It was difficult to work out exactly why Birmingham City’s manager, Alex McLeish, was so enraged by the six minutes added on at the end of his team’s game at home to United. And equally why the board was greeted with mass catcalling and boos by the home support. Outside of those parked on a pernickety meter, I would have imagined the home support welcoming such an extension to the game. Or at least being neutral on the matter.
Consider: Birmingham City, in an absurdly rich vein of form wherein even Lee Bowyer has began to play a bit, and playing at home are offered six spare minutes which to nab a winning goal against a beleaguered United, themselves still reeling off the back of a home defeat to a League One side last week and otherwise seriously spluttering. A United side, don’t forget, being forced to play, on the back of Darren Fletcher’s red card, with ten men. Or nine, if we include Wes Brown.
Afterwards, Craig Burley, on Radio 5, commented that “They’ll be disappointed to have not won this one. These are the type of games you should be picking up three points in if you to win if you want to win the Premiership.” And he’s right, of course. But nobody at Birmingham City will be getting ahead of themselves just yet. 40 points first lads, McLeish will have surely been imploring his players, and then we can start thinking about winning it outright. Even so, to be actively settling for a home point with six minutes left? Against a seriously out of sorts Manchester United? Burley is right, I’m afraid, to suggest that this is not the stuff of champions.
It seems in keeping with the current trend to lament whatever time added by the referee in as vitriolic as way as possible, with booing and chants of ‘Fergie Time’ and, no doubt before the season’s out, streamers and choreographed dance moves. This is amusing in many ways. Or amusing in one: to see the cowered figure of a fourth official as he holds to board to mass derision is to study the face of a man who had mistakenly believed work today was going to be a largely menial based doddle discovering how truly wrong he was.
Again on Radio 5, it was noted that at one point during the second half, with the amassed coaching staff, managers and officials on the touchline it resembled something of a mother’s meeting. But few mother’s meetings end with one mother on the receiving end of sustained abuse for suggesting they hang on for a couple of minutes extra and perhaps order another pot of tea. Even with bus schedules to consider.
So, sporadically amusing, then. But also, surely, utterly illogical, particularly when done as a stock reaction, showing scant disregard for the shape of the game and the pattern of the play. And showing even scanter regard for the presence in the centre of the opposition’s defence of Jonny Evans.
It speaks to insecurity, for one thing. I have been in crowds reacting negatively to the amount of stoppage time added, and cringed at what a physiological boost was being casually handed to the opposition. If nothing else, you’re giving them a few ideas. It also serves to deplete whatever momentum your own side may have been gaining. It’s easy to imagine on Saturday, for example, Cameron Jerome noticing the minutes added and avowing to have a real go at them, before hearing the reaction the announcement provoked from his team’s support and wrongly assuming that his goalkeeper’s arms had dropped off at some point in the second half without his realising, and that he’d be best off getting back and helping out that way.
The people that do it: do they consider these things? Furthermore, how loaded are they that they can be so blasé about a bit more Premiership football than their initial outlay had necessarily entitled them to? At St. Andrews is it like at my local leisure centre’s five a side court, where any incursion into the second hour will see you charged for the entirety of it?
If so, consternation at added time would be understandable. As it was it seemed simply undignified. And ultimately self defeating. Or, I suppose, self drawing. Which is as bad as it really gets against Manchester United these days.
Read more of Chris Mackin’s work at his blog Partially Deflated