When I was a young man I had a habit of grading my weekends. I didn’t go quite as far as marking them out of ten but I certainly knew a bad one from a good one. Good ones – certainly at one point – involved me watching Brighton win at football followed by one of two other sports; boxing or greyhound racing. Later, as the dark days under Belotti and Archer took hold the definition of a good Albion weekend was more often seeing us draw while taking part in a protest but the principle remained. Drinking + Sport = Winner.
Two of those sports have changed beyond all recognition since, thanks to satellite TV and Pay Per View. When I grew up big fights were still on terrestrial television (because that’s all there was) at a reasonable hour. It was all a bit like the opening scene of my favourite ever movie Pulp Fiction and I remember those nights covering the early careers of Eubank and Benn, for example, in a similar manner to how Butch’s fight is presented. (Incidentally Pulp Fiction is also the subject of my favourite ever nerdy quiz question which is ‘what is the first scene in Pulp Fiction chronologically?’ Answer at the bottom of the post).
Football in those days had started to have odd live games on a Sunday but they were still on free-to-air television. As a kid the only live football we got was the Cup Final and perhaps the European Cup Final if Forest or Liverpool or Villa were in it. There was no satellite tv and certainly no internet streaming. I started going to almost every game home and away in the late eighties yet it would be 1989 before Tim Berners-Lee connected the ideas of hypertext and the internet to start evolving what we now know as the World Wide Web.
All of which is a very long way of saying that this weekend, the one I wrote this on, has already been remembered for being at the very top of my weekend ranking scale. It was my birthday weekend for one and I saw Brighton win a game for another. No of course I didn’t go – this is Brighton But Only At Home – but thanks to Mr Berners-Lee, satellite television and betting sites I was able to watch on a dodgy stream.
In my Reading report I posited that watching football on TV is metaphorically like having jiggy jiggy with your old feller sheathed. If I was to use the same metaphor I would say that watching on a laptop using a dodgy stream is the equivalent of what teenage boys do when they realise that their dangly appendage isn’t just for number ones. (Sorry – I’m practicing for a euphemism contest).
It is slow. Then it is suddenly joyfully fast (this is the stream, not the dangly appendage exploration). The screen freezes and then the next moment the ball is at one end of the pitch without you having realised (in this respect it’s a bit like JC’s radio commentary). Sometimes you can hear the crowd and sometimes not. Luckily I can tell it’s us from the songs. No one else sings Sussex By The Sea or (I wonder why) about their manager having stubble like Barney Rubble. So we were noisy at least in patches according to my laptop. What it could tell is approximately who’s got the ball, which in the first half was us a lot, and approximately who’s had the best chances, which in the first half was Wigan. The closest we came was a sweeping move down the left which led to Bruno hitting a fine volley that was magnificently saved. On the stream it looked like Barnes should have buried the rebound but it may well be that the ball actually hit him at speed. It was one of those moments where you couldn’t tell for sure. You could certainly tell from the stream that Wigan missed a good chance though Ben Watson as early as 10 minutes, while, soon after Barnes’ chance Nick Powell was put through but shot early and just wide of PIG’s right hand post. We went in at half time at a very lucky 0-0.
Now, at the start of the season, if you had offered a section of our support a choice between Ashley Barnes and Grant Holt as a main striker, I suspect many would have taken the latter. So it’s a good job that Oscar picks the side and not the fans. The second half was an object lesson in how an unsung team player (in fact a sometimes derided one) can be far more useful than a misfiring big name.
Oscar organised the side far better. We nearly scored straight after the restart through JFC who headed straight at the keeper – or so it seemed from the stream – from a cross by (guess who?) Barnes. After that Ash ran himself in to the ground, constantly first to the ball drawing fouls and frustrating the hell out of supposedly Premier League class Ryan Shotton who had to resort to a string of niggly fouls.
Holt came on for Wigan, on the other hand, and got no change from our defenders. He looked average almost all afternoon apart from the moment when Gordon Greer gifted him the ball and, with the goal at his mercy, he stuck it wide. At that point he didn’t look average. He looked like a pub player.
We scored almost immediately afterwards, that man Crofts AGAIN finally putting away a rebound. I carefully put down the laptop before going batshit mental round the front room and scaring the children.
And that was that. A specialist injury time substitution of El Abd for Spanish Dave to defend a free kick later and we had three points. We have now played away at all of last season’s Prem clubs and taken five points, without conceding a goal. Thank you Oscar. Thank you Grant Holt.
That evening for a birthday treat we went to the dogs. Greyhound racing has not changed at all in the last twenty years. It remains pleasantly old school. The only change since i started going has been the removal of the ‘cheap side’ and the Alliance and Leicester building it was dwarfed by. Everything else remains in a perfect time warp.
Trap 4 in the first race was called Birthday Boy. My friend Neil suggested putting everything I had on it. I stuck three quid on the nose, because kids and mortgage. It romped home. I drank quite a lot of lager.
Then I got in a cab home. The Carl Froch v George Groves fight was on the cabbies radio. The journey lasted two rounds, rounds that took me back to my childhood. If it wasn’t going to have cost me a fortune I might have got him to drive round again. Had he been an attractive South American named Esmeralda Villalobos I just might have anyway.
*The first scene chronologically in Pulp Fiction is the one where Butch is a child and Christopher Walken is describing how his father had a watch hidden up his arse while having a bad case of dysentery. You’re welcome.