Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Job done: the Mighty vs Millwall

I've got a theory about Millwall (correctly pronounced Miwlwawwl). I reckon that actually, they'd be happier in the shitty north with the rest of us, getting not levelled up and having no ambition or whatever it is that makes us not worthy of things like transport and street cleaning. Millwall feels like an anomaly of a club, an enclave of grim, grimey un-fashionability amidst the glass towers and radioactive investment banking fall out that has made much of the capital unlivable in unless you have the mutant Russian oligarch or psychopathic entitlement gene. 

Thus, in my plan for the future, I would propose moving Millwall (Miwlwawwl) somewhere near Doncaster, or perhaps, better still, give the club to Warrington which is a place that feels as if should have football club with a bit of reputation and yet doesn't. You might think that's daft and will imbalance the universe as well as leaving a big hole in Sarf London but I'm going to be exchanging it for Alderley Edge or some other sort of nightmarishly successful place that doesn't really fit into the North.

Everyone would feel far more at home. The Alderley Edgers could swap tips on granite kitchen worktops and lifestyle enemas with their fellow rarified types in South (formally Saaaarf) London. Meanwhile the last 132 remaining working class people in London (who all support Millwall) could just crack on in a normal place that is a bit like Millwall used to be. I bet there's eels in the Mersey or the Ship canal as well. 

If anyone from the government planning department is reading, you can contact me in the comments section. That's just the tip of the genius iceberg - I'm willing to offer further ideas for a hefty day rate. 

Talking of ideas, I'm slightly concerned the team might have a lack of them without the Lord of Finesse and King of the Unlikely and Unexpected. Yes, Josh Bowler can belt it down the wing but what will anyone else do? What if Josh is thinking of Nottingham and has one of those games where it's like his shoelaces are tied together? Will we be able to get across the halfway line? 

The team is what it is. Connelly plays in central midfield even though Critch hit Ethan up on Facetime  and told him to come home. When Ethan asked him excitedly if it meant he could play in the Championship now, Critch obviously mumbled something Ethan didn't quite hear and looked a bit shifty then pretended he had a connection issue... I'm imagining Ethan on the train up to Blackpool on the phone saying "Yeah, I get to play in Division 2 mam! That's like, nearly the Premier League! Can I tell Dad now?" - Poor ol' Ethan... CJ is playing again and whilst Dougall and Bowler are decent enough, I uncharitably think the midfield looks all a bit '8th place in league 1.'


The opening stages are best described as 'cagey' which is a word that people who do match reports for more august journals than this one use to avoild saying 'shite'. I notice that Gary has a beard, or more of a beard than normal. I think he's normally got a bit of stubble but there's definitely more body to his facial hair. A dreadful clearance from Dujon Sterling, all wrong angles and rushing is all that really interrupts me thinking about whether this development means Madine is turning hipster. On balance, I'd be surprised if wor Gaz was into drinking Eritrean single source coffee out of recycled paper cups in a shipping crate cafe decorated with vintage film posters, but then again, pistachios have a certain cachet to them and his mam is a big Pink Floyd fan, so you never know.

Keogh step outs of defence beautifully, shrugs off a few challenges and plays a great ball to Bowler. We indulge in a lot of passing and finally Dougall has a shot charged down. That was a bit better but when the centre half has been the best attacking player, you know the game isn't that lively. Another bad clearance from Sterling. He looks like he needs to practice kicking a ball, which is a bit worrying for a player on the books of an elite football club.

Garbutt trots forward and lofts a delightful pass to put CJ in, he's not messing about, cutting inside then pulling pull back. Madine hovers but it's Bowler who hits it, he hits it hard, it takes a deflection and their keeper, who has a very long name makes a very good save. We float the resulting corner over the top of everyone. Millwall break. Keogh is racing back which is never the one on one you really want. The ball comes in and CJ has done very well to get back. It's a corner to them.

We wait for an age. The North stand and a Millwall player exchange some views. Perhaps they're chatting about tram timetables or what's on telly tonight. Finally it's in and this time it's Pool who break, Lavery racing forward and finding Bowler, who drifts between two and shoots just as he's challenged, the ball ballooning over the top. We have 2 more corners. We're doing ok here.

Then we nearly aren't as Connelly has a really lax touch and it takes a tremendous last ditch tackle from Dujon Sterling to save his blushes. Kenny 'please stop hoping he'll turn out to be a creative midfielder' Dougall stuns a nice pass though the middle, Lavery bursts on to it, goes wide into space, belts into the box and cracks a low hard shot from a tight angle that's well parried.

