Soapbox: the glories of the English countryside

Enjoy Pete Sixsmith‘s description of England’s pastoral pleasures. But be warned. The squeamish are NOT recommended to read on and see what he made of the football at the end of this idyllic odyssey in the spring sunshine….

It’s May, there is no pressure on us after last week, the game kicks off at 5.15 and the weather is good. No need to rush to Horwich, just take it easy and enjoy the sights and sounds of England at its best.

Because the coach I usually travel on was booked in for a weekend’s hedonism in Blackpool (at my age, hedonism is an extra bottle of beer a night), I drove down to Bolton.

Which route? A1,M62,M61 or A66,M6, M61? Nah, let’s take a scenic route. Let’s live life in the comfort zone.

Let’s go Richmond, Hawes, Ribblehead, Ingleton, Kirby Lonsdale, Lancaster, Chorley, Horwich. Let’s cross from magnificent Swaledale to beautiful Wensleydale. Let’s admire the wonderful sight of the Ribblehead Viaduct marching across the valley and marvel at its combination of natural beauty and industrial might. Let’s make a little detour into Kirby Lonsdale, visit the beer department at Booth’s supermarket and stock up on bottles of old favourites and new tastes.

Let’s meander around the Trough of Bowland looking for The Fleece at Dolphinholme and if we can’t find it (which I didn’t), let’s not get agitated, let’s stop at Galgate, just south of Lancaster and have a pint of Black Sheep, a decent pub meal and an hour sitting in the sunshine watching Galgate seconds playing someone else from the Westmorland League. Let’s take a stroll along the canal bank and wave at passing cruisers. Let’s have a lovely day.

So, we drive on to Horwich, home of the Reebok Stadium and home of Bolton Wanderers.

Let’s be kind to them and hope they stay up because it’s a damn site easier to get to than Reading and the people of Bolton haven’t taken leave of their senses and elected a right wing Tory w***** as Mayor.

Let’s give them a good game as both clubs celebrate iconic FA Cup Final victories – 50 years for The Trotters and 35 years for us.

As I sat in the Reebok, soaking up the rays, I thought that this was a very pleasant way to spend a bank holiday weekend and with more to come.

A quick drive over to Southport to stay with relatives, a few pints in the Guest House, a shortish drive next day to Telford to watch their playoff game with Barrow and finish it off with Yorkshire fish and chips at Ossett or Wetherby.

Of course, something has to come along and spoil it and as you all know it was our truly awful performance against the most limited and unimaginative side I have seen this season.

Bolton’s tactics are to allow you to have the ball and then stop you playing it. It’s the football equivalent of Rugby League in that they stop the opposition from coming forward and put the onus on aforesaid opponents to create something.

Against sides like Arsenal,who have mastered the fundamental skill of passing a ball to a teammate, it works for an hour. Against good to decent sides it may work for 70-75 minutes as teams will work out that if you go round them and play accurate balls into the middle you have a chance. Against us, it lasted for 90 minutes.

This was the worst performance of the season and by a long way. Worse than SJP, worse than Goodison, worse even than the FA Cup fiasco against Wigan. I’ve rarely seen players throw away their futures in such a spectacular manner, because that’s what happened. I would think that half the team that turned out will be looking for new clubs in the summer, some as a result of this debacle.

Here are some quiz questions for you:

* Which Sunderland midfielder was so frightened of Gavin McCann that he never went near him in the second half?
* Which Sunderland defender drifted into the middle and left Diouf totally unmarked for the first goal?

* Which Sunderland forward spent 60+ minutes running up blind alleys and failing to control or pass the ball accurately?

If you can work those out, there’s three that may well be on the move.

It was bitterly disappointing after the euphoria of the previous week and clearly indicates that we will struggle to make progress with this group of players. Drastic surgery is required and we can only hope that Roy’s surgical skills are more akin to Casualty’s Robert Powell rather than Carry On’s Kenneth Williams.

Bring on the Arsenal – ooooh Matron.

1 thought on “Soapbox: the glories of the English countryside”

  1. Re Wensleydale and Swaledale: My grandfather, who lived his whole life in Ryhope but loved walking in the Dales, used to say that Swaledale was a ‘man’s dale’ and Wensleydale was ‘a woman’s dale’. He wasn’t particularly sexist for a man of his age (my grandmother worked full time as a teacher from the age of 28 until her retirement); I always understood him to mean that Swaledale – with the quarries and the scarps – was a hard landscape, but that Wensleydale, with its lusher vegetation and gentler inclines, seemed, well, a more forgiving place.
    It sounded like a great trip, Pete. Shame about the match.

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