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Terry’s Baggies Blog

ALBION GOING BANANAS

24-03-2008

The Baggies draw at Charlton was remarkable for the return of the iconic inflatable banana. Remember, you read it here first, courtesy of Terry Wills.

Crunch time. Nine games remaining- a number of teams striving to claim a top two automatic promotion spot closely followed by hopefuls who have good reason to believe they’re still in with a chance of claiming a play off place – knowing that if they succeed anything can happen in the football equivalent of buying a Lottery ticket.

So it was for Albion and Charlton. A game both teams knew could help shape their ultimate destiny come season's end.

Following the disastrous setback against Leicester plus the army of players daily occupying the treatment room Tony Mowbray’s choice of who to play, and who to leave out, was strictly limited.

In came Carl Hoefkens, Bostjan Cesar and Pele while in the absence of both Chris Brunt and James Morrison it fell to Ishmael Miller to partner Kevin Phillips up front although ‘Tiny’ immediately lined up as the left sided wide player. (In the ‘good old days’ they were known as wingers!)

This was the Baggies second visit to face Charlton and in the Third round of the FA Cup back in January we somehow managed to concede a ‘soft’ goal in around 55 seconds.

No such luck for Charlton this time although very early on a slip by Martin Albrechtsen led to a heart stopping moment that could have proved costly.

Mercifully it didn’t and for the opening 15/20 minutes neither team could gain any significant advantage although Charlton dominated in terms of possession.

Encouraging signs? The grafting, non stop running, and determination shown by Jonathan Greening, Robert Koren, and Zoltan Gera.

What wasn’t helping was the over zealous performance of Referee Mr P. Friend. The slightest hint of a challenge was punished (football used to be a contact game) and so it came to pass that both Greening and Gera were called over to receive the now statutory yellow card.

Gary Halford went close to opening the scoring for Charlton curling a shot wide following a free kick. One of many that must have had Tony Mowbray (along with the Barmy Army Banana Band of vocal fans) wondering if this inherent weakness would yet again cost us dear.

Oh to have been proved wrong. 1-0 to Charlton. Gary Halford opened the scoring with a header from a free kick as defenders and keeper looked at each other ‘asking’ the silent question “Come on, own up. It wasn’t me”!

Myself? I got the impression Dean Kiely resembled a ‘giant redwood tree’ slowly crashing down as a team of Lumberjacks screamed ‘Timber’ while some sitting comfortably at home watching courtesy of the television cameras claimed the defenders were to blame.

Not that it mattered - the deed was done. Now lets get back into the game lads. “We dare not drop another three points”.

Prayers answered nine minutes before the break and for once Albion took advantage of a free kick. ‘Jesus’ Greening floated a cross into the box. Spring heeled Zoltan nodded down to the feet of ‘Super’ Kevin. He controlled the ball in an instant and how the Banana led Baggies army celebrated as his shot crashed in to the net off the underside of the bar.

If in terms of possession Charlton had had the better up to the break the second 45 minutes was a different story. Yes they posed the occasional threat but compared with the trauma of striving to protect their keeper Nicky Weaver that measured around 1.5 on the Richter scale.

Raids down both flanks. Probing balls from Messrs Greening and Gera had them back peddling. So often the way to goal was clearly open for the ‘killer’ ball only to see it narrowly intercepted. Shots were either hacked away or blocked and then just as we thought ‘Tiny’ had notched a deserved second goal up went that damned yellow flag from a linesman.

Couldn’t be offside you idiot!” But then, as he was in line with the play, and we were behind the goal perhaps he did have a clearer view than we totally ‘unbiased’ supporters!

On came Roman (Gladiator) Bednar for Ishmael Miller who in truth despite having a few incursions into the ‘Addicks’ penalty area hadn’t posed too many problems for their resolute defenders.

Bednar DID pose problems, and the air of desperation could be clearly seen on the faces of the Charlton defenders as somehow or other they continued to hold out against all the odds.

(Although of course with Albion ‘throwing’ players forward seemingly ‘willy-nilly’ there was always THAT feeling they could catch us on the break and steal an undeserved winner)

Four minutes added on time we could still do it. “Come on you Baggies” The Blue and white striped Banana went into overdrive! “When the stripes go marching in” “The Lord's my Shepherd”

More corners and incessant pressure and then, for me, the Baggies Man of the Match Zoltan Gera, had the cruellest luck imaginable, his thunderous shot hitting the bar and agonisingly finishing at the back of the totally frustrated non stop roaring Albion supporters.

The final whistle and following this much improved display supporters and players applauded each other in turn. Both they and we knew we deserved to win the game so although a draw away from home is always welcome the unanimous feeling was the Baggies should have been travelling back to the Hawthorns with a vital satisfying three points safely locked away.

All round it had been an encouraging performance. The mobility and passing was far crisper - the defence with Cesar outstanding, solid, the midfield impressive while with the likes of Phillips and Bednar up front goals always looked likely.

If you didn’t see the game either ‘live’ or on the box and are wondering what on earth I’m on about when mentioning ‘Albion’s ‘Banana’ Army (?) it’s just a throwback to the 1980s when inflatable bananas were a frequent sight on the terraces, mainly when Manchester City fans came a visiting!

Now they WERE fun days so congratulations to the two ‘Nutty’ Baggies fans who decided to dress the largest ‘Fyffe’ banana in a Baggies shirt much to the delight of us all.

What the Sky commentators thought of it I haven’t the faintest idea but on a very cold night at the Valley they certainly lifted our spirits!

Will we see more of them in the future? Only time will tell but I can’t help wonder if in a couple of weeks time, among the 33,000 Baggies fans who’ll be descending on Wembley for the FA Cup semi final against Portsmouth, the nation will be treated to the sight of ‘hundreds’ of inflated Banana’s proudly wearing our famous Blue and white striped shirts?

Amazingly we didn’t lose any significant ground in the chase for that automatic promotion due to the failure of the other front runners to win their games although conversely Hull City have emerged as genuine challengers following a string of impressive results.

So again our destiny is in our own hands. The question is “Can Albion reproduce this form on a more consistent basis starting next week at home to bottom of the table Colchester United?

Yes it’s another must win/ should win game. But will they do it?

Watch this space.

Come on you Baggies”…

Do you remember the inflatable craze of the '90s? Are you glad to see it return? Leave a comment on the Message Board.

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