Thursday, 13 March 2008

When Southampton left The Dell

and went to the Saint Mary's stadium their home form suffered. The Dell was a claustrophobic little ground and the Saint's fans always made enough noise there to give every home game a Turkish style atmosphere. It was a tough place to go and win. Or a tough place to go "and get a result." So The Dell was known by the media then, somewhat inevitably, as "a fortress". St Mary's, that replaced The Dell, isn't a cramped ground however. It is rather nice and modern by all reports. The problem with nice is that it doesn't naturally bond with other adjectives like imposing, or intimidating, the kind of words you would like to associate with a home ground. If only the architects had considered this and instead of making an airy all-seater they would have wrought the stands from sheer granite, so the home end could hurl down rocks and boiling oil onto the visiting team. Then Saint Mary's could have really been like a fortress. As it was though the pleasant open plan atmosphere lent itself only to a string of poor home defeats for the Saints, in what was their new ground. Cue a stroke of genius from then manager Gordon Strachan. He decided his players were associating the new ground with bad luck, and that they missed The Dell, and called therefore, not for the sports psychologist to help them like you would sensibly expect, but for a Witch. A white witch. An emergency witch. And this white witch blessed the Saint Mary's ground, and blessed the players, and cast away the demons and pixies of bad luck. And while the Saints never did capture the sort of home form they had previously enjoyed at The Dell things did get an awful lot better. The blessing cum exorcism worked.

Right now, having watched two English teams crash out on penalties last night in the UEFA Also Ran's Cup (both having played well against good opponents) I would really like to call on the services of that white witch and ask her to lift another curse. The British Isles are obviously smite by the god of penalties. It certainly seems that way; that it is written in the stars that all clubs hailing from the British Isles will suffer nerves, bad luck, and on form goalies, when it comes to the cruelest and most dramatic of contest conclusions. So could this witch, or any witch, please come and clean the national psyche? Please.

I know many of you will be cynical about this. You do not believe in magic, or voodoo, or hoodoo. But, let me ask you this- was there anyone anywhere in Britain last night, or overseas, watching either Everton or Spurs, who did not think to themselves, "Oh no! Not penalties" when it came to penalties? Of course you thought that. We have been programmed by decades of tears and failure to think just like that. I am sure other nations do not get so excited, in fact I imagine the Germans look forward to it. I just knew what was bound to happen last night from before the first fateful kick. Even then I still had to watch it though- the sense of inevitability looming larger and larger. Multiply this sense of impending doom by all British fans watching and all that negativity has got to have an effect.

So- anyone know any reliable witches or sorcerers please? It is the only solution. If not we, as a nation, are condemned to live forever under the shadow and heartache that is 12 yards.


Jason said...

Alternatively, the players could try 'fucking practicing penalty kicks'...

Seeing as penalties are applying your technique under pressure, then the better technical players win out. The actual solution is probably to just have an incredible goal keeper rather than try and have five players to call on who can direct the white round thing into the sort of bag draped from three sticks past the gentleman with the gloves, something for which they are remunerated as something like 30 - 60 times the average monthly wage.

In all seriousness, my argument stands up, as the Fiorentina penalties did not just go in, but were beautifully struck. What breeds negativity and pessimism? Knowing your outgunned. And once again, a defender, Jagielka, was there taking a kick. See, the English mentality is that you show 'yer bottle' by taking a kick, even if you are hopeless at it, you don't 'hide'... and that is why Jagielka was there, proving nothing by his hit-and-hope awkward wallop, nothing that in the UK, some things are doomed to just never change...

Doubly galling because Everton were incredible, fluent, full of attacking intent, and hard-as-fuck, one of the best performances I've seen for ages.

Chris O said...

Another approach might be to use Britain's place of authority on the law-making committee at FIFA and abolish penalties from the game completely.

"Fouled in the penalty area and looking for compensation?" Tough. More fool you for not shooting at goal earlier.

There. That's sorted that one out.

Spangly Princess said...

If it's any consolation, the Italians are just as negative and despairing as the English over penalties. Or at least they always were until 9 July 2006.