The Diary

03 January 2009: Posh To Progress, Or Baggies To Bungle?

Greetings, everyone ? and now for the burning question. Or should I say ?head-banging question? instead? Truly monumental are post-Hogmanay hangovers, aren?t they? Not surprising, really, when you realise your liver works like stink and turns the old falling-down water into something chemists call acetaldehyde (not too distant from formaldehyde, aka ?embalming fluid?, actually), which in its turn becomes acetic acid i.e. vinegar, then good old fashioned CO2 and water. So, the next time your head really starts banging, console yourself with that happy thought!

One good piece of news from Planet Albion ? WE?VE ACTUALLY SIGNED SOMEBODY! And no pratting about until the very last moment with this one, either: the lad?s called Jay Simpson, he?s 20, comes from the Land Of The Mad French Gaffer (or Highbury: you choose?), and?..peals of bells, bellows of hooters and sirens innumerable, celestial choirs, all singing The Hallelujah Chorus ??HE?S A STRIKER! Yeah, whoo-eeeee! FINALLY!

Well, there?s a bit more about him than that, actually. On loan to Millwall last season, he only made his first-team debut for the Gunners versus Sheffield United in the League Cup, and scored two against Wigan later on in the same competition. Oh, and you may remember him playing in the defeat against Burnley. Mogga reckons he can play on the flanks as well as in the middle, so at least we?ll have a couple of additional options up our sleeve, for Prem purposes.

Mind you, I might be worrying unnecessarily about this, but a niggling residuum of doubt does enter into it: The Arse being perfectly happy for the lad to get Cup-tied with us. On the other hand, they must have promising young kids crawling from the Highbury dressing-room woodwork, so vast is their range of available talent. An extremely enviable situation by anyone?s lights.

Oh, and another thing, his bloody name! I?m sure the big boys will have picked upon this by the time my piece hits the electronic void, but being of similarly-deplorable ilk to Norm ?with those rotten jokes of his, shooting?s too good for him? Bartlam, I?ve simply no alternative but to explore the possibilities further; i.e. with a name like Simpson, does that mean the lad will be a ?Homer?? Should he emerge from the players? tunnel sporting the ?slaphead? type of coiffure, and a beer-gut the size of a nine-month pregnancy, it?ll be pretty diagnostic, I?m afraid! If his shirt sponsors turn out to be a nuclear power station with a particularly lax record when it comes to basic issues surrounding health and safety, I?m leaving the country, I swear it!

At least tomorrow?s FA Cup jollifications mean we won?t have to bother our pretty little heads about the miscellaneous cares and woes of a constant, grinding battle against the drop. The joy of the competition lies in its notorious unpredictability (agreed, that could well work out to our disadvantage, tomorrow: we all remember Woking, etc. with shudders of horror!), so League form etc. flies completely out of the window. Mogga might well simply go out there and entertain. Should that be the case, the goals might flow again.

In fact, our leader sees this game as something of a psychological booster, insofar as we can use progress to assist us when it comes to the really tough stuff later on. As we all know, a confident side ?generates? confidence in its wake: do well in the knock-out stuff, and the bread-and-butter concerns of survival at this level should be eased somewhat also. And ? a personal view, this ? I much prefer the cut-and-thrust of a half-decent Cup run to the fear-ridden ghastliness of Prem competition any day; now think about it, be honest with yourselves.

Would YOU have wanted to swap all the fun we had at all those away ties, last season, the sheer pride in telling perfect strangers you were a Baggies fan, for a more straightforward passage to the Big Time? I know what my answer to that question would be, every time, and probably totally different to that of those so completely and utterly mesmerised by the false glitter of the Premier League, and all who sail in it, but being a Baggie who grew up amidst a well-earned and awesome FA Cup reputation ? back then, sides drawn to play us in the competition hated it, and with complete justification, too - it shouldn?t come as any great surprise, should it?

On the other hand, Darren Ferguson?s no mug (well, with his dad?s cantankerous DNA floating around his body, what else do you expect?), so he?ll be doing his level best to ensure we don?t wipe the floor with his Peterborough side the way we did last season. Just as before, they?ve been racking up the goals in fine style, so our battle-scarred defence will find it quite a task to contain them, I suspect.

To be perfectly honest with you lot, had this game been scheduled to take place just a month before, I would have written it off before a ball had been kicked, even; if ever a Cup-tie had ?banana skin? written all over it, this one was sure IT. All the classic Delia Smith-type recipe ingredients were present in abundance; top-flight side digging a city-size hole for itself, getting turned over with monotonous regularity, dissatisfaction among paying customers able to see only too clearly for themselves what ailed their side, and having to face a lower-division outfit playing out of their skins, with sky-high morale the end product. Yerrrssss?. It?s spelt ?W-O-K-I-N-G?, isn?t it, that sort of thing?

Perhaps it?s just as well we?ve managed to partially get back on track, over the Christmas period; although chronic embarrassment seems to constitute at least part of the price one has to pay for supporting our football club, as far as I?m concerned, credit crunch or not, there has to be a strong case for not tightening the metaphorical screws, as far as that aspect of our club is concerned. Haven?t we suffered enough over the years?

