MAR
21
2010
Mickey Blue Eyes...
Wan For All Season
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WAN FOR ALL SEASON

By

Mickey Blue Eyes

 

Famously, some Scousers are intent on discovering their linguistic pot-of-gold: The one word sentence or even paragraph. Which is why in the pub before Saturday's match a middle-aged man leaned his right elbow on the bar top, downed a mouthful of lager with his left hand, then cupped his chin in his right and said wearily, "Diszbeenwontwatuvafucknseezndisaz." It was hard to disagree with him. (For those not acquainted with our local vernacular the tired words translate to, "Gosh, but this has been a disappointing season hasn't it?") After all, injuries have played havoc with our fortunes for almost a year. It just seems to go on and on and on. At times we have been like the walking wounded. If you can't acknowledge that you ought to be prostrate on a couch explaining yourself to a puzzled consultant. Not that it makes it any easier to accept, as the fans' perfectly justified reaction showed after the débacle at Sporting Lisbon. At such times it is difficult to convince yourself it is only a game. But of course ultimately that's all it is to sensible people. Beyond that is beyond the pale in MurdochSkyland and pub paranoia.

Pre-match, Bolton promised to be tricky opponents. Their captain sums them up, striker Kevin Davies, broad-shouldered, barrel-chested, determined and slightly narky. You want someone to do a number on him early on to make sure he gets the message. But you would rather have him in your side than agin you. For the rest, well, the league position largely tells you they're a mixture of reasonable and average. They have struggled for most of the time and looked doomed for relegation until Owen Coyle joined them to spark a dash for the lifeboat. If they stay up it may owe more to Coyle's determinist management than anything else.

The first half was tight, defensive and as tedious as an oafish internet message board or an ale-house crackpot, and with about as much to commend it. And Goodison was in one of its quiet-as-a-grave moods until the closing third of the game. The best chance fell to Davies, onto a rebound close-in left in the Street End, but Tim Howard blocked it well with a dive. I think it was the only chance too. Oddly, Davies drifted out to the wings a lot in this match, presumably an attempt to confuse. It didn't work against a defence beginning to look as mean as last season at its best. Phil Jagielka's come-back continues to astonish (this is one fan who thought both he and Mikel Arteta were finished by cruciate ligament injuries - so far, thankfully, I am wrong), while John Heitinga has slotted into centre defence like he was born to be there. Leighton Baines has rightly won his first cap. Sylvan Distin looks much more reliable now he has Jags and Heitinga alongside. Phil Neville has been brilliant in leading the last line during the awful run of injuries, including one to himself. This is just as well because Tim Howard hasn't had his best season, and midfield usually hasn't provided the second-stage protection all good teams have.

Midfield has been erratic thanks largely to the injuries sequence and some necessarily required to play out of position. Given events it was almost no glum surprise when Marouane Fellaini too got injured. After all, he was shaping to be our best player this season. It made you want to find and run over every black cat you could flush out. The affect on team play has been disastrous. In this match the injury hex struck again after a quarter hour when Vic Anichebe went down hurt as he did against Brum last week, and was replaced by Bily. Later, a fractious and still-not-fit Tim Cahill (booked again) was substituted by Louis Saha after an hour, and Ayegbeni Yakubu was taken off for Leon Osman with a quarter hour left. It was the walking wounded replacing the wounded.

In the second half the tempo stepped up and Bolton began to wilt as the pace told as it often does at this level. They hardly managed to cross the half way line during this period. This evinced the Scousism that, "Deezrshitedeez," which is the usual charge levelled at the opposition even when it is one of the leading teams. No game is complete without it. In this case it was largely true.

Mikel Arteta, still La Rapsodia en Azul, finally did them with just under twenty minutes left. One of Bolton's rare attacks ended with Louis Saha emerging from the penalty area with the ball to start a counter-attack. Two rapid passes later left Yakubu closing in at an angle from left centre in a race with their giant, shaved-head centre back. He did his job in this situation. That is, cut across the defender to take him out of the game and leave him no option but to drop the attacker or risk a chance. The Yak got dropped. Cliché time: I've seen them given, seen them not. This one was given. Mikky placed the ball at least two metres away from where the foul happened, slightly left of the D. Everyone knew what he was going to do and he didn't disappoint. The little wizard sent it fizzing and dipping over their defensive wall a mite inside the right hand post. The keeper didn't move because it would have been a wasted effort. Sheer brilliance, sheer craft work. Around me, grown men shouted they wanted to have Mikky's babies.

A couple of minutes later in a goal mouth scramble substitute Leon hit a post after their keeper made a tremendous close save. By then, Bolton were crumbling. Then in the last minute Steven Pienaar saw them off after a right wing attack ended with Leon jinking through to the edge of the goal area before pulling the ball back across to an incoming unmarked Pienaar left side who couldn't miss from eight metres or so. Game shot.

So here we are entering Spring and in eighth place but out of everything else. We might get one or two places higher but I doubt it. The injuries cleared too late for us and it takes time to get back to full match fitness and effectiveness. The awful start to the season did fearful damage to prospects and form. We have never looked likely despite mostly valiant efforts and obvious team spirit. Paradoxically, we have only looked truly hapless on three occasions: The league match at Hull - duly revenged a few weeks ago - and the Europa League surrenders in Lisbon. If we squeeze into Europe again it will be yet another David Moyes miracle, which will leave you free once again to take the piss mercilessly out of the assorted messenger boys, computer programmers, self-styled "business men" and ephemeral graphic designers who think they know better - which is why of course Moyesy's out at Finch Farm every day while they're stuck in front of a computer screen doing binary arithmetic and muttering to themselves over a spread sheet, or snorting headcase white powder.

Still, none of it will change the fact that, as the man said, "Diszbeenwontwatuvafucknseezindisaz." There are times when you couldn't put it better yourself. Roll on season 2010-2011 and a fit squad rearing to go. In the meantime I hope David Moyes doesn't get preliminary itchy feet. I hope too we can hang on to the fine players we have. After all, we have no money and no first class stadium...........without which, we are treading water. And when you stop swimming there can be only one result.

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