When Fatboy Slim named his 1998 hit album You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, was he referring to Brighton and Hove Albion or Wigan Athletic? Probably neither, seeing as both clubs were kicking around –sometimes quite literally considering the Judge Dredd-esque brutal punishment they administered– in the lower divisions of English football.
But if the thinnest of lard-bottoms were to remake that record for the X Factor generation, I’d like to think he would definitely namecheck at least one of these two teams. He is a 12% stakeholder in the Seagulls, doncheknow. See, whoever said JWAW wasn’t educational?
I need not remind you of Wigan’s simply monumental rise to superstardom… well, that’s if you choose to term an FA Cup victory as such. And you know all too well I would. It must not go unmentioned, however, that Brighton have been building a Trojan Horse (Seagull?) of their own in preparation for another sneak attack on the FA Premier League. To think their Football League status was in danger a mere sixteen years ago.
Wow, I feel old now, and that’s probably because I am.
Forget all that went before, because this is right here, right now. The Nineties long gone, this is the age of thrilling Championship football. Certainly, the opening 25 minutes lived up to that billing, with both goalkeepers more uncomfortable than Roberto Martinez’s seat in the dugout. Hey, he never sits in it so it must be!
Please forgive me talking about other teams’ managers, as I listened to the Everton-Liverpool game on the radio earlier. But Lee Nicholls prolonged his exemplary record with a two-for-one save at the feet of Ashley Barnes, earning himself extra half time Irn Bru. Diet, of course – too much sugar can lead to hyperactivity, which is never a good thing for a goalkeeper. Well, hardly ever.
Build it up, tear it down
From a lively start, the half sank comfortably into a soul surfing groove of Latics’ orchestration. Powell, Watson and Fortune put powerful strikes wide of Kuszczak’s letterbox and the first 45 flowed through gloved fingers like ungraspable autumn rain. Believe me, you simply can’t do it – I spent much of my early life trying and failing.
Within 30 seconds of the restart, Forster-Caskey had Nicholls catching like an England slip fielder, though thankfully his save was more in the vein of Ian Botham than Phil Tufnell. And I’ve just alienated 4/5ths of my audience by mentioning the cricket.
But Wigan remained a menace, McManaman performing an NCAP-esque test of the Brighton ‘keeper from range. Kuszczak was granted two stars for his parried save, which he easily smothered with his airbags before grabbing a coffee from the conveniently-placed cup holder. Simple enough.
You’re not from Brighton
Fast forward past about 20 minutes which mainly consisted of niggly fouls and a needless booking for the newly-introduced Holt. No comment needed. However the ex-Norwich man was soon to squander the game’s best chance to date… and man, would he regret it.
Just two minutes after Holt inexplicably missed the target when one-on-one with the keeper, Brighton had an equally magnificent opportunity. Lee Nicholls summoned Shilton superpowers to prevent the first attempt, but could only look on as Andrew Crofts’ subsequent header came to rest in the North Stand net. Goal hanging time? Yew betcha.
Grant ‘Forearm’ Holt did hit the target with a well-placed last-minute header, but again Kuszczak would not be beaten. Mind you, one supposes it was to be expected – the game was broadcast on some obscure European satellite channel, and Wigan have yet to win a televised league game this campaign. Yep, I’m going to grab that crusty, out-of-date biscuit of a stat from the bottom of the barrel for as long as it’s relevant so the television stations of the world refuse to show Latics matches again. Grumble!
Okay, I know it’s fashionable to blame television but at some stage you have to take responsibility for your actions. Unless you’re a manager, in which case it’s the ref’s fault! Or the pitch. Or the weather. Or the…
Enoughblah. Post-mortem Thursday morning, f- erm, illin’ in heaven Thursday evening. We hope.