Saturday, October 15, 2005

Early Morning Contest

It’s 5:30 AM and the start of a fine sporting day. No I do not plan to beach myself on the couch for the entire day a la Abboud. This day will culminate with my ass planted three hours down the road in the Saddledome next to three buddies cursing the Oil towards triumph over the Flames. It will be glorious. If we escape Calgary with our lives - and win - so much the better.

But on to more timely matters. Why am I up this freaking early? Why did I allow myself to be shattered into painful consciousness by 5 seconds too many of Phil Collins’ (I can feel it coming) "In The Air Tonight" (Oh Lord) blasting from my clock radio? The answer is obvious – soccer, you fools. Namely the 12:30 GMT Skysports match between my beloved Newcastle United, who are really a bunch of disappointing shits, and newly promoted Wigan Athletic. Sadly the time differential means I can’t enjoy this match with a frosty pint at the pub. But at least it’s on TV. God bless you Sportsnet.

I don’t know a single player on Wigan, because they’re new. But they’re above us in the table – 8th to our 12th – a cracking start for a newly relegated side with four wins on the spin. Newcastle have been brutal early on because we spent the first few games without enough players after getting rid of troublemakers Robert and Bellamy, only making the big replacement signings in the frenzy at the close of the transfer window, one month into the season.

The match is underway.

10 minutes – An inexcusable giveaway by Jean-Alain Boumsong! You damn fool, why have you been such blundering crap this year? Roberts shanks it out off the woodwork beyond a sprawling Shay Given. If Boumsong doesn’t turn it around I don’t see how he can stay with France.

Wunderkid Charles N’Zogbia is matched on the left against former teammate Chimbonda from La Havre on defense.

We’re playing better now, long passes into the box not making much connection but still attacking well. Wigan get the odd poke in, evoking a soft save from Irishman Shay Given.

Wigan’s JJB Stadium is an impressive structure, not the wooden death-trap many League teams call home, built by some Daddy Warbucks who must love football. But I can still hear the 5000 strong Toon Army singing more loudly than the home fans. That’s a huge number of traveling supporters.

Another vicious elbow by Alan Shearer leading to a flick-on to Michael Owen, but this time it’s called by the ref. Shearer is the master of “unintentional” no-look fouls and is decrying the call as usual. He’s like Dr. Jekyll off the field, doing his gentlemanly commentary for Sky and writing columns for the BBC, who as soon as he hits the field turns into Mr. Hyde, picking his nose, cursing, spitting, throwing elbows and drawing blood. The Gordie Howe of soccer basically, and given his impending smashing of Jackie Milburn’s Newcastle goal record that’s an apt analogy.

27 - We just hit it off Wigan’s post, Lee Bowyer with a "trembling" shot. That is, slow and wobbly.

28 - Sweet cross from Amdy Faye to England’s midweek hero Michael Owen, just hammered over the crossbar.

Newcastle is looking threatening, controlling the game, while Wigan’s early chipperness is being more easily broken up. They appear limited to their own right side. I may have spoken too soon as crap passes by our midfield give Wigan a spark.

Goddamn this macadamia nut coffee is delicious. For Grabia’s benefit, I’m sure I’m slurping it loudly enough to wake the neighbors.

Another knock on our midfield, to Lee Bowyer. As he limps I wonder why our midfield is so afflicted, with stars Kieron Dyer, Albert Luque, and Nobby Solano all out, and Emre only just working his way back to the bench. The commentators speculate that it’s the new training facility. I think it’s our manager Graham Souness urging them to play like kamikaze maniacs out of his desperation for enough wins to justify keeping his job.

37 – Shola Ameobi subbed on for the hobbled Bowyer, giving us more attack and lankiness.

39 – Wigan have scored!!!! BRUTAL. Jason Roberts connects with the other end of a sweet through pass beyond a defense that is nowhere to be found. Given got something on it but it still makes the net. Misery abounds. Suddenly this isn’t a fun way to spend an early morning. Anticipation turns to anxiety.

40 – N’Zogbia makes Henchoz into a woman with an unfortunate blast to his midsection, leaving him doubled over.

