There we were - a joyless bunch
of discredited, sad losers with bitter, twisted lives. We followed
one of the most notorious football teams in Europe - a joke to
all but the devoted faithful.
Every day we eked out deathless existences, going through the motions of life.
Irvine Welsh and Robert Carlyle were negotiating to do a film on us. Honest.
"Of course, Bobby butt, you'll portray me?"
"No, Marty Feldman will."
"But he's dead."
"We're digging him up."
Then someone has to go and spoil it. No longer sad losers, we're now delirious winners.
And they're making the movie on the Soul Crew instead (and still digging Feldman up.)
But all that's by the way. Mamma mia, wasn't that the best tenner you ever spent?
Suddenly it's cool to be a Welsh fan.
Last year after drawing 0-0 with Armenia, a pal vowed never to come again and looked at me as though I was Carlos The Jackal about to assassinate him.
Now the bandwagon's already full and when you say you're off to Azerbaijan, no one gives you that sideways leer and instantly changes the subject. No longer lepers in our land.
It's reached the point where this fan doesn't celebrate goals any more. They puzzle me. I can't get over the astonishment.
As the Solva sliver Simon Davies put us 1-0 up I could believe we'd scored, I just could not believe we'd scored such an extraordinarily wonderful goal. Unvarnished brilliance is hard enough to credit as it is.
When Wales produce a flurry of first-touch fripperies and cap it off with derring-do on a such a grand scale, it's only possible to stand and gawp. You couldn't have been more stunned had Giggs flown in for a foreign friendly.
When Del Piero equalised, it felt more comfortable. A streaky bacon goal (why do we never score flukes?). Bad news sure, but the familiar feeling of disappointment was easier to cope with than the stress induced by a lead.
Then half-time. And 'Shaddup Your Face' by Joe Dolce. Funny and cringeworthy at the same time. It seemed like a piss-take too far. No way can cocky Cymru bach bait the Italians with such a terrible record and get away with it.
But after Bellamy intervened, it seemed like a great choice, especially as our row had just agreed that Earnshaw should definitely come on for Bellamy as he was, supposedly, flagging.
We've exacted punishment for the defeat of Caractacus in 50AD and for the 4-0 humiliation in Bologna in 1999. We have the Italians to thank for the end of Bobby Gould that night and now they've capitulated to the very man they helped install. Nice irony.
A dodgy Gog informs me that if we avoid defeat in Baku we will be the only unbeaten team in the world in 2002. Us, and Afghanistan presumably cos I doubt they've played.
But even that makes me feel uneasy. There are plenty of potholes on the road to oblivion and Wales have stepped in them all, so why not this one too?
When we're in the Baku of beyond, who's to say there isn't a raw 6ft 5in tall Azeri centre-forward ready to pound Danny Gabbidon into atoms and score a hat-trick in a 5-0 thrashing?
Finally, a friend's wife inquired before the game: "So where are all your freak mates?" - referring to the regular away gaggle of fans (and, I hope, excluding her husband). It was possible to see where she was coming from.
Well, we might be freaks, but right now we're the happiest freaks in the world.
Fan of the day:
Publishing tycoon Neil Dymock, of Llanelli, for his unstinting work on fan mag The Dragon Has Landed.
He was looking more harassed than a Balinese police chief after trying to sell 2,500 copies (he still has 2,498 left). Top effort. Don't forget one lucky subscriber wins a trip to Baku. The odds are favourable, so might be worth a punt.
Changed every five minutes didn't it? First it was Davies, then Melville, then Pembridge, even Speed (for the first time ever), Hartson (is it me or does he run even less than Eric Young did?). But above all Savage.
This fan owes Lily an apology. Before this game he was no more than an athlete who plays football to fill in time when he can't go shopping. A 10,000-metre runner who kicks people. But he was incredible. He CAN play football, so this idiot humbly accepts he's not fit to lace the boy's daps.
This never changes. It's when the stupidest man in Wales starts singing: "Are you watching Enger-lund." Oh, Christ - The Inferiority Complex Song. As someone who lives there, believe me, they don't a flying wotsit at a doughnut.
This is what happens in England when you say you follow Wales:
A patronising inquiry after it's registered that we have a team. Then they realise you're talking about football, not rugby. Cue suppressed double-take and sharp intake of breath. Then you apologise for not conforming to national stereotype and doing something as subversive, as sad, as uncool as following a hugely unsuccessful side.
Then a barely suppressed smirk when you say you spent a week on holiday in a former Soviet republic that they didn't know was a former Soviet republic - they thought it was the name of a moon crater. Then you describe where the former Soviet republic is. Then the conversation ends: "Oh, right." Then you talk about something else.
Read this carefully - THEY DON'T KNOW WE'VE EVEN PLAYED. And they probably still don't know we've beaten Italy.
So this song is even more pointless than watching Wales play a former Soviet republic. It betrays a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality. Please don't sing it.
Spare a thought for these chaps. People slagging Jimmy Shoulder are missing the point. This lot want to play and are playing well.
Again, they deserved a draw instead of a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the biggest bunch of snivelling cheats in the galaxy. Italy were truly a disgrace and the same scoreline on Wednesday was the purest form of retribution.
Our boys will win Azerbaijan and BA (that's Bobbing Along, not British Airways) will be reporting here on how it was done.