And I’m feeling, Glad All Over
It would have been just around full time across the British League grounds on Saturday when two generations of Fletchers sat down at the Playstation to embark on the latest FIFA 2006 battle between Crystal Palace and Brighton. After my recent faux pas (wherein, as Brighton, I beat Palace in the last minute), I now refuse to play as any other team but my home-town Eagles; Campbell seems so happy donning the Seagulls strip I worry he may yet grow up supporting them.
Regular fans of anything below the Premiership may recognize in our latest home-televised games something very close to the real-life football fan’s experience. The first match this Saturday was heading for a 0-0 draw until my keeper decided to dribble out of the box late in the game; he was easily disarmed by a Brighton forward who virtually walked the ball into the empty net for the only goal of the match. (Didn’t this happen before?) The return leg was looking similarly destined for scorelessness until Andy Johnson forced in a hard late-game cross through the box; the ball ricocheted off a hapless Brighton defender and past the keeper, who had committed himself, and into the open goal. 1-0 to the Palace.
With the exception of Andy Johnson impressively powering a ball against the post from outside the box very early in our first game, these latest matches were direly marked not just by defensive errors but by forwards who habitually sent the ball either high over the bar or well wide of the mark. If Dougie Freedman sends one more shot sky high when he only has the keeper to beat, I may be forced to return him to the bench where the game’s creators appears to believe he belongs. In essence, I think Campbell and I each need to study the manual a little more and learn which buttons to use to keep the shots somewhere below head height.
In our so-called Friendly Series on the Playstation, Palace and Brighton are dead level, with three 1-0 wins and two 0-0 draws apiece. In the real world, Palace and Brighton will be finishing at opposite ends of the Championship. The Eagles are in the Playoffs, with their eye on a return to the Premiership; Brighton are currently bottom of the so-called Championship and will be playing in so-called League One next year. Though Brighton are meant to be Palace’s biggest rivals, I feel about them like the school bully probably does about his victim; it’s less fun when they’re not close by to humiliate.
As for Millwall, who have also been relegated from the Championship, I profess no such sentimentality. These are my real rivals, and the lower in the League they can go, the better. It’s always a good season when Palace make it to the Play-Offs. It’s an even better one when Millwall goes down. How does that song go? “Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey-ey-ey, Goodbye….”