As the weekend ritual comes round and we look at the schedule of matches coming up I’m sure most of you get involved in someway or another to make the football fixtures that little bit more exciting, create more of an edge than simply hoping and praying for a victory.
praying for a victory. I have my two fantasy football teams to start with. One is currently in mid-table mediocrity in The Sun and the other fighting it out for Europa League places in the ‘official’ everything sanctioned one. If I get round the blocked websites here in the UAE I might chuck a bet on to spice up the weekend a little although this is very much a rarity. Just before the start of the season I did put a tenner on West Ham to win the Capital One Cup at 40-1 – I am thinking I might not win that one anytime soon.
The other I have on the go is Liverpool to win the FA Cup and I’m glad I didn’t punt for the Hammers in that competition too. The other ritual which I have done for many years now is Premiership predictions, taking part in a league with a thousand other people who diligently send in their score forecast week in, week out and pit their wits against sports writers, commentators, ex football pros, some TV celebs and other nobodies like me.
I used to be quite good at it. One year I even came third in the whole thing although it has to be noted that I do tend to do better when West Ham are not in the Premier League and the heart does not rule the head so much but overall I used to be quite good.
Until this year. This year I am, quite frankly, rubbish. Much like West Ham I have been flirting with the relegation places for most of the season. Unlike West Ham, however, I did have a relatively good December rising to the dizzy heights of 552nd place before plunging back down the league with a poor start to 2014. I could also point out that the real league is much more competitive this season and roll out the old ‘well on their day anyone can beat anyone’ phrase to justify my incompetence at guessing a list of matches each week.
But I won’t. I just don’t think I’m particularly ‘on the ball’ this season. I could blame Al Jazeera Sports, sorry beIN sports as they are now known, for taking away my Saturday evening football fix. But I won’t. What I will blame is the ability to change guesses to the matches you’re predicting right up to kick off.
This is a relatively new feature and has lead to some disasterous outcomes where I have successfully managed to change a guessed result from a correct one to a ludicrously wide of the mark wrong one. With this happening more than I care to mention I decided to ban myself from making changes once I written the score in the box. Once it’s down that was that, no changes to be made.
I have been vigilant with this rule one hundred percent but wish so much that I had gone with the nagging feeling that was eating away at me last Saturday morning which got me as far as loading up the predictions website and looking at the scores two hours before the first 12.45 kick off. You see, earlier in the week after we’d lost the midweek cup match against someone (I can’t remember the score now to be honest, what was it again?) I went for a Cardiff victory by two goals to nil.
As the week wore on though and the more I read in the papers, online, etc the more I wondered whether this was going to be one of those matches. The green shoots of revival were starting to filter through — players returning from injury, even Carroll might make an appearance. But surely it was still one step too far. Cardiff will be up front it with their new manager and fresh from an away win in the FA Cup against Newcastle and us possibly emerging from the wreckage of what could be arguably said was one of the worst weeks in our history.
So as I gazed at the list of fixtures last Saturday morning, dallying with changing a Cardiff home win to a West Ham away win (which gets you more points) I decided to stick to my guns, do not pass go, do not collect two hunderd pounds. Which of course meant we’d win. And win we did. Now I’d like to be able to write here that it was a match where we dominated, where we created chance after chance with free flowing, skilful one touch football, destroying the opposition with strength, flair and determination.
It was not, of course. On another day the result could have been very different but thankfully that’s football.
Whilst Cardiff were the better team for much of the match we got the two goals that mattered, we got a massively important three points. The injury to Guy Demel and the sending off of James Tomkins has not helped our cause in any way but at least we can go in to this match with the hope that fortune is not hiding anymore, it is swinging back in our favour and we can hold our heads a little bit higher after a truly horrendous last six weeks. Another three points against Newcastle and the whole outlook changes even more.