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Terry’s Baggies Blog

GUTWRENCHINGHEARTSTOPPING ETC, ETC

29-04-2008

So Albion - barring freakish disaster - are back in the Premier League. Terry Wills savours a wonderful night at The Hawthorns.

Gut wrenching, heart stopping, nerve shredding, nail biting, vein throbbing, stomach churning - just a few emotions inflicted on the 26,167 crowd who had endured 94 agonising minutes before the Baggies finally ensured they could start planning visits to The Emirates, Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge and the rest.

This isn’t so much a match report, more an attempt to convey the taste of the atmosphere that after starting in a blaze of fevered expectation ended with the every man, woman, child (anda babe in arms!) screaming to hear the final whistle.

It came. An eruption of sheer relief and ecstasy swept over the Hawthorns and there I was along with thousands of others running on to a rain sodden pitch waving a ‘anticipatory’ poster proudly claiming “We are Premier League”.

What was amusing was the forlorn attempt to prevent the pitch invasion! Dozens of stewards and police may have been ringing the pitch but it would have taken a presence resembling the massed ranks of the Coldstream Guards and the Chinese Liberation Army to have had the remotest chance of stemming the Blue and White Armada that celebrated Albion’s third promotion ‘party’ in six seasons!

As to the match itself well Tony Mowbray had chosen his now accepted first choice staring line up meaning Super Kevin Phillips and ‘Tiny’ Miller in a 4-4-2 formation.

From the kick off it was patently clear the nerves emanating from all four sides of the ground were equally being shared among the players.

No way were Southampton prepared to meekly accept their fate as sacrificial lambs seemingly bound for relegation should they lose the game. Indeed for the opening 20 minutes they displayed a brand of football Albion devotees had come to expect from their side.

Not that they posed too much of a threat although they appealed for a penalty when claimed a penalty for handball against Neil Clement. ‘Phew’ thanks ref!

It this certainly wasn’t the smooth Baggies machine that at their best could destroy teams. Too often passes went astray. Defenders seemed unsure just who should be dealing with certain situations while both Ishmael Miller and Kevin Phillips fluffed promising situations.

Mercifully for ‘Super Kev’, after amazingly managing to blast over the bar from three yards out, he must have been grateful to see a linesman displaying his flag to signal that even if he had scored it would have been ruled out for offside!

Half time 0-0. Enough to gain the one point needed to ensure Premiership Football BUT conversely just one slip…., no the consequences were to awful to contemplate!

A much more positive approach after the break and it was all systems go as the Baggies pushed forward looking for that SO vital goal.

Neil Clement went close with a couple of headers. ‘Tiny’ screwed the ball agonisingly wide, James Morrison attempt went astray while the ever dangerous Zoltan Gera headed straight at the keeper.

64 minutes saw Chris Brunt replacing Morrison followed by Roman Bednar taking over from Ishmael Miller.

What wasn’t helping was the increasingly cynical defending from the Saints defenders seemingly taking in turn to push, shove or obstruct whenever Albion threatened any hint of danger.

"Come on you Baggies" make your superiority count!

Then came what every fan had dreaded. Saints substitute Adam Lallana sprinted down the right side. Appeals for offside were rejected and Dean Kiely was left to pick the ball out of the net amid stunned silence from Baggies fans and delirium from the pocket sized sprinkling of those who had bothered to make the trip to the Hawthorns.

Just eight minutes to ensure the Promotion part wouldn’t end in disaster .On came Luke Moore for Jonathan Greening who hadn’t enjoyed the best of games. Another missed heading chance from Neil Clement. WOULD this hoped for night to remember turn out to be one of those that would be forever be the exact opposite?

More passion from the crowd - screams of agony as the minutes ticked away THEN it happened. Chris Brunt, he of the ‘magical’ left foot, controlled a centre from Roman Bednar and straight as an arrow rifled the ball between the keeper’s legs.

What a reaction from the players AND the crowd! Mass celebrations on and off the pitch probably better described as pandemonium (!) and collectively we knew that barring another ‘disaster’ we could travel to Loftus Road on Sunday confident a win would clinch the Championship title.

The disaster didn’t happen and that brings me back to the beginning!

On to the pitch amid hundreds of delirious Baggies fans snapping away to capture unforgettable memories of the night that Tony Mowbray philosophy on just how the game should be played COULD win a place in the Premiership.

Out came the entire squad to be swamped with admirers as they enjoyed a lap of honour. Stewards battled in vain to ‘protect’ our heroes but eventually some 50 minutes after the final whistle the fans reluctantly made their way ‘home’ to celebrate as only football fans can!

I joined the queue for the Metro, travelled back to the city centre, and even in the heart of Brum there were pockets of Baggies fans singing ‘The Lords My Shepherd’ as they waited for buses to take them to all parts of the city. MAGICAL!

It hadn’t been a vintage performance but it didn’t matter. The implications and prospects for life in the Premiership can wait. For me it simply meant a sleepless night to wake up realising what Tony Mowbray, his players, and Jeremy Peace had achieved. And THAT speaks for itself does it not?

"Roll on Sunday and lets see that Championship Trophy nesting in the Hawthorns Trophy Cabinet. After all I can't help feel that a wait of 88 years is far to long for such a famous historical Club as West Bromwich Albion to go without winning a League Trophy!

"Well done you Baggies"
 
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