It’s said that in life there are two types of days, those that can change your life and then all the rest. Saturday was probably not in the first category, but it was, nonetheless, a good day.
That I can look back on Saturday with a smile is testament, in no small part, to good fortune. Fulham got a tremendous three points against a dogged and lump-happy Stoke team, while England survived the first snow in Rome since Hannibal crossed the Alps to keep alive fantasised dreams of an unlikely grand slam in the Six Nations.
Saturday was also only the second time this season that I have been unable to make use of my season ticket for a Barclays Premier League match at the Cottage. I voluntarily gave up my Saturday afternoon (well, in truth, morning, afternoon, evening and Sunday) to help my other half move house.
There are thousands of Fulham fans dotted around the world to whom a tale of woe about missing one home game might sound a tad of a sob story. To that end, I appreciate, and I hope all my fellow season ticket holders appreciate, how fortunate we are to be able to watch our beloved team in person on a bi-weekly basis with relatively little hassle.
However, as someone who is used to being there in person, being kept away on a home matchday is a surreal experience. I am used to being able to clap Martin Jol to the dugout while the teams shake hands, to watching the half-time shoot-out featuring two teams of kids who inevitably provide more entertainment than the first half (not the case this week) and to sing along to “you’re just to good to be true” when we’ve won. I think most of my troubles this weekend centred on not being there for Pavel Pogrebnyak’s debut.
Saturday afternoon started well, after some recent selection controversy and misdemeanours (having no strikers on the pitch counts as a misdemeanour), it was a marked relief when twitter churned out the Fulham team featuring our new man Pogrebnyak as a recognised front man in the First XI. Hope had sprung eternal.
Thankfully, modern technology, through the mediums of Twitter and Sky Go meant that, all the time I was able to reach for my phone, I was as close to the game as I could be. However, whilst on the move, it was a text from my father, at the game, that gave me my first smile of the afternoon. “Pogo scores” – simple elegance that provided me with a brief moment of joy.
Having realised that I had received the text several minutes earlier I quickly jumped on Twitter to find out more when, to my surprise, I was greeted with news of Dempsey’s thunderstrike and Thomas Sorensen’s back combining to give us a two nil lead. Karma was with me at the moment.
Permitted a break from the heavy lifting by the powers that be, I settled down to watch the first half of Italy v England safe in the comfort that our two nil lead sounded remarkably solid. As a Fulham fan though, you learn not to take anything for granted. Sure enough, it was the 62nd minute substitution of Pogrebnyak for Davies that filled me with an impending sense of doom and bewilderment. As frustrated as I would have been in person to see Marcello Trotta left on the bench again in favour of a six man midfield (and no strikers) for the last third of the match, stuck on the end of a mobile device my neuroses were beginning to take hold.
However, some cold comfort can be taken from an inability to actually see what’s going on. When Ryan Shawcross headed in Stoke’s inevitable goal, I was merely left in a juxtaposed state of fear and hope rather than the outright paranoia that would have onset should I have been witnessing the frantic last ten minutes first hand.
While in Rome, England’s defence at the end of the first half offered up two back-to-back scores for the Italians, Fulham’s defence held firm, which is perhaps not surprising with the safe return of Aaron to Brede’s right hand. When the text came through confirming our victory, I was engulfed with a palpable sense of relief and once again willing to help with the carrying of yet another box of books to a removal van.
Having now caught up on highlights and match reports, I am left with several observations. Firstly, Match of the Day’s insistence on putting us on last was nothing less than insulting. Wigan’s drab 2-1 victory at Bolton was even on before our game. The BBC’s new North-West equality focus is turning into something of a myopic love fest.
More so than the running order, though, was the diabolical editing to focus much of the attention on Pogrebnyak’s somewhat rash challenge on Wilson Palacios. It wasn’t pretty, but was no worse than a lunge from behind by Palacios himself in the second half, yet the BBC insisted on only sharing Stoke boss Tony Pulis’ thoughts on that initial challenge, rather than any other point in the whole match. The gall of Pulis to criticise our player’s tackling is no less hypocritical than eating a cheeseburger with one hand whilst reading a book on dieting in the other. That Pogo had to go off injured after several robust (and sometimes foul) challenges must have skipped the mind of both Pulis and the programming editor at Match of the Day.
Anyway, enough of my ramblings. A good win and a much needed three points. A two week break from competitive action now with the FA Cup next weekend, followed by the big one at Loftus Road. Talking of QPR, they lost at the weekend. I told you, Saturday was a good day.