Second Place is First Loser – Sheff Weds (H) 02/05/15

Hubris is always punished.

Before I jot down these quick thoughts, I must point out that I wasn’t able to get anything out in the last week. If I had I would have spoken about the jubilation, the massive pride in the team and club and the general feeling of invincibility I, and I’m sure most of you, felt waking up on Sunday. So take them as read, before I dive into this negative post.

If last weekend was the culmination of a huge, season-long team effort, today was a massive bloody bummer, equally brought about by virtually everyone.

From the outset, today was about celebration. It’s fine, of course, to want to appreciate the massive achievement of promotion, but the job wasn’t done. Over the past few months the atmosphere created by the fans and the club with the big screen has been spot on – focused and full of gravitas. We’re all together and driven to achieve our goals.

Instead of that, today we had pre-match ‘chats’ with a succession of kids and not-kids doing their best to seem cool whilst screaming on cue and singing off-key. Rather than let the crowd do their thing it seemed we were being whipped up into a manufactured wheeze.

Whatever, that didn’t really matter, but it set the tone. The job, it suggested, was done. Here’s a formaility. Huzzah.

The team didn’t look like they agreed. By half time, the score could quite easily have been 5-0. Marco Motta over-and-over again bombed down the wing with Hélan, almost of this parish, picking daisies on the halfway line. If only he could pick a cross.

Up front Vydra and Deeney were phenomenal, the latter spurred on by the latest in a year of mystifying Lee Probert decisions – turning a blind eye to Chris Kirkland chopping down a strutting Troy.

The finishing was lax, especially that of the otherwise excellent Almen Abdi, but it was still a cakewalk. The goal would come eventually. And once it did through Vydra’s rebounded header, the onslaught continued.

Then, the second half. Or more accurately, the last ten minutes.

Hubris.

Slavisa Jokanovic is a hard-nosed bastard. He cares not for your feelings, just about the result. But here, in the form of three early substitutions, he seemed to succumb to the occasion. Motta may have been a bit short of fitness, and Vydra and Anya were fading from the game, but bringing on Tozser and Ighalo looked to me like a lap of honour for two fine players who’d played a big part in the campaign.

Neither really added anything, and a Munari, adding a bit of bite to midfield, or a Forestieri, whizzing around up top to hold the ball up, would have been more suitable to the situation.

And then, with ten minutes to go, the unthinkable happened. A sodding Mexican wave.

To be clear, there are NO circumstances in which a Mexican wave is permissible. Aside from being lame, they show you are bored, that whatever event you’re at has lost your attention, and most of all that you no longer have an emotional interest in it.

This was, to remind you, ten minutes before the club was set to win their biggest ever silverware.

With a Mexican wave, the game is considered won.

There followed a yellow smoke bomb, and then when that was being cleared, another.

The side were fading. After over an hour of completely dominating, they lost the ability to hold onto the ball. There was no more overlapping, no more runs in behind; every short ball was misplaced, every mid-length ball was under-hit, and the majority of passes, big ol’ diags to Troy, came straight back at us.

We were one goal up, with our promotion rivals coasting at 3-0.

Watford, as those who have spent some time around the place will know, are not immune to giving up late leads, even if the act hasn’t reared its head too much of late.

What this team didn’t need was constant stoppages caused by things being thrown onto the pitch. What they didn’t need was a bloody Mexican wave. What they didn’t need was the crowd closing in on them, assembling at the hoardings and clambering up from the Lower Rous.

What came was clearly coming.

As Wednesday won a deep free-kick, the crème-de-la-crème of unneeded intrusions – some pissed-up toss pot waddling into the penalty area, waved through by the hundred lurking stewards – took the attention of the players when it was needed most.

While the stewards watched passively, it was Troy – arguably our best defender of set pieces – who was charged with getting the arsehole off the pitch.

You know what happened next.

And then, with the side desperately flooding forward for a winner, a corner was held up while some pre-teen among the crowd enveloping the pitch on the touchline stole the corner flag.

When it was all over, the pitch invasion went ahead. We’d failed, we’d all failed. Nothing was gained, everything was lost, and yet the pitch was flooded with fans with no interest in the result.

I have nothing against a good flood onto the pitch. The best thing about that video of Jonny Phillips doing the Soccer Saturday report of Troy’s goal against Leicester was seeing the blurred crowd behind him surging forward as one in delight. Wanting to be among your heroes as they cement glorious victory is only natural.

But these days, the act has become selfish.

Fans aren’t losing themselves in a fug of jubilation, they are taking advantage of an event to make it about themselves. And they’re becoming so ten-a-penny that any genuine celebration is lost among the smugness.

A section of kids, most likely those with the smoke, flew past the players they were meant to be congratulating and headed straight to the away end, where they stood for ten minutes taunting the Wednesday fans who, obviously, could not have cared less.

