The Diary

23 September 2008: I'm Still Alive, Honest!

Sorry about the non-appearance of my words, of late, Baggie-people. For that you can now choose to blame one of the following three options: press ?1? for ?nasty bug that laid low first ?Im Indoors, then myself, precisely three days after my other half first succumbed?; press ?2? for ?after-effects of said bug leaving me completely drained and exhausted for several days, including last Saturday and Sunday?, or ?3? for ?acute disappointment following witnessing a local derby defeat for which I?d previously expressed high hopes, plus various problems with our internet service providers?. Normal service will be resumed forthwith, I promise.

So ? back to business. As I said, we two didn?t exactly enjoy the best of times over the course of the last seven days. But neither did Messrs. Bush and Brown, either, thanks to the financial craziness now dominating both markets, so it?s a question of relativity, really. Illness prevented my usual Friday evening visit to my folks; as for Saturday, although feeling a lot better physically, I was still feeling somewhat drained, so elected to give accompanying my other half to Edgar Street a miss. A shame, that, as the weather was, for once, gloriously sunny, and warm with it. What I did instead was watch both Albion and hubby-related developments via the medium of Sky TV.

As for my other half, he didn?t exactly have an enjoyable time of it down in ?zoider country?, poor lamb. The Bulls took the lead, courtesy a 25th minute penalty, but the second helping saw opponents Scunthorpe fight back to equalise on 53 minutes, then take the lead just five minutes after that. A sore point with the Bulls, that second goal; scored by a lad called Gary Hooper, it was the ultimate slap in the face for the home side. How come? Easy: Hereford had him at their place on loan last season, liked the look of what they saw, then tried to engineer a permanent deal, only to be ?gazumped? by the famous ?steel town?. Ouch.

That defeat now leaves Hereford bottom of their own heap ? and Baggies followers should start feeling nervous right now. Why? Simple. For the whole of last season, and now the start of this one, Hereford?s progress has more or less mirrored Albion?s, bar our acquisition of the divisional title, of course. And the process seems to be repeating itself, with the sole exception of League position.

We have but four points, so do they. This weekend, both clubs lost 2-1 at home to better-placed opposition. Thanks to what now seems in retrospect unwise policy decisions, they both lost their best goalscorers to other clubs. They can?t score goals, neither can we ? and it?s cost both clubs dearly. Having witnessed in the flesh the culmination of a double-promotion bid last season ? Griffin Park and Loftus Road being the respective venues, of course - we now can?t help but feel there?s going to be a double wake come May 2009, unless something is done to stem the tide, and soon.

Mind you, after yesterday?s little caper, you didn?t need to consult the media to see what a body-blow for local morale our own failure signified ? just walking around Oldbury ASDA on the Wolverhampton Road (some people chuck themselves off high buildings when faced with despairing thoughts; we simply head off in the direction of the nearest large supermarket following a significantly-more-than-frustrating home defeat) was enough to do the trick.

The sight that beheld us was absolutely amazing: as we trudged somewhat dejectedly up and down their food aisles, the number of fully-shirted, booted-and-spurred Baggies, fellow-sufferers all, each with chins drooping somewhere around their ankle regions, became first a trickle, then a positive flood. Had ASDA been a river, they?d have been giving out ?severe weather warning? messages by then.

Thoughts about yesterday?s maddeningly frustrating caper? All the above, mostly apropos personnel shortages of our own making, of course, plus several more. My other half doesn?t entirely agree with me about this one, but I really do have to place at least some of the blame for yesterday?s defeat at the fumbling feet of a certain Liam Barnett.

Being a great cause for concern ever since he joined us (just think back to the earlier part of last season), subsequent Championship performances did help to assuage my many worries about him, but only to a certain degree; I was prepared to go to the Premier League toting an open mind regarding the player?s defensive abilities, but the lad hasn?t exactly trumpeted his own cause, thus far, has he? My personal opinion? He?s a competent defensive player for most of the time, but hardly wordly-wise enough to play in the Prem to any great effect. Sorry.

