Osiwreck – Croatia 2 Wales 0

When your opposition coach asks for ideas on Facebook and then quotes Kipling as an inspiration well you don’t feel confident, this is Wales after all, but you don’t face the game with the usual sense of impending doom.

Why ask Davor from Dubrovnik for his snippets of wisdom? Maybe Stimac”s cuckoo, maybe he doesn’t know what he’s doing. A useful straw to clutch at when you’re at the bottom of a pit of despair.

Then Kipling and the poem ‘If’. Bit of a cliche these days. Old hat. Tired.

Six-one stays with you doesn’t it? I think it’s already erased ‘Russia’ on my heart. You want any straw to clutch at to give you hope. Gareth Bale cleaned out the tubes last Friday and managed to avert further Welsh catastrophe.

Anyway, Igor Stimac, crazy Croat, I hoped, might be in for a surprise.

Social media failing

Maybe what we did wrong was to not go on to Facebook and give Igor Stimac plausible but useless advice on our chaps. Eg ~ Ben Davies is like Bale, just a few years younger. You’ve got your hands full there Eeeg ~ he’s bloody fantastic, Modric better mark him. And your striker.

Any old bollocks, we should have just found someone who knew the lingo and primed him to fill up Facebook with all manner of cock and bull. After all, all’s fair in love, war and football.


Osijek’s Gradski vtr, incredibly, means City Garden and must be one of the most ironically named stadia in the world. It is one hell of a concrete-cancer, moose-ugly gargoyle of an arena and it’s no surprise to find a wikipedia reference to it as unfinished. That’s not the bloody half of it.

The main stand has 13 priapic pillars emerging from the top tier, (see pic) an architect’s way of saying “Yep, we’ll be finishing it off any minute now.”

No cover anywhere and boy are we glad it didn’t rain during the match otherwise, with my dicky chest, I’d be dead and there’d have been no one left to clap the players off the pitch cos we’d all have left on 52 minutes after the second goal. Some of us would still be in casualty (obviously I would be in the mortuary).

The athletics track surrounding the pitch was a faded light blue like it had been left unused for months.

And we got a taste of 80s terracing with a fence topped with inward~facing railings. When they scored, we even got a Croat nutjob standing on the dividing railing, quite impressively, gloating. He was very lucky refreshments were served in plastic glasses. If they’d had a massive TV screen they would have screened Top Gun at half-time, just to you make you even more nostalgic.

GOOD – for hanging flags and feeling cooped up and taking us back to an era when we were all treated like the oppressed scum we, deep down, knew we were.

BAD – for 21st century football, a good view of the game, keeping that nasty rain off us.

So, no sense of intimacy or of feeling uplifted by a grand setting where history would be played out.

The trouble with being sixth seed in the group that we’ve been farmed out to second-rate stadia at Novi Sad and Osiwreck and my initial thought that it would help us rather than the home side has been wide of the mark. 

The locals in both places have got behind their boys magnificently it has to be said, through gritted teeth. In future we need to play in cosmopolitan capitals where the locals are a bit harder to please, less easily impressed and deeply sceptical of the coach’s corny, passe use of ‘If’ to inspire his illiterate players (are any players apart from Bellamy vaguely literate these days?).

The big improvement here on Novi Sad was at least my pen wasn’t confiscated, we didn’t get stuffed – always a bonus –  and there were refreshments behind the back of the stand. Oh luxury.

If we ever have to play here again, I recommend we concede the game.


Shame to say, I’ve never read him but we’re all familiar with the tales of Jungle Book and If.

‘If’ might be only two letters long but it’s the biggest word in Welsh football history isn’t it? A few of my ‘if’ moments:

1 If only Joe Jordan/Paul Bodin/I hadn’t introduced that blonde in Amsterdam to that bloke from St Asaph (insert your own nemesis) . . .

2 If only Hughes had fielded Earnie against Russia in 2003, we’d have won Euro 2004.

3 If only I had stopped watching Wales back in 1998 I’d be at least 20 grand better off and a lot a happier.

Comedy goals

Ashley Williams’ backpass left Lewis Price with a stinker of a clearance. From behind, it looked like Price didn’t have a lot of options if he wanted to clear successfully.

Now the dust has settled, it was the most comic Welsh disaster for, er, at least five weeks. Specifically, last month’s second in Novi Sad which obviously at the time was not comic at all but a sin against humanity. But once your inner anguish subsides you have to accept it was a classic example of footballing fiascos.

And it set me thinking, there’ve been quite a few over the years. At the time they weren’t funny at all. Several have made me severely ill. But once the bile settles, and you’ve snotted out your chest phlegm in a tamping rage, we’ve racked up some notable achievements.

1 Paul Jones’ hat trick for Slovakia in the 5-1 fiasco at home. Gift-wrapped clangers of the highest quality rewarded with a permanent exile from the No 1 shirt. A wounding way for a great keeper to go out. But, hey, this is Wales, this is our destiny.

2 Coleman coolly playing in an Italian at Anfield in 1998 with a peach of a backpass. A rare mistake by our Jack general, who it has to be said could well be the best left back we ever had. At least Ashley Williams could lamely and legitimately moan about mud, the captaincy armband constricting the blood flow to his freezing cold knuckles and how rotten Osijek is.

3 Didn’t Mark Aizlewood fuck something up badly against Bulgaria in 1994? I don’t recall the details, just the huge sense of brain-bursting anger.

There must be many more. In fact, it must run into hundreds. Please feel free to leave your own personal favourite defensive cock~up below.

One more thing – why don’t we get the benefit of some of these comedy goals? On a plate. With a dinky little chocolate and a wink from a foxy policewomen the local rozzers have roped in to make up the numbers. Just asking.

Crisis? What crisis?

From the deathless sludge soccer of Serbia to the more acceptable muddy mediocrity of Croatia. So, yes, it was an improvement. Then again, being whacked with a truncheon by one of the Croat Robocop policeman might have been an improvement – could have shown off my bruises and made up some fairytale to impress people.

At least we’re no longer on the edge of the cliff being eyed by the coastguard through his binoculars as a possible casualty.

We’ve peeped over the precipice and it’s business as usual. Not much of an achievement. But after last month, about all we could hope for.

And, saving grace of saving graces, at 2am in the Tufna nightclub, the DJ pumped out the Clash’s Rock the Casbah, ten years after I spend an entire campaign badgering idiot DJs across Europe to show some taste.

At last, a straw to clutch.


Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s