The Diary

16 November 2008: We Lose, But Mogga, Miller, My Top Men. Find Out Why Below

Well, yesterday evening?s soggy little tryst with the conspicuously-consumptive club who don?t like to be called ?Pensioners? was just about what we expected, wasn?t it? A trio of first half goals, and that was it ? job done.

Was I miserable after the final whistle? As far as the grotty, damp weather we encountered on the long trek along the Brummie Road, back to our parked vehicle (I?ve ?seized up? again!) was concerned, then I suppose the answer has to be an unequivocal ?yes?. But apropos the final score, and our ongoing failure to seek out relatively calmer Premier League waters, my verdict has to be ?no?. Did any of our regular followers seriously expect to grab Sunday paper headlines by unseating our moneybags metropolitan visitors? I certainly didn?t.

But amidst the overabundance of both precipitation and gloom hanging around the stadium even before the game, news of one particular gesture of old-fashioned decency and graciousness towards one of our own, really helped restore my greatly-lapsed faith in human nature. And what made it all the more surprising was the identity of the perpetrators of said act ? but more of that later.

Yesterday afternoon, it so happened that we didn?t need to meet The Noise in the pub: he bumped into US, as we shifted ourselves in the direction of the ticket office: both Pater and elder daughter heading for the pub themselves, after stuffing themselves silly in the McDonalds on the opposite side of the road to the ground. Our pre-match mission? To sort out Wigan tickets for our little party: we had feared there would be a queue, but the barren interior of the place quickly told us a completely different story. And as we were to find, a definite plus-point in these cash strapped times, this; their prices leaned towards the ?generous? side of the scale. Whoopee!

You may be wondering by this stage why I haven?t made mention of The Noise?s little wounded soldier. The answer to that is quite simple; just before it was time to go, Bethany said she didn?t feel well enough to go, which I can understand. Breaking a leg?s no fun, and getting through the crowds, not to mention the steep climb up the Brummie steps to reach her seat might have proven a little too much for her after all.

I also discovered from The Noise that the accident had happened at school. Amazing, isn?t it? The number of times this column, and probably yourselves, ran over a rough patch of ground to chase an errant ball, at precisely the same age - and slipped on mud doing it, too, but completely without injury ? probably matches the precise number of hot dinners you?ve eaten since then.

Just a horrible freak calamity, really, which appears to be the precise spin The Noise himself puts on it. I admire him for both his generous attitude, and his clear reluctance to go screaming to the nearest compensation solicitor?s office. A good many would have - erm ? ?broken their necks? in unseemly haste to lodge a claim by now.

But on with the show. As per usual, the pub had the big screen?s Sky channel going full-blast ? and I really do mean that in literal fashion, the dodgy sound control making it impossible to speak, at times. Isn?t it about time it was fixed? It being a late kick-off, after showing the fag-end of the Arsenal-Villa thing ? personal feelings quite ambivalent regarding the claret-and-spew win: one part of me positively ached to see Arsene Wenger?s arrogant lot seen off in high style, but the rest balked somewhat at the truly ghastly thought Villa just might succeed in penetrating the cosy little cartel currently comprising the top four ? Sky?s goals service was going full-blast.

That?s something we don?t normally see, for obvious reasons, but it did lend a certain added frisson to the proceedings. Take my other half, for example: remember last week, when we went to see Hereford in FA Cup action at Edgar Street? Not a classic by any means, quite dreadful, if you really want to know the truth.

And, the real clincher, in my opinion: to use the old clich?, they couldn?t even score in a brothel, so shot-shy were they in front of goal. But yesterday, they proceeded to confound even their sternest critics by slamming in no less than THREE, and without reply, too! No wonder my other half was seen to put head to hands in total disbelief. As for me, I?m making tracks for their ground, come Monday next, to demand my FA Cup tie money back - so come on, Mr. Ex-Dingle Owner, flash the sodding cash!

That was the fun bit over and done with, then ? now for the grotty part of the ?sandwich?. Just what DO you say when you know damned well we?re in for a stonking, and barring a miracle, there?s nothing at all the players can do to avert it? And it didn?t help at all to find the rainfall now doubled in intensity, and street lights the only thing to penetrate the pervading overcast. Winter games constitute seriously bad news for my peace of mind. Maybe Albion should make suitable provision by laying on a buckshee supply of Valium, then lacing various beverages with it?

Anyway, there we were, installed in our Halfords Lane Stand sockets, well in time for the start, and the ground filling up at speed. To the left of the Smethwick, the Chelsea contingent were bellowing ?Three Men Went To Mow? (the most boring football chant in the history of the known universe, just in case you didn?t hear it ? and if that was the case, you were lucky!) with decibel-shattering intensity, while in the middle of the park, a quite amazing number of matchday mascots awaited their all-too-brief taste of the limelight.

