Catch up on housework, lick a few stamps, iron the odd handkerchief – Thursdays used to be so incredibly boring. But for one year only*, we are blessed with more midweek football than one can feasibly keep track of without a Filofax. Thank goodness I don’t have to retrieve the ironing board from the attic as Thursday night is now Europa League night! Bringiddon.
For evidence that football is a modern way of life, look no further than the fact I am forced to adjust my busy cloth-flattening schedule to accommodate such prestigious European ties. And I’m not talking about that AC Milan necktie some fool gave me last Christmas. Screw it, I’ll buy some tissues from the petrol station again, or failing that, invest in a nose peg. I’ll steal the next one the dog retrieves from our neighbour’s back garden.
Just in case autopilot kicked in, I rearranged the alphabet magnets on my fridge to read ‘fotball tnight’, and this is not because I can’t spell (though I clearly can’t), but because I only have one letter ‘o’. It *was* replaced with an onion ring, but the tomato ketchup I used to stick it to the door only held out for so long. “Dear Heinz, I wish to register a complaint regarding your sauces’ adhesive properties, or lack thereof…”
TLO Wigan Athletic
Back in August, a Doncaster fan commented that his internet forum of choice had a section dubbed ‘TLO Doncaster’, those initials standing for ‘the likes of’. With all the hype surrounding this game, one was left wondering whether Euro mainstays Rubin Kazan should be defeating teams such as Little Wigan. Ooh, that moniker brings back memories!
Indeed, the visitors were to take command with their first foray into the opposition area, Prudnikov wrongfooting Carson for a smartly taken goal. At this point, the seemingly absent Kazan fans made themselves known from their vantage point in the corner of the West Stand. You see, the North ‘Neil Rimmer’ Stand seemed suspiciously vacant – was its allocation of meat and ‘taters exhausted? “Quick, move ’em to the West before they die of starvation!”
For Wigan, the half was characterised by a decent start and finish. The Tatars were starved of the ball for the first fifteen minutes, while the final ten witnessed a sharp Nick Powell turn and shoot with all the class of a Premier League striker to bring the scores level. That ‘conservative’ prediction of a 3-1 defeat was suddenly back on.
A la Kazan
Except Latics were reading from a different script, and it wasn’t necessarily pre-determined. They once again emerged a sprightly bunch of woodland critters, ferreting around the midfield area like a… grey squirrel? Though poor from set pieces, Ben Watson was almost faultless in open play for a great chunk of the second half, which took on a new urgency following a string of substitutions from both sides. Frolicking Fortune and Cavorting Callum McManaman now formed a revamped Wigan frontline, and they came close to making a significant impact.
Buoyed by an increasingly hopeful home support, the team in blue ‘did a Rubin’ and attempted to seize control in the closing stages. Owen Coyle was performing his best impression of an irate penguin (in natty blue shorts) in a bid to orchestrate a late winner, which almost materialised. McManaman hit wide at the back post, while Fortune made Kazan ‘keeper Ryzhikov ever so slightly jelly-legged with a stoppage time effort. Bruce Grobbelaar would have been proud of his short-range stop to preserve that precious point, however.
So what happened? Latics were supposed to be destroyed, but one left the ground bemoaning the missed opportunity of three more Euro points. Remember when I said this European stuff’s easy? It was the usual JWAW hyperbole, but where are the demoralising 4-0 hammerings we were promised? Eh? It’s all very disappointing if you ask me – Coyle should hand his points back to UEFA in an envelope marked ‘wrong address’.
Wait, did I *really* just moan about drawing with Rubin Kazan? Blimey, you’ll be telling me Wigan won the FA Cup next.