It’s been a funny old week for Lord Wilder. Ever since 1987 Cup Final Exocet Missile impersonator Keith Houchen pulled Wilder’s boyhood heroes Sheffield United out of the FA Cup’s velvet bag to face the mightiest of yellows at Bramall Lane he’s been all of a flutter.
But, being bang at it and professional is what our Chris is all about. With an imminent reunion likely to resemble the sodden carcass of Leonardo di Caprio bobbing to the surface of the Atlantic Ocean as Kate Winslett climbs on board the rescue boat, it was time to get back to the day job and head over to Roots Hall for a 2-1 reverse against Southend.
I was driving down the M1 from York. The sky was grey, the drizzle fine; and on the radio were 80’s throwback fixtures Aston VIlla v Norwich and Liverpool v Swansea. I had visions of Big Tosh bulging out of his Liverpool shirt, staring into the middle distance during a minute’s silence for Bill Shankly.
Perhaps it’s our good form that made me nostalgic for the good old days. The 80s, of course, was when we could tune into the radio without wincing at what we might find. When Radio Oxford finally crackled into range it sounded like things were going well. It was 0-0, but we were giving them a battering. Jerome Sale and Nick Harris, whose interaction is almost wholly self referencing nowadays, were digging each other in the ribs recounting, at a level of detail that would impress a forensic scientist, how reminiscent the closing moments of the half were to the Gillingham game. Sure enough, like then, we conceded.
Three days later, our Chris was lying on the settee gazing at his old pals in his fully complete ’92 Panini sticker book, dreaming of walking into Bramall Lane with Blades fans screaming “Chris, you’re a legend, come back and turn us into Real Madrid” when the alarm on his phone went off. Southend? Again? Tonight? In the say-what-now trophy?
In the week that Jimmy Saville died, a man who once fixed it for some pock-faced Gooner to referee a game in which his beloved Arsenal turned over the result of our famous 1984 League Cup giant killing, we faced Southend again for a similarly farcical re-run. With Jim’ll, no doubt, looking down proudly, Wayne Thingy, summond the spirit of Jimmy Glass – patron saint of lower league pub quiz questions, to get himself sent off faster than it typically takes me to drink my coffee.
Asa Hall donned the oversized shirt and gloves and promptly introduced the world to a goalkeeping revolution; its Fosbury Flop moment. Soon all Goalkeepers will be taught to flap hopelessly and squeak whenever the ball comes within fifteen feet of them.
Tom Craddock capped things by igniting his own version of the Carlos Tevez affair, lamping the nearest player in a Southend shirt in the face probably shouting at Chris Wilder “I told you I wasn’t ready” as he joined Thingmabob for a long soak.
The moment the referee peep peeped to signal we could all go home, we collectively decided that Johnsons Paint Tin is something we never cared about in the first place.
Now, Chris lies in bed watching the clock on his hotel TV click-by minute by minute. The week of the Southends behind him, tomorrow he goes home to a proper football club in a proper football competition. I hope he gets some sleep, wouldn’t want him to be overtired for his big day.