25 July 2012

SPANISH DISPATCH #2

As you've probably heard by now, Albion smashed the Pompey tax avoiders by five of your English goals to one in Spain last night. It's been an all round giggle in southern Espana the past three days and posting such a scoreline against an old enemy only continued that theme. But, like everything in life, it's not quite that black and white. Or, more suited to Albion related-ish drivel, it's not that blue and white.

The Pompey fans in attendance in the hotel complex of Montecastillo - and there were plenty more of them than Albion fans - insisted throughout that their team was unrecognisable. Their team was made up of triallists and they have financial problems of an importance far outstripping the questions our attacks consistently asked of them all match. Speaking to Portsmouth trialist Jon Harley post match, us TSLRites sobered up enormously (not in the drinking sense) to establish quite what a terrifying situation they find themselves in. A dastardly combination of previous mismanagement and the future threat of liquidation meant that the result for Portsmouth on the pitch against us mattered little.
Albion, meanwhile, are winning. Unprecedentedly so. It was an odd place to have a friendly really - a hotel's training pitch, deep inside a vast complex beyond the golf course, situated next to the Moto GP circuit. And of course, the lack of toilets for supporters was odd, especially with hotel staff flogging cervezas (don't worry, they had bushes). It worked for us though - in Spain it seems, it's not what you know but who you know. And luckily the adopted TSLRites had access to a house with a swimming pool within spitting distance of the pitch. Having just about dragged ourselves from the pool, we got inside the hotel complex just in time for kick off.

There followed an anhialation of the Portsmouth side by Albion. Vicente undoubtedly pulled the strings in midfield - he played about 70 minutes; Harley looked bothered; Bruno was OK; Hoskins showed why everyone's been raving about him pre-season; with Casper playing all match. Hoskins, Sparrow (who later Tweeted about an Albion ping pong tournament we could only wish we'd beeen invited to), Vicente (a bloody screamer), Vincelot and Adgestein got the goals in what turned out to be a comfotable afternoon for us. Bless the few Pompey fans - including the tattooed bell ringer - who outsung the Albion's even fewer number of attendees.
But it was post match we'd all come for - the chance to stand alongside Albion players, to realise they're getting younger and younger yet fawn over their every move. I had the pleasure of touching both Ryan Harley and Romain Vincelot in what can only be described as a sycophantic photographic situation. Games like these represent one of the few times you can get this close to players and, whatever level of support you have for Albion, there is no doubt that being close to Vicente et al makes you feel like a little child on Christmas morning again. Or maybe it's just me.

We've been spending the last few days with local based Jerez supporters (indeed we'll be at one of their friendlies tonight) and it was interesting to get their take on player interaction. In terms of friendliness, Calde gave them their money's worth by speaking at length in Spanish, as expected, Bruno chatted and even Peter Brezovan returned conversation to them. Vicente, meanwhile, almost seemed embarrassed to be speaking in his mother tongue and ran off to his hotel room. But then (and as we agreed over several beers last night), that boy does his talking on the pitch. If he plays as well as he did against Portsmouth in Spain last night, we'll have a great season. And the Dagger can be as reclusive as he wants.

That Pompey trialist Jon Harley told us we were the worst team to play in pre-season because they were 'always chasing the ball' and he could barely believe the quality of Vicente. Let us all hope that teams we play aginst next season roll over as easily as Pompey. Somehow we doubt it.

Special mention must go to Kaz who headed back to the hotel complex standing on the back of a golf cart - a very strong look; the Albionites who made the trip and took TSLR marketing materials off my hands; and Casper Ankergren for loitering outside the front of the hotel as we drove away in obvious need of a Malborough Light.

Another high note to leave you on (I've got to top up this tan you know), Albion won wearing the garish green and black kit - something that barely happened at all last year. Roll on the real season. It's actually making Hull seem like an attractive place to go.

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