“Why hello, Chief. You’re where? I’ll be there right away!”
So goes the exact same conversation between Inspector Caldwell and David O. Sharpe at precisely 7:42 every morning. Ordinarily, the latter is stationed in some far flung part of the United States of Kingdom, perhaps the wonderful Weetabix sandwich factory in balmy Basingstoke. Or maybe the Aberystwyth offices of 9485859.947 Bet to negotiate a new sponsorship deal.
But today, ‘Chief’ Sharpe was calling from Stadium Way, Robin Park. On this occasion, he was being harassed by a mob of wild doggies that had suddenly hopped off the mysterious new 084 bus from Wolverhampton.
“Find and subdue these cantankerous canines before they chew my precious sock collection thread from thread,” came Sharpy’s voice from a portable cassette recorder embedded within the DW canteen toaster.
“This message will self-destruct in two days’ time, right after I’ve made my weekend beans on toast.”
“Don’t talk to me about self-destruction,” replied Caldwell, offering a knowing eyebrow to the invisible television camera. “I can never go back to Carrow Road,” he quickly qualified, unwisely explaining the joke… to a chicken shaped tea cosy.
Go go Caldwell tracksuit!
Thankfully there were no muck-ups of Norwich proportions in the opening fifteen minutes – quite the contrary, in fact. There was enough evidence to suggest that this night, in spite of all previous unproductive fixtures, would be quite different.
For one, a rejuvenated David Perkins had returned to harass every Wolves midfield man to the point of yellow card-inducing madness. Suddenly that ‘right back crisis’ seemed like breakfast at 1pm on the Wigan Riviera.
For two, Adam le Fondre was zipping around Wanderers’ area like a kid legging it for the last chocolate sponge pudding in the school canteen. How refreshing it was to see him nip past three defenders and roll Max Power’s tempting cross beyond Carl Ikeme in the North Stand net.
Extra helpings of jam must also go to Nathan Byrne, who broke down a hazardous Wolves attack mere seconds before the goal. His blocking of the Wolves attacker might have been slightly off the ball, but we certainly didn’t miss it.
For three (four?), Dan Burn was commanding penalty box one-on-ones with an (uncharacteristically?) reassuring air of confidence. Yep, he made his customary single mistake… but guess who was there to make amends for ‘Pinky’? Well, I reckon it was Perky (or if you were born in the 1980s, The Brain).
Go go Caldwell armfold!
The visitors’ equaliser wasn’t unjustified, however. Danny Batth had already exercised Bog Man’s greasy palms by the time Prince Oniangue breezed a sweet raspberry rippler into the Latics goal. This time, Wolves had equalised.
Oh yeah – I forgot to mention that Wanderers had already scored once… except not, because Adam Bogdan had actually grasped the ball somewhat fortuitously some five yards from his goal line. But this didn’t stop the North Stand cheering wildly as if it had been scrambled in at the back post.
I mean, yeah, it was a decent save, but hardly worth breaking out the Macarena for.
I jest – the travelling support was brilliant.
Go go Caldwell substitutions!
The second half was so piecemeal it could have been constructed with bits of scrap paper from the fax machine. But there were a few stronger pieces of cardboard – namely Jake ‘Great Name For A Dog’ Buxton’s mammoth goal line save and one collar-fumbling appeal for a Wolves penalty.
However, a single moment burst forth from the misprinted sea of typographical screw-ups and photocopied backsides, and that was Will Griggson-Fire’s 89th minute winner.
Our hero hadn’t started the game – that centre forward berth had been awarded to the aforementioned le Fondre, who must’ve thought he’d picked that regular starting spot right out of Griggsy’s dribbling nose.
But on Billy trotted with 24 minutes to play…
When the ball dropped mouth-wateringly between him and Ikeme’s goal, the packet fresh Grigg easily defeated two panting defenders in a rather unfair footrace. Finally, he charged to the touchline before cutting home from a narrowish angle.
And all without the need for cheating! Not a single hidden gadget was required to defeat the evil Dr Cla- er, I mean, score one of those winning goal thingymajigs Chief Sharpe wanted so badly.
Go go Caldwell fist clench!
Needless to say, Captain Caldwell was delighted.
“Best of all, none of them suspect that Chief Sharpe’s dog Charlie is the real mastermind behind this whole operation! As long as I don’t say anything out loud…”
Unfortunately there *was* a television camera present this time. The plum-faced Inspector Caldwell would have to construct a new plan for world Championship