The Diary

29 October 2007: Post-Canaries Thoughts, With Added Trotters-Related Tit-Bits.

Greetings, pop-pickers. Two things: first off, (UK readers only) did you remember to put your clocks back last night? If you haven?t, then life isn?t half about to get confusing for you, especially when you trundle into work tomorrow at what would have been the correct time 48 hours ago, but simply marks you out as a complete wally come the start of the next working week.

My second thought? I bet you didn?t know that this weekend, the Moon was at its minimum orbital distance from Earth, therefore what you saw in the sky on Saturday night wasn?t just brighter than normal, it was quite a bit larger, too. A Premier League Moon, as per the ones seen ? or, to be more accurate, those The Fart has seen ? in the past? Ooooer, that?s pushing it a bit, but if we can sort out the various glitches currently affecting our first-team squad to everyone?s satisfaction, then the Moon, Premier League or otherwise, can do what the flaming hell it wants.

Thoughts about yesterday?s win? I have to agree wholeheartedly with Mogga that one of the more important things we could take from the Norwich game was the fact we managed to keep a clean sheet, for once. Significant, that, especially as, going towards the break, there were increasing signs that frantic Norwich might yet seek, and successfully find, the lifeline and morale-booster they so desperately needed. The media might have thought our game was a breeze, but I didn?t. When sides grubbing around the bottom of the Championship pond comprise the opposition, there?s always the danger, lurking amidst those submerged mudflats, of things going horribly pear-shaped, isn?t there?

Another good thing to take from yesterday is the distinct psychological advantage conferred by virtue of going to Vicarage Road next week crowned the Championship?s top goalscorers, yet again. And, yes, there was much about Cesar that I found positive, yesterday; what the gaffer said about the underlying aggressive nature of his game on the training pitch surprised me, though, as on Thursday night, I?d formed the overall impression of an amiable guy, tall, fairly muscular, who just got on with it when out there during a game.

Needs a bit of titivation work done on his spoken English, though, especially after John Homer?s confusingly abortive efforts in that direction, on Thursday night. Enough to banjax an entire BBC Pronunciation Department, is Black Country-born and bred John, when at his most impenetrable best. That?s the reason why I had every sympathy gland going like the clappers as our new defender vainly tried to get to grips with the subtle nuances of, variously: ?bostin?, ?oss-road?, and, last but not least, ?cowin?!

And yes ? what Mogga said about Alby made sense, too. Having Cesar alongside seemed to help Alby quite a bit. At least, this time round, there were few significant signs of his performance not reaching the standards we expect of our favourite football club ? but that was Norwich. Next week, we face a far sterner test of our defensive abilities, and after the Colchester and Blackpool thing, I really do hope we?ve managed to sort out the irritating problems at the back for once and for all.

While a defeat next weekend wouldn?t necessarily transpire to be an event of Earth-shattering consequence, it would put us even further adrift of the current leaders than we already are: win, though, and depending on other results at that end, we could find our mob in second place, and that once-formidable gap reduced to but a slender three points. It?s also significant that, come next weekend, both the Dingles and Bristol City will be locking horns, with Ipswich facing Norwich the following day. As things stand, that means second will be playing fifth, then absolute rock-bottom playing what will be fourth before the Saturday fate of others hovering around the top six is decided, but the Dingles do have an awful goal difference. Shame.

Oh ? and another thing. Being the pretty astute lot you are, I?m quite certain it did catch your attention yesterday, but how many others noticed also that we seemed to have been working frantically upon our routines for set-pieces during the previous week, with particular attention paid towards the taking of corner-kicks? OK, not every single one reached its intended destination, the six-yard box plus the surrounding bits of real-estate, but I?m damn sure that around 75-80% did.

A vast improvement on previous performances, that. The proof of the pudding, not necessarily one created and caressed by the loving hands of Norwich?s Delia Smith? That their defenders didn?t like the aerial bombardment one little bit. OK, they are where they are because they can?t handle determined attacking football, not to mention have a distinct aversion towards residing in opposition goalmouths, but what we were doing can?t have escaped Watford?s attention, that?s for sure.

Interesting to see, also, that Mogga put his post-match finger precisely upon yet another issue we in The Halfords had criticised extensively versus Norwich (you should hear the BIFOM when he REALLY gets going. Er, on second thoughts, maybe not!) and that was the tendency our strikers and midfielders seem to have cultivated of trying to ?walk? the ball into the net, then stuffing up completely as a result of trying.

It?s something we?ve seen quite a lot, of late: the ball getting quite near, or in and around the periphery of the box, even, courtesy of ball artistry that can be quite breathtaking at times, yet as soon as it gets anywhere near the 18-yard line, it?s as if the person in possession has suddenly hit a solid wall of cold treacle, or a field infested with land-mines. That?s when the ball goes on walkabouts, and usually by the ?pretty route? - around, across, laid off to both left and right, crossed, laid off again, even, thereby giving defenders some much-needed time to organise themselves better ? but seldom is the most direct route taken, to guys seen to be placed in an excellent position to score at that time. How many match-winning goals has such unnecessary dalliance cost us thus far, I wonder, especially when chasing a game?

