Sucking heartily on life's half-time oranges

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Death On Two Legs

I'd been looking forward to my perfect football commute all season (a quick bus-hop from teaching at Trinity College), but by the time it came round, I wasn't exactly salivating. Charlton bagged promotion last week, but if they won at home today they would be champions with two games to go; we were still 4th bottom, spluttering around as if in the quicksand of my youthful nightmares (after watching too many episodes of Gentle Ben; I was a timorous child). An absolute drubbing was surely a dead cert.

Approaching the ground didn't help matters. The thunderous clamour from inside the stadium was gladiatorial, our boys surely shivering in the tunnel like less handsome Russell Crowes. The Valley looks like the ground of champions, and I'd forgotten (having last been there when we'd beaten them in the League Cup quarter-finals in2006) how goddamn big and shiny it is. As we came out onto the away terrace, it exploded into glorious technicolour: the roars of the Charlton thousands, brilliantly red seats and luminous pitch together feeling like a sherbet burst on the tongue. It makes Adams Park look like Bekonscot Model Village. The only way we beat them is on Bird-Spotting Points: they just had two ragged pigeons loitering around to our cast of red kites. In your FACES! The David-Goliath vibe didn't stop there: clearly the Charlton defenders have been on the protein shakes this season, towering hulkingly over our wee strikeforce as we moved forward.

But move forward here and there Wycombe did, and we had a few decent moves, though for much of the first half we proved why we were in the relegation zone with some deafening clangers, including a front-runner for the Most Embarrassing Corner In The World Ever Award - massive wastes of set-plays which might have been our only chances. Charlton kindly ruffled our hair, set the ball down and showed us how to do it, with a converted free-kick to make it 1-0. Heads sagged, and visions of the sorry pummelling to come flooded in. But, chiming their hearts with the tribal death-house beats of the WWFC faithful's drums, they managed to keep ferreting away.  With perfect timing, Beavon kept up appearances in the top scorers chart (surely quite bafflingly given our position, but we have had a silly bloody season) by heading one in just before the whistle. Marvellous!

Whether Gary Waddock bollocked them 'til their ears fell off or gave them each personal back-rubs at half-time I don't know, but Wycombe were pretty great in the second half, working tirelessly and hogging most of the ball; the home fans, amazingly, were getting a little moany and frustrated. I hardly dared utter that we doing rather better than them, for I knew that would jinx it. But my thoughts must have been enough, for with ten minutes to go, and largely against the run of play, 'Calamity Legs' McCoy, my least favourite player on the pitch (the ball would arrive at his feet and he would look around like he'd JUST ARRIVED ON EARTH), did another awesome fuck-up; a few moves later it was 2-1 to them, and The Valley rocked on its hinges.

We left, having applauded our lot and theirs, as the announcer (they'd been waiting a few extra minutes for the final whistle at MK Dons vs Sheffield United) bellowed 'CHAMPIONS!!!!!' and the ground lustily and un-tunefully sang along to Queen's most commercially-savvy single. Still, the crown isn't for Services to Choral Music (South-East Division) so well done, Charlton. You have a ground that really should be in the Championship, a Wright-Phillips, and lots of Very Large Defenders. Wycombe, on the other hand, will be forlornly singing one of three other Queen songs tonight as we look to our last two games (against promotion-clutching Sheffield Wednesday and play-off-fumbling Notts County) and results in our favour to give us any hope of not going down. Take your pick:

1)  Death On Two Legs (A Night At The Opera, 1975)
2) Another One Bites The Dust (The Game, 1980)
3) Loser In The End (Queen II, 1974)


1 comment:

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