Bob Chapman seems to have had the sort of awayday Monsieur Salut most enjoys (except when there’s the cherry on the cake of a win to make it even better): pre-match pints with John Marshall and the Woods brothers, Mick and Gerard, followed by Sunderland goals to cheer and at least the avoidance of defeat along with the feeling, still weak but growing, that things may indeed be going to get better.
Bob steps up to the Soapbox because Pete Sixsmith took himself off to Wembley for the utterly one-side Leeds Rhinos’ victory over Hull KR (50-0). He draws attention to the highlight of his afternoon, Lizzie Jones’s tearjerking rendition of Abide With Me stirring memories of her husband Danny, the Keighley Cougars and Wales player who died from a heart attack after feeling unwell during a game in May. That was worth reproducing here and I challenge you not to be moved.
Now let Bob describe his day ..
Last season was a first for me in that, I was able to get to every away league game. Usually, I miss one or two. However, after the dross of last season, I couldn’t get excited about repeating it this season. In fact, I was so disillusioned that I even booked holiday flights to coincide with the start of the season.
Leaving Hanoi Airport, 3-0 down at Leicester, ensured that the subsequent 12-hour flight was one that seemed endless.
Miracles do happen, but I didn’t even check the score until I arrived back home on Sunday morning, to be told that it had not been a disaster after all and that we had at least scored a couple of goals.
After the Norwich debacle and then the improving performance against Swansea I wasn’t expecting much against Villa. I met up with John Marshall in the Wellington on Bennetts Hill around midday. I have mentioned before what a great pub this is.
It was full of pirates when we arrived, presumably on their way to Edgbaston for the Twenty/20 cricket final. With 15 draught beers to choose from, John went for the Mad Goose. Within minutes it was having a literal effect as John thought we were going to get three points! I had the Piffle Snonker. Apparently a piffle snonker is an item used in the brewing industry, but it might be a better, non-inflammatory term to describe the nonsense that seems to be emanating out of the mouths of the likes of Carragher and Shearer at the moment. How about a chant of “Shearer is a snonker”?
With the pirates departing, in came the Woods brothers, Mick and Gerard. They were down for one of their legendary weekends away. They said they were off to Stratford on the Sunday to take in the bit of Shakespearean culture that is called The Pen and Parchment!
We mainly talked about cricket although the brothers did mention that they had visited the fan zone last Saturday. They informed me that they had witnessed a “keepy-uppy” competition. When I inquired how many the winner was doing, they replied, “about 18!” so I replied, “what, is that all?” and then went on to inform them I might be there against Spurs.
Success at Sunderland at last, I thought. Do they have an over 60s side?
Arriving at Villa Park, despite the awful start, there seemed to be a good turnout. Having a sensible amount to drink beforehand I decided against starting up a “Shearer is a snonker” chant to see if it would catch on. Instead, I took my seat and waited for the team news.
I was surprised to see Kaboul in the side. He had a shocker against Norwich but I always rated him at Spurs and think he will come good in the end. The other two signings, M’Villa and Lens are guaranteed starters at the moment.
In recent times a free kick outside the box hasn’t guaranteed anything, despite having Larsson in the side. With him on the bench, M’Villa took responsibility, curling the ball around their wall and into the top corner. it was a tremendous strike that Gurzon had no chance with. Would he have taken it if Larsson had been playing? Now we know we have increased options for direct free kicks, which has to be progress.
However, the early lead was short-lived as Cattermole gave away a stupid penalty. Despite being small in stature, Cattermole jumps well and is a good header of the ball. He didn’t even need to climb on Sinclair to win the ball. Even if Sinclair had controlled it, his back was to the goal and he would have had little chance of getting a shot on target if Cattermole had held his ground.
With the penalty dispatched Villa began to dominate proceedings and both Sanchez and Sinclair both had chances to gain the lead. With Advocaat desperate for half time, the inevitable happened and Sinclair scored his second. It was about the worst time to concede and you knew the 11 that went in at half time would not be the same eleven that came out for the second half.
With Cattermole and Graham replaced by Toivonen and Fletcher, we were able to get back into the game. Fletcher had a good headed chance early on that Guzan tipped over the bar. At the moment he still is the better option to Graham. Toivonen then made his mark by setting up Lens to draw us level. We had a great opportunity to take the lead again as Defoe was put through but he lost control with a poor touch. From then on it was backs to the wall, defending deep and hanging on for the point.
Despite, the poor start I remain optimistic. I don’t agree with the so-called expert pundits who think we are certain candidates for relegation. How can they make judgements after just a couple of games before squads have been finalised? Perhaps they should have league tables for TV pundits as well. That would be nice with us staying up and Shearer and Carragher relegated off our screens.