Millwall make a great double mistake, a loose touch is chased down by their left back who controls it before it goes out of play but then with his second touch just toe pokes it over the line. We had a little flurry of excitement before, but it's died down a bit again. The linesman keeps giving fouls for no clear reason. Bowler robs possession and feeds Dujon. The flags waves in outrage. Shayne turns his man and sprints away. Again a huffy flourish with the flag. Perhaps he's pissed off he's on the line and is making a point about how great he'd be with a whistle?

Tricky Dickie Keogh is playing really well, he makes a great challenge to deny Millwall a break. Garbutt makes a really ropey one shortly after to earn a yellow card an give them a free kick. They load the box. The ball in is loopy, it's flicked on, it falls for one of their forwards who takes it on the turn and fortunately lashes it wide.

There's a really awful 4 or 5 minute spell before half time. Mistakes abound, Connelly is lucky to get away with an unspotted handball. It dawns on me that Madine appears to be playing off Shayne. Lofting it to the little lad to flick on for the slow lad to run onto is unconventional even by Critch's creative standards.


It's not that we've been that bad, it's just that we seem to be in second gear. Millwall look as if they're delighted to sit back and do very little and try and pounce on the break and we're sort of pawing at them unconvincingly instead of going for the throat. I'm going to whisper this as it runs against everything I've built here but...

Gary Madine hasn't had a very good first half

I'm not entirely sure what I'd do were I Critch, but it doesn't matter as Critch will obviously send the same team out as he always does. --- Wait, bless my hat! what the fuck?! Critch has made three subs! Not really. Obvs. Lol. As if. Mad Banter. Etc.

We're loads better though. Bowler goes on a mad run. Mad run is not doing it justice. It's demented. It's the kind of run that should be committed to an institution. It's absolutely fucking brilliant. It ends with Lavery having an effort deflected.

A corner swings in, It reaches Lavery who nods it down at the near post, he connects well, the goal gapes, the ball bounces and spins up, past the post. We're getting closer.

CJ is looking pretty good. A bit of confidence in him, some purpose, some decision making. He's looked dithery, panicky, he's snatched at thing this year, but the gliding upright sprinter is back as he surges down the left, knocks a good low ball across, Lavery dummies, Gaz pulls a toe poked snap shot out from under his feet, a funny little flicked stub of a finish that is going to be a goal until a Millwall player defies physics by getting a desperate touch that sends it just wide. Gary goal denied.

CJ does well again, fiddling it out from a tight spot and knocking it to Madine. If CJ does well, then wor Gaz does magic. The ball is hit to him quite hard, so he flicks it up, then brings it down with his right foot, and with his left, caresses a dream of a ball into the exact space CJ has hared into. There's no time to appreciate Gary's nonchalant magical, keepy uppy, one foot to the other feather soft touch of genius though... as the sprinter is sprinting, the sprinter is shooting, the keeper is saving but the ball is breaking for Lavery who turns and cracks it home into the bottom corner. YESSSSSSSSS!

Lavery has deserved that. We've deserved that. They make a load of subs. We just carry on. Bowler pulls a run out of the bag that is as near as I've ever seen to a football comic on a real pitch. He leaps over tackles, he changes direction, he sways and shimmies and he just keeps beating people. You can practically see it in frames with speech bubbles like 'Yikes!' and 'aaaargh' coming out of the defenders mouths.

Garbutt goes down. Fragile Luke once got injured taking a throw in. No, really, he did. He then had a period of being not as fragile as he used to be, but he seems to be fragile again. Which is sad. It's also sad that we've not got any left backs now, even though we've got millions in the squad, so Gabriel comes on and Sterling trots across to the left.

Slowly, the Millwall pressure builds. We look a bit like we've got got caught in the mud. Legs look heavier. WE stop making quick decisions and we start dithering and slicing clearances. They put a horrifying ball across the box, but somehow their forwards run past it or round it. They scoop it back from the other side and one of their many big, square muscly lads hits an absolute piledriver that looks like it might go in before one of our players risks life and limb by blocking the cannonball effort.

Mysteriously, a low flying, swirling mob of seagulls churn in the air, below the level of the stand roofs. There's a lot of them. The dusk is falling. The gloom, the birds, the tension. It all feels a bit threatening. They go down the left. It's a decent move but it's made to look all the better because no one one wants to tackle them. Even Jerry (on for Lavery) shouts at the defence to get a foot in but no one does. It's stomach churning watching everyone stand off and their lad come inside and take aim and then fire convincingly towards the corner of the net. There's the now obligatory brilliant Dan Grimshaw save though. Low, full stretch and getting a full palm on a ball that was swerving away from him. Outstanding. Again.

