Rants and musings from the magazine team
Simon Carter surveys the English leagues for Saturday and Sunday sufferers
Lousy leadersAsk a million different football fans what it is they love most about the game and chances are you’ll get a million different answers. But ask those same million fans to recount their most cherished memory and you can bet that a high percentage of them will regale you with play-by-play accounts of their favourite goals.
It’s the rarity of the goal that makes it so special, it’s what makes our sport so unique, and the feeling of seeing your side roar into the lead is one that’s hard to beat.
Except sometimes not everything goes to plan and the goal that put you in front is nothing but a cruel precursor to a heart-breaking defeat. All four divisions included teams that dangled the carrot of victory in front of their supporters only to throw it all away.
In the Premier League, Aston Villa led (albeit against the run of play) 1-0 at half-time, thanks to a gift of a goal from a Southampton defence still shaken from last week’s shellacking at Arsenal. Whatever Nigel Adkins said at half-time – maybe he’s invested in a hairdryer – clearly worked as the Saints ran four goals past Villa in a very one-sided second half.
On Sunday, Liverpool were ahead against Manchester United through a superb Steven Gerrard strike, despite being reduced to 10 men, before a wonderful goal by Rafael and a penalty from Robin van Persie left them defeated for the third time in five league games. At White Hart Lane, QPR seemed to be in with a shout of a first win of the season when leading 1-0 at half-time against Tottenham. Unfortunately for the Hoops, two goals in two minutes left them defeated and second from bottom in the league.
There was more of the same in The Championship where Derby let a 1-0 lead turn into a defeat at home to Burnley on Saturday, and Cardiff somehow turned a 2-0 half-time advantage into a 3-2 defeat at Palace. In League One, Preston slipped from 1-0 to 1-3 at Walsall and Crawley saw their 2-1 lead against league leaders Tranmere turn into a heavy 2-5 home defeat.
In League Two, both Morecambe and Rochdale let a two-goal lead slip, though Rochdale can console themselves with at least holding on to a 2-2 draw with Dagenham & Redbridge, while Exeter’s decent start to the season was undermined by conceding two in the last 15 minutes to lose 2-1 at Southend.
As any fan knows, it's better to have something from nothing than to throw it all away. The question is, would you rather have never been in front?
September OwlsSeptember is traditionally a good month for owls. Their preferred dining options, mice and hedgehogs, are fully grown plentiful and scurrying around competing for food and shelter, making them easy pickings for the predators. Plus the earlier nights and later mornings means all the more time for hunting.
But for those Championship-roosting Owls of Sheffield Wednesday, September has been the cruellest month. Unbeaten since Dave Jones took charge in March – during which time they have escaped League One and defeated Fulham in the League Cup – Wednesday finally succumbed 2-1 to Palace on the first day of September.
A break for international football followed, but Wednesday’s next outing was a 3-0 thumping at Brighton before a sorry home derby defeat to Huddersfield. On Saturday they faced a Bolton side who, like them, had garnered seven points from their opening six games but who will have their eyes on promotion this season as opposed to Wednesday’s survival hopes.
Given the clubs' differing aspirations, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Bolton came away from Hillsborough with a 2-1 win but that is little solace for Owls fans who are seeing their club’s worst run since their relegation season two years ago.
Before September is over, Wednesday must travel to Southampton in the League Cup before facing a trip to promotion-chasing Wolves next Saturday. On the bright side, the visit to Molineux completes September’s fixtures and October can’t be that bad. Can it?
Championship Blues (Again) Last week we reported on the plight of a Birmingham side who had limped to just one win in their first five games of the new season. It looks as though we might have focused on them seven days too early.
For a Saturday tea-time get-together, Lee Clark's side welcomed a Barnsley side who hadn't won at St Andrew’s this millennium and who hadn't kept a clean sheet in their last 24 away games. What followed could only be described as disastrous for the Blues as Barnsley carved the home side open time and time again.
Birmingham will have counted themselves lucky to be level at half-time, but if they learned any lessons they didn’t show it when Stephen Forster opened the scoring before Birmingham fan Craig Davies scored four goals to inflict his favourite team’s heaviest home defeat in recent memory.
Clark used his post match interview to describe the performance as “devastating” and “lifeless”. With imminent games against table-topping Brighton and perennial contenders Cardiff, Clark needs a lifeline from somewhere.
John TerryWho knows what drove the former England captain to announce his “heart-breaking” retirement from international football late on Sunday night, though he may have jumped before being pushed. With an FA disciplinary hearing over the Ferdinand farrago scheduled for Monday, Terry was left out of Chelsea's Saturday win against Stoke amid rumours that his mind was not on the game.
In a statement, Terry said that “the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable” before wishing England future success.
Whatever people think about John Terry as an individual, it cannot be argued that he didn’t give everything to the cause during each of his 78 caps – and that his position in the heart of the Three Lions' defence will be a big one to fill.
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