Nunoism Versus Luluism
Birmingham City v Wolverhampton Wanderers
It was a job wasn’t it? Going into the garden to pick dog shit up and the grass has grown a little too long. It’s a bit of an Easter egg hunt looking through the tussocks for those little shriveled turds. You get the shit bag in your hand and try to tease the soft shit from the tussocks and the musty shitty smell of dogshit rises pungent into your quivering nostril. Earthy and protein rich, cloying and clinging you gag as you feel warmth through the bag onto your hand. It’s repulsive and yet weirdly warming. You tie a knot into the bag and notice you’ve got a little bit on your finger. You bend down to wipe it on the grass and find you’ve wiped it through a whole pile of hidden dog shit and now your hand is covered. You stand back to shout at the Gods and fuck. You’ve trod in another load.
The above is the match report. Sometimes gaining points away is simply ‘picking up the dog shit’ an maybe even treading in it too.
How was it walking through those wastes tonight? The car fumes, the industrial stink, the misty can’t be arsed rain that makes your skin feel greasy. See what I mean about light? Tonight that light was a lot brighter than Birminghams for sure. The darkness of that place didn’t prevail and it was a major point in the Wolves campaign. Why? It’s the top of the climb. While tackling Welsh Hills on my bike this summer I know how key parts of the season will work out, I think. This is a tough match. It is an effort.
The hardest part of the attempt to get to the top of the hill is the start. At this point our muscles are not warmed up. You may not have used them for a while, or maybe ever. They are a group of strangers you have to get working together to get to the top of the hill. Some of these muscles are strong and fit, some of your muscles are a bit crap. But get them all working together and that strength can be taken up by the weaker. Pedaling at the start is strange. Start of the climb. Sometimes you get the wrong gear and almost stop. Cardiff. Bristol City. Sheffield. But eventually you get the gear right and the climb is slowly starting. You ease yourself into various positions to find the best one and here it is. Before you know it the going is steeper. You are maybe a quarter of the way up and those muscles are feeling it. The groove is relentless. QPR, Norwich, Leeds, Bolton. Sometimes you lose concentration too.
This match was the halfway way point of the whole climb. Not physically but mentally. Backroom work, health work, strange scientific shit to do with performance analysis. This has made this team ninja ready. Super fit. But mentally there has been a lot to get their heads around. The personalities in the dressing room have settled into some social hierarchy and the groups communication and display dynamics would have settled down. Everybody will be happier now there is order.
Nuno would have had a lot to do with that. He is an Alpha, wise, quick to erupt in temper but also quick to placate and reforge bonds. Unconsciously the team understand this and the trust between them will get stronger. It’s beyond white boards and tactical slashes in blue and red wipe off marker pen. You can’t really coach this team any more. My mate saw Nuno at a driving range. He set the ball down. Boom. 250 yards straight down the line. Ball down. Boom. Again 250 yards. He kept hitting them spot on, hard, fast, accurate, concentrating. Again and again. Nuno has told them their roles and he trusts them to fulfill that role in the manner in which their skill level and mental state allow. His role at the side of the pitch to remind and cajole performance, tweak the idea a little, maybe swap the idea completely? Who knows what magic goes through the whole set up?
But here tonight is where that light of intent was tested. The teams vision will have narrowed in the madness of Birmingham. I’ve described elsewhere the psychogeographical aspects of this ‘derby’. The hollowness of it. Coady and Doherty will understand it. Not simply because they understand rivalries as Cavaleiro, Jota and Costa do too. Football rivalries exist all over the world and the spectrum of discontent they cause are apparent and visible. But this isn’t Rangers and Celtic, United or City pick any one you want. This is a battle between light and darkness where hate just becomes an abstract thing and the battle I suppose looking at a stadium full of Golden light and then descending into the dystopic miasma of Digbeth is a dichotomy you can’t ignore. Coady will understand it because it’s a uniquely English thing. Doherty because the Irish experience is heavy with that dichotomy too.
Tonight that light was glaring. Cavaleiro has a gentle and big emotional part of his being. This emotion is contained by him much of the time. He knows that his love is too big to show the world in case the world throws his love back at him. Tonight he was quiet and refined. His runs effortless and powered. His heart straining to keep back that power and emotion trying to channel it into physical exertion. He is susceptible to darkness but still he ran on and on into space, closing down players.
Football as well as emotions have a full spectrum. It is a range of ability and skill and the one end and at the other drive and ambition and this was visible tonight in all it’s glory. But with all spectrums there are areas at either end that we don’t have the sense to understand. Wolves are like that tonight. Some of it is ugly, some so beautiful it makes my heart ache. There are hings I simply don’t have the capacity to understand here. That communication Saiss has with the ball. It’s not an inanimate object for him it is a system of meaning. He certainly stamped his meaning all over that pitch tonight.
Bonatini a revelation again. Those runs of steeze like an Iron Maiden bass riff at times, thundering and punchy runs into the Birmingham half. Shrugging off the ministrations of the Godless city midfield and defencewith aplomb and grace. I don’t want to talk about the other end of the spectrum, the Warnockian wavelengths. A little pulling here and there. Don’t these people learn their lessons? The more you hump the motionless body of your skill set by kicking the cack out of our team the more resilient they become. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The Cardiffian model has been tested out on us by other teams since that day and have been found wanting. You can’t blank out this light. Jota crumples under a late foot. He stands almost immediately and doesn’t even look at the Referee who has become a mere bystander to the strength of this teams intent.
These games are never pretty. Orc ball. Birmingham started to get inspired by our football I think. Our beauty was taken in initially after some neanderthal tackles. Mad derby times. They had Ron Forehead sent off. There were some differences of opinion and tribal stuff going on but still we were in control. They had some moments of clarity through the dark mist of their football but no real chance to dim the light. Jota, what a marvel he is, what a nutter! If he walked into my front room now and did a shit on the rug I would just pick it up and get him to sign it.
Marvelous Boly, the giant Coady, the able and skilled Bennett. What light they did shine despite the darkness that crept into their hearts as the match progressed. This Birmingham thing reflected in Costas ripped sleeve. The warrior spirit of N’Diaye awakened. Nuno becoming more demanding, more virulent in his ideas because now at this point this team is about to crack open their shell and erupt into the world like a Gold and Black Eagle…
It’s done this Birmingham thing. Now our people their will be walking back through the streets of that place and will be in a glow of sorts but wary. I will take this 3 points in the spirit it was taken, with a bit of an edge, a bit of in your face belief and anger. Sometimes that’s what you have to do at these places. But us? Our team will have new belief now, to get a result in that place is a milestone and now you’re pedaling slow and you think it’s leveling out a bit and you’re right. The rest of the season will be all down hill now. Fresh air blowing in your face football. We can look back at this match as just one of those dark forest chapters which every hero has to travel through. Onward.