Additionally, a positive plethora of cameramen, both still and TV, awaited the Coming Of The Away Side: that?s my guess, as they sure as hell couldn?t have been waiting for Mogga?s lot to appear. One indication of the amount of rain falling on the pitch was the highly saturated state of the circular advert they always plonk over the centre-circle: normally needing just a quartet of kids to shift it, this time it called for the expertise of around eight to just move the thing over the touchline. As they transferred it to a waiting trolley, you could see huge cascades and rivulets of wet stuff making a hasty getaway via the running track, appropriately enough. Yuk.

Eventually, after all the fal-de-rol (not to mention the outbreak of predatory lensmen) had been dispensed with, it was time to get the show on the road. ?Sultana? aka Setanta were providing live coverage last night, and from what I saw, their over-intrusive presence must have proven a complete and utter pain in the neck for both managers. Not exactly the way to win hearts and minds, really, but that?s how the football world at this level is, sadly. The only thing that counts these days is masses of filthy lucre, and the more, the merrier.

Should I feel profoundly grateful that the visitors were horribly short of top names, yesterday evening ? the injured Cech, Belletti, De Santo and Cole will do just for starters - but still stuffed us just the same, and were unlucky not to run up a cricket score? Or should any residual post-match ill-will needing swift dissipation be directed at our directors, I wonder? Discuss.

Anyway, we started off quite well, and were unlucky not to get something within about 30 seconds of the start, James Morrison (later clattered in true Chopper Harris style by some latter-day pretender to the throne) picked up the ball, waltzed around a world-class defender or two, then proceeded to let fly from some distance. The effort only just cleared the crossbar, so fair play to the lad for being so proactive right from the start.

To be perfectly honest, I had to admire Mogga for sticking to his attacking and entertaining principles, no matter what. Clearly, instructions to our finest were to go at the opposition every chance they got, which we did, and in some style. Any one of the opposing side probably cost considerably more than our entire first team, but at least we weren?t adopting the role of sacrificial lamb. Not just yet.

Now for the thing that puzzles me most about Chelsea. With their truly galactic array of stars, some of them household names, why is it that they feel the need to behave like clog-dancers high on crack cocaine at the slightest provocation? This was a common feature of yesterday?s game, sadly ? and late in the second half, it was an awful tackle that saw poor James Morrison clattered right out of it.

Yes, the perpetrator was yellow-carded, but that sort of thing had gone on for most of the game, but without any cards being shown to the sinners concerned. Or is it that when it comes to crime and punishment, football imitates life by ensuring referees only bother to discipline the game?s ?little people??

The thing is, though, that given the awesomely high quality of players Chelsea do have at their disposal, they simply don?t need to do it. Their football should be doing all the talking for them: were that the case, I reckon they?d be spared an awful lot of bad press.

Anyway, credit where credit?s due. We did plug away at them for the first half hour: in fact, I perceived a certain steeliness in our approach I hadn?t seen before in a Mogga side, which might have been the predominant factor in Chelsea finding some difficulty putting us away sooner than they did. Ish Miller seemed to blossom in the limelight, grabbing a brace of chances to make a name for himself, but not succeeding.

But the ex-Man City lad apart, the rest was the same old story ? gain possession, play it around awfully nicely, but get absolutely nowhere with the expenditure of all that effort.

With around two-thirds of the half gone, and Chelsea finally woken up from their previous torpidity, you began to wonder from where and when the killer blow would come. We didn?t have to wait very long for our answer, and, to be absolutely fair, I doubt whether any side could have prevented the launch of what was to prove an absolute belter of a Bosingwa shot. Carson wasn?t expecting it, that was for sure; despite getting a fingertip to it, all he succeeded in doing was deflect the thing further into the net.

With that unexpected breaching of the dam, now came the tidal-wave. The next goal shipped was down to a defensive clanger, I reckon, an intercepted header being put right at Anelka?s eager feet with only the keeper to beat. Easy peasy, 2-0. With everything all over, bar the shouting, and the first half deep in injury time, Anelka then struck again in a manner that exemplified the real difference between the respective clubs. When Miller had the ball in the box, there was always that microsecond of hesitation before he finally pulled the trigger: Anelka, on the other hand, was ruthlessness personified. Need I say more?

As expected, come the second half, Chelsea ?declared?. They didn?t increase their tally, but what they did do was provide everyone with ample opportunity for gallows humour, which manifests itself in many guises, our very own John Homer, for example. (Ade Chiles, looking quite dispirited as he left with about ten to go, missed most of the fun!)

Examples? Uncharacteristically slow to launch himself into best ?referee-baiting? mode at first, it was a full 12 minutes of the first before he finally exploded, raging at referee Bennett for not awarding our lot a foul (and John did have a good case, in that particular instance.).

Then, when Chelsea were really piling on the pressure for a third, ?If this was a boxin? match, I?d throw me towel in now!....?

But it was his partner Jean who unwittingly supplied me with the ?feed? for an absolute half-time corker. I?d been telling her about the new bread-maker we?d just purchased: in fact, while we were at the game, our new acquisition had been chuntering away, nicely in time to give us a fresh-baked loaf on our return.

