If Carlsberg did weekends
The feelgood factor after the win over Forest continued down at Millwall. It was ironic that Professor Pleat, of the Forest player acquisition committee, was dismissed at Nottingham after the thumping by Burnley. It was reasonable to suppose that McClaren had a few scoops to celebrate.
However, there was a simultaneous feelbad factor that came from the loss of all the stored Burnley stuff on our Sky Plus box. Sky gave us some technical jargon; something about the hard drive froze. It was goodbye to all the great memories of 2008/2009, plus all the things we had to catch up on – Downton, Borgias, Sopranos, Route 66, Waterloo Road (yeh I know it’s rubbish but Mrs T likes it). That plus the kennels ‘losing’ the cat and we were pretty miffed. Our cat is now somewhere within the fencing that surrounds the several acres of buildings and woodland. The only consolation is that she will be catching birds on someone else’s property rather than the precious goldfinches and robins she catches on ours.
Poor Mrs T: You may remember that a few weeks ago she broke a finger. It turns out now she is going deaf in one ear and has to have a hearing aid. For a while now she has complained of not hearing things like the sizzle of the iron (I used to love watching my granny spit on the old iron and if it sizzled it was ready), the dishwasher dishing and the washing machine washing. It has puzzled me that things I have said have gone unanswered such as “don’t forget you owe me £26 for the Barnsley tickets” and “did you remember to put the cat out” (when we had one). So she had a hearing test at LGI and to her amazement was told you need a hearing aid. The tests took place in a booth where various noises were played to her and she had to press a buzzer to indicate she had heard each one. There was one particular noise that had her pressing the buzzer repeatedly and frantically until the nurse came into the booth and told her to stop because it was the fire alarm. I suppose the one advantage will be that the deafening tannoy system at Turf Moor won’t get on her nerves as much as it does mine, when she switches the thing off.
Being in Leeds I’ve only occasionally seen a Burnley Express this season. Last week I saw ‘Talking Tactics’ for the first time by Phil Smith and wondered who he was and was he on the club staff? It was fascinating stuff as was the Millwall tactics preview that I saw online. Trouble is I’m a bit long in the tooth, been drawing a pension for two years already, I get a free bus pass and free prescriptions. I’m starting to forget things as well such as why I need to go to the bathroom. In short, I belong to the ‘50s and ‘60s not this brave new world of diamond formations that we’re in now. I remember when you went down town with a shilling and could go to the pictures and still get a bag of sweets. Footballers wore big brown boots and their shorts came down to their ankles. Stanley Matthews used to dance down the wing and turn on a sixpence. In those days that was the nearest thing to technical jargon along with things like “Thar’s abart as much use as a bloody dishcloth,” and “why dunt tha just kick ‘im inter t’stand”. You got tickets on the bus from a conductor. John Angus used to go the ground on a matchday on his bicycle. On TV we watched Muffin the Mule, Dixon of Dock Green; I love Lucy, Dragnet, Cheyenne and David Nixon.
But in these articles I was reading about lateral free kicks, defensive transition, condensed space and block compactness. What the hell’s all that about I asked myself? Then there was all the stuff about exerting pressure in the first phase… what the hell is first phase… there was stuff about second phase… defensive transition… and third phase. “One player will be outside the box to nullify a combination.” That was one that had me scratching my head. I decided I needed help and wondered should I enrol at the new football university and take up footballology? Somewhere else I kept hearing pundits talk about ‘playing in the hole’. I look for them every Saturday but I’ve never found one yet – except the ones on Tod Park I used to play on as a kid. The articles are always illustrated by very simple diagrams that have loads of nice pointy arrows and pretty colours.
What did Jimmy Greaves once say when England Manager Walter Winterbottom (or was it Alf Ramsey?) used a blackboard, coloured chalks and lots of arrows? “Tell us Walter/Alf. Which of us are the bloody Indians?”
The wonderful Indian summer continued on the day of the Millwall game. Can there ever have been a more glorious day for an October fixture? The still quietness was broken only by the noise of my fat neighbour hoovering the inside of his little sports car. There was still no news of the cat. The SKY engineer brought us a new box. The old one was taken away with its recordings of Wembley, Tottenham in the Carling, and the fabulous night at Reading. It was worse than seeing a favourite relative being taken to the mortuary.
The potatoes were all dug up, old raspberry bushes dug up ready for new ones, new rhubarb planted, the runner beans collected, and the onions all laid out drying. The pounds and pounds of plums were all made into jam or chutney. The pear tree remained laden ready for harvesting. We used to keep hens in the old bigger garden. We even trained them to lay the eggs straight into the box under the perch.
