Wolverhampton Wanderers, RDM
Wolverhampton Wanderers, RDM

Good times! Isn’t it nice the way things are coming together for Di Mat? After the hard graft he’d given the club I always felt he needed more recognition, I always felt slightly guilty about the fact that, when sitting in the pub opposite his Chelsea restaurant, I was sucking down a bag of McCoys rather than helping his business thrive. But karma has a habit of rewarding those who …

Wait a second … We’ve got Man City away on Wednesday, Spurs at home on Saturday and then on Tuesday we’re off to Benfica… How did that happen?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about congested fixture lists, I love congested fixture lists, they’re the Easter Egg binge of football, they’re the real-life antithesis to those non-football days before the season starts when everyone’s reporting on transfer speculation. And they usually mean things have been going well; but Spurs, Benfica and Man City? Ah nuts.

I tell you what, if Di Mat can navigate his way through this lot, and keep us in the running for a Champions League place, he deserves the full-time job. He really does.

We are living in the age of tiki-taka football, just as the 70s was the total football era and the 80s was the thumped long ball up to Ian Rush era. Tiki taka is Olde Spanish for hot potato and is taught from infancy in all Spanish kindergartens. Every day for lunch, children are handed a hot potato croqueta filled with viciously boiling cheese. These are liable to burst at any second and scald the poor Spanish hands holding them. As such the croqeuta gets tossed across the garten to a passing kinder as quickly as possible, all the while making sure it is never dropped (it is lunch after all). Eventually the croqueta cools and once eaten it’s time for siesta. As a consequence of this sensible grounding in hot potato croqueta passing, the Spanish are natural tiki taka footballers.

We English, on the other hand, tend to be more bangers and mash footballers, which needs no clarification.

Anyway, while watching the Napoli game with an Arsenal fan (he’s family, what can you do?) I was disappointed to find myself agreeing with him when he pointed out that there was little point in getting worked up over this game since no one was ever going to beat the current Barcelona side anyway. It’s true, I thought, we don’t have the tiki or the taka, and they’ve got Messi. Why are we deluding ourselves?

But then the goals went in, the crowd roared and the blind hope took over. The fact is, as long as you’re still in it, there’s a chance. It might be small, but it’s there. Look at the Greeks in 2004, or Swiss in their first game of the 2010 World Cup: they made tiki taka fondue.

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