Nationwide Division One, 28/4/01
Big Up Youth
By Martin Blanc
He was more what we came to see than a relegated bunch of fighters, and an
unquantifiable bunch of mid- to upper-table wanderers who represent what, if
not why, he's leaving behind by retiring. His direction was where we were
looking, as a game that barely registers in the mind even this soon after
its conclusion played itself into oblivion. When he showed up in the dugout,
we asked for a wave, since chanting something along the lines of "Graham,
give us a year or two more, we're worthy, and by the way, thanks for making
us all stand apart from whatever crowd we've found ourselves in from the age
of [your age in 1977] to now" is just unfeasible.
But ever-mindful to leave us with something of the man, he gave us some
substantive piece of wisdom and higher truth that football, in its latest
incarnation, will rarely ever manage. It sounded to the untrained ear like
an afterthought at the beginning of the game. It was not, however. It was
the whisper of the future. It was the substitutes' bench.
I can gloss over the details of the first half, as I usually do, but this
time secure in the knowledge that ig will be unable to better my one
sentence, no matter how decorous his prose, and how insightful his remarks.
It was poor.
As was the half-time entertainment.
But then, as we'd suspected, or at least prayed, he would, GT let us have
what we've been hungering for in this season's mixed-bag nouvelle cuisine
buffet of exquisite truffles and plain shite. On came a big Aussie steak at
the heart of the midfield. A rusty steak, but god, the taste, man. After so
long snacking on fast-food equivalents. Johnno ran the show, just by being
out there. And then we were more focused on the game, then we saw what GT
wanted us to see. The whole picture. Well, nearly. Only twelve minutes later
did he unveil his main event.
Being a season-ticket holder, you get free entry to the reserves games. And
as with free anything, this is something I avail myself of as frequently as
possible. Thus it has been my unalloyed pleasure this season to witness
Gifton's comeback game, which also contained an incredible forty-yard goal from
some or other Wimbledon wannabe. Allan Smart's four-pack against the Blues.
Tee-hee. Michel Ngonge's Wooter-esque goal (against Forest, if memory
serves), a couple of days before he signed for QPR. But nothing has given me
as much excitement, and you can tell him if you see him, as watching Lee
Cook doing his thing down the left side of the park. Whoever poached him
(can I say that? sure, we won the case...) is one sharp scout I respectfully
salute. I smugly announced Lee to the surrounding seats with a giggle as GT
offered us what we most needed on a day like today - hope for better times
to come. Thirty minutes. What would he do? Let me down horribly? Nah. And
sure enough, he fizzed. He buzzed. He geed up the entire front line, went
for everything, nearly scored, nearly set up two goals. If the wrong guy
takes over, he'll be sold by Christmas, a premature anointment as John
Barnes II his fate. If the right guy takes over, we could build a team
Anyway, Lee alone couldn't change the entire set-up. Ball goes right through
the back line, if one doesn't **** it up, another one will. This time Cox
fell over, and N'Diaye scored. And we couldn't make the most of Lee or
Johnno's contributions until the very last minute of a 24-year game we've
played and cheered with our hearts and souls. GT's most expensive signing
topped off his career with a goal. But he'll be thirty by the time the new man
takes over. GT knows a thing or two about football. He warned us about
having the wrong guy. Are we nervous? (Perpetuini won't be, he could pass as
Italian already...) Should we be nervous? Depends. GT knows about football,
about why kids play it, what makes them want to play. And since they're the
ones closest to the purity and honesty of the game that he - in a
sentimental sense - embodies, they're the ones he's entrusted with this
club's post-him era. They're what could help us take our minds off nostalgia
and the many glorious GT years and moments.
We could be the Leeds of Division One next year. No bad thing. Thanks GT,
for everything - past, present and (incredibly) future.