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Tuesdays With Roy


"Today I thought all of the back four's performances were pretty nigh on perfect," he says. "West Ham didn't have their first headed chance until the 91st minute, but that was really the only time in the game I thought we looked like conceding a goal."

"Okay, I'll grant you that," I say, "but I don't know how much that had to do with Liverpool."

"What was most pleasing today was that we've done a lot of work on trying to get our full-backs forward and trying to get our midfielders to create space for them. So it was nice to see Glen score one goal and Paul Konchesky make another."

"I... what? I mean, that sounds good. Really it does. It's why fullbacks like Johnson exist and cost a lot of money, and it's pretty much what everybody has wanted to see. Just, you know, it doesn't match what we've seen against... well, anybody better than West Ham. Or have I only been imagining deep, flat back lines hoofing it to isolated forwards?"

"I thought our movement down the sides throughout the game was very problematic for West Ham," he says, continuing on as though he didn't hear me, "and, as I said, we scored two goals from it and could have scored more because we got ourselves into good positions."

"I know, Roy. I know. I'll tell you what, if we actually see a bit of imposing our game on the Tater Totts as a way of keeping Bale pinned back and ineffective I might not feel quite so much like ripping out my hair, but right now what you're saying seems to have no grounding in reality. I mean, do you really think I'm that stupid? That I've never seen attacking fullbacks before? Or that I haven't seen our generally passive set up so far this year?"

"The other pleasing aspect is that we were so professional in the second half, there was never any chance we'd let them back into the game, there was no sloppiness, and it gave me a chance to give people like Aurelio, Babel and Shelvey a well-deserved taste of Anfield football."

"'Professional' is a synonym for packing it in and not trying to pad the goal differential and boost morale against an opponent begging for the coup de grâce now?"

"It was important to win and I thought we did it with some style" he says. "As I said yesterday, I think there are going to be lots of situations in the coming months where momentum will be gained and lost by teams because the league is such that there are no games where you can safely predict the result."

"You're really going to hang your hat on it being some grand and worthy victory, this toppling of a disinterested side that would probably look overmatched against Bradford City? You're going to pretend Johnson getting forward has been the intent all season as though that's something you've had to install at the club and not the system the players operated in before? Next you'll be claiming that Poulsen looking adequate against a side that was allergic to the ball is one more validation of your grand vision for us idiots to take away from West Ham, because who are we going to believe, you or our lying eyes?"

"Calm down, son," he says. "But you know, Christian is a good player. I always knew he is a very good footballer and today in a good team he showed what a good player he is."

"Oh for the love of Turducken Jesus, it's famous victories over Tran-span-porky-pig all over again. You do realise that Tottenam's coming up on Sunday, don't you? That all this talk of getting fullbacks forward to provide the width and how super-awesome Chrisitan Poulsen suddenly is will look idiotic if it's right back to the unadventurous, play not to lose crap we've seen week after week?"

"I know you have some anger management issues," he says, "but could you try to stay calm? For your own good if nothing else."

"Fine. Sure." I take a deep breath, pull my robe tighter as we walk the paths in the hospital court yard. I rub a little bit at the bandage around my head, a reminder of my previous chat with the man, and count to ten.

"There are two games this year which have done us untold damage," he says.

"You mean City and Utrecht?"

"The first was when a total reserve team--although it does not seem to have been noticed we had 14 first-team players who didn't play--lost to Northampton in the Carling Cup."

"Or maybe Sunderland and Everton?"

"The other was the disastrous defeat to Blackpool at the end of a three-match week when we played in Europe."

"Or Stoke and Wigan?"

"Northampton and Blackpool, I said," he says. "Those two defeats were costly for us because they encouraged people to make bold conclusions."

"Really? I could have sworn Everton and City were worse. And maybe Stoke. Yeah, definately stoke was one of the two worst, along with Everton and City. And probably the two you mention, too. So what were you saying?"

"I said that those two defeats were costly for us because they encouraged people to make bold conclusions."

"If by two you mean five or seven, then yes. And if by bold you mean 'realise the completely fucking obvious' then I would agree with that, too. I guess at least I haven't picked up a new injury from talking to you this time around."

"See," he says, "we'll be right in the thick of things before you can lick a postage stamp."

"Reassuring as always," I say.

"That's the spirit," he says.

"I'm pretty sure Aurelio's had a 'taste of Anfield football' once or twice before."

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