They break. Two players race back. One is a defender, one is Bowler. Weirdly, the defender lets Bowler track the winger into the corner. Even more weirdly, Bowler makes an awesome sliding tackle, putting player and ball over the touchline, then gets up as if he does this all the time. Yes. You read that correctly. I know! I'm as surprised as you are. He was superb today. He can't leave.

Keogh dives and heads. He sweats and points. He's been magnificent. A little island of calm in an increasingly panicky Pool backline. Pool are hacking it clear. Connelly several times could slow it down as he's in space and the ball is coming to him in a way that should be easy to handle but he just belts it away and gives it them back. Breathe! Have a look Callum! If Callum is fretful Grimshaw is calm, claiming it above his head. Getting his whole body behind it on the line. He does only what he needs to do. He's so unfussy, so simple in his technique. He really is a keeper.

Sterling is manfully doing a job at left back. He really does like defending. He's got their air of a veteran sometimes. The heavy shouldered trudge of a much older player after a tackle as he sets himself for the throw. CJ is dead on his feet. He's doing his best, but he can barely run any more. Owen Dale comes on. Dale isn't exactly a game killing type player. Come on Pool! Hold on! Millwall loft it it again. Grimshaw and Gabriel form a kind of double body human shield, throwing themselves out in front of the Millwall player as the ball drops at the far post. We survive.

The whistle blows. YES!

It's not been vintage, but who gives a fuck? It was a good, gritty win and what pleased me most was that we turned it on in the second half and recognised the game was there for the taking and went and took it. 

There were some superb performances, even though, overall, it wasn't a superb performance. It was enough though. Bowler and Keogh played as well as they ever have in a Pool shirt and whilst I was baffled to see Sterling start, he did very well after a dodgy opening spell. We all know what our shortcomings are but we also know that there's some teams we can beat in this league, even without the creative or dominant midfielder we need. 

It was also really good to see CJ play well and do so on the left where previously, he's looked a bit ropey. He's no Keshi, but he was direct, he worked incredibly hard and he put some decent balls in. This CJ looked as if he has a place in the squad, which is probably the first time we've seen him look like that since he got injured about a year ago. Last year, we kept losing players and people kept taking their chances, CJ took his today. 

We struggled with Connelly and Dougall both wanting to do the same job and we did invite pressure at the end (when do we not?) but fuck it. We won. We deserved it. The North Stand serenaded Millwall with 'You're fucking shit' on the way out. It's the simple pleasures that make life worth living. We scored a goal and conceded none and we had some shots and everything and we didn't implode in on ourselves without Keshi. We've got the creative player we need anyway. You don't need a no 10 when you've got a no 14... 

Fulham? Who the fuck are they? We'll batter em! If they get 7, we'll get 8. 


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Monday, January 10, 2022

Finesse required: apply within

It hurts just to look at pictures of him. 

I didn't go to Hartlepool this weekend. I am but a mere part timer. Burn my shirt, for I do not deserve it.  Someone else can do the match blog. It's a team effort lads. It probably doesn't need to say much more than "shite". Talking of shite, here's a random collection of thoughts. 

Firstly, whilst I'm not going to do a proper blog on it, I did watch the game, whilst doing some much needed stuff I'd neglected to go to football matches. Things like attacking a sofa with a saw and wiring in a new oven. I've never felt so fucking manly. It was an electric saw too. Sofa murder. Cut the fucker up and put it all in bin bags and dumped it at the tip. Here's a thought: If you dumped a body in bin bags in the unrecyclable goods skip at the tip, would anyone check? Sometimes the best hiding places are the most obvious. Answers on a postcard. 

The one thing I do want to discuss about the match itself is the horrifying moment when I realised Keshi Anderson was properly injured. It was like the moment when you realise that your much loved partner who seemed such a steady and reliable part of your life was actually having the 'it's not you it's me' conversation and then telling you 'I'm sorry, but I think it's best we spend some time away from each other' - just minutes earlier, everything seemed fine, and now they're walking away. Keshi is leaving, so slowly, with only a sad backwards glance as if he wishes it could be different but he knows it can't. We're watching on in horror, but nothing we can say or do can change this. 

Clearly, it doesn't quite work as an analogy cos I don't think Kesh is going to be having a few days off then shacking up with another team, but the cold horror of realising how much I'd taken him for granted struck me. Without you, I'm nothing etc.

