The 35 Year Itch
Just over three years ago, I breathlessly typed up an early entry in my journal marking one of the most memorable days in my life as an Albion fan to date. We'd just beaten Arsenal 3-2 at the Emirates - something I honestly never thought I'd live to see happen in the money-rotted world of modern football - and the feeling of elation was incredible. Though we've achieved plenty of memorable results in the meantime, none have ever really matched the childlike sense of awe at football's fundamental magic that the great Emirates triumph did.
Thirty-five years on from our last win at Old Trafford, and fifty years since the debut of all-time top goalscorer Tony "Bomber" Brown, we faced the league champions on their own turf expecting another referee-assisted slaughter of the kind we've had to put up with far too many times in the past. Our scorers from that grand day at Arsenal - Peter Odemwingie, Gonzalo Jara and Jerome Thomas - have all moved on, and we were on the lookout for new heroes.
In many ways the battle between the clubs can be summarised in two substitutions; when Manchester United were struggling, they brought on 24 million pound foreign mercenary Robin Van Persie. In contrast, when Albion were hit with an injury early on, we introduced Saido Berahino: a twenty year old lad from Birmingham who's spent years working his way through the ranks of the Albion youth academy and has humble hopes of representing England one day. In the glittering, glamorous world of the Premier League, commentators and pundits keep their fingers crossed that the winning goal will be scored by the mercenary, the money man; it affirms their essential view that wealth equals worth. There's no room in their footballing cosmos for a lad from the tower blocks of Newtown to be the hero. At least, not until he signs for a London, Manchester or Merseyside club for a fee that would buy up every single property in Newtown with change to spare.
But before the winning goal came the breakthrough, provided by sudden fan favourite Morgan Amalfitano; in a magnificent solo effort that surely channelled the spirit of the late Laurie Cunningham, "Alf" latched onto a pass from Billy Jones just inside the Albion half, skinned two or three United players in a driving run up the wing, before breaking through on goal, dummying De Gea to the ground and chipping the ball into the back of the net. I've spent the evening trying to think of a better individual goal by an Albion player at this level since the turn of the century. I've failed.
After the brief setback of an undeserved equaliser by everyone's favourite granny-shagger, Albion set about bossing the match once again, and after Jonas Olsson hit the bar, a fluent passing move saw Alf lay the ball off to Saido Berahino just outside the box. It's entirely possible that Super Saido will go on to do greater things in his career than driving a low strike past David De Gea at Old Trafford to secure the first West Bromwich Albion victory on that ground since 1978, but for the time being, he'll settle for that beautifully weighted shot that gave us three historic points. You know what? I will too.
The question of whether the so-called Albion Curse will do for David Moyes before the weekend's out plagued the airwaves this evening. To be honest, I hope not; he seems a decent bloke, and deserves time and patience. At the end of the day, he might just go on to build the kind of team that Manchester United used to have; the kind of team that Albion currently have; the kind of team that's not despised by football fans everywhere. A team made up of players who do an honest job for a club they care about.
- Nikon D3100