To find out the connection between SAFC and Joseph Stalin, read on, as Pete Sixsmith delivers his first match report of the season proper.
There’s a poignant bit in Blackadder IV, when the ace pen pusher Captain Darling is sent to the front by crazy General Melchett. As befits a mild-mannered man who wanted to work at Pratt and Sons and keep wicket for the Croydon Gentlemen, the strongest epithet he can come up with is “bugger”.
That’s exactly how I felt when Torres crashed the ball into the bottom corner of Gordon’s net on Saturday.
I can get upset when we concede. I have been known to shout a lot more than “bugger” at goalkeepers, defenders, referees and linesmen as we have conceded a crucial goal.
But not this time.
In fact, for a split second I considered putting my hands together and applauding a superb strike from a player who I (and many others) picked out as a star when we first saw him at New Ferens Park, Durham playing for Spain in a UEFA Under 17 Championship. I resisted the temptation.
Torres summed up the difference between the two sides. He had done little until the
83rd minute and our two centre halves (cost: £150,000) had effectively blotted out the £40,000,000 strike force that was Torres and Keane.
Perhaps they were tired, but Nosworthy and Collins both stood off the Spaniard and gave him that extra two yards that he needed to settle the game. That’s world class and it’s why we struggle against the top 4 sides.
We can take some real positives from the first half.
For the first time in a long time we played with pace and accuracy. The new players could all control a ball first touch and Malbranque’s speed on and off the ball will bear fruit against the lesser teams in this League. Richardson looked sharp, Tainio steadied the midfield and Reid was looking to open up the opposition.
The back four was solid with both full backs getting forward and Gordon controlled his six yard area.
Up front, Diouf caused problems (more Key Stage 3 SATs than A Level ones though) and Murphy worked as diligently as ever. But he cannot miss gifts like the header in the first half – and the ball comes back off him far too much.
It was a disappointing way to lose a game but our coaching staff will have learned a lot from it. We need a proven top class striker who will rattle in 15 goals for us this season. Benni McCarthy might be the answer although if Drumaville employ the same criteria on age and resale value as Gicks and Hillette he will not be coming.
In a week when Georgia has dominated the news, I was reminded of Issac Deutscher’s assessment of that nation’s most famous son, Joseph Stalin. He was, said Deutscher, “cruel but necessary”. A fitting summary, perhaps, for Saturday.