The Diary

21 December 2008: Baggies Bring Tidings Of Great Joy Today? You Must Be Joking!

Ready to descend into that state of near-madness fondly known to all and sundry as ?Christmas? yet? Given that we?re already ?pre-booked? into the Wright Senior household for the bulk of the Big Day gourmandising, the small-change of all things Yuletide is something we don?t have to worry about too much, thank goodness.

And in any case, sourcing both Big Cock and veggie accompaniments (always known as ?Dingles? in my family; the younger generation sure has a lot to answer for, but as far as I?m concerned, given that there might be a suitable time and a place for such bad taste elsewhere, when it comes to our lovely neighbours, the politically correct Geneva Convention can go hang itself?) always reduces me to a quivering lump of barely-coherent protoplasm.

The pressies? Those for my side of the family, all done and dusted, and the same for ?Im Indoors and his lot, as far as I can tell. My noisy sister, the one with the daughter in Tenerife, copped for a beauty from this column; given the fact that the multicultural nature of present-day British society is a constant cause of frustration for her, we opted for a particularly appropriate purchase for her, an ?alarm clock with a difference?. Well, TWO differences, actually. Number One? Its outer casing bears a suspiciously close resemblance to the exterior of a mosque.

Number Two? The very nature of the alarm, which is, in fact, the traditional call to Islamic prayer in (extremely loud!) Arabic, as demonstrated on the Graham Norton Show not so long ago. You know what? There are times when I thank my lucky stars that my sibling now chooses to spend her Yuletides soaking up the Tenerife sun; once she claps eyes on our little ?gift?, then hears the alarm, the air will turn a gradually-worsening shade of blue that will owe nothing whatsoever to Mount Tiede, the massive (but supposedly dormant) volcano that dominates the entire island. Should my volatile sis then go as far as attaining critical mass, you?ll probably hear the bang right here in Blighty.

The only unknown factor in the equation still remaining will be the quality of Norm?s ?cabaret?, come the Day itself. Forget Morecambe and Wise, the BBC-commissioned Christmastide court jesters of the Seventies or their much later; much ruder, and far less funny modern incarnations: why bother with the telly when you?ve got Norm, all aglow, after getting well fired-up on a goodly quantity of falling-down water down the pub beforehand?

That?s when his old Army parade-ground voice comes to the fore; believe you me, when Norm starts bellowing those old soldierly ditties, once he reaches Warp Factor Nine, the entire area either rushes for the cellar, or turn their living rooms into impromptu versions of Horse Guards Parade circa Trooping Of The Colour time.

But his liberal potations do come with a bit of a downside attached; when in his Christmassy cups, the serving of the festive bird tends to become a somewhat prolonged affair, which is not good news for my famished other half. He has what he likes to call a ?healthy appetite?, you see, and being far too polite to say any potentially-chivvying words to Mater, he?ll simply sit there in suffering silence, knowing full well that hypoglycaemia will eventually supervene, the resultant much lower than normal blood-sugar level having the effect of making him slightly ratty. It?s all in the glands, you know.

Remarkable, isn?t it? Here I am, around 500 words into my pre-match missive ? and I?ve yet to mention the name of our football team even once. Unless you want to count the phrase ?suffering silence?, of course. The same applied earlier yesterday, when watching Sky?s latest score service after Blues-Reading had run its earthly course; not because of the result (well done, The Biscuitmen, for grabbing what turned out to be a pretty emphatic ? and significant ? victory over the high-riding Small Heath persuasion), but because the Dingles still managed to completely ruin my afternoon by winning their own game.

Even worse to come was the early evening, when Villa triumphed over West Ham in the metropolis; no wonder I shuddered something awful at the final whistle, given the rapidly-increasing likelihood of Martin O?Neill?s mob managing to penetrate that Premier League Sanctum Sanctorum more commonly known as ?the top four places?, come the summer.

As I said to ?Im Indoors after the final whistle, had it been any other side riding on the back of such a run, I would have been highly delighted at the prospect of seeing the normal incumbents having to relax their vice-like grip on those big-time, money-spinning Euro-places, for once. It?s bad enough having a ?franchise? lurking around the lower divisions, never mind what virtually amounts to a cartel operating in the uppermost echelons of ours.

Villa making it into Champions League territory, come next May? No, there are still some forms of frightfulness too horrible to contemplate. Just like the Taliban taking out all the Army?s Christmas turkeys in one massive explosion, in fact. Well, I mean to say, how uncivilised of them? Are there any depths to which even these depraved fiends will not descend?

Proof, if ever you wanted it, that Bin Laden?s lot truly are the work of the Devil. Or a splinter culinary faction (operating as ?Al Fried-Er?? Sorry.) led by Jamie Oliver, and Marco Pierre White, with Gordon Ramsay doing all their dirty work for them? Their ice-cream bombe must be a real spectacular.

Now for the remainder of the news. Both me and my other half have been laid low by some form of virus over the greater part of the week just gone, my beloved succumbing last Sunday night, and this column around Wednesday or Thursday. Hubby?s was the ?full Monty? version: temperature, stinking, streaming nose, coughing, sneezing, the works.

Me? I copped for the ?bunged-up? variant: a general sense of feeling rotten, tired to the very core, falling asleep at very inconvenient moments (like yesterday?s live games on the box!), and contracting that awful ear discomfort you get when you?re in a plane, you know, the sort that comes because the pilot?s got a bet on with the cabin crew about how many passengers he can upset in the time available, by roguishly opting to bring the aircraft down from 30,000 feet to ground level in about half the time considered normal by most other airlines.

