Barnsley is a strange place. The people there look like they grow their clothes on their allotments and the whole aura and reason for the place is one unknown to me. It was senseless of course 0-0. All the noughts, noughty nought. Of course we won. We scored, which means we’ve won regardless of the Referee who was tripping his tits off on some strange chemistry or he was super turned on by the sexiness of our football. Who knows? Disallowed goal? There’s probably a good reason for it and someone will of course know what that reason is but, fuck. Ref? You’re another fucking midget, another obstacle to our journey, another fucking red light, another contra flow system. The feeling when we score. Addicted I am.
We were in a working mens club by the ground and having a couple of pints. They had a ‘home’ bar next to the ‘big room’ where we were having a drink. I say we. You had to stand outside as a line of Wolves fans came out a bit red faced, swaying a bit to get some air. It was a bit humid in there and you had to peel some layers off before the sweat started to break out and you felt a bit faint. Barnsley fans kept walking through this sweaty mass to get to their part of the club. They looked normal I suppose, a bit like us, But not as tall, and not as good looking either. Wolves fans are a handsome and beautiful lot….well most of us. But Horace is not here and we are feeling that absence strongly.
What did we think of the game? My friends?…we have to get out of this place. In the ground we noticed the ball boys had been relegated to the stands where they sat with their hoodys pulled up, curled up, put there by their club and told to slow shit down. This is their idea really, before a ball has even been kicked. A directive to smother and slow down the play. This was the tactic. In surviving the roaring tempest of the bottom of the Championship you have to swim hard and as Barnsley are getting lungfuls of water in them, they thrash the stinking waters to a foam in fear and maybe even terror. It is known that these poor souls who are drowning will grab and pull a potential rescuer down with them. This is what happened.
I’ll be honest, I did mention to my eldest lad these Barnsley players looked tiny until he said they were the mascots.
It wasn’t Warnockian madness, well not as bad any way. As soon as the referee came out you knew what was going to happen. Breaks in play. Weird decisions. The bitter Hobbit of a Ref strutting around like a prize prick without any real idea of what constitutes a game of football, So there were breaks in play. Barnsley would often forget themselves and roll the ball around quite well. In moments any way. Until Jota got hacked down again and… again. Which made things lumpen and grey like the sky over that place. Their team looked like it needed a lick of paint, like everything else but they lacked even the idea of Warnockism. The angst was uncoordinated and clumsy and I suppose we were too at times.
I thought Saiss had aged terribly over the past week with his blonde hair that looked grey from where I was. But he ran a great game again. In fact we did play ok, we made chances, took positions, looked like this years Wolves but it was a ‘bobbler’. Going after the second ball was a bit fruitless like Caffeine free Coffee. It looked like great football but there was something missing for sure. The ball wouldn’t fall right for us. There was some metaphysical blockage going on. A few Gremlins in the engine making themselves a nuisance. Costa is getting faster and his Kwan is increasing in power, slowly yes, but it’s coming. Some of his twisty runs were lovely to watch and of course I had Costas mortal enemy standing somewhere behind me and he was quite vocal in his cussing. But last week it annoyed me and I waxed about it in the last post. But today I can’t say anything. He’s improving that lad, and I like it. People should have different opinions and that’s cool. But you should encourage your team.
So it was bobble ball. A lot of our passing was straight at the knees. But some of our touches. Neves flicking the ball off the edge of his foot, caressing it. Boly, what a thing he is. Like a midfielder when hooking the ball from the morass of a Barnsley attack to spread it wide, or to Saiss/Neves. Coady being Coady again, marshaling, constantly directing the play. What a player he is. Of course we are going to have these games. Manchester City lost at Palace? There you go. There’s a benchmark for yesterday, there’s an indication of the day. But nothing went right. A disallowed goal, a booking, Jota on the floor again after a tackle that last weeks Ref would have got a card out for. Unfair decisions, snotty play from Barnsley who choked the shit out of everything in large periods. The Barnsley players were knackered at the end of the game and they went around congratulating each other for their display. It was a point for them. Maybe a precious one as they choke on the swirling tides of shite that this division offers us.
