Wolves 1 Toon 1
Bank holidays. Always a strange concept. An extra long weekend when the roads become clogged with stressed families determined to make for a busy patch of beach to 'enjoy' themselves on. Chuck into this mix a couple of million folk heading to sporting events that won't wait to start until you arrive and you have the recipe for disaster. With full knowledge of this we set off for Wolverhampton last weekend.
Of course one of the joys of the bank holiday traffic is that you get plenty of opportunity to people watch your fellow travellers. As I was cutting short a holiday in Scotland to go to Wolverhampton (I bet that's not a sentence that's been written very often) I had added people watching time. One of the things that made me smile was the number of Hell's Angels on Harley's that wove their way successfully through the roadwork stymied queues. I guess their must have been a Harley Davidson convention somewhere in the North, judging by the number of riders heading south. After seeing the first few throaty roars in my rear view mirror, and getting over the jealousy of them getting past me, I was struck by the average age of the riders. They all looked as though they were at an age to have been old enough to see Easy Rider when it was first released, at the cinema, without having to lie about their age... It's not a young man's game - alternative culture.
The theme for the day was set - driving into Wolverhampton we'd joked about needing to put on flares to fit in... It wasn't quite like that but the game had a definite 'old school' feel to it. Both teams had heydays in the past, both clubs struggling to re-invent themselves in the current climate and both sets of players using tactics that haven't been seen for a few years. For the Toon, the main tactic was to lump the ball to Carroll as often as possible (by the way, maybe its just me - but Carroll seems to have grown by a foot since last season) and hope that he could batter his way through the defence. However, Wolves tactics consisted wholly of giving Barton a good kicking to see if he would loose his temper. It was apparent from the kick off - and continued until the final minute. This was interesting for a couple of reasons, firstly it didn't work... but they didn't alter the tactic. Secondly, Wolves obviously thought that this was the only way to beat Newcastle. Why? Hadn't they seen how Manure had ripped into us a couple of weeks before - using pace and width? Obviously they weren't imaginative enough to take this approach. So, it felt that we were watching a game from the 80's as lumps were taken from various Toon midfielders, accompanied by the shrill sound of the refs whistle.
One of the more bewildering chants from the Wolves faithful, was "Your going down with the yam-yams" No one around me had a clue what this 'insult' could mean. However, as someone who is lucky enough to work in the West Midlands, I was able to translate that they may just be referring to their near neighbours from West Bromwich. Looking around the crowd in the Toon end also struck me as this was an 'older' crowd than normal. More beer bellies and greying temples than young knacker-jacks having their first alcopops. We speculated on why... Maybe its just that travelling to away games on a bank holiday weekend also isn't a young man's game.