Nine again for man in the rain

October 30th, 2019 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

I suppose there has to come a time, maybe at 70 or possibly 71, when you wonder what you’re doing. After all, the game was on television, the rain fell steadily, then furiously as the nine goals went in and people left the ground, many of them by half-time. It can seem a long way from Southampton to Bristol after something like that, especially with the car radio in dock for repairs. £148.50 worth of repairs, the man said, as if this sort of precision (the 50p a nice touch) guarantees honesty, which perhaps it does.

Anyway, I am one of a steadily dwindling band. I’m not sure why I wrote ‘steadily’ because the mortality rate among old school friends and acquaintances seems to have quickened lately and there may not be many left who remember Southampton 9 Wolves 3 from September 1965. I was at school with Martin Chivers and he scored four. When he went to Spurs we got Frank Saul in part-exchange. I thought I might become an actor in those days  –  well, you might as well get paid for doing what you’re best at  –  but I ended up trying to track Frank down for a magazine piece. And there he was in the telephone book, Frank Saul, bespoke tailor, in Tottenham High Road, a charming man who said I should drop in at any time for a fitting and he’d even supply an extra pair of trousers free of charge. Sadly he wasn’t the Frank Saul who played football; he was Jewish and I’m not at all sure our Frank was, or is, because he had fair hair which billowed out in the breeze when he ran, the sort of wavy hair which may be waving goodbye.

Only Southampton could sign the goalie, Dave MacLaren, they’d put nine past but we soon did and he gave us good service, too, though there were one or two jokes when he first arrived. We made the old First Division in the 9-3 season and there must be a strong possibility we shall drop down again after the 9-0 beating by Leicester.

I reached a friend’s house in time for much of the analysis on Sky. There was a good piece by Hunter Davies in the New Statesman recently, where he stated, quite feelingly, that all he really needed was the game itself  –  he is a big Spurs fan and wrote The Glory Game, travelling with the team many years ago  –  and not the interminable analysis, which soon wore him down. I tend to agree. The pundits get many things right but I’m not sure the Saints were ‘a disgrace’ in that game and I waited in vain for someone to point out that ‘Leicester, of course, have better players’. Which they do. Far, far better. Top six material at the very least, playing football the home supporters could only dream about, with the addition of Ayoze Perez from Newcastle a hugely significant factor.

Sitting there in the swirling rain, I was reminded of an old cartoon, quite a cruel one, where a bear, his mobility hindered by an ankle chain, is taunted by much smaller animals. When Liverpool beat us 7-1 a longish time ago, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen were too quick and nimble for us. Too small, really. As their little legs scurried hither and thither, scoring goals now and again, we were longing for the end to come, as indeed we were the other night.

We touched bottom on Friday but if there is one tiny consolation it concerns public awareness. Here were the frightening weaknesses, laid bare for all to see. And that means the end of the assurances from on high  –  not that I know who calls the shots at St Mary’s these days  –  that all will be well. If those in authority couldn’t see that something like this, not as comprehensively eviscerating, perhaps, but mighty embarrassing nonetheless, was well and truly on the cards they clearly know nothing about football and should be looking for something else to do. Even I would be a better bet; at least the supporters would be getting one of their own.

Arriving home at 1.30am, I thought I’d better check how Call Me Ginger had fared at Doncaster. The answer to this is ‘not very well’. I simply can’t have Flat racing on heavy ground and am ready to call it a day for another year, unless the ground undergoes an unlikely transformation. Trainers puzzle me sometimes, though. I’ve long known that Jim Goldie has a team of ordinary handicappers, many of them pressed into service on the Scottish circuit as a matter of course. But the same Jim Goldie also has a couple, year on year, that are capable of winning much further south. Call Me Ginger is a lightly-raced three-year-old and was making only his fourth public appearance when sixth in a good five-furlong handicap at Ascot not long ago. He’d sidestepped the six-furlong handicap there the day before  –  interesting in itself, because he’d never run over five.

Anyway, it was soft ground but nowhere near heavy. Back over six but predictably easy to back on a sodden bog at Doncaster, he was never in the hunt, finishing out the back. We know this is not his form because Pendleton, who won the Ascot race with Call Me Ginger beaten under two lengths and now 4lb better in, finished a very good second this time.

I suppose things are a bit like this for me at present. Still, onwards and upwards. The winter will come and go, we can have side bets on the first journalist to refer to the Saints’ recovery as ‘Lazarus-like’, the sun will be high over the Anglesey Arms at Halnaker and the first Goodwood meeting will exert its habitual charm. Also, Carnaby’s Twelve To Follow on the Flat will be available. Obviously Call Me Ginger will be in there. I haven’t thought about the other eleven yet.