I?m sure that I?m not the only one to have taken an undue interest in the domestic affairs of Bolton Wanderers, these past few days. Well, we?ll now see precisely how good a Premiership manager Gary can be, won?t we? Today?s inaugural sharing of the honours notwithstanding, as the Reebok dissenters of last week have made perfectly clear, he?s still got a PR problem of Augean Stable proportions to overcome before he can finally win over their regulars.

Trying to be as objective as I can about this, and pushing past spats to one side, I see the situation for Trotters fans as this: One thing that Meggo will bring to the Reebok, and within a very short time, I suspect, is a playing staff comprising 100% good, honest, loyal, hard-working professionals, all of them more than capable of running through brick walls for the cause, should that be required of them. As for the PR problems, he can be quite a charming cove, and will bust a gut working the media in order to improve his personal profile among the failthful. He?ll certainly tighten up the defence, one way or another, and for some, it?ll be the old John Wayne mantra of ?shape up or ship out?.

The likes of Anelka and Diouf won?t exactly be singing his praises to the four winds, I suspect ? God help the latter if he?s ever suicidal enough to try and aim a well-placed gobful in the direction of our former gaffer ? so expect them to be hitting the road come the advent of the next transfer window. But, I may be doing them both an injustice. It might well be that our former leader has now had ample time to reflect upon why it was he couldn?t crack the Premiership when in charge of our mob, so a new, improved, and much, much wiser Meggo (man-management practical solutions now a speciality) might well be standing in that technical area whenever we happen to flick ?Match Of The Day? or similar onto our remotes.

And, whatever your own thoughts regarding Grorty Dick?s stance on this issue in the past, or that of Meggo himself, come to think about it, that?s genuinely what I would like to see happen at The Reebok over the next few weeks. One thing Megson most certainly isn?t is thick. And neither is he without ambition. But has he now acquired the necessary mental agility to cope successfully with the sometimes capricious ways of the top-flight?s more temperamental individuals, at long last?

On the ?debit? side, I can only hope that their supporters don?t mind their favourites constantly grinding out results. Expect to see (if he?s successful, and desists from winding up too many of his well-paid minions) a succession of the following: 1-0; 1-0; 0-0; 0-1; and, for a bit of variety, a few at 2-1, or 1-2, with the occasional three-goal cosmic flush of energy to the senses chucked in for good measure.

Expressing divergent tactical views during team meetings will not be a good career move for anyone: should you also happen to be a long-serving, highly respected player, with valid opinions of your own as to how the game should be played, and not afraid to give voice to them, the lifespan of your future Bolton career may well be measured in terms of just months or weeks. Such people stand in very grave danger of being accused of intelligence, using their initiative, even, which is a state of affairs our man abhors as surely as two bar magnets of like poles facing each other.

Oh ? and if you do happen to believe that investment in a sound youth policy is the only way for clubs like Bolton to narrow the ever-widening financial disparity that sits between the Premier League top six and the rest of the ?plebs?, then don?t bother. Past experience has shown Gary to be pretty indifferent to their existence ? unless he wants to punish one of the seniors by banishment, condemned to train with them for an eternity, just like The Ancient Mariner, after his own doomed encounter with The Albatross. But, as I?ve said before, he?s not unintelligent, and might well have turned over a new leaf in the meantime. Go on, Gary. Surprise me.

And Finally?? A few pertinent words, now, about The Sad Affair Of The Little Drummer Boy. Yesterday, because our supporters in that neck of the woods seemed to be protesting vehemently about the Albion stewards depriving said person of his matchday stock-in-trade, I immediately assumed that it was yet another case of the big bad stewards totally unreasonably depriving someone of their percussive means of cheering on the lads ? but now I?ve had more chance to read several mailing-list accounts of what went on in the Smethwick yesterday, I?m now of the strong belief I may have got hold of the wrong end of the (drum?) stick.

According to several accounts of the incident, the stewards only went in because Smethwick Enders themselves complained about the noise from the drum ? not a slightly more acceptable ?boom-boom? bass drum, a la Blackpool, but a rattle-rattle member of the ?snare? species instead. Apparently, the guy has been irritating supporters there for several games, now, and still carried on banging the thing, despite several carefully-worded requests from the ?regulars? to cease and desist forthwith.

OK, I got it wrong, the stewards were totally right, so I apologise unreservedly. In the meantime, I really do hope someone has managed to ? erm ? ?accidentally? put a Size Nine boot through the flaming thing. Either that, or ?elected representatives?, all of Big Dave proportions, preferably, unofficially informing the offender that if there?s any more of it, his entire anatomy, not to mention physiology, will be in grave danger of being rearranged in some dark corner or another, come the final whistle, and not necessarily for the better, either.

 - Glynis Wright

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