At West Brom on Sunday we registered our first win of the season. It’d be pointless to deny that it was an horrendous game. Understandably, the massed ranks of connoisseurs in the away end didn’t care too much! Winning an away game is a great feeling. Winning away with a threadbare squad after a game on the previous Thursday is a gargantuan effort from our players. It’s worth noting that of all the English sides to play in European competition in midweek we were the only one to win at the weekend. Poor though the game was it’s worth emphasising that West Brom were no better than Stoke. In the second half we contained their threat in comfort. The nature of our late goal exacerbates the notion that West Brom were unlucky but in actual fact they looked as lacklustre as we did for most of the game. At least we have the excuse of having played a game only three days before to fall back on! In his post match comments Roy Hodgson suggested the goal should have been disallowed. He may have a point but Ben Foster should have collected Walters’ ball with the minimum of fuss. From the point where Shotton nicked the ball there was a second, that seemed to last an hour, where everyone stopped and looked to see if the ref had blown for a foul. After gleefully placing the ball into the net Shotton himself looked back! The whistle remained silent, the goal stood and we’d grabbed victory. 35 more points and we’ll be assured another season the top flight!
Despite the low key start to our season,it’s been a prosperous one. To have played seven games, remained unbeaten, and only conceded two goals is better than many of would have dared dream of. We’re soon to enter new territory with our Europa League campaign. The draw could have been much kinder. We face Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas and Maccabi Haifa… three teams with European heritage. To reach the next round would be a huge feat. One thing in our favour is us… the fans. The Guardian report of the FC Thun game described The Britannia Stadium as an ‘unforgiving’ venue. That perception needs to be reinforced. Home form will be crucial to our chances. Our guttural roar is a huge asset. Get the Brit shaking with that raucous din!
Eventually, the transfer window proved productive. We need Wilson Palacios to inject some much needed drive into the midfield. Palacios was a talented youngster when he arrived in England. His career hit something of a dead end following his brother’s death. He still has the drive and the talent in him. Again, the supporters can play a part by simply helping him to feel welcome! Sing his name and make sure he knows he’s wanted. The signing of Peter Crouch is our rock the city signing. Big name player with international pedigree. Some question the wisdom of this signing. It is a risk but all signings have an element of risk. There’s one way to win over the doubters and thats to be part of a winning team. A few goals wouldn’t go amiss either! Tony Pulis will be relieved to have a deeper squad to select from.
Manchester City’s ruthlessly efficient destruction of Spurs shows that, finally, we are beginning to see where all the money’s gone. It was an impressive display that hammered out a warning to the rest of the league. The pace and power of their midfield bamboozled Spurs. After the game Arry looked depressed. Having to admit that he’d had to persuade Luca Modric to play must have hurt as much as the result. They were up against a top quality team but to be so comprehensively, effortlessly dismantled points to deeper problems at White Hart Lane. Manchester City’s display was the performance of the week, for a few hours anyway…
In his excellent book ‘Manchester United ruined my life’ author, Man City supporter Colin Shindler remembers 1968. 1968 was the last time Man City won the league. The elation and acclaim was short lived however when they were upstaged weeks later when their loathed red neighbours lifted the European Cup. Last season when they won their first trophy for 35 years, they were overshadowed somewhat by Man Utd securing the league title a few hours before. On Sunday when the sky blues left the pitch at White Hart Lane they must have felt they had set the marker for the rest of the league to follow, only to be usurped yet again by their red nemesis!
There are times when some football stories get a life of their own and grow out of context. In the hyperbole drenched world of the Premier League some irrelevant things get unjustified airtime. That can’t be said about Man Utd’s 8-2 thrashing of Arsenal. That game is a piece of history. Man Utd’s brilliance was so absolute that you can honestly say that Arsenal got off lightly. It was also the day an idea died. Arsenal were exposed. With a depleted squad and forced to field youngsters, Wenger sent them out to play the only way he knows. Even 1-4 down they just carried on doing what wasn’t working. It’s an old saying: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. You even get the feeling that faced with the same situation he’d do the same thing again. The camera caught his humiliation several times in the second half. He really looked like a man not waving but drowning. Wenger may continue as Arsenal manager for years to come, but Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2 will be etched in the mind as a milestone, for varying reasons.
It’s great to see Chris Powell enjoying some success as Charlton Athletic manager. As a player he was a solid reliable professional. Football doesn’t always provide justice but Powell’s England selection in 2001 was just reward for his commitment to the game. Never the most flashy or glamorous player, he can reflect on those 5 England appearances and proudly remember his playing career. If he carries the same level of application into management Charlton will have a gem on their hands and promotion will surely beckon. Good luck Chris!!