The Diary

28 October 2008: Will Mogga Lift My Mood At The Toon?

What a difference three piddling little days can make to one?s prevalent mood, not to mention anticipation of tonight?s away bash with Newcastle United?.. That?s what the Baggies do to you, big-time ? and the current lot seem to be carrying on with the glorious tradition in true ?Semper Te Fallant? style. Even though about 72 hours now sunder us from the second-half imbroglio that laughingly called itself ?an Albion first-team fixture?, I?m still steaming mad.

Why? During the course of the Saturday morning just gone, although not feeling stupidly confident about the probable outcome, I had harboured vague hopes of us stopping Phil Brown?s audacious Premier League tap that very same afternoon ? but we all know what happened after that, don?t we, kiddiwinkles? Result? A complete and utter let-down. Followed, of course, by an equally miserable Saturday night.

I can?t honestly recall when I?d last felt so negative about Planet Albion and all who sail in it. The last time we were in the Prem, and our failure to buy in new blood at a time when we seemingly had a genuine chance of getting our feet under the Greed League table, at long last, resulting in tears, aka the drop come season?s end, I suppose ? and an equally downbeat Sunday, too.

It doesn?t help also that I?m one of those people who end up in the lee of a perpetually black cloud when the clocks go back. Or is it just a variant upon the normal diagnosis of Seasonally Affected Disorder, known to all and sundry as ?Football-Seasonally Affected Disorder?

Add to that the fact I?m currently seated in our conservatory typing this with my Mogga coat well and truly on (heating problems I mentioned on Friday?s effort), made the mistake of reading this morning?s papers before getting started on today?s missive (yet another stonking-great risk factor for depressive illness, provided gratis by both the Treasury and the current government), and the increasing burden of predisposing evidence for my current dose of gloom and doom is practically overwhelming. The cure for this malady is very much in the hands of our finest: win or draw tonight, and I?ll be a very happy Baggie indeed. Lose, and I might just need the services of The Samaritans.

Are my expectations for tonight in any way unrealistic? I wouldn?t like to think so: I watched The Toon on Sunday ? and you?ll not be too surprised to hear I only needed to watch for a few minutes to declare them a 21st century reincarnation of Mussolini?s equally battle-shy military. Well, if nothing else, their defence certainly was. Sure, I know that Joe Kinnear?s arrival as manager may well stop the rot before the damage becomes irreparable, but these things take time to kick in.

Talking of ?things kicking in? brings me to the vexed question of Joe Barton who, it appears has about as much sense as the average gnat when it comes to issues surrounding tact and diplomacy. What kind of person tries to goad opposition supporters into near-violence when warming up on the touchline? There?s a big issue around Barton not realising the likely consequences of his actions going on there, a grave personality defect that seems to have shaped his whole life, to date. Yes, I know there was provocation, but if Barton sincerely wants to demonstrate a total renunciation of such boorish behaviour to the public at large, that?s not really the ideal way of going about things, is it?

For what it?s worth, psychiatric confirmation of that very same facet of character can, in some people, lead to a diagnosis of psychopathic personality, which can bring, in its train, a pretty gloomy prognosis. The NHS deem it non-treatable: what The Toon could do about it, were Barton ever declared to be at risk, I really don?t know. Come to think about it, with Joe Kinnear having slotted him into tonight?s side for the first time since his release from clink, knowing how to get to grips with his more unpleasant characteristics is a bit like asking Vicky Pollard to opine on nuclear physics.

Given his capricious change of mood when out there on the pitch, not to mention his sheer truculence (with occasional violence) whenever he considers himself slighted off it, it?s not beyond the bounds of belief to wonder whether he?ll lose it again, then get red-carded, ere this fixture?s run but a short part of its course. We can but hope, I suppose, and maybe I am sounding a tad too pessimistic about this game, but I really do suspect that getting something from this one, despite the grave nature of still-turbulent Newcastle?s current plight, will be an ask too far.

Now where was I? Sorry about that ? had to dash to open the front door so the nice men from Argos could deliver my other half?s new toy, one of those cross-trainer thingies you see adorning so many gyms (and spare rooms!) these days. True to form, despite having left the conservatory door open a tad before I began work on this piece, I didn?t hear the doorbell ? or their telephone call, either!

Oh dear, I really must nip and get a hearing test when I?ve got a minute. Mind you, I blame at least part of it on the Baggies, given that a noise-level of over 95 decibels is considered to bring on hearing damage if the person concerned is exposed to such noise levels on a regular basis. What?s more regular than attending the greater part of Baggies games, both home and away, over the course of more years than I care to remember?

Now for the nitty-gritty on those line-ups tonight. As I mentioned, Barton will get a start, his first home appearance in Newcastle colours since the 5th of May this year, when The Toon were hit by a brace from Chelsea. ?Twas also Mister Brain-Dead?s last appearance that season before spending some unrequited time as ?a guest of Her Majesty?, his buttocks finally rising from the substitutes? bench once more at Sunderland, to be brought on during the 2-1 defeat they had there. The main reason for Barton?s inclusion tonight lies in the absence of captain Nicky Butt with ankle and thigh problems, apparently. There?s much debate in Kinnear?s head also whether to give the captain?s armband to Shay Given, their popular keeper, or to hand the job to Steven Taylor instead.

