Maybe it will be the turning point. The start of the fightback that sees us cling on to championship survival on the last day of the season, as the ball goes in off of Lewie’s face in the 93rd minute against Forest. Maybe we’ll look back on today as the point at which we started to regain our confidence and play the football that we know we’re capable of.
Or maybe it will just be the day that confirms what most of us are already expecting. We’re not good enough to stay in this league, and will have to start again in League one next season.
Derek Dougan. He’s what springs to mind when I think of Wolves. Derek Dougan. I also think of Winkie (as a supporter), one-time Dons Season Ticket Holder and one-time MooCamp radio Show guest Wolfie Oz (because he hates being reminded of it) and Steve Bull (as a former player). But it’s really Derek Dougan that epitomises everything to do with Wolves as far as I’m concerned. He wrote a book you see.
I can remember the cover – it had a picture of Derek Dougan on the front of it, in a Wolves top oddly enough, and I was probably nine or ten when I bought it from a school jumble sale. It was an autobiography, and told all about his life and his time as a footballer, and I remember being really inspired by it. I wanted to be a footballer. I didn’t want to be Derek Dougan (that would have been ridiculous – he played for Wolves ffs) I wanted to be Liam Brady – but I can remember reading about just how glamorous the life of a footballer in 70s England really was. Which I’m sure by modern standards it can’t have been. He had a great tache though, though oddly I’ve never wanted one of those. Even though I’ve got one now, but that came with a beard, so it doesn’t count. I have no idea what I’m talking about.
The other thing that I think of when I think of Wolves is my mum, and her desperate attempts to do good when I was younger. Having asked for an Arsenal top repeatedly, my poor mum used to buy whatever football related clothing she could find, and I don’t think she ever understood the difference. One of the most legendary purchases was a ‘Wolves Gold’ football top. Not an actual Wolves top, but clearly Wolves colours, which as a young Arsenal fan, was difficult to say the least. Though not as bad as the claret and blue tracksuit, but that’s for another day.
Anyway, the thing about Wolves for me is that I’m torn – I like them as a club, I loved Derek Dougan’s book, but I had to wear that damn top, so I despise them too.
As far as the game goes, we’ve confirmed that Dave Martin is out till the end of the season, and it’s now been announced that Rob Hall is our for 6-9 months – poor lad – get well soon. Will either of those make a significant difference to the remainder of our season? No idea, but they add to the excuse bank.
There’s a feeling of resignation around the support at the moment. Not so much to do with recent results, but more to do with what seem like the impossible odds against us putting the sort of run together that would keep us up. Stranger things have happened of course, and if we manage to get a win tonight, and results elsewhere go our way, then the great escape is back on. Particularly with Rotherham coming to stay on Saturday. Very doubtful though – the teams around us seem to have found a second wind, while we just look out of breath.
Part of me wants it over, because the hope is painful, but in reality, I’m going to keep being positive (I have a feeling I don’t sound very positive right now 😉 ) until the enlarged woman has serenaded us all.
We trek down to that London tomorrow for a match that both teams will be desperately hoping to win, and one where a loss would see the other team sitting in the bottom three come 5pm. A draw wouldn’t be the end of the world for either, but that would leave us in the bottom three, which will undoubtedly raise the pressure on the players. At this time of the season, this is just as much a psychological battle than a footballing one, and as our results against the teams around us have shown, we’re struggling in this one.
We’ve not been to Craven Cottage before (well at least I haven’t, so it amounts to the same thing) so the chance to tick another ground off (I think I’m in the mid-sixties of the current 92 at the moment – will need to tot up properly) is one that will be taken by a fair few of our lot It’s expected that we’ll take around 1500-1600, which is a fairly sizeable away following by our standards. It should be added that of those fans, there are a number who are making their journey down there as difficult as possible, so they can raise money for Willen Hospice – Bootsie and Radar by kayak and Dan, Ashley, Emmaaaaaaaaa, Tracy and others on foot. Good luck to you all – you have both my admiration and my money, so stop asking.
So what can I tell you about Fulham then? Well as you will know by now, here at MooCamp Towers, we consider research to be cheating, so we go with what we know.
What I know about Fulham is:
Jimmy Hill was their Chairman at one point, and they ended up getting relegated on the basis of a goals scored rule (as opposed to goal difference) that Jimmy introduced
Mohammed Al Fayed used to own them, and might still do for all I know
They used to have a statue of Michael Jackson outside their ground, which is perhaps the most surreal of all the football-related statues that have ever existed in these isles
Richard Osman of Pointless fame is a fan, and was good enough to retweet about our fans sponsored travels
They have a neutrals section of their ground, presumably to cater for all the tourists who can’t get into the games at clubs that they’ve heard of. A neutral area is an interesting idea, though not one that we’d ever use of course 😉
Lewie’s dad Ray used to be their manager
They’ve never won a major trophy. Ever. A good opportunity for our fans to get out the silver foil and cardboard replicas of the Portiamao cup, it would seem
In preparation for the match, we spoke to Andrew at CottageConfidential and gave him three questions:
1) Sum up your season for us – how’s it gone, how does that compare to your expectations and how is it going to end?
