Thoughts on the Birmingham game, the draw, the TV, your mum and cricket. All here on Vital Bolton.
You should remember Denholm Elliott. He played Marcus Brody, the Dean of Indiana Jones’s college in the first and third films. He basically stole virtually every film he was in. And I will explain why I have mentioned his name somewhere along the line.
Let me say that I didn’t see the Birmingham game live. As has been my want this season, I seemed to have been doing something that will affect my long term future while a game has been on, and Saturday found me in Glossop. I don’t need to bore you with the details.
However, I was firmly aware of the team selection and, as I was bombing down the M60, hearing that Lee and Mark Davies weren’t playing and that Muamba and Elmander were, it had me wondering if St Owen Coyle actually watches the same game that I do.
Looking at the pitch, I have to say that I’ve seen wetter deserts, and I’m sure that at some point I saw a nomad wandering around it, looking confused. I soon realised, however, that it was the aforementioned Fabrice Muamba who, header in the build up to the goal and one shot on target nothwithstanding, had another game that, if it lives long in the memory, will only be during a bad dream. His replacement half way into the second half was a blessed relief, if only to stop Motty, doing the commentary on Five Live, mentioning that he used to play for Birmingham every five minutes.
The pitch may not have been watered to neuter our passing game, but it didn’t stop our other bow string getting the first goal. A long punt from Jussi, playing his 500th game for the club, was headup up in the air by the Birmingham defence. Muamba beat two midfielders to the ball, Klasnic flicked it on and Elmander, running in from the right, hit it first time to the right of Ben Foster. Good goal, well taken, and a reminder what the Swede can do when he’s not dicking around looking for a new contract.
Birmingham’s equaliser came from the same route. Foster booted it long and Cameron Jerome headed it on. David Wheater decided to pass it back to him and Jerome hit it first time to Jussi’s right. Commentators remarked that that is when Jerome is at his best, when he doesn’t think about what he is doing and just hits it, which is commentator talk for he normally plays like he is dragging a bag of spanners behind him. The fact that he has scored two goals this year, both in the FA Cup, would suggest that we let a pretty average player score. As for Wheater, with Zat Knight back to a running, a passing and a shooting, he couldn’t have not put his foot through it at a worse time, especially after his foul on Ashley Young last weekend gave away a penalty. After starting well, he seems that have gone back to a player who was signed from a struggling Championship side and would appear to be leaving the door open for Zat to come back in.
Soon after Chungy had cleared a Birmingham corner off the line, we took the lead again. And again, it came from going long. Wheater this time DID put his foot through it and Agent Davies and Special Agent Davies ‘no relation’* went for it. Curtis, yet another Villa defender they didn’t want, was hustled off the ball by SuperKev and the Birmingham defender hooked the captain’s legs from under him. He picked himself up, dusted himself down and sent Foster the wrong way.
Still Birmingham came back. Or ‘plucky’ Birmingham, as Motty was calling them. Birmingham had six on the bench. That’s two more than we had on New Year’s Day. Plucky nothing. But kudos to them for running us close. Kevin Phillips, the kind of player who you shouldn’t leave alone for a second, even at the age of eighty four, first had Jussi tipping the ball onto the post, before the kind of goal that looks good but which really shouldn’t have been scored. A Stu Holden clearance was headed back into the mix by Curtis Davies. Wannabe Mr T, Nathan Redmond, flicked it on to Phillips, standing in enough space to file his nails if he were that way inclined. He took it first time on the bounce and lifted it over Jussi’s head before he could be closed down by Gary Cahill. 2-2 and it looked like we were heading for a replay.
Bolton had other ideas. Another long ball forward, this time from Paul Robinson, got into the area where SuperKev outjumped Beausejour and put it on a plate for Chungy to stick it past the wrong footed Foster. 3-2 and no way back for Birmingham. Cue riotous scenes in the seats.
