Saturday, May 03, 2008

Don't mention the "R" word

I'm not certain whether I pity or envy the fans of highly successful football clubs. There's something about the end-of-season relegation battle that makes your blood pump, your mind race and your bottom-hole flutter. Very stimulating.

With their deep squads of top players, the big teams never have worry about getting relegated, falling into a death-spiral into the lower leagues and liquidation. Their fans never need worry that they'll have to find their way to Gillingham and Yeovil on a Saturday afternoon. I mention Gillingham and Yeovil because these were Leeds United's most recent opponents, only seven years after they were playing Valencia in the Champions League semi-finals.

Football under the circumstances Bolton find themselves in is much less about about skill and a lot more about nerve, heart, and not too put too fine a point on it ... "balls".

The finest exponent of these qualities in today's Do-Or-Die game against Sunderland was El Hadji Diouf, who I have described before as the strongest man in British football. He's had to be - he grew up in a small village in Senegal, western Africa where he lived with his grandmother who had to sell bags of peanuts at the roadside to make ends meet.

Today he played with enormous heart and lack of nerve and he's going to be missed, because he's moving on. The phenomenon of your club's best players wanting to move on is also something the superpower-club fans don't need to worry about.

But anyway, enough of that : today was a total joy - the fans from both sides sang themselves hoarse in the sunshine and as a result of Diouf's goal and a bizarre Sunderland own-goal, it's 99% certain I'll be able watch Bolton play Manchester United and Chelsea next season rather than Blackpool and Swansea.

And I'm not in danger of needing to know my way to Gillingham or Yeovil any time soon.


No time for the promised write-up on "Mad Men" again, but do watch it - it is very good indeed.

No comments: