Pre Season Tour Pt 1
I love the pre season build up, all the hype the promise of great things, the seeing new signings for the first time hopefully in sunshine.
With this in mind I drove away from Wigan under black skies with heavy rain bouncing off my windscreen, heading to the first U.K. friendly at Barnsley.
On arriving in Barnsley, the first thing is that they have moved the away fans parking area. This has traditionally being the grassy slope near the away end, famous for the Latics fans impersonation of Zulu in the first division a few years ago.
Zulu I hear you ask? Let me explain, it was ten mins to kick off and there were only about 300 Latics fans on the ground. We were having a good season and I couldn't understand why our away following was so poor that afternoon and then over the hill like in Zulu, hoards of Latics fans appeared in their hundreds escorted by the mounted police, having being sampling the local brew.
For the record on that day Latics won, my only memory is Scott Green being booked after scoring and jumping onto the wall at the Wigan end.
The away parking is now in the centre of town in a cunning plan to tire the away fans out walking up the hills.
Barnsley is the Yorkshire Wigan. An honest working class town built on the mines and decimated by the closure of said mines.The town itself is clean , compact and very 1970's.
The ground is a typical championship stadium seated on all four sides with one large main stand.
What was confusing was all the Man City adverts and flags around the ground. Had Barnsley been moved to Manchester overnight? The confusion was abated when someone more knowledgable than me pointed out that the Man City qualifiying games for the UEFA cup were being player there.
Another surreal issue was the programme. Being from Yorkshire they have a reputation of being canny with their brass, so the programme was for two games. One half being printed upside down from the other to denote the difference.
A poll recently identified the fans favourite pies, mine is Chickne Balti and I was looking forward to renewing my acquaintence with the Barnsley Balti. What I hadn't counted on was the fact that there would be only two girls working in the snack bar and that there was no till thereby forcing the girls to do their sums in their heads. This led to challenges as to whether they had added up right and after ten mins in which two people were served I gave up and went to sit down (for the record two pies and a bottle of coke was 7 quid).
As middle age has hit I have found my eyesight isn' what it was but vanity prevents me from wearing glasses in public. The problem this causes is sitting behing a goal in the sunshine it is difficult to tell who has scored at the other end. Judging by the conversations around me I wasn't the only one. In the states they solved the reading problem by increasing the size of paperbacks so that they can increase the size of the writing. How they would do this in football I don't know, maybe move the pitch closer to the ends or just have two goals at one end. Whatever it was a lot easier in the second half when they were attacking our end.
The Latics fans were quiet, lots of polite applause for players coming on and off and much applause for Zaki warming up. 248 Latics fans made the trip including at least four of this site, myself Worbo, Nicol and Bryan Plumb , the latter showing off his custon made new Latics flag. Hoepfully there will be some pictures on line with it on soon.
The game itself was pretty one sided, the most worrying aspect apart from Scharner's injury was the ripping of Cattermole's shirt into virtually two. The challenge wasn't that bad but the referee must have thought the kit was tough and the challenge therefore must have been terrible as Kozluk was booked for it. As one wag shouted,'mines going back to the store tomorrow'.
Brown's header provoked a lot of speculation as to whether this was his first ever goal from a header and I suspect that he hasn't scored that many with his noggin. The fact that the ball was only about a foot off the floor when he headed it might have helped.
De Ridder was superb but the penalty was awful, one hopes he only took it because he was on a hat trick.It was as bad as Todorov's at Blackburn two season's ago
At the end the announcer wished us a safe journey home from a balmy Barnsley. Well at least I thought he said balmy, maybe he meant barmy.
All in all a nice aperetif to the games to come and with the propsect of Zaki's debut tomorrow will be interesting