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Terry’s Baggies Blog

DOWN….BUT NOT OUT

20-05-2009

Terry Wills reflects on The Baggies relegation … and Sunday’s now meaningless game at Blackburn where fans will don Mowbray masks.

So that’s it. The surgeons, doctors and nurses who fought to the bitter end as Albion desperately clung on to the slenderest of life-lines finally switched off the life support system at the Hawthorns on Saturday May 17 th 2009.

If the ‘passing’ had taken place inside the confines of Holby City’s A and E Dept they’d simply have turned to each other and said “All in agreement? Time of death 17-50. Thank you everyone for your efforts”

Not that it was unexpected. As Stirrer readers know I’ve felt for several weeksthat this time there wouldn’t be a ‘Second Great Escape’. Yes of late the Baggies had shown overall improvement in their performances BUT the truth was, and always will be recognised.

They ‘passed’ peacefully away, failing to survive simply because, too many to mention individual errors, either resulted in presenting gift wrapped goals at one end while spurning ‘golden’ opportunities at the other.

And if anyone really doubted this was the case the 2-0 defeat (we still haven’t scored against them in eight Premiership games) must have confirmed THIS was beyond dispute.

But I admit that as the players first left the field, only to subsequently return, I was just one of several thousand loyal Baggies fans, joined by a fair number of Liverpool supporters, who felt proud of the enthusiastic, endeavour and effort, they’d shown right till the final whistle.

Never in all my years of watching football had I experienced such sense of pride.
For a team and it’s manager to receive such a response was truly, truly, remarkable.

There’s only one Tony Mowbray”-“Albion till I die” –“The Lords my Shepherd” support and appreciation that must have astonished any neutrals watching ‘live’ on Sky and in this context I defy ANYONE to name a more enthusiastic loyal, fervent group of supporters.

Yes you’ll hear it from fans of the big four, or should it be three (?) seeing as Arsenal are gradually slipping away, THEY expect, no demand, their teams win trophies season after season and as long as that continues they’ll recognise that now and again they’re entitled to moan, groan, and demand that this ‘unforgivable’ situation is put right in due course.

For Baggies fans that isn’t the case. We recognise that we are what we are. A club unable to compete in terms of revenue meaning no ‘big’ name players will be joining Albion unless they’re nearing the end of their careers, and theiragents, advisors, callthem what you will, fail to persuade any big named clubs to pay their asking price.

And never was that so clearly underlined when taking a look at the last Premiership home game, for this season at least.

Liverpool KNEW they’d been in a game to the extent that post match Jamie Garragher admitted it had been one of their hardest games of the season.

Early stages and anyone watching the game and not knowing the respective teams colours could have asked the question “Are Liverpool playing in Blue and white striped shirts?”

Backed by tremendous vocal support, (I didn’t hear a single word of ‘You’ll never Walk Alone”) the Baggies could, indeed should, have taken the lead but reminiscent of so many games they failed to capitalise on their early chances
that led to the INEVITABLE consequence.

A slip by Shelton Martis - Stephen Gerrard accepts the chance. One down and the depressing inward feeling that relegation had already been confirmed.

A disappointed despairing Dean Kiely picked the ball out of his net while Martis pulled his shirt over his face to acknowledge he’d made a simple but fatal mistake and the team had paid the price.

The early confidence slowly disappeared; Liverpool began to show their more expected composure as established Premiership and European quality football came to the fore.

Not that they were completely safe and it wasn’t until a cracking goal from Dirk Kuyt sealed the points that they could, to all intents and purposes relax, but even then when two of their players, under pressure, squared up to each other as Albion once again threatened their composure.

Sub Luke Moore hit a past, Fortune headed over the bar (couldn’t but think that Jeff Astle would have gobbled up that chance with ease) and then when he finally managed to find the back of the net his effort was ruled offside.

As said it had been a brave battling performance but comparing the relative merits of the squads, Fernando Torres cost more than the entire Albion squad, it didn’t come as any surprise to professional and amateur pundits alike.

But there were several plus points. Robert Koren, Jonas Olson, Bjorn Valero (coming on as a substitute, Gianni Zuiverloon, and the non stop running of Marc- Antoine Fortune. (Pity his never give up attitude was matched by some appalling finishing when scoring opportunities came along!)

So to our last Premiership game of a season that started brightly but finished with a third relegation. We should be used to it by now but while the feeling of failure is one that never goes away, the eternal optimism that ‘we’ll be back’ next season, is one that lurks inside every Baggies fan.

Sunday it’s another last day trip to Ewood Park the home of Blackburn Rovers, and gum chewing Sam Allardyce, can’t help wondering if in competition with Sir Alex down the road at Old Trafford, who’d devour more of the tasteless stuff? Back in 2003 Albion supporters ‘celebrated’ another relegation season by enjoying a true Fun Day out in sunny Lancashire.

Many, including yours truly dressed in referee’s outfits complete with the appropriate Yellow and Red cards to depict justifiable feelings that, to put it mildly, Premiership officials had decided that whatever the circumstances, whatever the game, they weren’t prepared to play fair in decision making.

This time it’s a Tony Mowbray tribute day. To those, and there are some, who feel he’s responsible for an instant relegation, it’s probably deemed a nonsense decision.
But for the vast majority, proof seen and heard at the Liverpool game, it’s simply to show he retains great affection among supporters who recognise that while his philosophy as to how the game should be played has failed, they also recognise and appreciate what he’s striving to achieve.

So while among the travelling fans there will be the usual assortment of fancy dress outfits, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, etc, THE most unique and world first will be the sight one minute to kick-off, 2, 900 Tony Mowbray ‘masked crusaders’!

Why? Well since the opening day of the season, August 16th 2008, the chant of “There’s only one Tony Mowbray” has been heard up and down the country.

That’s about to change, probably astonishing fans of any club that’s experienced the despair of relegation and who level the blame fairly and squarely on the head of their manager.

So along with the normal chant of ‘There’s only one Tony Mowbray’ don’t be surprised to hear “There’s nearly 3,000 Mogga’s, 3,000 Mogga’s, etc!

Although it is the last game of the season I’ve no doubt the Baggies will be going flat out to win the game. If they can pull of a victory, and other results go our way, we could yet avoid finishing bottom of the pile and considering we’ve been marooned there for what seems months on end, that would be a very, I repeat very, slight consolation.

We’re down but in the eyes of Albion supporters we’re definitely not out!

Hope springs eternal so let’s hear it loud and clear for the final time.

“There’s nearly 3,000 Mogga’s, 3,000 Mogga’s.

Come on you Baggies”

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