Roberto Leaves Us Raging
“I had to be kicked out as a player and it’ll be the same as manager.” The now infamous words of Roberto Martinez on the pitch at Gillingham when we won promotion in 2008. Well those words counted for sod all just over a year later when Wigan came calling and he said his farewell’s to south Wales, taking most of his backroom team north with him, even Richie Evans who was part of the furniture for donkey’s years. Our misery was complete when top scorer from the past 2 years Jason Scotland joined him for £2 million. Martinez may have once been a hero in these parts but as the saying goes “he’s not the messiah; he’s a very naughty boy!”
Sousa Strolls In
Queens Park Rangers had more managers a season under Flavio Briatore than I had haircuts and one of their many men in the dugout was former Portugal midfielder Paulo Sousa. Predictably he was sacked after just a few months and on the “four year plan” documentary released in 2012 it was clear that Briatore hated his style of football. Over the coming months we would agree with him, but for now we were all excited about such a big name taking charge at the Liberty.
That was my impression of Sousa in the opening fifty minutes of his first game in charge. Two reasons for this. Number one – we scored from a corner. Anyone who’s followed us regularly will know we’ve been awful at them since football began (until Clement took over) so any goal from them would leave me in a state of a shock. Number two – Dorus De Vries saved a penalty. He was a great keeper Dorus, but he couldn’t save a penalty if his life depended on it. This was the only one he saved in his four campaigns with us. Sadly despite these two facts we still ended up losing 2-1 to Leicester who would also dump us out of the FA Cup in round three by the same score.
We needed a lift, four points from the first four games with only two goals scored. There was money in the bank for players and Sousa broke the transfer record to sign West Brom’s Craig Beattie. No one was really interested in him though as the legendary Lee Trundle returned on loan on the same day. It soon became obvious though that Trundle offered too much of a goal threat for Sousa. Even after coming on at Peterborough and scoring twice in December he still didn’t start the next game. He ended up with five goals from just two starts, whilst his main choice Gorka Pintado scored twice in 26 games. We would soon come to realise that Sousa’s game plan revolved around keeping the ball but not creating chances which to me was the equivalent of watching paint dry.
Jay Bothroyd proclaimed we weren’t as good as last year in the build up to the first clash with Cardiff of the season. He ended up with egg on his face as we won 3-2 with Nathan Dyer and Darren Pratley scoring twice. In the reverse our favourite gambling addict Michael Chopra scored a late winner to give them the spoils. As unbearable as it was at the time we can however take the last laugh from this. That winner for them meant we didn’t get into the Play-Offs and Blackpool took our place and ended up beating them in the final. Every cloud eh!
Fog On The Tyne
As soon as Sir Shearer took the Geordies down the year before we were all buzzing about a trip up to St James Park for the first time since 1995. 3,000 made the trip to the North East on a bitterly cold November afternoon with most of us on lads weekends and those of us who went had a whale of a time drinking all day and night at the gate and on the quayside. For those who went up and back on the day the less said the better. We were 3-0 down at the break and a lot of people stayed in the bar for the second half!
Remember I said earlier that if you offered a goal threat you were unlikely to feature. Well Stephen Dobbie falls into that category. Martinez’s last signing before leaving us picked up an injury early in his Swans career and with game time limited was sent on loan to Blackpool who ended up beating us to a Play-Off spot with his help. You couldn’t make it up.
I still can’t comprehend it even now. Shefki Kuqi who arrived in the transfer window found himself with an open goal in the first few minutes of our game with Barnsley in April and as he shot he sliced the ball wide to the astonishment of all at the Liberty Stadium. The expletives thrown in his direction can’t be repeated here for obvious reasons. But there was one man secretly happy – Sousa of course. He hated us scoring remember.
We failed to score in 17 of our 46 league games and ten of those finished 0-0 on our way to scoring just forty goals in the league, easily the lowest in the division. In the end this cost us a Play-Off place as we drew (yes you guessed it) 0-0 with Doncaster on the final day. Trundle did score in the last minute which we thought had put us in there but it was ruled out for handball. Probably a blessing in disguise anyway, we’d been on shocking form and wouldn’t have gone up anyway and even if we had got in the top six, I’d have been bored stupid watching another two games with Sousa at the helm.