Ian Hart: Clearly pride can come before a fall

Supporting the Albion through thick and thin, you can always rely on the Footballing Gods, just as things are going well, to give you a bite on the backside.

Lewis Dunk (far right) celebrates after scoring against Norwich. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Lewis Dunk (far right) celebrates after scoring against Norwich. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

The events of Saturday afternoon were a case in point. Since the final whistle of the Wigan Athletic game on Easter Monday, the Albion haven’t stopped celebrating promotion to the Premier League, even laughing off the bizarre defeat at Carrow Road, when some stats state Norwich had no shots on target but Albion keeper David Stockdale ‘netted’ a brace of own goals in a 2-0 defeat.

So, Saturday’s home game against Bristol City set up the icing on the cake, the crowning of the champions, which in some ways was inevitable but did the Albion overdo the pre-match hype, to the point where it smacked of over confidence and was quite disrespectful to the opponents?

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In my opinion, yes. The time for flags, streamers, even footballing poetry, should have been after the game. Once the whistle went it was like we were witnessing the Albion’s season crashing in slow motion.

The only saving grace is that the quest for the Championship remains in the Albion’s hands, with Sunday’s trip to Villa, for obviously different reasons, on a par with Hereford 20 years ago as the biggest match in the club’s history. I still think we will come home from the Midlands on Sunday afternoon the champions of the Football League (I don’t do all this EFL rebranding).

For my part Saturday, I almost had the proverbial sporting ‘doctor’s note’, I left the Amex at half-time, making my way to Wembley Stadium for what turned out to be one of my greatest sporting experiences outside football.

Joshua versus Klitschko was breath-taking, the atmosphere, the ring walk, the sing-song, a bizarre contrast to what I’d witnessed at the Amex four and a half hours earlier. Either fighter could and perhaps should have won at certain points, but Joshua came through to confirm himself as a true British sporting great.

Driving back from Wembley, I had a ‘classic Sunday football’ encounter to look forward to, surely nothing could go wrong?

With all due to respect to the rest of the division, Hillside Rangers and The Railway were head and shoulders the best two teams in the league.

Those footballing gods had not only conjured a thrilling cup semi-final a month ago when Railway came from 4-1 down to win on sudden death penalties but had also decreed, with a little help from the fixtures secretary, that the final game would be the championship decider.

Unfortunately, there is a fine line between passion and unacceptable behaviour, and in a blood and guts 90 minutes, both sides crossed that line. It could have gone either way and in a game that at one point looked like it might not finish, the match officials, along with the league officers on the sidelines, conducted themselves superbly.

Thankfully when everything calmed down in the resulting days, there has been dialogue between the two clubs, and hopefully we will both put this behind us and look forward to traditional footballing clashes on the pitch next season but played in the correct spirit.

Sometimes we all need to remember that it is only a game.

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