TIME AND TIDE
Mickey Blue Eyes
Time is the commodity in shortest supply in football. Tide is how a season ebbs and flows.
Genuine democracy moves precious slow in professional football......even slower when establishment propaganda comes to bear. For example, professional players endured the retain-and-transfer system for almost ninety years before the European Court of Justice Bosman ruling freed them from what amounted to feudal tied employment. Now, inevitably and not before time, football governance has taken an important step toward the same kind of consideration, see http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/culture-media-and-sport-committee/inquiries/football-governance/ and http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2011/03/08163336 (and follow updates for both). These are not the first political moves, as I have pointed out elsewhere on several occasions, but they are getting closer to the real issues every time. Everybody has had enough of the rat-eat-rat mentality. The next step - whenever it is - is a move into coordinated legislation. The one after that is European legislation. Without that we will have different national interpretations and an uneven playing field, perhaps back to square one at European level. Meanwhile, supporters in this country have already made some first rate moves toward better organisation; the way to win community ownership is to organise superior numbers into a coherent body capable of placing and winning a sound argument. This will be irresistible if not hijacked by opportunists and narcissists full of their own importance and self-pity. In other words, knob heads need not apply. In the end it will be up to the fans and their patience and long term determination. (There are lessons to be learned in Wisconsin too, of all places, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-moore/america-is-not-broke_b_832006.html but only if you ignore propaganda from Fox News and the New York Times and other neo-con outlets - needless to say it has been largely ignored by Brit mainstream media.)
With that as background, and Us out of every competition that matters, the midweek match against Birmingham had scant competitive appeal. Well, except for a higher league placing for Us and a relegation battle for the opposition. It had all the makings of a dour battle and a mutually satisfying draw written all over it. None of Us knew what to expect, though. And then yet another injured player in Phil Neville, who joined Felli and Tim in the out patients department. Somebody Royal Blue, somewhere, must have run over a squadron of black cats before the season started. Despite that, there was a good crowd of almost 34,000, where I had anticipated about 25,000. After the trials of a truly frustrating season the crowd were in reasonable mood, if understandably quiet. Night matches really do have added appeal, the colours seem brighter, the air clearer and - if there's any left - optimism to the fore. Even Plewsy's jokes seemed to have an edge to them.
Then came the game, which was, well, a mostly dour battle that became a mutually satisfying draw, actually. At the end there was mild irritation at another two points lost but it soon subsided into the kind of weary resignation We have suffered all season. And We lost Mikky to a pulled hamstring after seven minutes. With him went almost all the creativity We have left, and even that has been misfiring for most of the time. It means too, I think, we can forget about moving much higher in the table. We have lost too many players to injury, and all of them in key positions.
Birmingham didn't show much ambition. In fact I can only recall them having two efforts on goal, both in the first quarter hour or so. One an excellent header that Tim saved brilliantly low down on his left, and their headed goal from virtually the same position after Jags and Buzz went AWOL and left Tony with the impossible task of trying to win a header from one pace to the rear. For the rest of the match it was one way traffic towards the enemy goal, but toothless as usual. However, We did equalise with about ten minutes of the half left. Leon gained a corner on the left after chasing down a long ball, which he took, and it got cleared to left side of the D, whence came John Heitinga to side foot a half volley straight back over everybody into the top right of the goal. It was a strike he's owed Us all season.
In the second half We had a period of maybe ten-fifteen minutes of complete domination when it looked as though Brum would crack, but good and half chances came and went with monotonous regularity until you just knew We were never going to score. Nor did We. The same old story of this season.
We could get a few crumbs from the match. Leon played well, so did Tony Hibbert, Seamus kept them under pressure on Our right, and Bainsey kept whizzing in some of his admirable specials. In some respects this was a match in which Jack Rodwell had to come of age; midfield creativity rested on him and Leon and they made a reasonable fist of it. Too much lateral passing, true, but at least there was minimal giving-the-ball-away, something the older players have subjected us to all season. Still, looking at remaining fixtures and our barebones squad, realistically I can't see much beyond draws to keep Our present location in the table.
Much more important, this is the last we will see of this squad. As I pointed out pre-season, five players are over thirty and might just be able to eke out another season, but Moyesy now has to rebuild. We all hoped this would be a good season and that we had the squad to deliver. They didn't, simple as, though a fair amount of it was down to continual disruption through injuries. They just couldn't raise their game when required, and now it is too late. That's what I meant by "Time and Tide."