Mogga, perhaps realising beforehand that the relatively inexperienced defender wasn?t the man for the job (well, Luton Town isn?t exactly what springs to mind when discussing ?the true Mecca of football?, be fair!) had originally slotted Meite into the role, but the poor sod somehow contrived to cause an old calf injury to flare up again during the warm-up, which meant a rapid reappraisal of plans for our gaffer, of course. Anyway, it was a bit puzzling to hear Barnett?s name read out on the PA shortly before the game, having previously heard, via our normally-impeccable sources, that he?d been well and truly benched for this one!

Anyway, for good or ill, that?s what we were stuck with when the ref?s whistle sounded to put the game in motion. Maybe the na?ve lad became somewhat unsettled by the seemingly-unreasonable importance our supporters placed upon our getting at least SOMETHING from this game, plus a heavy dose of what I would call ?extremely robust? tackling from the Witton Road lot, which referee Deans seemed singularly uninterested in curbing? Maybe I?m assuming the ?greenhorn? role here, but as the game went on, my previously profound admiration for Martin O?Neill?s methods plummeted somewhat drastically.

Not being particularly acquainted with Leon Barnett?s on-pitch mindset, I?ve no real way of knowing precisely what thoughts permeated his brain cells during the game. What I do know is that having let Villa?s Carew have the free run of our box for their opener, he then compounded that initial failing in the run-up to their second; a ghastly clearance that fell to the eager feet of Agbonlahor, who left poor Carson with absolutely no chance once he?d shook off the attentions of other Baggies defenders with the sort of nonchalance a hound reserves for removing the soggy results of a particularly-watery walkies from its fur.

And it didn?t help either to see Chris Brunt have to leave the field of play with but 20 minutes on the clock. With my eyes following the play, I didn?t witness the events that led to his removal, but as soon as my other half informed me that he?d first pulled up like a frighted horse, then dropped to pitch-level as if shot, clutching the back of his leg, the first word to pass my lips was: ?Hamstring?? (Closely followed by something NOT repeatable in polite company, it?s safe to say!) Subsequent news from the club has proven me right, and it?s a body-blow we could have really done without.

Our other failing? That old chestnut once more, serial inability to find the back of the sodding net. Barring Morrison ? so good, they named him after an air-raid shelter, as well as a supermarket - who did manage to find the net via open play for once, about five minutes after the Villa guns had spoken a second time. But what really puzzles me, still, is what on earth prompted Mogga to introduce the Moore-Miller combo to the fray, some 15 minutes into the second half, at the expense of Bednar and Valero.

If our leader genuinely believed that Albion?s latest Gruesome Twosome could retrieve the situation, then all I can say is that he must have spent the entire interval lurching ever deeper into the vice-like grip of some hallucinatory drug or other. Both could improve vastly, given sufficient coaching and time to become considerably more aware of the manifold guiles of Premier League defenders, but the Prem being what it is, they both have a massive learning curve ahead of them.

Assuming they both stay the course, that is: I can only presuppose that - with Moore especially: those Villa followers in the Smethwick must have howled like things demented at their former player?s comic-fumbling goalscoring attempts, as must be their directors, for handing us a dud by way of exchange for Curtis Davies, who also had the last laugh on the Baggies? boo boys - the only reason they?re in with a shout of inclusion at all is our current lack of viable goalscoring alternatives. Further comment superfluous (and possibly libellous!).

Anyway, we?re still four off the bottom, but it only needs another defeat to land us deeper in the mire. (Particularly galling to hear that Stoke managed to contain Liverpool, of all people, and on their own Anfield turf, too, even if it did take a duff refereeing decision to do it.). And previous experience at this level has amply demonstrated that once you hit a losing streak, it?s bloody hard to recover from it. Given: a) that we?ve not won on Smog Monster territory since the late 1940?s, and b) our defence is clearly in somewhat porous condition, still, unless there?s a miracle, I can?t see us bringing home the (chemically-contaminated?) bacon from Teeside next Saturday.

The following week, October 4th, we play Fulham at our place. And, yes, within their ranks lurks yet another talented Baggie maker-and-getter of goals who should never have been let go under any circumstances whatsoever ? and I?m not referring to a certain Mr. Kamara, either. After that, it?s Man United, at their place. Don?t bother tuning into TV or radio, if you?re not going, simply look overhead. If you see squadrons of porkers in close formation trundling above local chimney tops come the final whistle, you?ll know we?ve done the impossible!