Maybe Critchley felt the same and was muttering to an awkward Mike Garrity on the front seat of the coach...


NC: "I should have known Mike, I should have played CJ and let him have the Saturday on the bench in a quilted jacket. It's my fault Mike. I just thought it would be ok."
MG: "CJ's a nice lad Neil. Maybe he'll.."
NC: "He's a nice lad, Mike. But he's not the same" 
(silence aside from maudlin music played over the coach stereo) 
NC: "What about that other lad, the old no 10, the one who wellied it in against Sunderland? What about him Mike?" 
MG: "He's in Africa Neil and you let him go anyway" 
NC: "So I did Mike, so I did. Why did you let me do that?"
MG: "Well, Colin wasn't around so...."
NC: "Mike, shut up...tell me there's someone else. Tell me." 
MG: "There's Ollie Sarkic boss" 
NC "Mike. Don't talk anymore"


Without Keshi, I'm more than slightly concerned that we're going to be actually shite. It's not just the second half against Pools. It's that we've got a midfield consisting of Kenny Dougall, Josh Bowler and some other lads who mostly can tackle or leg it and not much else. To be fair, whilst we love him and you need that sort of player, Kenny is very much in the footballing category of 'win the ball and give it to someone else' and Josh wouldn't be best described as 'a calm mind to bring a touch of class and control to a midfield' 

Maybe the other team will just put four players on Bowler and let everyone else pass it square between themselves? Am I overreacting? I'm sorry. I'm not myself. I miss Keshi. He knew exactly what we needed. He fit us like a glove. He completed us. It's not the same without him. The squad feels so... empty. 

If that's not bad enough, apparently everyone who is anyone now wants to sign Josh Bowler who is the only fit player we have who can attack. Ok, he's frustrating sometimes but he goes forward, not sideways and does crazy things like shooting at the other team's goals or passing it to the strikers (or at least trying to) 

If I was programming him into Football Manager I'd have his stats look something like this: 

Dribbling: 20 
Pace: 20
That mad skill where he kills it out the sky and runs with it in one move 20
Heading: -10
Being in the right place: - 2 
Tackling: LOL. 
Passing and crossing: Maybe getting a bit better?  

The point is, he's really exciting to watch. His two purposes in life are to run at the other team and keep his hair tucked behind his ears. The former he's brilliant at, the latter, he doesn't seem to have fully mastered what with him having to deal with stray strands every few minutes or so. Sometimes he's even doing it when he's probably supposed to be doing boring stuff like defending and that. He should look at Jimmy who always had his top knot neatly and securely tied but went a step further by adopting a surprisingly Snoop Dog look at the weekend. Whatever the merits of it on an aesthetic level, it's more practical than having curtains like you're channelling Madchester 89 and an ineffective headband. 

I've lost track of what I'm on about. Where were we? Is Bowler any good? Of course he is. Players like this tend to split opinion and get described as 'luxury' players. They're either a great asset because they can do things no one else can or a waste of space because they don't do stuff everyone else does depending on who you ask. 

Football in the modern age is increasingly technical. We analyse everything like it matters. Every goal we concede has to be acted upon as if it was an aberration. The truth is, goals conceded come from randomness as much as they come from errors. Players like Bowler lift the game when get they get the ball because you don't know what is going to happen. We need him more than ever because he creates randomness. 

Keep him. Keep him. Keep him. 

We've signed Jake Beesley. We need someone else who isn't Jerry or Shayne and that's all I can say. I saw him play against us last year but I have no recollection of him. That's not a sleight on his ability cos by and large, I don't really remember the opposition unless they're an outfield player who goes in goals or they look like a normal person cos they're a bit tubby or something. 

With no midfield, maybe the plan is to play Gary AND Jake and hoof it at them. Imagine one of them flicking it on for the other to head it home. Lovely stuff. Perhaps Keogh could come forward for a corner, flick it to Jake who flicks it for Gaz who heads it home. Maybe that's 'the Blackpool way' now? Get into em! 

Putting fantasies of playing a game based on the position of maximum opportunity aside, we desperately, desperately, desperately need some midfield quality. We're not big enough or drilled enough to play a limited game into the channels and there isn't the technical ability to play a passing game in the middle of the pitch either. Having lost Wintle and Keshi within a week has suddenly left us with an identity crisis. How do we play now? 

I really don't know. 