So, what?s on the cards for this game, as far as team selection?s concerned? Mogga?s said he?ll put out a full-strength side for this one: ?We?ll give the competition the respect it deserves by fielding our strongest available side??? ? so good on him, I say. There?s far too much of top-flight gaffers using the competition ? well, in the early stages, anyway ? as a test-bed for inexperienced, fringe, performers. It?s a complete and utter cop-out, as much for players treated in this manner, as BOTH sets of supporters; should the opposition come from the lower reaches of the League, they?re also deprived of a rare chance of watching the really big names in action against their own mob. Plus, of course, the slim hope of actually sticking it right up the arrogant sods, for a change! Er ? perhaps not wise to dwell upon that last one, too much, eh?

Better, perhaps, to note one significant positive: that Albion seem to have told Bolton where to get off with their bid for the services of James Morrison. Not that I?m too surprised, given the fact that relations between our club, and a certain Mr. Megson must still be one about as icy as our fishpond, right now; even as I write these words, there?s a thin layer hiding the contents from view.

As far as I?m concerned, the real selection issue will revolve around whether or not Cech will be given the chance to shine, once more; I reckon we may well have a real gem in the making, there. Go on, Mogga ? you know you want to! As for the rest of the rearguard, injury problems limit our options somewhat ? we?ll just have to ?suck it and see?, as the toothless ?lady of the night? said to the bishop!

Given we?re currently on something of a roll, comparatively speaking, I guess there?s no alternative but keep the faith with what we have already, in the ?up front? department, although it has to be said that Mr. Bednar was somewhat fortuitous last time, given the fact nobody noticed his not-so-subtle shove on the Spurs defender, as he stuck the ball in the net for our second!

But having said that, after seeing so many nailed-on decisions go against us in previous incarnations at this level, I?m going to cut Roman a generous bit of personal slack as far as that particular indiscretion?s concerned. Hopelessly biased, one-eyed, even? Certainly, but it?s no more than, say, my Man United equivalent would do, and with a great deal more arrogance coming by way of excess baggage, too, no doubt!

Anyway, getting back to the subject-matter in hand once more, it?s got to be both him and Luke Moore ? who has really tried hard to impress under difficult circumstances, so fair play to the lad - to start this one, with Simpson The Gunner remaining our not-so-secret weapon, on the bench.

Posh? They?ll be getting back central defender Gabrielle Zakuani for this one: according to the Peterborough website, he?s had to miss their last three fixtures because of ?unavailability?, whatever that?s supposed to mean. Tom Williams might not start: he got stamped on during a recent game versus Cheltenham, and aggravated a pre-existing ankle injury. Presumably, danger-man Aaron McClean (12 goals, all competitions, to date) will be firing on all four cylinders today: let?s hope our people make a much better fist of marking him out of it than the vast majority of Posh?s opponents seem to have done, thus far!

One worrying bit of useless information to bung your way, mind: they?ve not knocked out a side from football?s elite for 44 years, the fall-guys on that occasion being Arsenal. Ooer. Might the arrival of young Simpson from the Gunners be some sort of an omen, you reckon? Whatever does happen, come the final whistle, let?s hope we?re still in the hat for the fourth round draw. What with our disappointing Premier League form, to date, we could all do with a spirit-reviving decent Cup run, and given his excellent managerial track record in the competition with us ? a quarter final, followed by the Wembley semi versus Pompey ? it?s not entirely beyond the bounds of imagination to visualise us achieving another extended Cup run. Me? I?ll go for a squeaky-bum 1-0, today, assuming we?ve got a reasonably-minded whistler in charge, of course.

Good luck to Geoff Horsfield, our former striker, recently battling testicular cancer. It would appear that so successful has he been in his efforts to beat this rare but loathsome condition, he?s now found a new footballing lease of life with Lincoln City, so well done, that man. May your goals flow thick and fast ? but not on those rare occasions we might find our respective paths crossing, of course!

The final word simply has to go to His Nibs, or, more accurately, the dire warning Radio Five Live put on the airwaves for those travelling on both carriageways of the M5, yesterday. As some of you may know already, some kind of accident at what used to be Albright And Wilsons, in Oldbury, meant a leakage of poisonous phosphorus fumes across the motorway and the surrounding area.

Result? Warnings aplenty from the Beeb about the necessity to keep doors and windows shut, and not venturing outside the house: all part and parcel of life in close proximity to the place for the locals, of course ? when I lived in the area, back in the sixties, horrid fumes were such a frequent occurrence, toxic or otherwise, nobody thought much about it ? but it must have sounded pretty awful to the Beeb.

Giggles galore from my other half then when, just a few minutes after that grim announcement, someone, living quite near, presumably, actually texted the BBC about it. Quoted the person reading it out on the air: ??..Does that mean that if we go out, the smoke will turn us into nasty, horrible people??

A pregnant pause, then:

??..Just like Wolves supporters?? Top man, or what?

 - Glynis Wright

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