After the professional and much-needed win against Rotherham on Saturday, we faced another dreary northern outfit in the shape of Blackburn. Now, unless you’d been living under a rock (or in Southcote), you would have noticed that Rovers were bottom of the form table heading into this tussle. This boded (bid?) well for the Royals who were still trying to find their feet again after some patchy recent form and cement their place in the play-off death-match positions.
Although we’d turned the corner on a new month since Saturday, the weather was still as deceitful as ever. By mid afternoon, it looked like BBQ conditions, so I ventured out onto the patio only to discover that it was, indeed, penguin weather. I shot back into the house and turned the heating up to 28. Cannot be cold, me. Aside from that, I put the bins out. And that was the end of my non-football commitments completed for the day.
Make no mistake, this was a large game for us. Clearly Sky Sports felt the same too as we were on the premium, must-watch, don’t-need-the-red-button channel. We were given both Curtis Davies and Matt Mills, the latter I’d quite happily give a cup of shut the hell up juice to. Honestly, he kept looking down! It was like he’d written notes beforehand and was constantly referring back to them like some sort of amateur drama enthusiast.
I couldn’t listen any longer and left the living room to check on the temperature of my pale ales, which I had slotted into the fridge effectively and calmly an hour earlier. They weren’t cold enough. I then began looking at the display on the fridge to check that it was set to an optimal temperature. It was. An hour on 4 degrees should have done the job (and no, I’m not an idiot - I’m fully aware that pale ale needs to be chilled, but not lager cold, thank you). I stomped back into the living room and put the TV on mute until kick off. The pale ales would have to wait.
As the game sped towards kick-off, Toby Mowbray appeared on the screen with a face like a weathered potato. I suppose, if you were managing a team who had not won for six games and had to live in Blackburn, you’d have a face like a miserable starchy vegetable, too. Puscas was invited back into the team to form a two up top (TWO UP TOP! GOOD JESUS!) with Joao and the confidence filled me like air in a party balloon.
Regular readers of this column will know that I am ultra critical of football kits “these days”. Well, this Blackburn monstrosity took the cookie. You know when your printer (at work or home) runs out of ink? And then you have to get a new ink cartridge? And then fiddle with the wrapper and the little bit of posh sellotape that covers the ink bit? And then carefully insert the ink without breaking the printer, your fingers, the cartridge or your personal determination? And then you have to run a test page with the new ink cartridges?
Well, Blackburn’s kit looked like the page that comes out of the printer once you’ve run the test, before printing something worthwhile, like a spreadsheet which contains a ranking of employees you like the best, or a returns form for an ill-advised purchase of some garden shoes (if the printer was based at home). Horrible.
On 15 minutes, Puscas went “full Beckham” and shot from basically the Mad Stad car park. It just drifted over the long white thing across the top of the goal, but I swear down that if that had gone in, I would have got in the car, driven the 5.6 miles to the Mad Stad, parked safely and considerately in the main car park, made my way into the stadium via the East Stand, wandered through the concourse, strolled down the steps to grass level and got onto the pitch to celebrate. The greatest goal that never was.
Less than 10 minutes later (it was nine), George broke the deadlock to put us in the lead. Some excellent work from Our Sweet Young Munich-Bound Prince Omar Richards found Joao, who took the ball on, made space for Puscas to ghost into the box like... well, like a ghost, and slot home the opener. It’s been far too long since we’ve since him do that! The cameras shot to Pauno in the sideline, with his hair as thick as butcher’s sausage and everything was right with the world.
At half time, I travelled back into the kitchen, collected a pale ale (they were cold now), poured into a pint glass, disposed of the can in the recycling bin and made my way back to the sofa to soak in/ignore the half time chit chat. I was very excited for both the second half and the ale.
The ref’s klaxon sounded the commencement of the second period and we were off! And then, tragedy befell me like an arrogant Tudor King who had spent months negotiating with local farmers for the acquisition of their land only to discover that those very farmers had betrayed him by agreeing to sell the land to a French prince instead. I, dear reader, fell asleep and missed all of the action in the second half, waking at around 89 minutes (weird that) to see us record a second win in four days.
I have absolutely no idea when I fell asleep but I do know that I hadn’t even taken a sip of the ale. It was just sat there, on the coffee table, bubbling softly. Thank God I’d put the glass on a coaster, otherwise the table would have been saturated with the condensation from the glass! I was able to see Puscas pick up his MOTM award and confirm that he is the only Romanian in history to speak with a French accent.
I was so annoyed. I’m 35 years old and this is what lockdown has done to me. What am I going to do when my friends/friend invite/invites me to a pop concert or any event that means I have to stay up past 9pm? It’s a worry.
As for us, normal service has been resumed. It’s not sparkling footie by any stretch, but we are at our best when we grind out results, which we have done in the last two games. Confidence is growing, the fixtures are still reasonably kind to us and we’ve solidified fifth place. I’m looking forward to seeing us really taking it to Wednesday on Saturday. If I can stay awake, of course.
Until next time.