The last game of the season is now behind us and we are still Premier League, of course we didn't make it easy but boy oh boy! Having been given a copy of It's A Game of Two Halves recently, I asked the lovely @writesaidfred68 to write a review for me, and here it is, grab a cuppa, sit back and re-live *that* Game :)
And of course if you like it, you could always order yourself a copy of his book here! at a special pre-order price of just £6.99 though also available as an ebook or in hard copy :)
And over to Fred :)
"If the title of my book ‘It’s A Game Of Two Halves’ was ever written with just one match in mind, then it would never have been more apt than for how the final match of the Barclays Premier League campaign 2011-2012 was to pan out between Manchester ‘Citeh’ and Queens Park Rangers. For the former this was billed as their defining moment of the last 400 years, or something like that, since their last defining moment. For Rangers, it was all about survival, and to remain in the Barclays Premier League (I’m hoping that by repeating the word Barclays I earn a Royalty each time, as otherwise I am damned if I know why every bloody player and manager keeps saying it in interviews. We KNOW who sponsors it thank you very much and NO, I’m not going to switch my bank account just because you keep reminding me. Not even for a free pen. Or a set of piggy banks. Or a £5 cash deposit. Well ok, if you must know, I already bank with Barclays so don’t need to. But I digress. Which is often. However this is something I am working on with my Digression Therapist. Why only the other day we were discussing the virtues of cheap supermarket own brand liquor over their more expensive branded neighbours and coming to no conclusion whatsoever. Why I pay him I don’t know. But then I don’t. But I digress. Again).
So the world looked on as Citeh, boasting some ridiculous home record of circa P92 W91 D1 L0 GF894 GA3 played hosts to Rangers, whose away record wasn’t quite as good. The pundits had a field day, predicting possibly the first ever Barclays Premier League score on a par with a cricket match, and there were even rumours that Rangers were seen waving a white flag from their dressing room just before kick-off. Some Rangers fans, overcome with the tension, were seen doing the ‘Posnan’, not for any other reason than they really couldn’t bear to look at what was to play out on the pitch, and the bouncing movement took their minds off the fact that they needed yet another pre match dump.
My day had started brightly enough with breakfast at a friend’s house. Bacon, eggs, sausages, plum tomatoes, fried bread and hash browns all washed down with a fresh filter coffee would have been nice. So muesli and an instant coffee were a bit of a blow to my waistline expansion project. I mulled over the daily paper and really hoped my friend would one day buy a new one, as this editions expose that ‘Freddy Star Ate My Hamster’ seemed somewhat dated.
The early afternoon had been spent watching the clock tick by minute by minute and wondering if I had enough wood and rope in my garage to erect a makeshift gallows and noose. These thoughts soon disappeared when I realised how stupid I was being. I mean, I don’t have a garage.
I was to watch the match on tv with my friend Craig. I call him Craig for the simple reason that it’s his name. Craig is a part time Wolves supporter, much like their playing staff have been this season, but knew what the game meant to me and the millions watching in their respective homes in the four corners of the globe. Not that a globe has four corners you understand. We settled down on my leather sofa (I did consider a neighbour’s sofa as an alternative but as they were away didn’t feel they would welcome me breaking in, and besides, they have a two seater cloth covered affair, so the thought of being that up close and personal with Craig, albeit he did have on some Blue Stratos and an open necked Rocha, John Rocha shirt, just revealing a small clump of chest hair and my preference for leather meant I thought better of it). I perched myself on the edge of my seat, as I knew this would save time later on.
As the players converged in the tunnel, I felt a lump in my throat, but fortunately I managed to dislodge a stray Nobby’s nut before I needed to perform a self- tracheotomy with my blunt Stanley knife and a potato peeler. As the players came out, the crowd went wild, a sea of blue and white and noise and ticker tape, loud cheers and songs, almost mass hysteria. And the Citeh fans cheered as well.