I can’t remember a lazier Saturday, sitting in the garden reading the papers, watching a bit of the Liverpool derby, going back outside and nodding off in the warm sun. There was a bit of mild exertion when I cut the small lawn (that’s the plus of lots of veg patches when you don’t spend hours mowing the lawn) to pass a bit of time away during the game. I find it hard work listening to a whole commentary.
Meanwhile, Roger Eli and me were working at breakneck speed to get the book done in time for the end of October deadline. He was telling me that when new physio Mark Leather cleared out some of the old Jimmy Holland equipment, one piece to go was the wax bath. Some of the players were disappointed. They used to use the wax to make giant todgers and erotic sculptures. Sometimes if Jimmy Holland was in a good mood he’d put some bubbles in the communal bath they used to have after a game. Money was tight in those days. Roger thought it was Jimmy who paid for it. Without bubbles it was possible to identify anyone who peed (or worse) in the bath and they were soundly chastised. With bubbles the worst happened and the guilty party remained undiscovered.
“It’s not been the best game,” said the Claretsworld pundits at halftime down at The Den, “but hey we’re winning.” The temperature they thought out on the pitch must surely have been nudging the 90s. There had been no clean sheet for 23 games. 45 minutes to hold out then against what people were saying was the worst Millwall side for years. A second goal is there for the asking was the verdict as the second half started.
There was no second goal and it stayed 1 – 0 to Burnley, the scorer Rodriguez with a shot from just inside the box when he got on the end of a Wallace low, flat corner. It rolled over the line in slow motion. Listening to the last four minutes of extra time on the commentary was purgatory. At the end there was a huge huddle reminiscent of Blackburn and Luton. Now, there’s a game in hand and two weeks for the international break for tired limbs to be refreshed and injured players to make more progress as well as seven points out of nine.
“A great result and a massive win,” summarised Phil Bird. And of huge importance a clean sheet at long last. The Millwall websites bemoaned two possible penalty claims that were ignored. Later, re one of them, the Millwall player admitted to diving. The Burnley hero was goalkeeper Grant who needed 6 stitches in a bash he got in the very first minute. He went on to make a number of key saves. “Smash and grab” is how the official Millwall report described it. A Millwall equaliser was chalked off for a close offside call. Edgar cleared a header off the line. But such is football. When your luck is out, your luck is out. Amougou had an awesome game by all accounts. Other than Grant and Amougou, most (said someone who had been there) played like they had been on sun loungers all morning drinking cocktails.
To be fair to Phil Smith he later answered questions on the messageboard about Talking Tactics. For years I thought that channels were the wings that people like SuperGlen, Taffy and Kindo used to bomb up and down. But no they’re not. There are two types of channels – a horizontal channel is the space between defence and midfield and a vertical channel is the space where strikers lurk to receive the ball. Blocked compactness is not constipation; it is the distance a team plays between its lines, for example sitting deep and denying the opposition space. In the olden days we’d just yell, “Everybody back.” And nullifying a combination is stopping fancy free kicks. Still have no idea what first, second and third phase is though.
There’s a great Jimmy Sirrel story about “the hole.” Jimmy was the legendary, toothy manager of Notts County for many years. One day he collared his centre forward and took him back out onto the pitch after a game. “Let’s go and look for the hole,” said an irate Jimmy.
“What hole?” asked the puzzled centre forward.
“The hole where you f*****g hide every Saturday,” balled Jimmy in his ear.
Did I criticise Brian Laws rather unfairly, in the last diary, when I said he had sidelined Andre Bikey, (that’s what he was called then) in the second half of the Prem season. A chum reminded me that Bikey was unavailable for the first few weeks because he was in the Africa Cup, and he had a couple of injured spells as well. Perhaps I was mistakenly unkind to Brian. His book is progressing well. We have the same publisher and Brian’s book is due for publication in autumn 2012. If he is frank about his time at Burnley as manager there should be some interesting insights into the lack of cooperation he received from some players.
The Indian summer weekend of October 1st, 2011: and what a wonderful weekend it was; another Burnley win, a clean sheet, plus Blackburn 0 Man City 4, Bolton 1 Chelsea 5, both Blackburn and Bolton in the bottom three. Then on top of all that there was the wonderful spectacle and added bonus of the appalling Nancy Dell ‘Ollio (if she’s an international lawyer then I’m William Shakespeare) tripping up all over the place on Come Dancing and falling over her feather boa several times.
If Carlsberg did weekends…