As for Michael Owen, who must surely have earned the honorific ?Sicknote? by now (if only in the government offices dealing with National Insurance contributions), guess what? Yup - he?s still out through injury, so we won?t have to worry about him one iota, come kick-off time. Isn?t that nice?

That?s the lot for our Geordie chums, then, so what about us? The bad news is that we won?t be getting the services of either Tex or Meite. Both are declared to be in the inexorable grip of calf trouble (yet again!), so won?t be showing their faces in Tyneside. Well, not in an Albion shirt, it would appear.

Mogga reckons they?re both slowly getting there, are now working with the physio staff on things like ball-kicking, running and sprinting, but their recall won?t be for quite some time yet. There?s one bit of good news, though ? our Korean lad, who goes by the name of ?Kim?, looks sufficiently recovered from injury to be in with a shout: maybe not tonight, but could the Blackburn game be an auspicious moment to ease the lad back into the routine? A teensy word of caution: Newcastle will be looking to erase the memory of that 2-1 derby defeat from their collective minds as quickly as possible (imagine the Dingles doing the same to us, and you?ve got it just about right?.), so they?ll probably prove determined opposition.

Trolling around the headlines for material suitable for inclusion in this tome certainly had me helpless with laughter, earlier today. The cause of such unfeminine mirth? I?ll quote it verbatim, and you make up your mind?..

?Tony Mowbray looks set to ignore the calls for Luke Moore?s inclusion by keeping faith with his current first-choice strikers...? When I?d finally picked myself from off our conservatory floor, and used up prodigious quantities of kitchen towel to wipe away my tears of laughter, I then proceeded to read the offending paragraph further. Mogga, being his usual diplomatic self, pointed out the dilemma most managers had in going with the usual first pick irrespective of their scoring record at that time: in short, go with experience, or go with a bod who couldn?t impersonate a striker to save his life.

Had it been the case that Luke Moore was genuinely looking the part, I wouldn?t have made too much mock of his current paucity of talent on these pages. And, more significantly, Mogga never added a much-needed rider to those ultra-tactful comments of his, so I will, viz: the day Luke Moore shows himself to be skilled enough to compete at our currently elevated level, and with some consistency chucked in as well, the BBC News will be reporting the following:

a) Mass sightings of airborne porcines in close formation over the Black Country, plus:

b) Newsflashes telling of the entire police force being inundated with numerous sightings of horny-headed people with forked tails and hooves, all pleading for local government to come to their assistance, and each one citing heavy damage through frost and ice in their normal dwellings as the reason for their appearance. In short, if someone is giving Mogga an earhole-bashing over Luke Moore?s absence from our regular line-up, they must be completely and utterly inebriated. Either that, or flying at approximately 35,000 feet, and completely and utterly out of their brain on what the police used to call ?certain substances? in my day.

What all this boils down to, really, is more or less: ?carry on as you?ve been doing these past few weeks.? That means Roam Bednar up front with Ishmael Miller, whose ears must still be ringing like good ?uns after the series of striking gaffes he made last weekend. And Chris Brunt might make a good case for his return as well. Will Looney have recovered from the acute attack of defensive torpidity that seemed to have the lad firmly in its clutches, last Saturday?

But at least we don?t have to sit constantly glued to both screen and Ceefax, to find out. Just in case you didn?t know already (those of you living in this country, that is), our game is on Setanta. Thrill to the sight of even more basic defensive howlers being committed, and all in the warmth of your own living-room, too. Beats travelling up the M1 and A1 any day.

Not to mention that almighty scramble, courtesy the Northumbria Police, whose policy it is to hold the coaches at some service station for the best part of an hour, then proceed to escort coaches on a very convoluted route to the ground indeed, finally dumping said away fans - sometimes well in excess of 2000 ? right outside the ground, then have a good giggle watching them all trying to gain access to the interior with but ten minutes to go to the start. Wouldn?t matter, most places, but have you ever seen how many stairs people in the Toon away end have to climb just to get to their seats?

One never does quite know with newspaper reports, of course, but what our leader seems to be saying is that he?s hoping to hit the home side early, then bank upon their faithful?s mounting frustration at not being able to put the ball into the back of the next, especially if time ? or the lack of it - then becomes an important consideration.

Well, as their lot have shown more than capably these past few days, they?re experts when it comes to protests, whether they be on the pitch, off it, or just taking the thing a step further by simply demonstrating at the nearest gas cooker place. The publicity possibilities afforded to them by the goggle-box folkies might well prove a huge temptation for them.

As for our own people, it would be pretty good to smash-and-grab while Newcastle are in this seemingly enfeebled state, but I can?t see it, personally. They may have been drifting before Joe?s arrival, but despite the Sunderland setback, he now seems to be getting a better grip on the place. Please let me be wrong!

ALL SHOOK UP? Some of you might have caught news reports yesterday of a pretty strong earth tremor in the Herefordshire area, with an epicentre located around the Bromyard area. The geologists might be getting all excited about the phemomenon, but I?m not. Given that my in-laws are currently staying at our holiday place (quite close to the quake), I reckon it?s all down to Norm brewing up yet another batch of his biodiesel ? and splitting the atom in the process!

 - Glynis Wright

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