I have been carrying a couple of monkeys on my back for a very long time but now they are gone.
The first has been there since 6th August 2011 though at first I didn’t realise it was a monkey. It was quite small. More like a hamster or gerbil. And who doesn’t like a frisky hamster playing on their back? At least until it poos on you. Recently though, particularly towards the end of the Poyet reign it became massive. More like a gorilla than a monkey. I was having trouble walking. So were the team. That monkey was that we had not won coming from behind since we beat Doncaster on that August day when the stadium opened properly and everything eventually went to script in the 98th minute.
There were times under Poyet when, if we conceded first, it would take every bit of willpower I had not to just go down to the concourse and make the students behind the tills play an extended game of guess the pie flavour, safe in the knowledge that we couldn’t win the game. Not any more. Another comeback win has been achieved. Bye bye gorilla.
The other monkey has always been around the same size and has been there since my birthday last year. It was known as the irrational hatred of Bolton for ruining my birthday monkey. Bolton was my birthday game last season and with best mate replaced by brother as seat companion for the day due to best mate working abroad I made the most of it and we hit the pubs in town early. So I was in remarkably good cheer when I arrived to watch the most frustrating football game of my life.
We dominated. Absolutely all over them. Bolton were metaphorically bending over almost begging for an arse whipping in a worryingly submissive manner but every time we got the chance to inflict it we pulled away, disgusted. We missed chance after chance after chance after chance. Eventually we scored simply because the law of averages said we had to and the three points we richly deserved looked to be heading our way. Until the defence switched off and David Ngog scored with about the last kick of the game to equalize. Here is a birthday present. WHICH I’M NOT GOING TO LET YOU HAVE. Cue howl of frustration.
It’s fair to say that between that game and the fact that Dougie Freedman, ex Palace icon, is still their manager, there was a real will among our fans to beat them this time round. So it was the perfect day for the club’s marketing department to do something special and cringy considering how well the opera singer and clackers had worked against Palace. Saturday was declared Spanish Day and indeed, as I walked round the ground, many people had gone to the trouble of dressing as a Mexican to salute our Catalans, Italians and Argentines. In the first half it was to backfire horribly.
Bolton came out in possibly the most hideous modern kit yet conceived with the possible exception of Liverpool’s third choice colours. Someone hadn’t told their kit designer that players these days tend to wear luminous orange hi viz boots. Either that or they hadn’t told them that said boots would look absolutely horrible underneath a luminous orange hi viz kit. It looked like they’d been dressed by someone who was a massive casualty during the rave era but had now lucked themselves a job in health and safety. “Why is our new kit so bright?” you could imagine Dougie moaning to which the only answer is presumably “you can’t be too careful”.
Anyway, back to backfiring marketing gimmicks. We controlled possession without looking particularly great in the first half yet Bolton had the clearest chance and, even though they didn’t convert it, they went in one up at the break. The chance? As we cleared out of defence the referee paid a bit too much attention to the balloon that had come on the pitch, presumably to celebrate fiesta, and not enough attention to the ball. Not only did the ref get in the way, he played in Bolton with a perfect through ball. Thank Christ PIG saved it.
Undeterred, Spanish Day was then crowned by Spanish Dave scoring an own goal. It was one of those comedy, slow motion, own goals that you can’t believe has actually happened. The ball is still virtually going in as I type and yet no one will or can stop it. Happy fucking Spanish Day.
What Oscar said at half time I’m not sure but it must have been along the lines of whatever the Catalan is for ‘throw the kitchen sink at them’ because that’s exactly what we did. Kazenga in particular looked liberated as he teased and tormented Bolton’s defence, helped and egged on by a ebullient Stephen Ward. Rohan Ince dominated midfield in a colossal performance. Buckley briefly looked back to his old self scoring the third. But, although he didn’t score or get the sponsor’s award it was Kaz who shined the brightest. We equalized from an own goal from a set piece making it even in every sense but then kicked on scoring another two goals in the next four minutes. The Amex went progressively more mental each time and a thousand fake Dirty Sanchez tashes were thrown in the air. On the third goal a small contingent of Bolton fans left. It’s hard to know if they wanted to lynch Dougie or the kit designer.
After that we were never in serious trouble though the bringing on of Bruno in to a role that can only be known as the ‘make a nuisance of yourself’ position upset the formation a little. PIG had to make a couple more good saves and that was it. Bolton got what they should have had last season and we had a come from behind win. All that was left was to have a couple more Cervezas and pelt the train staff with rotten tomatoes.