I’m not sure what has happened over the past two years or so to transform me into someone who finds it increasingly hard to listen to our away matches on the radio, but something has. Whereas I had always been able to cope with listening to live commentary of City away games, recently, I cannot take in more than two minute snatches of the game and, more often than not, end up checking my IPhone or Sky Sports News every now and then to get the score (even then it is done through one, half open, eye as if doing that will somehow diminish the disappointment if I see we are losing!).
At about half past seven last night as I prepared for another fraught night of winking at my phone and Jeff Stelling or whoever was presenting Sky’s Soccer Special, the doorbell rang and I opened the door to find a friend I had not seen in years who was visiting Cardiff and thought he’d call on me out of the blue (I had lost touch with him when he moved away twenty odd years ago). So it was that I spent the next two hours and more talking about anything but Cardiff City (he was never a football fan) and, although I’ll admit I almost blurted out “but the City are just about to kick off” when I first saw him on the doorstep, I’m so glad I didn’t for all sorts of reasons – not least because the next two hours of my life turned out to be entertaining and enjoyable as opposed to the torture I would have gone through if he hadn’t turned up.
Of course, the City still weren’t far from my mind and I timed my making of a second pot of tea to coincide with half time so that I could check my phone and listen to a bit of radio while I was making it. With no prompting from me (well not much anyway!), my friend decided at about twenty to ten that he was outstaying his welcome and I was able to listen to the last few seconds of the game in a far more relaxed frame of mind than I usually am when we are winning away from home late on because City, ever so considerately, had doubled their lead in the second half.
Because of my unexpected visitor, this is going to be another of one those pieces where I can only comment in general terms on a game for the simple reason that I know very little about it, so, having now seen the goals and listened to some post match reaction, here are a few observations;-
1. First of all, well done to Dave Jones for showing a flexibility in his selection which, I for one, had certainly not considered as he found a way of getting Saturday’s hero Jason Koumas and the unlucky to miss out Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on to his bench last night. I’m not sure I’d have been too impressed to hear the names Bywater and Naylor in our starting line up beforehand if I had known the team mind, but, perhaps our manager figured that, given the opposition’s limitations, he could change his defensive line up and still have enough to keep the blunt Blades out – whatever his reasoning, he was proved right in his judgement.
2. After looking flat and pretty ordinary in the first three matches of our miserable March, Craig Bellamy is becoming the influence I, and I’m sure many others, hoped he would as the season came to it’s climax. Since the Millwall match, Bellamy has been justifying the hype which we saw when he first signed for us and it sounds like he terrorised the Sheffield United defence last night. They certainly couldn’t cope with his movement in the build up to his goal and, if he can keep his current form up, it has to auger well for our top two prospects.
3. Having started a messageboard thread yesterday morning in which I questioned the amount of pace we had in the team without Craig Bellamy, it was interesting to hear Dave Jones answering post match questions about how City had “killed” Sheffield United with pace! Even at thirty two, Bellamy is definitely quick enough to make a lack of pace charge aimed any team he plays in look pretty ridiculous and it has to be said that we did have other players out there last night capable of causing our opponents problems because they were quicker than their markers (e.g. Bothroyd, Burke and Emmanuel-Thomas), but was that down to us being quicker than most other Championship sides, or, as Nathan Blake claimed earlier in the week, Sheffield United being a side almost wholly lacking in pace? I would suggest the latter – after all how many other sides have we, reportedly, “killed” with our pace this season?
4. Staying with our opponents, many older City fans had mentioned that last night’s match offered a chance of revenge for what happened on a Tuesday night in April 1971 when Sheffield United hammered us 5-1 at Brammal Lane to virtually seal their place in the first division at our expense. I’ll state here and now that an additional reason for enjoying last night’s outcome so much was that it virtually condemns the Blades to relegation because I don’t like them much but, that’s not really anything to do with their 1971 side. Although I tried to hate them at the time, I couldn’t really because there was always this feeling that they were, probably, a bit better than us and in Tony Currie they had a player of a quality and flair that we could just not match. No, my dislike of Sheffield United stems from the way they have played the game for twenty years or more – that is, very physically, courtesy of thugs like Chris Morgan, with plenty of long ball stuff thrown in – like many other City fans, I also didn’t like their attitude when Paul Taylor handed them a 3-0 win on a plate at Ninian Park in 08/09.
5. Although it didn’t turn out to be quite as good a night as it looked like being at half time, it wasn’t bad at all with dropped points for Norwich and Swansea. Also, differing results for the likes of Forest, Leicester, Burnley, Leeds, Hull and Millwall will ensure that they should be giving their all when they face automatic promotion candidates in the coming weeks -in saying that, Burnley will need a big improvement to ensure that they have something to play for when they entertain us on the last day of the season mind.
6. Now all I need to do is contact a couple (hopefully, I’ll not need more than two) of few former school friends and arrange for them to make surprise visits when we are at Preston and Burnley!