“I went for the nibbling technique rather than the stuff it all in.”
So said Matt Backhouse, ‘graceful loser‘ at this week’s World Pie Eating Championships. The organisers’ shock last-minute decision to switch to puff pastry put him at a great disadvantage, since his local eatery stocked only shortcrust. Nigh on a year of training was rendered irrelevant in one moment by this one pivotal tweaking of the sport’s established norms.
In theory, it was a minor rule adjustment. But in his mind, our would-be hero had already surrendered any chance of claiming the revered title to those with proverbial ‘home advantage’. Those lucky barstools had the luxury of training with a football as opposed to a rugby ball! It’s impossible to execute intricate passing moves on a semi waterlogged pitch! And so on.
The good news is that in football, there is at least one new ‘pie eating championship’ every week, so you can quickly become accustomed to short crust pastry in a competitive environment. I bet poor Mr Backhouse wishes he could have slowly eaten his six inch steak ‘n’ kidney over the course of 46 meetings (meatings?), not because it would have given him a chance of winning, but so he could have avoided crippling indigestion.
In the master baker’s 2015/16 League One masterplan, Barnsley vs Wigan represented a solitary piece of chunky steak… but what a juicy, flavoursome mouthful of hot beef it was for Latics.
So we meat again
This long-awaited unofficial JSPT rematch began at such an alarming pace that steaming chunks of meat ‘n’ tater were immediately sent scattering across Oakwell Meadow – misguided sighters from Grigg, Hammill, Power and Winnall were quickly lost in the overgrown, dewy vegetation beyond the two goal lines. Not even the bravest adventurers dared collect them for fear of the carnivorous shadow creatures that supposedly dwell there!
Grass gremlins are abundant at this time of year.
But machete-wielding debutant Andy Kellett was ruthlessly chopping his way through the midfield’s long grass with renewed purpose. Relishing his Scharner-esque roving freelance role, he raced into the final third to gleefully accept Michael Jacobs’ veritable tray of free Melton Mowbray pork pie samples… and the results were indeed satisfying. 1-0 on the night, 3-2 Wigan on aggregate (pens don’t count!).
In this moment, the visitors regained Backhouse’s aforementioned psychological upper hand. Sinking deep into their favourite butt-creased armchair, they playfully tossed the Celebrations tub among themselves – a perfect picture of comfortable domestic bliss in this most festive of seasons. You could almost hear Shakin’ Stevens and Slade playing on the wireless.
Oooh… Ahh… Crust a Little Bit
Latics resumed their tidy, controlling style of ‘back to’ football as the second half began. Momentarily, ‘monster’ Max Power broke free from his cage to bend one just beyond keeper and goal, while goalmeister Kellett countered to force Adam Davies into a sprawling save at the hour mark.
However, the revelation was instantly replaced by the Revell-ation (hur) in a somewhat surprising 62nd minute substitution. Was Kellett in need of a pastry refuel, or did Captain Cald fancy adding an extra bale of hay to the rapidly expanding midfield compost heap?
Certainly, Latics were beginning to lose their footing in a metaphorical quagmire somewhere just outside their own penalty area. David Perkins cut across at just the right moment to prevent Winnall unleashing hell on a nervy Jääskeläinen, much to the Finn’s great relief – his goalmouth remained pure and unchallenged.
But as added time rapidly approached, the incredulous Tykes sank knee deep in the bog fashioned by their deliberating opponents. Erroneously assuming that Revell would be awarded a free kick, they came to a complete standstill, allowing third sub Yanic Wildschut to cheerfully help himself to the tasty pastry leftovers. If you’ve ever played Subbuteo against the invisible man, you’ll be very familiar with this type of ‘musical statues’ goal.
“Dad, I think you’re enjoying this game far too much.”
You know, I learned something today.
Apart from the fact I would like a pie for supper, of course.
Football, like eating, is about satisfying a primal desire – only here, it is all about winning as opposed to surviving. But on balance, I think I prefer the ‘nibbling’ technique as opposed to stuffing everybody in the box – it’s harder to savour the flavour if you bypass the tastebuds and go straight for the stomach.
Not that this was a particularly outstanding example of high class football, nor was it as exciting as the Paint Pot showdown two weeks ago. But when it is baked at just the right temperature, a Wigan Athletic victory pie slips down smoother than a Greenhalghs shortcrust special doused with the finest fermented Irn Bru.
It’s the Caldwell way – it’s the Wigan way. Now where’s the phone number for the pie shop?