Supporting the Wolves must be a family-friendly pastime because, when I watched the WHU match a couple of weeks ago, I noticed knots of parents with their children, all decked out in the latest strip.
My family, on the other hand, remains unconvinced (to be fair, it`s a heart-stopping experience at the moment).
Last week a projected visit from my daughter (which she cancelled at 6 p.m.) prevented me from going to Stamford Bridge and on Saturday my brother and his wife came round to dinner. In between, my wife hid the remote control five minutes before the Carling Cup match and threatened to switch over to the food programme if I did not help her choose curtains the next day.
Hmm! A close call but in the end I relented. I expect my father will return from the grave next week but at least he would relish a trip to Old Trafford.
Given the fantastic, season-changing result on Saturday, I not only should have been at Molineux, I had to be there. I`ll have to lie to my grandchildren, just like millions of blokes of my generation who swear that they saw Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 (my brother went and … um … so did I) or (the Welsh equivalent) that they watched Llanelli beat the All Blacks at Stradey Park on 31 October 1972 (my cousin says he did). On Saturday the manager no longer had to sing along to the cracked record of plucky defeats, the outcome of the match being akin to Bill Murray waking up next to Andie MacDowell on the morning after Groundhog Day.
Mind you, Wolves put me through the wringer; I don`t know how I managed to survive the final 33 minutes after Dave Edwards had scored the second goal. With only the Beacon broadcast for guidance, the last few minutes were excruciating. As the commentator admitted, ‘We can`t take another nine minutes of this plus extra time`. How true, mate! Never mind a watched kettle, nothing passes as slowly as listening to the Wolves defend a lead. Even my wife was swept up in the emotion and gave me a hug at the final whistle (hmm, pity that my brother and his wife were coming round that evening!) Molineux at 4.56 p.m. must have resembled Woodstock in 1969 (apart the MC dressing-room, that is … and the train back to Manchester, of course).
That I did not sleep well that night was not solely due to the chicken vindaloo and the celebratory pints of Bangla beer: I was miles over the moon. Happily scrapping my report, left over from the Tuesday game, my mind kept me awake for ages as I furiously rewrote the text. I hate to admit it but it is far more exciting, if more wearing on the nerves, following the Wolves now than it was in the late 1950s. Then, a visit to Molineux did not cause tension or uncertainty: one knew that Wolves would win. I saw them beat Honved, Spartak and Real Madrid (I really did) and never doubted the result. This season, on the other hand, has been a roller-coaster ride and one that (until last Saturday) has invariably ended with a nasty bump. Hey, who wants mid-table mediocrity when your team offers you an edge-of-the-seat relegation dog-fight every year? Unfortunately, for those who like the suspense, we will easily avoid the drop if we continue to progress at this rate. I suspect it is not going to be that easy but at least we can say that the team has now truly arrived in the Premier League.
As Ian Dury used to say, there are reasons for us blockheads to be cheerful. We defeated a top class side on Saturday and did so because we played better than they did, the first ten minutes notwithstanding. Almost by accident, we have discovered a winning formula. The team looks balanced and capable of competing with the best and even defeating them. The addition of Milijas and Hunt has transformed the team, giving it extra width and greater coherence. Henry`s return has strengthened the defence and although Johnson`s pace and guile exposed our ongoing problems at the back, it would be churlish to criticize anyone for their performance on the day. One couldn`t even complain of another ‘Stearsballs` when he gave away the penalty.
While I do not accept the argument that Wolves only won because MC played below par, they did contribute to their own downfall. Tévez was sorely missed, though initially one would not have thought so. Mancini`s decision to take off Adebayor, while leaving Balotelli on the field, was mystifying, as was his refusal to bring on Johnson until the 68th minute. From that moment, my heart-rate went through the roof. Manchester City`s worst decision, however, was to convert the penalty-kick. It seemed to confirm to the players that they could win the game at a stroll. Instead it only succeeded in galvanising the Wolves.
Finally, (and in some ways more significantly) there are a lot of non-Wolves fans out there who are happy with the result. It proves that spending obscene amounts of money on assembling a team does not guarantee success. The way we performed will also change opinions of us. We outplayed them by sheer skill and endeavour, completely confounding the erroneous image of thuggery so unfairly pinned on us by the media. In this respect, too, the match marked a turning-point in the season.
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