43 – Shearer whines for being caught pulling Henchoz’s shirt. Dangerous deflection saved by Given at the other end.

44 – Too fancy on the free-kick, just let N’Zogbia curl it in or Shearer hammer it, but the extra touch to Owen would only work in practice.

45+1 – Wigan's Damien Francis booked for hammering Newcastle's Scott Parker with a straight leg tackle.

Halftime, and all things considered it’s been an entertaining match so far. Time to walk the dog.

Damn it’s early, even the dog doesn’t want to wake up. She whined like the bitch she is.

Turkish international Emre is substituted for Amdy Faye. Emre is his first name, but Bezolgogloulgizoiosiou or whatever his last name is wouldn’t fit on his shirt.

46 – Wigan’s Jimmy Bullard just puts it over the bar off of a free kick in a really nice play. Damn - Wigan aren’t just lucky, they’re good.

48 – How did we not score there? Everyone was beat, even putting the keeper behind the play, but not after he knocks Ameobi down. No penalty is called despite Souness’ protestations, and Owen couldn’t get a foot on it in time.

59 – Ameobi gets a yellow but we’re lucky it wasn’t a red with an elbow nowhere near the play. Nice Vaudevillian pantomime there pleading innocence. It wasn’t me who viciously dropped that player ten feet from the side official and 50 feet clear of anyone else.

64 – Robbed!!! A goal headed by Shearer from Emre’s corner, three feet over the line before bouncing out off of the keeper, but the referee’s assistant stands there motionless like a dunderhead on appeal. I can’t believe our rotten luck.

73 – Emre wastes a soft free kick from the circle. Newcastle is threatening with most of the run of play but still short on chances.

76 – Irish international David Connolly is subbed on for Wigan. I know a Wigan player! Shearer gets called for another elbow.

The commentators are cutting Newcastle for their narrow crosses and doing nothing with Shearer’s flick-ons, concluding that we don’t deserve an equalizer. While I scoff at the notion of desert, what about that goal we scored?

The East is glowing from what I presume to be the rising sun.

83 – Wigan’s Lee McColloch hits out on Emre with a full-stretch tackle, but rolls around himself as if injured. The ref is holding the red but has yet to brandish it. A stretcher is brought out as if he’s going for a sympathy downgrade, to no avail as the red is shown and he hobbles off not to be replaced. We go on the powerplay for the final few minutes.

87- Shearer just puts it wide. Midfielder Lee Clark is subbed on and we go to three on the back.

90+1 – A terrible giveaway by Ameobi is run up the field, as Stephen Carr breaks up a certain goal.

90+3 – Newcastle is everywhere in a flurry of action, but the whistle blows and Wigan is amazingly second only to Chelsea’s perfect record in the Premiership. It’s hard to complain about a lack of parity in English football when two months into the season a promoted team is near the top and a Champion’s League squad, Everton, is at the bottom. This is another gross result for Newcastle who desperately need more creative punch up the middle as our strikers clearly need better service. The midfield injuries are killing us both at the front and back as the odd chance trickling through is enough for a home side to capitalize.

Nick Hornby was right in Fever Pitch about the misery of being a football fan. But even in that book his team ends up winning. Why can't I enjoy a win? Why the hell did I wake up?


At 9:57 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

The key to any good diary post is to ensure that you just aren't doing play by play. It needs to be filled with commentary, and lots of jokes. It also needs to provide a good sense of the insanity that is the fanatical sports mind. You have pulled off all three, my friend. I can hear, in my mind, you slurping that coffee, and it makes me mad with rage.

Enjoy your nap down to Calgary. I am sure your roadmate won't mind.

Go Oil go!

At 7:23 PM, Blogger G-Dog said...

Good to hear that Murphy doesn't just sleep in my vehicle/home.

At 12:05 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Oh no, it is a classic Murphism. He sleeps the whole trip, while others are exhausted, and then perks up with a "hey, everyone, how ya doing?" from the back. He even falls asleep in the front passenger seat, which everybody who DRIVES knows is a no-no.


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