But wow there were loads of us there. Over four thousand, singing, dancing, half pissed, fully pissed, angry, happy, grumpy, laughing or crying. It was all there on offer. Then ten minutes into the game we saw at the side of the stand another load of Wolves coming down the hill from the coach park. The late arrivals. It could have had Bristol City levels of limbs for sure. But this was a snotty game from the start. This is Yorkshire for Gods sake. Suffocating where Bristol City was vibrant. The ground was small but not intense. I don’t think people are enjoying the Barnsley ideas at the moment. But how can you have ideas when it feels like your being suffocated in an Asda carrier bag?
Cavaleiro comes on and it looks like somebody has mixed his legs up and he’s cross threaded his ankles. He probably thought what the fuck is this place? He tackles himself at one point and Douglas just ten yards away falls over onto the grass for no reason while Saiss looks on puzzled. Air was sodden with dysfunction at times. It must be the horror of that place, an effect that gets in the turbos of our players. Chokes the carbs.
Leo needs a holiday. He looked like poor old Dicko at times running around after the odd ball in the box. Running around a lot but the ‘feel’ was lacking a bit. He’s getting a furrowed brow our Leo. He’s thinking too much about the game. I think everybody was thinking too much about football. But it’s that time of year isn’t it? I think we are going to have a few more games like this for sure, before everything starts to get really fucking real in April and March. But that’s also the time when the weather starts to get warmer, we see a bit of sun, our sap begins to rise. This is the calm before the storm for sure. May I prod the great mind of Nuno in my ignorance? I would have started Cavaleiro for Costa, played Mir instead of Bonatini. Swap Cav for Costa on 70 minutes, do the same with Leo and Rafa…but what do I know?
I don’t ‘expect’ anything at all when I turn up to watch my team. It’s dynamic and beautiful football that we play. There are so many abilities and temperaments in this team that Nuno must be cracking his coconuts trying to make sense out of it all. And he did I suppose, in a way. This really was a game Barnsley had set up well for. Those ballboys in the stands an indictment of their mindset. They were well set up to annihilate ideas we had. They again smothered the flames of our intent by needling at the second ball, a few elbows, a few words. Add the dystopic miasma of Yorkshire and you have a perfect storm of ‘non possibility’ of abstract relentless football which you find in this division. It’s bloody horrible. Like going around somebody elses house for tea every night. It’s food yeah, but they cook it weird and you eat it out of politeness.
We parked the car in a side street. I had given a couple of kids a few quid to look after it as it was brand new. It had screens, and sensors, a turbo that was slick and progressive, it drove us beautifully and it was filled with good beautiful people too and I didn’t want to return to it with a scratch on it, even though it wasn’t my motor. But as it sat their among the grime infested terraced houses and the shitty transit vans it looked lonely and I felt like it had got us here, but it didn’t want to stay. I think again. We have to get out of here man. We are banging our heads against the other teams in this division. I can pick apart the play and the tactics like everybody else. Being forensic and empirical but there is a bigger idea at play here. These games are hard for us because this division plays a football that we have no affinity to. Plus we have a Ferrari like team that are only used to pick up a few bags of cat litter from Aldi because they are on offer. It’s beautiful and fast of course but the cat still needs somewhere to shit and even if we have a fast sleek red sports car you are still only as fast as the old fella in the Nissan Micra in front of you.
In March and April we will see the sunshine. In those months we will enter a dual carriageway and ease the throttle of our Ferrari and slip past the old bloke with his face inches away from the windscreen concentrating. Maybe his air freshener is bumping his head too. We will look at him as our engine roars past his 27.5 mph Micra. The roar will shock him a bit and he may look around as he sees us glide past. He may even grumble a little. But set your eyes on that open road my friends, set your eyes on that destination in front of us. We are coming. Put the kettle on.
NB. Many thanks to Carl and Mark for their company, they are true friends and I feel honoured that they enjoy my company as I enjoy theirs.