Neil Kilkenny doesn’t strike me as much of a person.
With apologies to the Coen Brothers, I don’t like him. I don’t like his jerk-off name. I don’t like his jerk-off face. I don’t like his jerk-off behaviour. I don’t like him. Jerk-off.
I find Louis Carey steadily less tolerable as well. He’s grown a moustache no 36-year-old who isn’t actually a member of the Light Infantry should have. It reaches his chin. It looks absurd.
David James! He’s a frustrating man, bawling at his defence then petulantly kicking the ball to nobody in particular when they don’t seem to listen. It’s not behaviour befitting a man with the career he’s got (very firmly) behind him.
Hang on. Where’s all this come from? This spite, this vitriol, this, let’s face it, sarcasm. I’m one of the nice guys, aren’t I? I’m all about perspective. Understanding. Realising that football isn’t as easy as it looks from the stands.
Problem is, it’s a mind-altering drug this game, it really is. There aren’t many illegal substances that can make me feel as high as I did when Christian Roberts scored a 90th-minute winner against Hartlepool in that playoff semi-final all those years ago. But if you take the highs, you have to accept the lows, and my fragile brain chemistry has been so rocked by weeks of dreadful performances – by Peterborough, by Blackpool, and now by Ipswich – that I’ve been converted into a bile machine.
I’m not the only one. It’s all around me on the stands. And while the majority around me are able to express their anger in a reasoned way (or, just as acceptably, via loud, consistent swearing), some allow their venom to swamp their sense.
For the man in front, nothing is rocket science. Scoring goals is “not rocket science”. Pass and move is “not rocket science”. Apprehending why a group of poor footballers are producing poor football, however, appears to be rocket science because he simply can’t. The ineptitude of, say, Louis Carey is clearly on a level with the construction of the V2. Perhaps this is why Swindon Town are doing so well – like NASA in the years immediately following the war, they have a charismatic fascist overseeing the work.
Ross is drawn into a confrontation with the gentleman behind who bays for Pitman’s introduction from an early stage. For most City fans, the mathematics seem simple – one striker means you draw at best (and at worst lose 3-0), two strikers mean you win at best (and at worst lose 5-4). It’s not rocket science. It’s not rocket science because aeronautics tends to be based on facts, and this is fallacious nonsense – we’ve been regularly torn apart playing four in the middle against all but the weakest sides. Problem is, we’re being torn apart with five in the middle now. Nothing seems to work, in which case the logic becomes “we may as well play 4-4-2 if we’re going to lose anyway, just to shut the more voluble fans up for a week or two”. I have my own opinion about how much a striker who appears to struggle for fitness, and lopes gracefully over ground at speed in much the same way as a small residential property does, will contribute to a fight at Portman Road, but there’s merit in having him on the pitch at Ashton Gate. He can at least score the occasional goal, and for the lowest scorers in the entire football league that facility is probably a useful one.
Benching the fans’ favourite is happening for a perfectly good tactical reason and all other things being equal I’d have him on the bench against Leicester (crikey) tomorrow, as well as Cardiff (crumbs) on Saturday. But there’s a bit of me that thinks, you know what? If doing something the fans want will pour a little water on the flames, I wouldn’t be averse. Watching football surrounded by so much anger is horrible. It’s infectious, too (this is about right). It gets under the skin, cuts out the higher brain functions, and as I’ve previously noted, it ruins weekends.
Sometimes it’s worth doing the popular thing. If it fails, and we lose anyway, the point doesn’t need to be made again. And if the people are right (and everyone knows he can score) then that’s clearly marvellous.
One way or another I don’t want to hate the players any more. I’ve had enough of being infected with anger. I’d like to walk out of Ashton Gate a bit happier, and take a seat the following week next to people who aren’t already an interesting shade of purple.
Maybe this week?