP just happened to know quite a lot about strange psychological conditions, including what had precipitated this lady?s peculiar problem. It turned out that because she happened to be under a huge amount of stress at that particular time ? all sorts of things going on in her family, including that involved in coping with the third year of a part-time university degree ? her brain had reacted like a household PC trying to deal with massive data overload. In other words, it crashed, completely and utterly, with virtually all recent memories hastily shovelled into the brain?s equivalent of the loft, which explained the 1992 thing. And it was selective: she could still remember how to drive, how to read and write, say, but couldn?t recall getting married, having a child, Labour winning the 1997 election, or George Bush Jr. kicking off Gulf War 2. Luckily for her, all those mislaid memories returned after around seven weeks, which was pretty good, apparently: with some, it can take years and years.

But can you imagine it? Life suddenly placed in a 1992 time capsule, and everything and everybody around you seemingly from another planet? Now think about it from an Albion angle. One bright morning, you wake up believing Bobby Gould?s our manager, Kwame Ampadu, Stuart Naylor, Carl Heggs, Winston White, Adrian Foster, Colin West, Les Palmer, Paul Williams et. al are our players, and we?re still stuck in the bloody Third Division. Trauma unbridled. Did I just hear an almighty piercing scream issue forth en masse from all those reading this? Or was it just my dodgy hearing playing up once more? Ooer. Better move on rapidly: some things are simply too horrible to contemplate.

And that, dear reader, brings me quite neatly to Tuesday night?s League Cup bash in the north-east. Hartlepool?s the place, home of Reg Smythe, creator of ?Andy Capp?, the permanently-unemployed Daily Mirror cartoon character who did the ?couch potato? lifestyle long before anyone described it as such. In days of yore, Andy?s creator was quite happy to depict Andy thumping his long-suffering missus Flo. And smoking like a chimney. And should you not wish to be reminded of a throwback to an age where workshy blokes could still thump their partners and be thoroughly commended by their little mates for it, there?s always ?Hangus The Monkey?, the walking political joke who contrived to get himself involved in the town?s mayoral election, unexpectedly won, then turned out to do a splendid job in the post.

More controversially, Hartlepool?s docks are a home to a couple of pensioned-off US war-reserve naval supply vessels; like the muggins we are, we?ve accepted ?em for breaking up purposes, toxic metals, asbestos linings, and all, when other countries wouldn?t touch ?em with a multitude of bargepoles. There?s supposed to be more to come from The Land Of George W, but what with the almighty controversy that resulted when the idea was originally conceived, and everything, it may well have put some backers off for good. Goes quite well with the almost defunct nuclear power station plonked just up the road, I suppose.

Looking ahead to Tuesday night, I sure hope that Mogga will be going for a confidence-boosting win. Strange as it might seem, I still genuinely believe we do have the nucleus of a useful Prem side going for us; as I?ve said before, get things sorted on the striker front, and we could see our season turned around within a matter of weeks. Striker or no striker, a win there would do wonders for our sorely-beleaguered lot.

Mogga, it seems, is happy to give Luke Moore a pot at the black tomorrow night, assuming he?s properly recovered from injury, of course. But being ex-Villa, the pressures upon him to perform must be pretty must be fast-approaching nuclear submarine-levels by now, especially having blown his ?honeymoon period? with us last time out. Let?s face it, the considerable amount of baggage he brought from ?them? still hangs around his neck in similar fashion to that of the (very late!) Albatross of ?Rime Of The Ancient Mariner? fame. Get his name on the scoresheet on a regular basis, and both Brummie and Smethwick will forgive much. Stuff up a second time, and not even Mogga playing ?Wise Old Father? will rescue him from all those baying Baggie hounds slavering for Villa blood.

Mind you, it might well be that Mogga won?t be risking his first-string ? well, not all that many ? for this one. Names like Marek Cech, Carl Hoefkens, Roman Bednar, Craig Beattie, Sherjill MacDonald, Pedro Pele and Dean Kiely were being bandied around in the local papers the last time I looked. Personally, I reckon it?s the ?confidence? thing, rather than resting people, that needs to be pushed. And talking of which, our leader also reckoned that the almighty clanger that resulted in Everton?s second, the one involving Carson and Meite, simply won?t happen once our new boys get used to each other?s various football-related quirks and foibles.

I suppose he?s got a point: well do I remember last season?s opener at Burnley, where all our people performed as if they?d only just been introduced to each other. Which, as it turned out, wasn?t too far short of the truth. By the time Games Three And Four rolled around, we?d more or less sorted it; the rest, of course, is history. But as we all know from bitter past experience, the Prem isn?t anywhere near as forgiving as that. If we sincerely want to survive in this league, we?ve got to start winning games, and quick. It would be one of the sadder moments of our club history if this talented lot were to be sent packing, tails collectively placed between legs, in much the same manner as Derby were last season.

According to the Pools website, the lst time they had a Premiership club in town was in 1995, when Arsenal came to play, Tony Adams and all. Sad to say, the moneybags London side walloped them 3-0, with the aforementioned Adams getting a brace, and Ian Wright the other. As for our lot, we?ve only ever played Pools five times in all competitions, our last meeting occurring a few seasons back, when we came from behind to win. Eventually. Probably bored ?em to death, I shouldn?t wonder.

The local rag reports Pools as likely to field a full-strength side, and virtually the same one that started against Stockport on Saturday. In that game, the visitors packed the midfield then scored, with Pools supporters being left distinctly unamused, come the final whistle! Their only probable change will be Alan Power coming into centre-midfield in place of Willie Boland, ruled out for several weeks after sustaining knee ligament damage against the aforementioned Stockport; Confuciius, he say, ?He who go in with crunching tackle against County midfielder, get clobbered big-time?. In this case, his medial ligaments got the worst of the collateral damage, so he?ll be out for yonks. Ouch. United followers reckon the game will finish a draw on the 90 minutes, go to extra time, then they?ll send us packing via the penalty shoot-out route. Nice of them to warn us.

More to come tomorrow night. Let?s hope mine is a blog celebrating our progression to the next round of the competition.

NOW HERE?S A THOUGHT?? Spotted in the Everton programme, an article about the 1968 Cup winners? reunion bash, held in the East Stand at the nub-end of last season. Stars of the show were all those who made it possible, back then ? the players themselves. Commented Bomber Brown, one of their number: ?Within a minute, it was just like being back in that dressing-room in ?68. The banter, the camaraderie, it was just the same?.? But with one - no, SEVERAL - obvious differences, Tony. No Jeff. No Ossie. No Alan Ashman either. For all three, the Final Whistle had sounded, and far too soon before it should have done, too. How incredibly sad.

AND ANOTHER?.. Same programme, same game. An advert for ?Biddle And Sneekes Mortgages?. And it?s genuine, honest. From professional footballer, to multilingual speaker, to Italian restaurant owner, and now a mortgage broker. Oh ? and he also dabbles in stocks and shares by way of what Richard now regards as nowt but his little hobby. Is there no end to this man?s talents?

?CHRISTIANS VERSUS LIONS? CORNER?. That?s what sprang to mind with indecent haste the very first moment I spotted that former Bury wunderkind turned Albion youth player ?Wozza? Worrell had been loaned out to Accrington Stanley. Having seen Hereford United play them on several occasions, both at their place and Edgar Street, all I can offer the lad are my profound sympathies. Let me put it this way: Lancashire is quite well known for its clog-dancing, but Stanley also have a horrid reputation for ?clog-dancing? of a different kind altogether. If their first team squad were a cinema, they?d have an X certificate slapped on them as a matter of routine. Poor sod. Still under 21, and being exposed to that sort of trauma. He even came on as sub in last Saturday?s game for them. Wonder if he?ll get flashbacks?

 - Glynis Wright

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