What an absolutely surreal experience that was. And I’m not talking about that moment.
The age old problem of recording the game and trying not to find out the result. Lady Oog’s cousin was visiting from Finland and we were out on Saturday so I set the skyplus, switched my phone off and waited until Sunday morning.
Not finding out a score is harder than it looks. An absent-minded click on the internet here. An instinctive turning on of the radio there. Sometimes someone who knows full well what I am trying to do won’t be able to help themselves. ‘I won’t say anything, except for one word. Controversy!’. This ruins everything. More often, I’ll just feel like there is something wrong with a world where there’s been a Tottenham game and I don’t know what happened. I feel sick, but I’ll save myself an hour and a half and just get the news over with. Like exam results, but more important.
Put an overnight delay into the equation, however, and it interferes with my sleep. Messes with my mind. Oog’s subconscious takes over and disturbingly it’s very similar to Oog’s conscious. Obsessed with Tottenham.
First I dreamt that I watched the game on google, the modern version of ceefax. Then I dreamt that we lost 3-1. When I woke up I wasn’t sure whether this was real or not. It was only because I vaguely recalled that i) Ginola scored our goal and ii) our Swiss international defender was sent off that I realised it was gibberish borne of reverie. Depressing to realise that even in an alternative universe, we still can’t get a result against United.
Ok let’s jolt ourselves awake and get it out the way.
Play to the referee’s whistle. Letter of the law. Jumpers for goalposts. It was a penalty. It was a handball. No free kick – no nuffink – was given. So basically it’s a valid goal, and if we’d scored it, we’d be furious if it was overruled. Gomes shouldn’t put the ball down on the ground if the referee hasn’t whistled.
Poor comedy Gomes. If he wasn’t such a likeable fella I’d be annoyed with him. In fact, I’d still be annoyed with him if he wasn’t such a solid keeper and I never tire of being able to say that about him. How is it possible to be solid yet comedy? The man’s a genius.
But but but. Clattenburg has a reputation for common sense and it was not on display at Old Trafford yesterday. When there is such blatant confusion, the letter of the law becomes something for referees to hide behind. If it were applied consistently, a thousand things a game would be different, so when it comes to such an obvious moment of whaddafuckness the referee has a duty to do the sensible thing. Not only that, but why is he moving towards the United half if he wants to give the impression that it’s play on, business as usual lads? The ball is in play in the six yard box with no one near it, why jog backwards away from it right near the centre circle?
It’s one thing for there to be a controversial decision like the non-award of a penalty. The rules are there, and rightly or wrongly the referee has applied them. It’s another thing when no-one is sure whether the rule has been applied. This is happening more and more in football these days (Sunderland v Liverpool a few weeks ago). I’m tiring of having to form a view on this sort of thing. I watch football for excitement and sometimes a bit of controversy, not for the meta-rules of the game to be opened up and exposed to a moral constructivist analysis of the universe Matrix-style, which is what Clattenburg essentially did. And if any of that makes sense, then none of this is real. Let’s just agree he’s a virus, I’m biased and move on.
Ultimately, my issues with this performance were not the second goal. That’s just an aberration and every team gets exposed to a little weirdness now and again, self-inflicted or not. I’m more annoyed about the soft first goal, and the lack of teeth that we showed up front
As regular readers will know, I am a reluctant defender of Crouch and a reluctant critic of modern day Keane. In some ways this was a good game for Robbie. He ran about. He linked up in a couple of neat one-twos in and around the box, especially in the first half. He flapped his arms, and he didn’t flap at any chances because there weren’t any. Crouch might have done a bit better, but so what? We showed that we can go to Old Trafford and compete, but we need more muscle in the final third than any of our current strikers can provide. It’s easy to say ‘we’d be a great team with someone like Drogba’ – so would West Ham – but this game was another demonstration that our priority has to be new blood up front.
We got 4th last year without getting a result away to any of the top 3. We can do it again this year, especially as the City result showed that they have problems of their own. But when the need for change is staring you in the face, change. A great attacking teams needs a great attacker. The blunt truth is we were blunt.
Should have played Ginola.