The game was frenetic with all to play for, and Rangers had their first moral victory of the day by surviving over 50 seconds, thus surpassing their last away game. Citeh attacked. Rangers defended stoutly. I dared to sit further back in my seat, but the edge was the only place for me today. I watched the clock, daring to imagine that time was all but up and we had the point we required to be safe. Tick followed tock followed tick followed tock. I’m not sure tock welcomed the attention of tick and his stalking but no complaint was forthcoming. News filtered in that Bolton, the only side who could stay up at Rangers expense, was losing! It transpired that Jonathan Walters had scored for my favourite other team today Stoke by literally heading the ball out of the keepers hands and bundling him in the goal for good measure! Maybe the footballing gods were on our side. Maybe the fact that the Country was now all supporting Bolton made us the underdog and in an incredible switch of allegiance, the good old British public now had to support us instead.
Back at the Etihad Rangers we’re under the cosh but defending resolutely. Clearly a statement like this is followed with a but or a however. I will use however, it’s classier. However Citeh made the breakthrough. Zabaleta burst into the box, quicker than a cream horn goes down the gullet of an overweight Office Worker at Elevenses, and smashed the ball at Paddy Kenny, who seemed to snap a few bones in his hands as the ball sped through his gloves and looped in off the far post, and despite diving back into his goal and clawing it out a la Bolton’s Bogdan from Clint Hill (now THERE’S an irony) the goal was given and the place seemed to get mildly excited. Some miles away at the Stadium of Light the faintest sound of single bullets to collective temples could be heard. Just to compound our misery Bolton not only had the audacity to equalise but the temerity to take the lead and as things stood, we now found ourselves with a fate worse than death. Yes. The prospect of having to go to Selhurst Park again next season.
During half time my despair was such that I found myself actually doing the washing up and so close was I to complete breakdown I contemplated the unthinkable. The ironing. This awful thought drifted from my mind as the second half began, and I was once again perched back in front of the 50 inch plasma, with only a diet coke and the fading aroma of Blue Stratos to keep me sane. Then in a flash, Joleon Lescott attempted an audacious header off his oversized pate to Joe Hart, and had somehow failed to see Djibril Cisse, surely a man you could pick out if he was standing among the masses in the main stand, and allowed the Rangers man to nip in and smash the ball home! 1-1! I leapt from my couch like a man half my weight and shouted ‘YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CISSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’ To my surprise Craig joined me also, and the sight of two grown men jumping round my living room and screaming ‘YYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!! GET IN!!!!!!!!!’ was probably grounds for the current Mrs Hartman to pack a bag and leave me for good. We sat back down and I suddenly felt invigorated by our restoring parity. Could we actually get the point we needed and not require favours from anyone else? How does a snow plough driver get to his place of work after an overnight falling of snow? How much wood can a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood? These questions and many more never entered my head.
Then the inevitable happened. Craig needed a pee as he had necked a whole can of diet coke. Then something else inevitable happened. Joey Barton got embroiled in an altercation with Tevez. Replays won’t show that the former was actually sending a tweet with another ill-timed Smiths reference when Tevez pulled his power lead and Joey thought it only right to give him the old Spanish Archer. Clearly the referee’s assistant was too busy checking his lottery numbers and only looked up to see Tevez sprawled on the deck and instantly put two and two together and realised he hadn’t won again this week, but could get Joey tweeting apologies later by getting him sent for an early bath. As the inevitable red card appeared, Joey then decided to boot Aguero (something he hadn’t been able to do all afternoon) and attempt a head-butt on Kompany (failing to make contact a common trait with our Joe this season, as his previous attempt on Bradley Johnson of the Canaries ended in the latter clutching his nose from the additional breeze this generated). Joey left the field with a dignified silence (unlike myself, who let out a tirade so intense and filled with that many expletives that in the interest of public safety, and not to contravene indecency laws, I am unable to repeat any of the words here) and I booked my annual eye test at Specsavers.
Citeh now smelt blood. I smelt the amalgamation of Stratos and last night’s Leek and Potato pie. I barely had time to think why I smelt like Leek and Potato pie, as I had fish fingers and chips, when Traore burst down Citeh’s right flank like the poor man’s version of Usain Bolt and crossed for the onrushing Jamie Mackie to write himself into Rangers folklore by heading downwards and into the back of the net (as opposed the front of the net, if that were indeed possible)! 1-2! Craig and I leapt up and shouted ‘YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GET IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GET IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’ We only stopped after our man hugging nearly brought down the ceiling and I heard nearby houses windows smashing.
With my heart beating like a man waiting for his Stag party stripper to arrive, I had to sit down again and try and take in what had just happened. I mean, it’s not every day you are watching a team with the worst away record in the division beating the team with the best home record, or is it every day that I jump around my living room with another man, hugging and screaming ‘GET IN!!!!’ at the top of my voice.
