Lions 2 Whites 0
For the first time in many a year the dawn of a new campaign was an unwelcome guest in my house. Its arrival signalled the end of a largely carefree summer that saw the rebirth of ‘Classy Cas’, an entertaining Brazilian diversion and the impressive coronation of Vicenzo Nibali on the slopes of ‘Le Tour’. A feeling of contentment had only occasionally been pricked by happenings at Elland Road but now the boundless state of nervous tension had returned. There was simply no appetite for the tortuous months ahead.
Our club’s continually fluctuating disposition had taken another turn for the worse during the previous week. An urgent need for positivity floundered upon the collapse of several transfer deals, Benito Carbone’s abrupt departure and Don Massimo’s less than judicious comments about his newly installed Head Coach. Our collection of self righteous malcontents was bristling with anticipation.
Events in South London didn’t disappoint those strange souls that seek solace in their own side’s woes. An undercooked visiting side tamely surrendered in front of what will be Millwall’s only sell out of the season. With a number of our new recruits deemed unready for the rigours of England’s second tier, last season’s band of clueless nitwits were left to reconnect us with the misery to which we have become so accustomed.
Whites 2 Stanley 1, Whites 1 Boro 0
By the time the Elland Road faithful convened for a tough league opener against Middlesbrough, an air of nervous optimism had tickled our bellies once again. Sully Doukara’s well taken brace helped negotiate a potentially uncomfortable cup tie against Accrington, while off field developments gave those of us with a less entrenched outlook a sliver of optimism upon which to grasp.
Stung by the debacle at The Den, an experience that had him shivering like a shitting dog, Don Massimo swept into action in a bid address our many deficiencies and within twenty four hours Giuseppe Bellusci, Liam Cooper and Billy Sharp had been captured. Not only did this swift action portray a decisive and enterprising owner but also suggested the Italian’s hard line approach had softened somewhat. Bellusci and Cooper arrived following quickly resurrected deals that had previously been frustrated by the financial demands of agents and clubs, while Billy Sharp decamped to the Ridings despite the President’s initial conclusion that that the striker was too old.
While all three recruits suggested a renewed sense of conviction within the corridors of power and seemed to reinvigorate and reunite an often fractious fan base it was Sharp’s signing that struck a real chord with the masses. The deal put an end to a five year spell in which player and club had been continually linked. Even when he appeared in the colours of our opponents there was always a feeling of quiet admiration and the numerous goals that he plundered against us were always met with forlorn thoughts of what could be.
Against Boro the new arrival found his every touch embraced with a gasp of eager anticipation. Both he and fellow debutant Cooper slipped seamlessly into an admirable team effort that matched a heavily fancied opponent stride for stride. The game seemed to be drifting towards a goalless denouement until King Billy’s final contribution sparked the sort of euphoric scenes that suggested the self appointed ‘fat lad from Sheffield’ was born to play for our club.