Bit late in the day but…
The question on the lips of my little contingent of season ticket holders after Monday’s majestic swatting-aside of Chelski was simply: Was Theo’s goal the best bundle yet at the Grove? There have been a few others – Gallas’ last-minute equaliser against Man Utd, Henry’s header against the same opponents way back in the first season at the Grove and Fabregas’ mazy, unchallenged dribble and goal from the kick-off last season against the Spuds. There are certain conditions that need to be fulfilled to make the grade; it has to be against a big side, it helps if it’s a perhaps unexpected goal and it tends to come straight after another big moment when the crowd’s lungs are fine-tuned and the place is already rumbling along nicely. Theo’s goal fitted all those criteria and the bundle was explosive. My brother was somehow shunted down the aisle, terrace-style, I was hugging anyone who was prepared to be hugged (and some who, in retrospect, might not have been) and you couldn’t hear yourself think. I was hoarser than Red Rum.
As passages of play go, the ten-minute spell before and after half-time took some beating, but overall it was exactly the display many of us had been hoping, yearning to see all season. We were almost better off the ball than we were on it, and I can think of fewer better accolades than that. At times this season we have looked like we didn’t want it enough, but we couldn’t have wanted it more against Chelski and they simply had no answer.
I have no idea whether it will be marked as a coming of age, or just an exceptional one-off, but it was definitely a match that went some way to knocking a few theories about the team on the head. It wasn’t until after the game I realised how desperate I had been for the team to put in a shift like that and to bury a few doubts – many of them held by me. It was pretty cathartic.
No doubt much of the undoubted feel-good factor will dissipate if we head to Wigan tonight and trip up. Scene of the lowest point of last season, it is a game that must and I suspect will not be taken lightly.
I look at tonight’s game with increasing confidence and a renewed belief in the potential of this team – and if I’m thinking that, I suspect the players are too. Let’s go out there and dish out more of the same.
All I need now is to chase the stream…