Others lay down on the grass, some grabbed selfies, all after the atmosphere of arrogance and presumption had contributed to our failure.

The players, and Slav, were clearly pissed off – Troy said as much in a post-match interview. But a compulsory celebration followed, by which time the fans seemed to have realised that the game hadn’t been won, and the lap of honour was conducted in near silence.

The season has been tremendous, and what an achievement promotion is, given the ructions of September and October. Monday will see a real celebration of this achievement, and we will all have a jolly good time.

But this was it. This was our chance to see Lloyd Doyley lift a league championship. Instead, partly because of us, he was limited to a bottle of champagne.

And because we are now an established Premier League side, we may never have a chance to win anything again, until the Europa League rolls around in a few years.

So I sit here, hugely deflated. Having to look at pictures of Bournemouth, a good side but not – I feel – as good as us, lifting our trophy. Second place is the first loser.

The feeling will dissipate and once all the semi-big names of European football are beating a path to our door the full realisation that we are Premier League will soak in.

But for now… bugger.

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19 comments

  1. This completely sums it up! Thank you for putting into perfect words exactly how I’m feeling. Bring on tomorrow, when hopefully that reality will start to sink in and the stupidity of fans will be a fading memory!

    Bugger indeed.

  2. Kevin Henderson · · Reply

    I don’t think that I have ever felt this way after a promotion. Last week was an anti-climax because of the way in which promotion was achieved. So this week I was hoping for a great end to the season, beat Wednesday and win the Championship. However, the equaliser completely deflated me. I wanted to go, but my brother insisted on staying for the lap of honour. You could tell how low the players were feeling and that translated to the crowd.

    Who knows how the players’ concentration was affected by that knob coming on to the pitch, but it certainly can’t have helped. Also, what were the stewards doing? Nothing is the answer, even when the prat was standing next to them kissing Gomes on the head.

    This evening, I feel really flat, but I am sure in time it will sink in what we have achieved this season. If not in the next few days, certainly when the fixtures come out. Sods law will have Bournemouth at home to Manchester United, whilst we will have an away trip to Stoke.

  3. Dom smith · · Reply

    Agreed. Some of the plums who felt they had to be a part of the proceedings probably contributed to the result today. Not that they’ll see it that way.

  4. Junglejen68 · · Reply

    For many of us older supporters this was probably our last chance to see silverware for our beloved club

  5. Peter · · Reply

    Absolutely spot on – exactly how I felt and I didn’t wait for the players to come back.

  6. Jason · · Reply

    Good piece.

    The Mong coming on the pitch when the (incorrectly given) free kick was about to be taken really didn’t help the players concentration at a crucial moment.

    Oh well onwards and upwards, oh yes and The ‘Orns are going up……

  7. nickthegreekwfc · · Reply

    I was almost as low after that as if we’d not been promoted at all. I completely fail to see what the attraction of a Mexican wave is. It’s almost as lame as a smoke bomb

  8. SimonL · · Reply

    Great article. Spot on. It’s the day after and I’m still reeling. Felt so hollow yesterday. Believed we were going to lift the trophy. Really wanted it.

    But I’ve just mustered up the courage to look at the reports on BBC and Sky, and was encouraged that by clicking on FOOTBALL wasn’t enough to take me straight to some headline about Bournemouth: I still had to get past the more important Premier League headlines. So the truth is, like it or not, unless you’re Premiership, you’re insignificant. We’re Premiership. I think we’re equipped to be so for longer than ever before, and probably longer than Bournemouth.

    1. Spot on 🙂

  9. Tim W · · Reply

    Not sure about this post. I’m a massive fan of your blog and think you normally get things spot on but I don’t agree that yesterday was a complete failure.

    Yes the prat on the pitch was frustrating and distracting; yes the flares were completely unnecessary and the kids crowding around Tozser as he took the corner was silly. But I don’t think this should take away what has been an incredible season. We never completely looked at the races – Abdi especially. He’ll need to go to finishing school over the summer – missed a hattrick of chances yesterday. We’d achieved our main goal – we’d secured promotion last week and hence why the players went out in Watford last week. Finally allowed to let their hair down after ten months of hard work. They can say all they like about finishing the job but it had been done. They were disconsolate during the lap of honour afterwards because victory had been snatched in the dying moments.

    I think unfortunately if the team improves we’ll inevitably get more idiots chucking flares on the pitch, acting like thugs – it’s also something that will come with the growth of the 1881 (which I would say has done wonders to the support base at Watford).

    But come on, we bloody did it! Yesterday was about celebration. For the first time in decades we could enjoy our final game of the season, safe in the knowledge that the season has been a success.

    It may feel crap that we lost out on the trophy – but finally we’ve done it!

  10. This is exactly how I felt/feel. My thirteen year old son looked as though we’d been relegated. I grew up seeing innumerable team photos of Liverpool with that achingly beautiful league championship trophy at Bob Paisley’s feet, and I wanted that so so much.

