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FA Carling Premiership, 25/9/99
By Martin Blanc

What's to say? Footballers are people too, they must be feeling way worse than any of us right now. They did the hard work, made it look the most noble of professions:

-What do you do?
-I work in Defence.
-Kind of.

Messrs Chamberlain, Williams, Gibbs and Page can hold their heads high, and - grudgingly - Robinson can stand next to them like the raw new recruit he sort of looked (the altitude sickness past the halfway line gave him away).

And to labour in what was so nearly not in was humbling to watch, in so many ways. Those Gooners are not "even worse than Chelsea", boys and girls, which made our performance even better. We sent out ten of our best eleven (who's to say that we have an eleventh, apart from the rumoured-to-be-dead Gifton...?) and they did us very proud. Apart from Foley, and the less said about him, the quicker we can look forward to Leeds.

We out-defended the soundest of English defences (and one of the dirtiest, it looked from our corner flag). Of course we didn't trouble theirs nearly as much as they did ours, but see the previous paragraph...though when we ventured upfield, our fluency on the way was just as promising as last week - Wooter and Smart's ball control and mutual understanding seemed on-going, and Micah Hyde kept things in order like an obsessive compulsive. But Kennedy was again disappointing, Robinson uncharacteristically wayward, and the other front guy, the invisible one - he just waited, and waited, and occasionally got the ball only to be bundled off it forthwith. So next Sunday we have to get Wooter in the middle and Miller out wide. Though Wooter was just about everywhere for the second week running, Lord love him.

And thus we whiled away the minutes, fending off this or that barrage, savouring this or that hilarious miss, and edging our way towards the belief that the first of those single points, that could, if they ever start to accrue, add up to a significant portion of our salvation this season, would soon be ours. When a beany geezer with one name and two incredible legs pops up at the goalline and flicks it, really, like a Subbuteo jab, into the net. Our net. Our unbreachable last line of defence. Damn (think that's the strongest Ian will allow...).

Yeah, sure, we weren't that surprised. I mean, it was a damn sight more likely than us nicking it. But...but. If only. Etc., etc., etc. Ask the players.