Everyone has their shopping lists and I'm sure people will be keen to point out that we'll probably go and buy someone and everything will be fine, but right now, at this moment in time it feels like we could get all the wingers, left backs and centre halves in the country but without a midfield it's pretty pointless. Keshi is sort of a winger, but he's much more than that. He's the intelligence that makes the difference. He is in his own words, the 'finesse' that turns us from being quite lumpen into something a little bit more. 

He must be a fucker to mark cos he turns up all over the place. He manages to go and wander about without compromising the shape of the team. He scores stupidly impossible goals. He makes outrageous assists. He also tackles and stuff like that. He's no luxury. He's an essential. He's the player who has really not only come to the party, but brought the music, poured the drinks and got everyone else dancing. Replacing him is not a simple task. 

Can anyone reading this play midfield? Does anyone know anyone who can play midfield? 

We'll be reet. Calm down. Deep breaths. The more players we lost last year, the better we got. Somehow, it feels we're going to need more than just team spirit though. To keep things in perspective, our next opponents are covid riddled and conceded 4 to a 10 man Barrow on Saturday. There has to be a midfielder who isn't shite who needs a game or two knocking around somewhere... 

Every challenge is also an opportunity. (That's the kind of blithe crap people trot out who've never been in a position where they're absolutely fucked and sometimes something is just unequivocally minging and no one should ever feel guilty for not turning their shite into gold like life is one of those misery memoirs where it turns out that all that suffering was just character forming...  but it makes a good end to the blog) 

(Panic) Onwards! 

(And get fit and well soon Keshi - you're a fucking diamond) 


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Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year (especially to Gaz and Daniel): the Mighty vs Hull City

I find New Year's day to be a strange experience. Maybe I don't cope very well with change or something. It's a sort of pseudo celebration. It's normally too cold to go and do something really nice, like lie on the bank of a river and sleep, but there's no presents or owt to compensate for the fact it's winter. Everyone's sick of having fancy food so yer mum does what she calls 'a buffet' and yer dad says things like 'well, I'd better get on with the tiling/changing the brake pads/sorting out the garage' 

Your new stuff has lost a bit of it's dazzle by New Year's day. You've had Streetfighter 2 or Championship Manager 93/94 for a whole week and your eyes are blurred and dry from staring at the screen. No one really believes that everything is going to change just because the calendar has ticked over from one year to the next. Change things do though. Slowly, inevitably and endlessly. Before you know it, your the one sorting out the garage and trying to get your own kid to tear their eyes away from a screen for five minutes. It's you who is now thinking things like 'really, we should go for a walk' after taking it easy on New Year's Eve instead of drinking yourself to within a few millilitres of liver failure. 

When did that change all happen? I don't know. Talking of change - Lavery comes in for Yates. Wintle is back for Connolly and Bowler replaces Gretarsson, though happily a shift from a back 5 to a back 4 means ol' hairband Josh isn't playing in central defence. 


Pool start well, they're straight into Hull and looking likely to score any moment. Good stuff keeps happening and the sleepy New Year's Day atmosphere is soon replaced by slightly hungover roars (growls?) of encouragement. 

Bowler glides away, he finds Keshi. He puts it wide... Madine controls then hooks it over over his shoulder beautifully. Madine can play a blind pass better than some players can hit a sighted one. Bowler is away, he hares free then stubs a cross into the arms of a grateful keeper. 

Madine flicks on. He flicks on again. Lavery, Bowler and Anderson hoover up this service. It must be magic playing next to Madine when he's on song. 

Keshi runs at the corner of the box, he teases the defender with the thought of him going inside, but then slips in Husband, whose curling ball to the far post is beautiful but for the fact all our forwards have surged to the near post which makes Jimmy look a bit daft even though he's probably just put in the best cross of his Blackpool career. 

Hull have an injury and I avail myself of the facilities. When I return it looks as if they've changed to 5 at the back. That puts a spoke in our wheel. We find it harder to attack at will and they get into the game for the first time. 

One attack sees them cut through us as if we aren't there only for a Marvin sliding challenge to save the day. Another sees a double Grimshaw save after a poor kick from him put us under pressure. The first is routine enough, but the second is brilliant, the ball seems past him, but he throws an arm back and drags it out. 

We're getting a bit bogged down. Bowler can walk on water (and a bog is quite wet) when he's good though and he picks up on the right, kills the throttle, the opens it up, bisects two defenders like an F1 driver making an outrageously audacious overtaking maneuver, he's burst between them but then gets sandwiched a bit, one man grabs at him, the other goes for the challenge, he shakes off the grab but goes down in the tackle. Whistle. Penalty. Lets not question it too much... 

