Wednesday, 11th September 2002
I really don’t know where to start. A visit to the doctor in the morning ended up with a 20 minute b*llocking about the need to rest my arthritic foot followed by the advice that my football career, such as it was, was over.
Whilst this news will probably be greeted with joy by my teammates in the various sides that I turn out for, I personally was not best chuffed. Still I had West Ham to look forward to in the evening.
They’d cheer me up, wouldn’t they? Surely the psychological benefits of seeing the boys win would more than counter the negative effects of hobbling over to E13?
Electing not to tell my GP of my plans for the evening, I set off to meet the lads for a pre-match diet coke, alcohol not mixing well with the painkillers. Frankly I wish I’d downed a skinful and polished off the pills all at once. The following 90 minutes might have made some kind of sense if I’d been out of my brain.
We started a bit nervously against a West Brom side who showed little real ambition. The returning Di Canio showing some of what we’d been missing in his absence.
Hoult pulled off one fine save in particular from (I think) Cole. Joey combined well on several occasions with Schemmel, although Archie seems to have completely forgotten how to cross a ball.
Then, on 28 minutes, the wheels fell off completely. Breen lost out to Roberts who ran through to face James. James clearly expected a proper shot from the Albion man rather than the mis-hit that actually occurred and the streaky way that the ball bobbled over the line really summed the match up for me.
That was it really. West Brom would clearly have been happy with a 0-0 draw and got men behind the ball at every opportunity and, as with Charlton, we simply didn’t have a clue how to break them down. That’s right, a side containing players of the talent of Di Canio, Cole, Carrick, Kanoute and Sinclair couldn’t break down a bunch of (admittedly very hard-working) journeymen.
The second half started brightly with Hoult saving well at Kanoute’s feet and Carrick falling over his own feet with the goal at his mercy. PDC had a shot turned wide after Hoult had stranded himself but that was basically it. Other than that nothing. No spark. No passion. No guile. No intelligence. Nothing.
Even the introduction of Defoe for the increasingly invisible Di Canio and the simultaneous replacement of Carrick by Lomas had no effect. Personally I’d have brought on Defoe at least 10 minutes earlier than the 76th minute. But by then the die was cast.
The only other moments of note during the game were Joey obtaining a booking and a bloody nose in laying out an Albion defender and the largely unemployed James having to come off his line to make a double save towards the end.
We also had another one-person pitch invasion again, but, in keeping with the general awfulness of the day, the “streaker” a) kept their clothes on and b) was male anyway!
I understand that Repka had an altercation with some fans at the end. In true Arsene Wenger-style I didn’t actually see the incident so I’ll reserve comment for the time being.
I decided that, painkillers or no, a pint was required. The Queens was shut. The lifts at West Ham station were out of order meaning I missed a Jubilee line train through having to struggle down the stairs on crutches. Eventually I got home. The light bulb in the hall blew as I got through the front door. It was that kind of day.
Now where are those painkillers?
The original version of this report contained no player ratings because I was too angry to give anyone more than zero. Now I've calmed down a bit here are some proper ratings:
David James (7) Didn't have a lot to do. Unlucky with the goal which he'd probably have saved had it been hit properly. An excellent double save towards the end.
Seb Schemmel (4) Spoilt any good work by failing to put over a single decent cross.
Nigel Winterburn (5) At the end of last season the nutty boy put together some cracking performances. However the close season hasn't been kind to him and he seems to be tiring alarmingly during games.
Tomas Repka (5) I actually didn't think he had that bad a game. There were certainly none of those heart-stopping potential penalties we're usually treated to. As I said I'm not sure what went on with the crowd later.
Gary Breen (4) Got caught flat-footed for the goal. Didn't look comfortable.
Joe Cole (5) At the heart of most of the good stuff in the first half. Largely anonymous in the second.
Michael Carrick (3) Clearly the lad's confidence is at a low ebb at the moment as evidenced by his falling over in front of an open goal. Needs support from the fans rather than barracking or ese he'll be off somewhere else in January and I for one don't want to see that happen.
Edouard Cisse (6) Probably our best player on the night. Not that that's saying much.
Trevor Sinclair (5) Seemed strangely reluctant to take people on in the first half. Kept running down blind alleys in the second. A couple of good defensive headers from corners.
Paolo Di Canio (4) Some nice early touches then disappeared completely.
Frederic Kanoute (4) I thought we were in for one of Freddi's "Chase anything" days when he did some early harrying. Sadly that was it.
Jermain Defoe (3) Struggled to make any impact on the game at all after replacing Di Canio.
Steve Lomas (3) A direct replacement for Carrick - and played about as well.
Christian Dailly (3) Not on long enough for a proper mark (but we'll give him a 3 anyway - ed).
Referee: Andy D’Urso (4) This most over-fussy of referees fully lived down to all expectations. Surely due for relegation to the Nationwide sooner rather than later. Unfortunately we’ll be joining him if we’re not careful.
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