A few other quick mentions: Thanks to Steve The Miser and his good lady, plus Steve?s nipper David, for a lively evening, last Saturday, even though I was still feeling pretty drained after the previous week?s bacterial assault upon my person. The flowers they brought are still blooming to my complete satisfaction; rumours that Steve actually nicked them from a neighbour?s garden are, as yet, unproven!

And I couldn?t let this blog pass, either, without mentioning The Noise, who still terrorises his local council offices courtesy serial complaints about his council tax, apparently. They should think themselves lucky: back in the days of the Community Charge, aka the Poll Tax ? and Bobby Gould?s managerial reign, although we don?t talk too much about that either! - The Noise actually managed to get an entire queue engaged in rapturous (and spontaneous) applause the day he decided to adopt his customary loquacious stance with the council regarding their somewhat intimidatory requests for payment! Never has been a shrinking violet, The Noise.

And I?m still trying to adjust to the reality of young Carly flashing twenty quid notes around whenever group democracy decrees urgent liquid refreshment replenishment operations to be necessary. My goodness, what a real job can do to someone. Although my other half assures me that the firm she works for is as sound as a pound, I can only hope that the current financial position, plus various other cutbacks in the leisure industry, don?t affect her own job too much. My personal jury?s still out on that one. Amazing, isn?t it. After a so-called ?summer? where the mercury?s struggled to rise above the 60?s for most of the time, it?s only now we get glorious sunshine to enliven our matchday. Sunday?s unaccustomed heat also brought forth a profusion of legs clad in unaccustomed shorts ? ?white and bandy-legged with it? wasn?t the half of it, believe you me! Also unusual was the great proliferation of Villa shirts interspersed among those of their Baggie counterparts, as we headed along the Brummie Road towards the ground.

Yet another sign of the gentrification the Prem brings, certainly, but also a possible reflection of the drastically-changed way the younger generation of Albion supporters now regard their nearest rivals? As far as they?re concerned, the Dingles are the real foe, but to old fogeys like myself, ?Im Indoors, Steve The Miser (and John Homer, rendered almost suicidal by the time Sunday?s final whistle blew!), plus The Fart, the real objects of our mutual hate are the pests from the other side of Witton. How I?ve repeatedly wished I?d been there, the day we relegated them at our place, around the end of the fifties!

IT?S ALL IN THE MIND, YOU KNOW?.. The other day saw the arrival of the stuff for my next OU course, all nicely enclosed in a cardboard box. While I was checking the stuff they?d sent (they have been known to cock up the contents!), my eyes just happened to alight upon the title of one of the textbooks I?d received. Oh dear. Remembering that my beloved was nearby, my mind immediately went into ?wind-up time? mode, so, picking up said book, I immediately rushed over to where he was seated ? and proceeded to hit him with it.

?Oooowwww, what did you do THAT for?? enquired my by-now-puzzled-looking hubby, repeatedly rubbing his smitten head even as he spoke. And that, my Baggie friends, was the precise moment I showed him the book title, which consisted of but one word only. ?PAIN?.

?LET US NOW SING THE NEXT HYMN?..? ?All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small/All things wise and wonderful, John Hartson ate them all?..? The Ibrox Park contingent, waxing lyrical upon our former striker?s extraordinary predilection for all things calorific during one particularly fraught Old Firm encounter of bygone times.

?IT FOR BEGINNERS? CORNER?.. Whoopee! After an awful lot of mental gear-grinding that can?t have done my future intellectual performance any good at all, I?ve finally got to understand what the expression ?Boolean Logic? actually means. For the IT uninitiated (most certainly includes me!), it?s all to do with narrowing down an internet search for some specific topic by specifying the optimal sequence of words or phrases to the search engine that?ll do the job the most effectively. So now you know.

And that?s it from me, until next Friday night. And definitely, this time. Siyonara, as the Japanese might say!

 - Glynis Wright

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