Gary picks up the the ball. He waits for the penalty like he's a van driver who has to wait for his slot to collect a delivery. It's a no biggie. It's a chance for a breather. Just sit in the van for ten minutes with a brew, a tab and a quick peruse of the Daily Star. Hands on hips he waits, his eyes set on the middle distance. We're ready. Deep breath. In he comes. A Sherman tank of a forward rolling in and striking it. Straight. Down. The. Middle. 

All goals are great goals but Gary Goals goals are the best goals of all. YES! 

Roles are reversed, Shayne flicks and Gaz chases it down, he's not quite through so finds space wide and knocks a beautiful ball to Keshi with one foot. Keshi has nowhere to go, so goes back to Gaz, who uses his other foot and his 360 vision to find Dougall (who no one else had noticed) who cuts inside and lashes over the top. 

Then it's (I'm not making this up just to fit my own Gary loving narrative, I promise,) Madine again, with a deft lofted pass, barely a look up and dropping it exactly, perfectly onto the spot where Anderson can take in his stride only for Keshi to hit the keeper when he should probably have done better. 

Still time for a flick or two. This lad once cost £6 million. Signed him on a free. Oi Oi Oi. 


A pretty decent half. Could be further ahead. 


Husband shows either good vision to find Bowler with a long curling ball or he just whacks it away and it happens to find the mid 90s indie kid. Bowler does the sensible thing and knocks it to Sterling who puts it in. Keshi has a go, it comes out to someone (Bowler again?) who smacks it, it hits Keshi and balloons over the top.

Tom Eaves (or as I like to hilariously call him - 'the pound shop Andy Carroll') comes on. I don't like it. He's one of those players that seem to turn up against us. 

Grimshaw comes to meet a long ball. It bounces, he seems to leave it very late, he ends up kicking it away with a kind of martial arts style roundhouse kick that you have to feel an outfield player might get penalised for cos his foot ends up very close to the forward's head. I can imagine Grimshaw in a shellsuit, skulking into a leisure centre in Hulme or somewhere to do martial arts. He's got the air of the quiet kid on a rough estate who no one fucks with cos he's got some kind of training in that sort of shit and can break your arm if you go at him. Someone once pulled a knife on him to try and nick £50 his gran gave him, so he put them in casualty with three moves. Never lifts a finger in anger. Only self defence. 

I digress.  

We have wonderful move on the left, Keshi hasn't been at his finest today with his passing, but his ball is good, Madine steam in, jumps and heads it into the advertising boards. That would have been a magical Gary Goals goal.  

Hul are showing more ambition and leaving themselves open to breaks now. 

Firstly, we counter like lightning and Keshi can't quite find Lavery. Then Bowler beats what feels like everyone on the pitch including the referee, the linesman and the ball boys and then ends the move by conceding a foul, because of course he does. Next, Keshi goes up the left channel, gets himself in a perfect position and slides it behind Yates. Finally, Dujon Sterling makes a great tackle, Yates picks it up, charges forward, knock it to Gaz... Gaz tries to drift inside and shoot, but just drifts a bit aimlessly, like a boat cut free of its moorings on a lazy river current and has the ball taken off him. The fella a few seats down says 'Fucking Madine, he's garbage' - I simmer quietly to myself. 

Hull have been pressing with no real threat but a diagonal falls for Eaves who turns onto it and drives one wide. I didn't like that. I don't like them getting down the line either and fizzing in a ball that Marvin does sensationally well to not only block but control and clear. 

Bowler drives forward though, he surges, he explodes. He turns pressure upside down in a few seconds. Jerry takes over. He runs, he cuts back, the defender buys it totally, he's made space but then he makes space again and in doing so makes time for a defender to get a block in. The second just won't come. We're almost trying too hard to score. 

Subs. Connelly for Bowler. Fine. Sit Callum on the right of midfield and shore things up. Hang on. Grettarson too! For Keshi. This is 5 at the back again... I don't know if I like this. Who will run out of defense with it?  

Hull are really going for it now. It's taken till injury time but they're putting pressure on. They swing in 5 crosses pretty much one after the other. 1 is terrible. 1 is headed away by Keogh, 3 are nodded away by Jimmy. The first of his clearances is a far post Husband special, stretching every sinew to glance it over the on rushing striker. The last one is a terrific piece of work,, moving his feet, shifting his body, timing the jump to not only clear it but to cushion it out to Yates who is free on the left. I don't know if he meant the long ball earlier, he absolutely meant that... We'll be ok now. Jerry - take it easy. 