It was a fascinating game to listen to, never mind watch, which I did later, and proved to be THE game of the weekend, belying the position it was put in by the TV companies, on a time and date where people who don’t follow the clubs are doing other things.
Yesterday, the draw was done at Wembley and, by the time Jim Rosenthal had stopped questioning Hope Powell and Fabio Capello with, as Hercule Poirot would say ‘the questions most asinine, hmmm?’, the warm balls had cooled down to the extent that United got Citeh and we got Stoke.
Cue celebrations both in Lancashire and Staffordshire as we both got the draw we wanted. And, straight away, believe the other to be a pushover. Us, because we are seventh and this is ‘Nat’s Year’, them because they beat us in January.
Stoke will not be easy. As a collection of players they are as much a ‘team’ as we are, even if they have Ryan Shawcross, a player only a mother could love, and I have it on good authority that that it is a push sometimes. Their great advantage is The Britannia, where they have won half their home games this year and where we have struggled in the past two seasons, even if we did do a smash and grab job last season.
They are not so clever away from home, but are still better than us, with three league wins to our two, although we have picked up more points. On a neutral venue, it has the look of a very tight game. Possibly even penalties. But if we get the team right, and that means leaving Muamba so far from the pitch he may as well be back in Bolton, then we should be looking at our first Wembley final in sixteen years.
Besides, I don’t like Tony Pulis. No man of a certain age should be allowed to wear a baseball cap and I question FIFA’s decision to not ban them at the same time as the snood. He is also about as gracious as a Frenchman.
We all know the omens are good. To get to the final would be a great tribute to Nat Lofthouse in the year of his death, and would probably get the neutrals behind us, showing there is a first time for everything. Plus the fact that the last time United and Citeh met in a FA Cup Semi, City won it and lost to Bolton in the final. That one fact went so far round Twitter last night, with every man and his dog thinking they were the first ones to say it, I swear it came back round and bit itself on the arse.
When the game will be is anyone’s guess, with ITV and ESPN currently round the back, smacking seven shades out of each other to get the other semi. United and City will be the marquee game, even we can admit that, and the largest audience for that will be on the Sunday. Add onto that the fact that, if Citeh can pull back their two goal defecit on Dynamo Kiev on Thursday, they will be playing their Europa League quarter final second leg on the Thursday before the semi finals and it all points to us being on the Saturday when the FA announce the dates on Wednesday.
And even if we do get through to the final, we will still not be guaranteed a European Tour next season as, if Citeh get through and win the cup, the finalists will not get the Europa League place if Citeh finish fifth in the Premier League. Thank you very much the FA. You couldn’t be sucking up to the Scousers any harder if you tried.
Of course, this could all be a moot point come May 14th when we lift the trophy.
Right, I hear you asking, what has all this got to do with Denholm Elliott? Well, Mr Elliott, as well as appearing in the Indiana Jones films, was very much a character actor. He was in A Private Function, A Bridge Too Far and The Bourne Identity. Not the Matt Damon one, the made for TV, Richard Chamberlain one. It was just a tiny bit rubbish. He was never the leading man, but you always remembered him after the film. He was even Oscar nominated for A Room With a View.
My point is, he was never a leading light, but you always knew he was there and towards the end of his career got the plaudits that he deserved. This season, we have been a Denholm Elliott. Always there, always behind those leading lights but still getting noticed for what we do. Hardly ever out of the top ten, people saying what good stuff we are playing. And now we are getting the plaudits we deserve. We are heading for Wembley, we are going to be on the national stage. And when this season is over, people are going to remember Bolton Wanderers. And not in the way they did four or five years ago.
Sorry Stoke. This is our year.
Right, just a quick line to say that I urge you to bob on over to Tower FM, where the lovely Kelly O’Donnell (it says here) has put up the four minute piece she did at the back end of last week about the Burnden Park disaster. It contains a very interesting sound bite from St Owen.
Until tomorrow, as Mr Elliott said in his last line of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
‘Follow Me. I Know The Way’.
*It’s a Die Hard thing.