For what seemed like an eternity Rangers clung on, with Citeh throwing everything including the kitchen sink at us. At one point I could have sworn I didn’t see Clint Hill and Shaun Derry building a brick wall across the 18 yard box. Stoke had now equalised so we had the safety net of both games going our way! Craig turned to me and said “Can you believe it? You are winning with 10 minutes to go!” By this time I had become mute and was unable to even move, so petrified was I that we would concede two late goals and Bolton would snatch another, where Kevin Davies is clearly seen to elbow Rory Delap in the face, scythe down Ryan Shawcross on his way to goal, brutally maim Robert Huth (ok, this one should go unpunished as he played for Chelscum) before rounding Thomas Sorenson, having already stamped on his hand, and
scoring in the 95th minute with no time to restart and the goal stand and Bolton win 2-3.
Craig then turned to me and said “Can you believe it? You are winning with 9 minutes to go!” then turned to me about a minute later and said “Can you believe it? You are winning with 8 minutes to go!” At this point I thought I was going to be sick, mainly at the prospect of Craig leaning over and saying something which I may repeat and which may later be used in evidence against me.
When the clock did finally drag its sorry carcass to 90 minutes I was left contemplating a whole season came down to the next FIVE minutes of added time, while convincing myself that a clock could actually HAVE a carcass, sorry or otherwise. As the ball was hurled in from what must have been Citeh’s 90th corner, there was Dzeko powering in like an express train, only one that didn’t take passengers and one which could actually head footballs, to score for the home side and Champions elect! 2-2 and there was still 3 minutes left! Just as the kick off came Paul Merson started screaming in my ear (not actually in my living room you understand as that was where Craig was sitting, I mean, how many friends can you have round in one afternoon?), but from my Ipad which was showing slightly delayed punditry from Gillette Soccer Sunday (I was going to say Saturday but that really would have been delayed).
What played out in front of me was now the stuff of nightmares. No, not the one where you wake up next to Janet Street Porter with her dentures in a glass by the bed and her negligee wrapped around your head, but where your team have played like lion hearts, battled like soldiers, defied all the odds and had that point to retain our Premiership status about to be snatched away by the cruel mistress fate. Citeh cut through the Rangers defence and there was Aguero to smash the winner deep into stoppage time! 3-2 and the Etihad exploded! I hadn’t witnessed scenes like it ever and had it not been my team on the end of it, the hairs on the back of my neck would have stood to attention. As it was, I froze; it was like my whole life flashed before me and the hugging and kissing began. I now just needed to know the score at Stoke as that was the only way we could be saved now. I waited feverishly for the final score, forgetting my Sky Go coverage was about a minute behind. When the final score came it finally sank in – Bolton had drawn and had subsequently relinquished their grip on the ‘greatest league in the world’. I spared a thought for how their fans were feeling and after that 3 seconds were up I jumped up again and was so elated that I banged my head on the light fitting, tumbled forward, breaking my knee on the heavy TV cabinet, and in the process of trying to keep myself upright, grabbed the TV, shattering the glass and electrocuted myself.
We had done it! I hadn’t been this happy since Cheryl Cole (the name here is purely fictitious and any resemblance to any person, alive or dead is purely coincidental) agreed to spend the night with me with nothing but an overnight bag consisting of a tooth brush, baby oil, fluffy handcuffs and her MasterCard with the pin number scrawled in black biro on the strip.
Craig, the current Mrs H and I cracked open a post coital Carling Zest, while I battled with various tweets, texts, calls and smoke signals. As it transpired, the R’s had been part of one of the greatest ever matches in the greatest league in the world, the Barclays Premier League.
I guess when we all look back on the campaign when we are old and grey (so in my case about next Tuesday) we will remember great victories (over Chelscum, Spuds, and the Arse), great defeats (Liverpool, WBA, Newcastle), new players arriving, a departing legendary manager, an incoming legendary manager in training and perhaps what could prove to be our biggest ever signing in Tony Fernandes. So just another mediocre season in the life of Queens Park Rangers Football Club, the finest football team the world has ever seen (in the greatest league in the world)."
Frederick RJ Hartman AKA @writesaidfred68