Result? Both Eustachian tubes completely blocked, which means, in English, that despite trying like hell to work out what it is they?re banging on about, you can?t hear a darned thing anyone says to you to save your life. And both lugholes ache like buggery as well. Sometimes ? when stuck at a bus stop and having no choice but to listen (with gritted teeth) to the miscellaneous rantings of some deranged Bible-basher or another giving it big licks outside the chemist, for example - it?s a blessing, but when trying to follow something interesting on the telly, it?s very much the Curse From Hell.

A bit like Neil Warnock, really, hence my acerbic (possibly earache-fuelled) speculations during last night?s Sheffield United v Crystal Palace game, apropos whether or not we?d be ?entertained? by the sight of an entire roost of bats leaving the relative warmth of the lad?s bench coat for their nightly foraging, as the wintry evening murk gradually descended upon an even murkier Bramall Lane. Or was all that swirly stuff simply down to the sudden arrival of the rest of Neill?s bat colony up from the Smoke for an away game, for a change?

Having postponed the subject for as long as I can possibly get away with, now comes the dreaded moment of speculation as to what tomorrow might possibly hold for us. EEK! Yet another tanking, I suppose, and just to make matters worse, thanks to the miracle of national TV coverage, we?ll be able to share our ineptitude with the entire nation. How awfully nice for us all. You don?t suppose the Almighty might choose The Hawthorns as a suitable vehicle for a timely reminder to the world of what Christmas is supposed to be about, tomorrow, do you? No, I didn?t think so either.

Call me a terminal depressive, or whatever takes your fancy, if you want, but now I reckon it?s getting down to a question of just how much of a laughing-stock we?ll make of ourselves in the time that remains between today and the end of the season. Being a long-standing supporter, it?s not exactly uncharted territory for me, but when it comes to seeing Mogga, a man I consider to be of great dignity and integrity, being unfairly made to look like a blithering idiot, then yes, I AM pretty annoyed about it.

Earlier this week, I was told by a friend who travelled to Sunderland that at the end of the game, there were voices heard in their away end shouting for Jeremy Peace?s removal from command. But there?s no recourse whatsoever to traditional (legal) remedial action any longer; if any of you should still be harbouring secret thoughts of someone staging a crafty boardroom coup, then forget it. The way the current incumbent has things sewn up, unless he deliberately chooses to go, or (much likelier) receives an eye-watering proposal that will make him a very rich man indeed, even in these sorely straitened times, there?s nothing on earth that can possibly shift him.

The facts, then, are these: we face Man City tomorrow, having had our asses truly whupped ten times on the bounce, and ending up with the unenviable title of ?strongest outfit in the entire division? for our sins. Some of our misfortune is down to plain bad luck, sure, but an awful lot more is simply down to the fact we?re just not good enough to compete in this division, not with the personnel we currently have at our disposal, that?s for sure. And as for that last word, ?disposal?, especially when prefixed with ?summer?, don?t get me started on THAT one again.

Our Sabbath opponents also dwell upon the flood plains of The Land Of The Deep Doo-Doo ? a couple more defeats, and Mark Hughes?s job could well be on the line - at least there still remains a residue of hope, couched in the form of some serious summertime spending on players, albeit said cast list ? eg. Wright-Phillips, Robinho - underperforming something shocking, of late, close proximity to the drop-zone seeming to matter not a stuff when it comes to playing us, these days. ?Come to The Hawthorns, and fill yer boots? is now the modern-day mantra for away sides paying us a visit, seemingly.

Their team news is mixed: because of an ankle injury sustained when on UEFA Cup duty, Robinho might well not be playing, whether an overdose of Latin temperament is also involved or not, I wouldn?t like to speculate either way. Richard Dunne, the defender who combined with Calamity James so wonderfully, at their place, to give us a much-needed point, just a few seasons back, might not be playing either: ?personal reasons? apparently. Not being content with visiting the Wright household, the dreaded lurgi might well claim two of City?s performers also, viz: Jo and Danny Sturridge.

Some still opine that this game is a massive one for us, but I would contend that the point of no return was passed quite some time ago. Even with the best will in the world, nobody but a fool would consider our battered and battle-weary performers to be anywhere near capable of retaking the ground they so painfully conceded over the course of the past couple of months, or more. A resurrection on that scale is quite clearly beyond the ken of mortal Man; now he?s around, perhaps JC should apply for the job?

As for the side we?ll put out today, the twin handicaps of injury and plain shortage of suitable candidates have imposed severe limitations upon Mogga?s selection options. We?ll just have to make do and mend with what we have, so don?t hold your breath when it comes to the side being read out prior to kick-off, will you? And don?t expect salvation in the form of the transfer window, either. As I?ve already pointed out, what player of good repute is going to come to our moribund outfit?

From all the above, you will have gathered already that the picture I paint is most decidedly not an optimistic one. Sure, City are a moody bunch: sometimes looking world-beaters on their day, but for the main, they consist of a typical bunch of journeymen players looking down the barrel of a gun marked ?Relegation?. Be prepared to see us on the end of yet another stonking. At least we?ll go into the festive season proper knowing precisely where we stand. And remember. There?s only one side that?s managed to survive the drop after spending Christmas firmly stuck to the bottom of this godforsaken Premier League abomination, and that?s us. Sadly, doing it a second time is not an option.

Now for a seasonal final thought. Given that this is the time when the aforementioned baby Jesus was allegedly born in a stable, and all that sort of thing, and the lad then going on to annoy the Romans with some really neat audience-pullers, like turning water into wine,. resurrecting the dead, etc. you don?t suppose He?d go for one last hurrah, do you? By that, I mean the biggest miracle of the lot. Turning Luke Moore into a decent striker!

 - Glynis Wright

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