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Tea and Crumpets with Surreal Football

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Surreal Dinner Party

When my assistant first mentioned we were to meet The Baggies, I must admit I found myself at a loss. Still, I thought, if the lads at the FA saw fit to allow semi-professional footballers moonlighting as grocery store bag boys to compete, well, who was I to complain?

My assistant, though, said it might simply be a nickname of historical import. After telling him in no uncertain terms I would call the police if I ever saw him on my property again, I endeavored to check if his insolence might hold a kernel of truth, getting as far as discovering they began life as The Strollers of all things before tiring from the exertion.

Still, with an original nickname like strollers, one would suppose they weren't bag boys at the local market. Though it had begun to seem a more nefarious moniker, perhaps. As though it might be a club founded by drug dealers at home strolling darkened alleys in search of customers to sell baggies of illegal poison to. Or they might have been homeless mothers, I suppose. But I do ramble. In the end, I decided to seek out Ethan Dean-Richards, the internet's most surreal authority on all things West Brom, to see if he might be willing to sit down for a chat about the upcoming match and perhaps do me the favour of explaining this peculiar nugget of nomenclature, amongst other things...

Perhaps I could do you that favour. I won’t, though. Not because I’m looking to preserve the exclusivity of the knowledge and not because I’m looking to subvert the ‘answers’ section of this ‘question and answer’ session, turning the ‘answers’ into self-indulgent piffle. Rather, because if I gave you an answer that pretended to be definitive, it would be a lie. Lying is fun, but I would never lie to the Liverpool Offside. The stories I’ve heard are the same bland ones as everyone else: they’re called the Baggies because:

The men that collected entrance money at the Hawthorns did so using bags--or something like that.

Supporters worked in the local ironworks and because of the intense heat, tended to wear very loose, baggy clothing--or something.

The team wore baggy shorts or shirts for various reasons--or something.

Baggy Jeans
West Brom for life, yo.

Moving on, I also understand your stadium is referred to as "The Shrine." Now, aside from stirring in one's mind images of internet lowlives building temples to their favourite model or actress or sports blogger, constructing great towers out of candles and pictures and locks of hair all held together by love and various byproducts thereof, it also brings to mind something of the religious experience. Harmonies and chants and the masses joined in hope for some eventual glory as recompense for their betters monopolising the corporeal glory. That sort of thing. So I suppose there might be some singing coming from the stands that those following along would do well to pay attention for, be it for its moving or uplifting or just enjoyably distracting nature?

I enjoy the fact that it’s always appropriate to insult Wolves, whoever the opponent:

“Stevey Bull’s a tatter, he wears a tatter’s hat. He plays for Wolverhampton, ‘cus he’s a fucking twat.”

“Albion ‘til I die, Albion ‘til I die. We’re blue and white, the Wolves are shite, I’m Albion ‘til I die.”

If that’s not wit, I don’t know what is.

Quite right. I think we can all agree the chance to shout "'cus he's a fucking twat," with it being at least somewhat socially acceptable, is a chance that shouldn't be passed up. Now, I wouldn't normally be so crass as to trade in the words of those we get our sporting enjoyment on the backs of, but my assistant--while he was still my assistant, naturally--by chance passed along the thoughts of a certain Steven Reid. He's some player or other for your West Bromwich side, and so doesn't especially matter. Except that his speech matches--nearly word for word--many of Roy Hodgson's bouts of verbal effluvium from his time at Liverpool:

"Roy has got big experience and we all know he has managed top clubs--Inter Milan and Liverpool to name a couple. He has great respect from the lads and we’re working day in, day out on shape and pattern... Everyone knows their jobs and their positions, wherever the ball is on the park, and that has shown in the last few weeks."

Steve Bull
Steve Bull, a highly regarded former Wolves player.

One can only imagine the dark and perverted arts that devilish manager has employed to brainwash his charges. And while I know our most knowledgeable fans in the world were well above falling for such cheap lies and parlor tricks, he has hoodwinked other, lesser groups of supporters before. One does wonder, then, if the various unwashed who find themselves beholden to your particular stripes have yet fallen prey to his tongue?

I’m out of touch with reality and what ‘real people’ think, but I can offer you what I think of Roy Hodgson. I liked him as ‘That Nice Old Man Who Was Doing Quite Well At Fulham’ but it turns out that’s because he wasn’t doing it at West Brom. Hodgson is about tidy football and getting solid results, but I liked messy football and wonky results. Under Mowbray and Di Matteo, it always felt like West Brom were a bit of an oddball club, and I liked that, now they’re just going to be boring old mid-table muddlers, or worse, Boring Old Relegated Club.

I mean, it was funny when he was at Liverpool, but now Those Jokes I made are looking ill-judged.

Speaking of West Bromwich players, most Liverpool fans will at least be aware of former Red Scott Carson in goal. After all, he did play for ours for a time, and as such if he could pose a threat it only stands to reason he would still be on the payroll. Aside then from the danger a squad full of names as mesmerizing as Gianni Zuiverloon, Peter Odemwingie, Youssuf Mulumbu, and Chris Brunt might distract Liverpool in their preparations, is there anybody you see as likely to pose us a particular problem? Perhaps a 6'5" behemoth of a center forward your defense can aimlessly punt long-balls to?

Odemwingie is, let’s face it, going to score, and Chris Brunt is good, but Roy does like playing Marc Antoine Fortune up front, so you’ll probably just be dealing with crosses that he gets nowhere near all afternoon. I like it best when Jonas Olsson starts taking long free kicks.

Song Thrush
Turdus philomelos. Insert your own joke here.

The throstle, mavis, song thrush. Turdus philomelos. Call it what you will, it is but a tiny bird that eats worms and berries and builds its quaint mud-lined nests, and it has been affixed to your badge from the beginning. It also, quite self-evidently, rather pales beside the grand and majestic glory of the liverbird, a mythical icon to swell a man's breast and make women grow faint. Is it that very pride in being exceptionally quaint that drove your club to seek out your new mid-table maestro of a manager? Was the threat of the likes of Tony Mowbray and Roberto Di Matteo slowly building the club up the table over the seasons as an attractive, footballing side simply too much of an offense for such a mild and unassuming self-image?

Shit, I went and answered this one already in one of my previous answers. Didn’t you just hate that when you did it at school because it made you sure you’d got the other one wrong? Bah.

As a side note, Turdus philomelos beats liverbat every time.

We'll have to agree to disagree, I suppose. About the latter, obviously, and not the former, though I do find that things go far more smoothly once you decide that anybody who thinks you're wrong is himself not entitled to an opinion. In any case, as all and sundry well know, a proper Roy Hodgson side sits and waits and keeps its shape, dreaming of clean sheets and famous draws. Attack and attractive football is, of course, completely out of the question. As such, do you expect a gentlemanly nil-nil draw is a realistic dream for his charges? And do you expect to find yourselves as thoroughly bitter and twisted in future years as some of those who follow Liverpool now are?

Liverpool are going to win. Roy knows that, but he’s going to make it utterly painful. It’s going to be 0-1 with the goal coming from a deflected free-kick. I bloody hate football.

Well, there you go, then. I rather expect that however things go on Saturday, there will be face rubbing involved. Also, either way, Ethan will remain one of the best writers on the internets, and when my reciprocal efforts go up I'll be sure to pass along a link.