A day in the posh Brummie suburb of Solihull, an evening with Leonard Cohen and a brush with militant Cliff Richard fans prepare Pete Sixsmith for another worrying home defeat at the hands of cheerful cockney sparrer Emile (sorry, Gianfranco) Zola.
I have a confession to make; it was the ever reliable and thoughtful Joan Dawson who came up with this week’s Seven, as the Seven that I came up with was not printable, even in an Irvine Welsh novel.
Part of my frustration came from the fact that the shambles on Sunday spoilt what had been a cracking weekend, and my simple mind could not get round the fact that if two thirds of the weekend go well, why can’t the final part of the fraction?
Saturday saw me tick off a new ground (Solihull Moors), see an excellent win at the aforementioned Damson Parkway by Durham City in the FA Trophy and then witness a performance of such quality and integrity by Leonard Cohen at the NEC that I thought my head would burst.
I made the trip with my fellow Irish traveller, Pete Horan, who had to be dragged kicking and screaming away from his two delightful grandchildren in order to head south. After an unfortunate experience with the travelling members of the Cliff Richard Appreciation Society at Tibshelf Services (they mugged us and thrust copies of “Power To All Our Friends” in our pockets) we arrived at Solihull via Atherstone and a surreal discussion of the possibilities of Cliff and Cohen swapping set lists. We both thought that a Leonard Cohen version of “Bachelor Boy” could be very interesting.
Durham City were really very, very good at Solihull. They played with pace, imagination and determination and hit the target twice after giving away a soft goal. I’m sure that you can see the next line coming, but here goes:
This was in direct contrast with the game I sat through 25 hours later, where the only comparison was the soft goal that was given away.
I don’t know whether Leonard Cohen is a football fan. I guess that writing poetry, reading philosophy and allowing your manager to spend your entire fortune doesn’t leave much time for the Beautiful Game, but if he did and if he were a Sunderland fan, there would be no Hallelujah for Sunday, in fact he would have to write a brand new song called “Why Can’t We Win Our Home Games Against Sides Who Are Struggling”.
West Ham were well organised, kept a fairly stable 4-4-2, to which we had no real answer. Upson and Collins marked Cissé and Jones out of the game by following the simple precept of standing five yards off and winning the ball in the air whenever it was lumped up to them. As the game wore on, this seemed to be our only tactic.
Let’s be charitable and say that Kenwyne was jet lagged after his efforts in the Caribbean. It wasn’t his best game, but it was better than Cissé’s in that he didn’t waste three good chances. Cissé had a better game than Mike Dean, who managed to miss three fairly clear penalty awards. One of those, an equaliser, and who knows, the Hammers might have buckled. But they didn’t.
Their two forwards were better balanced than ours. Although Bellamy is a constant reminder of Ives in Porridge (Fletch describes him as a “horrible little man who is so horrible that even the other horrible inmates in Slade avoid him”), he has pace and a working partnership with the impressive Carlton Cole that our two never got near to.
In midfield, they were well organised, typified by Scott Parker. Last week, I was spitting feathers when I saw him getting into the England squad above Kieran Richardson. Yesterday proves that Fabio Capello knows a teeny weeny bit more about football than I do. Parker was neat, tidy and economical while Kieran ran around a lot but never got hold of the game – just like two weeks ago against Pompey.
So, three more points thrown away and we re-acquaint ourselves with the nether regions of the Premier League. Cohen would make it clear that Everybody Knows that to move up the League you can’t be Waiting For The Miracle. If we don’t start winning home games, it could well be Closing Time for a few fans and players.