    Despite the ridiculous free kick, despite the non-awarding of a stone cold penalty, despite us losing steam late on, I still fancied us to grind it out. Until the pitch invasion. Until the selfishness of those social media-obsessed, selfie taking, me-first people who think only of the opportunity and nothing of the team – the team is ancillary to their pursuit of ‘likes’ and followers.

    But this is increasingly a problem with society and I suppose it was inevitable that football would follow suit. I saw one girl on the pitch, dressed to the nines, wearing heels and carrying a huge bag, whilst blithely texting, tweeting or facebooking or all three. No awareness of what was going on around her.

    This season’s success has been down to unity; on the pitch and off. We got rid of disruptive elements from the squad, and we improved on the pitch. It’s a shame the the vast majority of fans who did the right thing were embarrassed by the minority.

    But a friend put it into perspective – the prize is bigger than the trophy. He’s right of course, but I wanted the trophy. My son wanted the trophy too – he’s younger and has never known there not to be a premier league, but he feels that glory is what football is about, not money. In the prem, days like yesterday won’t come along very often. If we establish ourselves, then If we win a trophy, it’ll be on neutral ground – we may never have the chance win a league title at the Vic again.

    And that’s why I’m sick to the pit of my stomach today.

    1. Yesterday I felt like you do and all of your points are spot on, but today, especially after watching Troy Deeney on Goals on Sunday, everything is back in perspective. Yes, we should have been champions for more than one reason but we are where we all hoped and dreamed we’d be, and in far better shape than we ever have been and so much more than we could have imagined. Even under zola we would have struggled if we’d turned up and gone up at the playoff final. Now we have a chance of going up and staying up and after all is said and done, after yesterday’s disappointment, especially with our idiotic fans, we have the best opportunity we have had in years, and i’m excited for the future!

  11. Tony Johnson · · Reply

    Ed, your post sums up my mood pretty well. The only good thing about yesterday, and I’m conscious that I’m looking for a silver lining to cheer myself up, is that the deflation of “only” finishing second may result in slightly lower (and I think more realistic) levels of expectation as to what next season will bring. Not for the players and back room staff, I’m sure they’re under no illusions, but for many of the supporters. Don’t get me wrong, I think we’re far better equipped to cope with next season than on our last 2 forays into the Premiership, but despite our owners undoubted knowledge and resources, next season is going to be tough. I think yesterday there seemed to be less of the energy we’ve seen in recent games and I think that was due in large part to the absence of Guideora. Whilst I think at the right price he’d be a good addition to our squad for next season, a sentiment supported by 98% of fans in a Watford Observer poll, it can’t be ignored that at the moment he can’t command a place in the squad of a low to middling Premiership squad. I accept that different styles of play can transform players and it may be that our style suits him much better than that of Palace and brings out the best in him, but I think it shows the huge gulf Watford have to bridge to be competitive next season. So lowered expectations may not be a bad thing but having said all that yesterday was a bummer!

  12. […] to invade the pitch.  Ed Perchard has penned a wordier assassination of these imbeciles in In the Wolf’s Mouth but in any case, choking as the narrowness of the margin was these were all irritants.  None […]

  13. Joseph · · Reply

    I agree it’s a bit of a strange situation, where we have achieved a remarkable season of great success but without that incredible, almost unbelievable Deeney-v-Leicester moment. Watching the players go berzerk on the bus was brilliant but we missed that chance to have that collective moment of triumph in the stands where we knew we were going up. That “I was there” moment. Although I guess Vydra’s last-minute goal against Brighton could have been close?.. The spontaneous pitch invasion against Leicester was a wondrous display of uncontrollable, irrational joy that I will never forget (even if I was too high up in the Rookery to make it down). From afar, and from the comments, yesterday’s was just too premeditated and distracting all round. We needed that title to bring everybody, players and fans, back on the same celebratory wavelength. It wasn’t meant to be this time, but who knows what will happen next. You’ve got to believe we can win some silverware sometime. Swansea won a cup not long after promotion. What is being a football fan without hope? Bring on next season! We Are Premier League! You ‘Orns!

  14. […] In all honesty, part of me feels the mockers gods were in full flow; the Mexican wave, the people queuing to run on the pitch, the smoke bombs. It feels like it made the team’s failure to see the result home almost certain. My good friend over at In the Wolf’s Mouth has covered the stupidity of some our supporters beautifully here […]

  15. Lappo · · Reply

    It could have been worse if the referee hadn’t have blown the whistle when the Wednesday player was racing towards an empty goal. Luckily he didn’t shoot before the whistle went.

  16. […] the moment, of course, we’re still at the first step of the programme. We (almost) beat all comers last season, we know […]

  17. […] the Sheffield Wednesday game was fantastic in the truest meaning of the word. Tossers and flares on the pitch, the waiting mob […]

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