On Wednesday 25th September 2013 I was sat in the East Stand at The Hawthorns watching West Brom take on a youthful Arsenal team in the League Cup. Albion had played quite well, but Arsenal were holding up, and after 90 minutes the result was 1-1. Extra time awaited, with the possibility of penalties. Steve Clarke decides to bring on some fresh legs and takes off Shane long for Markus Rosenberg.
For those of you that don’t know of Markus Rosenberg, let me introduce him. Rosenberg is a Swedish International striker (33 caps, 6 goals), who has played across Europe, in the top leagues in Sweden, Spain, Holland and Germany. As well as playing in those leagues for teams such as Ajax and Werder Bremen, Rosenberg has also played and scored in competitions like the Champions League.
Before joining the Albion, Rosenberg had scored a total of 112 goals in 338 games. On average a goal every three games. Not a terrible record. But, this is Albion.
Rosenberg’s Albion record is 33 games, 0 goals. On average no goals, ever. But, despite this, and despite all my better instinct, I continue to believe that at any point that goal will come. I hold on to that hope, and will hold on to that hope until the day he leaves. So when he came on against Arsenal, I heard people around me sighing and moaning. I was thinking a bit different.
“Come on Rosie, this is your time…you can do this.”
The match restarts, extra time kicks off, and the game continues in very much the same vein it left off. And then, Rosenberg was clear. Somehow the ball had fallen to him, just out of the six yard box, and the goalkeeper was nowhere. Surely…SURELY…this was it. We were going to see a Rosenberg goal…he was going to win it.
Well, he didn’t, and we didn’t see a goal. The game went to penalties, and, although Rosenberg put his away quite nicely, the Albion lost.
My reason for bringing up such a frustrating story and character as Markus Rosenberg is that, actually, I care more about him and how he plays and his struggle for goals than I do about the England national team. That moment, when the ball fell to Rosenberg in the area against Arsenal, in a League Cup match, had me feeling more excited than any England game has for years.
In no way am I trying to say I wouldn’t celebrate if, by some miracle, England won the World Cup next year. I dare say that if England got to the final (or anywhere near, for that matter), I might feel some excitement. But there is no way that I would feel the same excitement or passion that I feel at the Albion. And that is why I’d much rather sit at The Hawthorns to see the Albion than visit Wembley to see our national team.
Give me Darren Moore and Bob Taylor scoring against Crystal Palace to secure promotion to the Premier League. Give me Igor Balis scoring a last minute penalty to win the game at Bradford. Give me a Paul Robinson equaliser at Villa Park. Give me a Geoff Horsfield and Keiran Richardson goal to pull of the ‘Great Escape’. Give me a Peter Odemwingie hat-trick at the Molineux, as we beat Wolves 5-1 at their own place.
Don’t give me Wayne Rooney getting frustrated at others around him. Don’t give me James Milner…at all.
These are players I struggle to care about. It sums it up when the most excited I can get about England is not the prospect of Jack Wilshere or Andros Townsend or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but actually the prospect that Albion’s Ben Foster could get a call up. I am excited by the goalkeeper.
For years, media have sparked the argument of club vs country with regards to players, but how about the fans? I can’t be alone. I can’t criticise the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard for playing better for their own clubs than they do country when, actually, I can’t even get motivated to watch them.
Pointless friendlies, endless substitutions, players gaining international caps because they show a glimmer of talent. I just don’t get it anymore. I used to care. I used to be all England when Albion weren’t playing…now, I’m Albion, with England a side thought, regardless of whether it’s international break or not.
Last night England played Germany at Wembley. It’s a match that is classed as one of the “big ones”…but I was at a pub quiz. I’d practically forgotten the match was on. In fact, it wasn’t until I got home and popped on Twitter that I suddenly thought, “Oh yeah, England were playing tonight.”
I still hope that Roy Hodgson will make me feel for England like I did when Gazza scored against Scotland in Euro 96. Quite what will have to happen for that to happen, though; I don’t know. But I keep faith.
And, until then, I’ll always have Markus Rosenberg and the Albion to keep me going.