Jerry doesn't take it easy. I get a feeling that they might have watched the Demi Mitchell mistake on video and Jerry got the wrong end of the stick thinking Critch was modelling what he wants them to do. He runs into the next available man. The ball is with Hull. Husband is having some kind of PTSD trauma as he finds himself shadowing someone cutting in on the right again, with the match on the line. In it comes - here's a Hull man. For fuck's sake. Not again. I do not fucking believe this. It's only football, but this is taking the absolute piss. For fucks sake. 


Somehow Grimshaw has got across and down to the ball. It's a simply breathtaking save, not only cos he made it from far to near post but cos he read the shot (which was low and hard) and got a palm to it. It's a moment of genius. 

Grimshaw doesn't have time to soak up the praise from the crowd though, because the same thing is now happening at the other post and this time he follows the cross, reads the moment and rushes out and smothers the shot, like some kamikaze hero throwing themselves on a hand grenade thrown into a nursery. It's again, a brilliant save, it's instinct yes, but it's brilliant reading of the angles and play as well. He's not done though. A third ball comes in and he throws himself out, headlong into a crowd and punches it. There's a ruck. The whistle goes. Finally, relief. 

Second later the whistle blows again. This time finally. Grimshaw's name rings round the ground. He's calm as fuck. Raises his arms kind of sheepishly. As if that's just what he does. He was inspired. He might never have as magic a 60 seconds as long as he lives. If he makes a habit of making saves like that, this lad is something special. He's got the art of making keeping look unfussy but he seems to have a very good sense of angles and what's going on about him. 


After a scruffy 3 points I'm getting carried away. Grimshaw is the new Neville Southall (unkempt, sullen and brilliant at goalkeeping) and Madine is worth £6 million quid again. Bowler is the most exciting player in years and everything is rosy. Obviously, that's ridiculous hyperbole but we deserved the win today and we've deserved more than we've got in the previous few games too where we probably played better than this. 

I thought Wintle was a welcome returnee, but I also thought he looked (not surprisingly) a little off his best. I hope he's staying. Keshi was probably guilty of trying too hard to make something happen, which isn't something I want to condemn, cos someone has to try to make things happen but a relaxed Anderson (i.e. one not playing with a sense of the injustice of the previous few defeats) might have found the magic more easily he did today. Bowler doesn't seem to play with any pressure in his head at all and showed today why he's a necessity as opposed to a luxury because of that. I've been reading stuff on coaching and how modern thinking is about working on a players cognitive functions as opposed to technical skills. I don't know if they've put Bowler through a load of decision making drills but he's linking far better than he did and also, still has that unpredictable edge where he'll do something mad (in a good way) that makes him special. He'll never do the defensive work especially well, but then Callum Connolly or Kenny Dougall will never run a full back ragged or flick the game situation from heads to tails in one mad sprint. 

Husband and Sterling put a really good shift in defensively, but Jimmy struggled with his touch going forward. Sterling was excellent and delivers a nice ball but doesn't often get in a position to do so. For all that Husband did struggle going forward, at least two of the three headers at the end Reece James or Luke Garbutt just isn't making and arguably, whilst less spectacular, they were as important as Grimshaw's saves. Can we talk about Grimshaw's saves again? Unreal. 

Hull weren't very good. I don't say that with relish or to wind them up. It just felt a bit aimless from them. To be fair, they didn't have much luck with injuries but like Peterborough, it did look a bit like we'd moved on from League 1 a bit quicker than they have. At times today, we played like we did when we were on song last year, but we didn't have the end product to take advantage of that. 

A win though, is a win. A win is a win is win. It felt fucking fantastic. Yes. Yes. Yesssss! 


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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Oh, the pain...: the Mighty vs Middlesbrough

Firstly imagine Jurgen Klopp with his weird lazer eyes saying 'Ya, but this is the thing, although we always look to do the right thing, y'know, my boys, they are so careful, but what we need to do is abolish all the games with the lower leagues and then let us just play games once a veek not all the time because it's crazy! crazy! People are always saying, yes, well this is the English way and I say it's not fair because my squad only cost a few billion and other teams they have an extra billion and it's just not right you see what can I say? I am only concerned about the players you see... So we don't need to y'know play the game against Rochdale and Shrewsbury or like, Leicester cos really who are they no? What about the league of the champions huh?'

Now, be thankful that wor Neil didn't go down that road. Whatever his faults, the wee maestro likes playing football matches and has done what he needs to do to get this game on. I am glad. Some say it's a naive thing to do, a sign that Critchley has his head in the clouds, dreaming of honour and decency, I just think that usually, when you have a break and everyone is supposed to come back rested and ready, they come back rusty and shite and if we can play, fucking play. Don't be a fucking melt about it. It's just football.

