The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
So I didn’t watch Nottingham Forest wreck Manchester City. I didn’t watch Bristol City hold Portsmouth, Southend hold Chelsea, or Hull hold Newcastle (maybe the phrasing should be reversed, on that one). I totally missed Hartlepool going all sinners-in-the-hands on Stoke. Instead, thanks to the magical pageantry of a tradition that insists on everything happening simultaneously so you can’t actually follow very much of it, I watched Forest Green Rovers lose 3-4 to Derby County. It was a fantastic game. But still.
For a game with seven goals, it was a lot like trench warfare, only played on a harder surface. Forest Green attacked Derby’s back line with the pace of Andrew Mangan, and went up 2-0 within 20 minutes. Derby then realized that they were taller, stronger, faster, and better-looking their opponents, and gonged in a couple of semi-deserved headers to equalize. Every goal cost thousands of lives and gained about seven inches of ground. Sentimental music played on crackly Victrolas. The notion of honor was upheld by the dons of Cambridge. Forest Green took the lead again, and Paul Jewell floated down a stream with a straw between his lips. Then Derby equalized again, and menacing shadows flowed over him.
I don’t know. Derby are just…they’re just terrible. Everything they do is so labored and confused. Watching their historically awful run through the Premier League last season, I assumed it was a talent deficit, but they looked exactly the same against a team fully three leagues beneath them. You can’t quite say that Forest Green outplayed them, but at the same time, if the network had been flashing phone numbers at the bottom of the screen, I don’t think Derby would have garnered a lot of votes.
Two questions. First, why don’t the Forest Green fans have any songs? I thought at first that the ground was just too small for the microphones to pick them up, but you could clearly hear the Derby fans chanting after their last-minute penalty. Is there a famous Cotswolds reticence that I’m not familiar with, or is coordinated rhyming a privilege reserved for League Two teams?
Second, what’s the deal with Terry Burton, Forest Green’s goalkeeper? He spent most of the second half making horrifying faces and beating himself about the head. What kind of counseling is available in Conference National? I mean, can he talk to someone, or is it all straw and hoses at that level? I worry about the kid. Four goals or no four goals, he had a sensational game.
by Brian Phillips · January 3, 2009