This is a season in which most Fulham supporters thought we would be challenging for a playoff spot, instead we’re flirting with relegation. At this point so little has gone right that I’m almost resigned to relegation
2) What needs to change at your club, and what mustn’t change?
I have no idea what is wrong. The players the club have brought in have played great defense at other clubs. They get to Fulham and they simply forget how to defend. It was easy to chalk that up to bad coaching. But now that Jokanovic is in charge, it’s really hard to use that excuse. If I knew how to fix this club, I’d certainly shout it from the rooftops, but I’m just as confused as everyone else.
3) What’s your take on the whole Wimbledon move to MK and the subsequent birth of the MK Dons?
To be honest, I didn’t really understand all the anger over it for quite sometime. I’m an American, and sports teams moving is just a natural thing here. The NBA team where I live (Seattle) moved to the place where I grew up (Oklahoma). It happens enough here for it to almost become business as usual. But I’m sure the first teams that moved in this country caused just as much commotion as Wimbeldon moving. In the future, this kind of thing might happen more. It’s going to be easier for a rich guy to buy a team in a smaller local and move them to a bigger venue that it will be to invest wisely in the small club to build them up the old fashioned way. I’m not sure what rules the FA has in place to prevent this, but it’s something I could see happening more and more
As to what’s likely to happen on the pitch, that’s anybody’s guess. We’re capable of winning this, but we’re also capable of getting good hiding from them. My money is on a nil-nil draw, but secretly, I think we’ll do this 2:1.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Brighton, both generally and in football terms. As a part of the early 80s mod revival as a teenager, musically and stylistically, Brighton has always had something of a ‘pull’ for me. I had my stag weekend there (I doubt it still exists, but The Catfish Club was glorious, in a seedy, seafront location basement kind of way), lived just up the A27 for a few years and have visited many time since.
While working in Crawley a few years ago, I took a group of middle-aged American business people out for dinner in Brighton. After a pleasant evening spent eating, drinking and pointing out buildings that were older than their country, I finally lost their support just before midnight. I took them, cold and confused on a chilly February night, down to the beach at midnight, so we could stand at the waters edge, listening to that very unique sound of the Brighton sea, while I sang the opening notes of The Who’s ‘Love, Reign O’er Me’.
Understanding the draw of Brighton in footballing terms is a little harder, but I have a theory that it’s all to do with Panini. The younger ones amongst you may rightly question the relevance of flattened sandwiches, whereas those of you of a certain age will know immediately what I’m talking about. I think the reason I’ve always liked Brighton is connected to the fact that they were in the first division (oh for simpler times) at the right time for them to have been in my childhood sticker albums. Makes me all tingly and nostalgic to be honest. Whatever the reason, it surely wasn’t coincidence that I found myself watching Quadrophenia again last night, at least after Modders had found it on ITV4 and shared the good news on Facebook.
I’ve got a lot of good recent football-related memories with Brighton too. I never went to The Goldstone Ground, but made a number of trips to whatever that weird athletics track was called. My first trip there was monumental for a few reasons – it was the coldest night I can remember spending outside, let alone sitting watching a football match. It was also the night of the Barnes Brothers eating ice-cream, meeting Radar for the first time, and making up a chant with Buzzard Don and Crabby that still persists to this day (watch Quadrophenia and replace Mods with Dons and you’ll know the one).
On subsequent trips, I remember Izale being started, but then subbed after less than a minute to get round JPT squad rules, “can you tell us if we score” due to being in a different time zone to the match, the MooCamp flag looking cool, Punch showing off and scoring a worldy, the carvery on the Fizz Bus, the Silverstone seats, being abused by a solitary muppet and the players walking miles at the final whistle to come over and applaud us and still being unable to work out who was who.
So for all those reasons, I like Brighton. Add in Sammy and the battle of the Baldocks and I’m really looking forward to today’s game. It’s one of those where even in normal times we shouldn’t have a chance, but with our injuries and other urine-related suspensions (unique again 😉 ) then it really doesn’t look good on paper. We’re expecting a big crowd – they’re bringing about 7,000, we’ll have about 13,000, and that often works for us, as the bigger than usual away crowds don’t often make much noise. If we can stifle for a while and look to catch them on the break, then maybe we can take something from it. A point would be a great result, but anything but a win could leave us in the bottom three come 5pm, so the pressure will be significant on the players.