Jean: ?We?ve got Morrison?s bread to go back to?.?

Me: ?What, and play for the first team as well? Hey, that?s a bloody good trick?.?

As you?d expect, our followers, knowing full well we were done for, proceeded to engage in a ?war of words with their counterparts from the Smoke, instead. Most of the usual stuff, of course ? but surprisingly leavened with much positive affirmation of their continued support for both manager and players ? with the clincher being choral accusations of their counterparts caring for nothing save watching a side that collected trophies like small children collect marbles, viz: ?You Glory-Hunting B*****ds, Support Your Local Team?.?

John, as Kim came on for Bednar, prior to the start of the second half: ? ?Ere cums owd ?Dow Cum On?, then?.?

Then came John?s finest moment, courtesy Didier Drogba, running along the touchline to warm up. Just as he passed us: ?Lend us a quid, will yer?....?

Later, to Ballack (John?s voice is powerful, and Ballack WAS standing pretty close!): ?Yow?ve lost the ?S? off the back of yer shirt!....? (think about it!)

Then, as Drogba prepared to come on: ?Bring a bucket with yer ? we?ll ?ave a bleedin? collection?.?

All that, plus much, much more. Every side must have their Homer-equivalent, I suppose, but sometimes I do sit and wonder whether his lino-baiting reputation ever results in both assistants tossing coins for who gets the dubious honour of having to run that bit of the Halfords Lane Stand portion of the pitch?


Now for the heartwarming little tale I promised to relate at the start of this piece. While we were both in the pub with The Noise, necking it back, Carly had temporarily disappeared. I sort of noticed she wasn?t there ? probably making her number with the latest in the queue of ardent Baggie male admirers she seems to have accreted, of late, was my supposition ? and thought little of it, until her reappearance, some 45 minutes later, looking not so much like the cat that nicked all the cream, as one that not only relieved the family fridge of its meat and dairy contents, but helped itself to next door?s as well.

You only had to see the smug look on her face to know she?d been up to something ? but what? Turned out she?d been A Girl On A Mission, or to be precise, a cheery one aimed at her poorly sister currently holed up in Stoke On Trent.

Carly?s logic? If you?re going lift the spirits of the sick, be ambitious ? and what?s more ambitious than bending the ears of both Mogga and Ish Miller as they made their way towards the players? entrance, then persuading pair of them to speak to young Bethany via Carly?s trusty mobile?

Yep ? that?s precisely what they did. As befitted his managerial status, Mogga was the first to speak: ?Come back soon, Bethany, and get better. Hope we win for you, darling ? I?ll let the team know??

Then Ish took over: ?Hiya,? he said, ?How you feeling? If I score, I?ll think of you. Hope you get better soon, and you keep watching us on telly?.?

They did say more, but I?ve kept to the salient points. To be perfectly honest, if I was ill, and unable to get to a game, and the phone rang, with someone purporting to be Mogga on the other end, I?d have probably told ?em to ?Foxtrot Oscar? there and then. But Bethany has yet to add cynicism to her mental armoury, so she simply took the word for the deed. And besides, her older sister would never pull a rotten stunt like that on her, would she?

But what did most to part the billowing cloud of gloom hanging over my head at that time was this: the uplifting thought that both manager and player were prepared to take just a little time out from their busy pre-match schedules to speak to a young girl made most unhappy by a (still very painful) broken leg, and subsequent hospital stay.

Mogga, Ish, the world of football is frequently slammed for being superficial, conspicuously consumptive, monetarily-obsessed, not to mention completely out of touch with the people who should really matter most of all ? the supporters. And, more often than not, such adverse criticism is totally justifiable; a fair number, mostly in the top tier, do seem to see themselves as inhabitants of a cosy little zone completely above the laws of the land.

You didn?t have to do it ? but you did. For that small act of taking just a little time out to completely make that girl?s day alone, I salute you both. Were there more of similar ilk to praise, I doubt very much whether the beautiful, if currently badly tarnished, game would continue to attract the same degree of public disapproval it does, right now.

Aaaaaaawwww, bless?? Teenage love, what would we do without it? Pimply bunch of potential Baggie suitors, with Carly, stood near entrance to Hawthorns pub, as we were leaving: ?Errr - can you ask your dad if we can have your phone number??

Now for this week?s ?Mistake Of The Day? slot. Perhaps this one should be sponsored by Fabien De Freitas? The chap in the row in front told us before the game that he?d arrived at the ground nice and early. At half-two, in fact, a good time indeed to snap up a choice parking spot before they all went, have a quiet pre-match pint, and all the rest of it. Result? One happy Baggie.

Er ? NOT, as it so happened. Yes, our man had arrived nice and early for the game, all right. Trouble was, he was labouring under the misapprehension that the game kicked off at THREE, not 5.30, the start time widely advertised on the tin!

 - Glynis Wright

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