Guest intro by George Orwell’s Millennial grandson (AKA me).
We’re not supposed to talk about 2014-15. We’re expected to pretend it never existed under threat of extreme consequences. And goodness knows your average small time Internet weblogger would rather be writing about Gary Caldwell’s jumpers and Jordi Gomez’s beard right now.
But I really wish I did not visit the Time Travel Centre at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, because now I can’t be certain if I’m actually living in March 2015 (as opposed to 1995, where I normally reside).
My seat in the East Stand may be cold, but my buttocks are even colder. As a result, my cheeks become warm as I plant them on 18 year-old plastic, which on balance is a good start to the evening.
But through the cloud of glucose drink-induced blurry vision, I can just about make out the figure of a man in Hawaiian shorts by the dugouts. The low rumble of a permanent grumble floats through one earhole and out the other, registered but hardly acknowledged by the pink electrical sponge barely powering my squinting, reddened eyes. Yells of encouragement fade to addled grunts as they stick to the back of my pie gravy stained teeth.
The person to my right is never more than a dodgy backpass away from shedding a small tear. A musty smell of month-old custard oozes from his every orifice. It reeks of Malcolm Mackay, strikerless matches and wingmen moonlighting as floundering centre forwards.
But enough o’ that Wigan Pier stuff, marrers.
In present day Lancashire, the long-anticipated Latics-Newcastle game began.
Travelling Toon Men sang songs about how they wished to be at home with a mug of hot Bisto and chocolate sprinkles. And next on the hymn sheet, a tribute to their favourite goaltender: “oh my Darlow, oh my Darlow, oh my Darlow on the line”.
Well, they might only have recited that last chant in my head, but at least it sounded good (at the time).
Likewise, I didn’t hear the East Stand yell ‘we’ve got no right backs, I wanna go ‘ome’, though they may well have done. Donervon Daniels: relegated to wireless commentary duties. Reece Burke: 200 miles away in a Westham armchair. And Luke Garbutt? Parking his Gar-butt on the sparsely padded doctor’s table after just 20 minutes.
Enter Andy Kellett, 4th choice of Wigan Athletic’s 2 right backs. Ooooh boy.
Also enter ‘Miraculous’ Momo Diame, the primary cause of Latics concern. Powering through three hesitant defenders, he carried the ball to the edge of Jussi’s 6-yard box and placed it carefully inside the North Stand netting. 4000 bare wings flapped like literal magpies about to fly home for the festive period.
New Latics strategy: try and score a goal.
On 50 minutes, Wigan’s first shot of the game. Shaunie MacDonald bunted a misdirected header into those aforementioned blissful birds, raising scattered zombified voices from a restless ES2. Nope, they weren’t repeating ‘4-4-2’ until their vocal cords exploded – they were hailing a slightly improved attacking show.
Indeed, when Kellett received the ball at Darlow’s rear post, a hard-fought equaliser lay in wait. However, our bemittened ‘friend’ quickly nixed the hosts’ first and only shot on target of the entire game.
It was also around this time that the first shirtless supporters started to appear. Actually, make that ‘supporter’, because the fellow in question was the only one brave enough to bare his chest in temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius. Or at least, he was the only one I could spot. (What do you mean, it’s weird that I purposely searched for nudey Newcastle supporters?)
Not even a second goal could effect a ‘Full Monty’ ripple of toplessness through a beaming North Stand. Which is quite understandable, as the Temuri Ketsbaia Law of Shirt Removal suggests that the number of goals must first be correlated with climactic conditions.
So it’s a shame that Newcastle did not add to Christian Atsu’s 77th minute spirit level straight drive into the top left of JJ’s quivering goal netting. A sea of skin could have added a touch of bright pink watercolour to an otherwise black and white evening.
Oh dear, I fear the evidence against me is building here… cough!
Quick, wrap this up, Johnny!
Along those lines, Georgie Orwell’s potatosophical grandson offers this advice: as in life, the result matters little, but the entertainment generated beforehand counts for much more. Besides, this contest was lost on -2 minutes, when Newcastle forced Latics to switch ends just prior to kickoff. And as Rafa Benitez knows very well indeed, it’s a fact that playing towards the North Stand in the second half is impossible.
It’s also a fact that Jonjo Shelvey brings Latics legs to jelly. And I assure you I am not (only) speaking for myself again there.