Summertime football is crap. Tuesday evening Soccerdome knockabouts, the Betfred Cup and forced friendlies with Salfordchester United are all roughly of the same (low) importance.
Yes, even the Euros seemed a bit token, tapering off into an apathetic mish-mash of fluttering moths and semi-interested onlookers. Yet the tournament promised so much: the Italy-Germany shootout was a minutiae lover’s dream, as those five minutes of botched penalties offered more material than 120 minutes of a limping, dripping Crispy Arnold Ronaldo.
But now we’ve crossed the August threshold, it’s time for domestic football to wise fwom its gwave, triumphantly shaking off any last remnants of conjecture-ridden wasteland they conveniently dub ‘silly season’.
Or so one would hope.
But first: strikers.
Don’t you just hate them? They’re always grabbing all the attention with their goals, commanding nine figure transfer fees and getting paid kerspillions to fashion the perfect bench buttcrease at major international tournaments.
If midfielders can do the job, let them. Back in the Four Yorkshiremen‘s day, they never ‘ad such namby-pamby luxuries as centre forwards or coloured boots or any sort of clothing whatsoever. Everyone hurtled around in the nude claiming to be a 50-goal-a-season Stanley Matthews type. With a cigar and dripping sandwich.
Better yet, have the defenders peel all the potatoes. Yeah, and make sure they’re all fresh-faced and fresh-shinned debutants!
But the B Team of Bogdan, Burn, Buxton and Burke began brightly in Bristol, belying a battery of pre-season blunders. And fellow debutant Alex Gilbey conjured Latics’ first strike in anger, even if it did sail into a newly-refurbished Ashton Gate hot dog stand.
It was, however, an effective loosener – his next effort proved infinitely more successful, expertly evading Richie O’Donnell’s flailing flappy bits. The poor guy must have been experiencing violent flashbacks to Coventry this weekend last year.
Going forward, Caldwell had issued one solitary instruction: give it to Wildschut; in the unlikely event you actually are Wildschut, give it to Grigg. And it was a decent enough strategy, yielding a 25th minute mano-e-mano showdown between Griggson-Fire and Richard O’Brien… er, O’Donnell.
Though nothing came of that, the newly-formed Grigg-Wildschut-Gilbey alliance earned Latics the first crystal- er, goal of their Championship season just seven minutes later. Grigg swivelled, Yanic dribbled and Gilbey scribbled 1-0 over Caldwell’s latest love note.
As the Bristol air became increasingly alcoholic, City sought an immediate reply… via the medium of corner kicks. Max Power biffed the first away, Marlon Pack biffed a second the wrong side of ‘Bogman’ Bogdan’s post.
The siege resumed after half time, led by a couple of physical efforts from the increasingly voracious Jonathan Kodjia. And soon after, Big Bog stretched with a grunt and a gasp to finger Joe Bryan’s testing strike clear of immediate danger. Bogtastic!
For the time being, the B-Men –particularly Burke– were blowing enough raspberries to distract their assailants at the most opportune time. But with early season bones creaking, tougher tests lay ahead.
When the fourth official’s board appeared, a slightly ginger (but never extinguished) Will Grigg’s 70 minutes were up. With the last (and only?) striker safely back on the bench, this would be the defenders’ task to finish.
However, the Robins’ corner onslaught would finally defy the visitors’ own defensive assault. With Bogdan bogged down by some sneaky personal space invaders, it only remained for Tammy Abraham to snatch the afternoon’s second debut goal inches from Boggy’s feet.
A stone-faced Gary Caldwell said and did nothing. Upon regaining control of his senses, he signalled for Ryan Colclough to replace a quite frankly knackered Yanic Wildschut. In truth, there were a half dozen knackered Latics limping about, longing for the final whistle… but it was still a good ten minutes away.
A Bristolian winner was inescapable, and in every instance justified. Though Super Bogman stretched once more to preserve his precious point, it would remain intact for a mere 5 seconds – Bobby Reid stood waiting to bash home off one or maybe two of those virgin shins.
Suddenly, all the Coventry flashbacks were in Latics’ own personal instant replay theatres. The new dudes crouched, exasperated like never before, staring at the beads of sweat on their salty palms.
For 80 minutes they were perfect enough, for 10 they weren’t quite. 89% satisfactory, 11% slightly below satisfactory.
Not to quantify the unquantifiable or anything.
Before you welcome a dreamlike underdog season, wait until the transfer window has closed. I… er, think I changed my mind about strikers – I’m willing to let them into Wigan again now.
Please, guys…? We have pie barms!