Bring on Bez, Joe Nuttall, Teddy Howe and Ollie Sarkic. Have 7 other players trot out then have the fab four enter the pitch from a helicopter, one by one, wearing sequined warm up jackets that will twinkle in the floodlights. Why the fuck not? Live a little. Don't be so frightened by life that you want to cancel it.

When the team comes, I'll admit, I'm a little disappointed. Whilst I didn't really expect to see Bez, there's no real novelty thrill, no Antwi, no Jack Moore and only Luke Marriette on the bench really sets the pulse racing in terms of 'players for whom tonight is a big chance.' The line up is weird. It screams 'wing backs' but there aren't any. Callum Connolly is in midfield again. I don't really get it. I'm not especially clear what else Critch was supposed to do to be fair. Our list of 'players I consider to be proper central midfielders at this level who aren't injured' reads 1) Kenny Dougall 2) That's it.

I can't see how we will get the ball to the strikers and we're playing a bang in form side with one of the best English managers of a generation* in charge of them. What could possibly go wrong? Critch walks slowly, his hands in his pockets, tamping down the divots with his foot. Control the controllables. The grass is flat. What more can he do?

*srsly tho. Look at the lad's record. Just cos he's a bit gruff and Yorkshire and worked his way up doesn't mean he's shite. We clearly need a bit of gruff experience somewhere in the set up.


We spend the first half not quite making a clear chance and being quite thankful that they don't score with the ones they make. Grimshaw makes a couple of decent stops, they miss one that looks easier to score than slice wide. We are manful and direct and Madine wins a lot but nothing quite runs for us. Yates is a whisker away from being through. Keshi beats a couple and fails at the third hurdle. Gaz slide rules one but Jerry is just not quite quick enough to whip it round the goalie and is foiled at his feet instead. It's all so nearly and not quite. Keshi bursts onto one and gets clattered. Please God, don't let Keshi get injured too.

Sterling and Husband are weird wing backs. They're more like cudgels than rapiers, bludgeoning their way forward by force of will as opposed to twinkling toes and skill. Sterling whips it across. Husband has raced beyond the far post and throws himself at it, it flashes back across goal and Yates is about, it won't fall quite right.

The ref. What is he? He's just giving random decisions. Why do we keep getting these refs? Am I just biased? Are they that bad or just lightning rods for my ire when we're up against it? I don't know. It feels like they've been shite. Week after week. Boro poke one away. It's as clear a corner as you could ever see, but the ref knows better than everyone else in his stupid purple shirt. It's the sort of colour that only very posh people or jockeys wear. What is up with black? When I rule the world things will change.

Why do the other teams we play all seem to be bigger than us? Keogh is pushed back by one of their lads and is so powerless to do anything about it that he reminds me of someone who has realised he's left the handbrake off his car trying to wrestle the car to a stop and coming to terms with the fact the car is heavier than him but not letting go.

Grettarson is a clever player. He's playing a part in making sure we can attack by linking defence and midfield. I don't know if he's good enough as a defender or not for this level, but some of his little short passes, his awareness of space around him is terrific.

Connolly is doing ok. He started off by hacking a pass out of play but also played a delightful ball through to Yates. He's not letting Boro settle and fighting for everything. He's also now making a needless and wild challenge that sees him on a yellow. Not again please Pool. C'mon!

Boro win a free kick. It's just before half time. They're going to score. They don't. They get a corner. It's even closer to half time. They're definitely going to score. The whistle goes. It's 0-0. I'll take that.


It's been slightly odd in that they've had the better chances but I've quite enjoyed the performance we've put in. The best way I'd describe it is - we've won a lot of challenges and been quite physical, we've got ourselves into decent positions as a result but because we've got the more physical players on the pitch doing that, we've not had the technical ability to make those positions count.

In normal circumstances, hoping to keep it tight and frustrate the opposition wouldn't really be a ringing endorsement of a performance or a set up but whilst I can see Boro scoring and then scoring two more, I can also see us holding them and then letting Bowler and others into the game and nicking it.

I've enjoyed it thus far. It's an intriguing match. Finely balanced. Committed.


We're unchanged, but we get forward better. Connelly is surprising me with his willingness to shoot in a side that looks otherwise shot shy. Husband is surprising me with his ability to get forward. Whilst he's no wing wizard we keep floating it into the left hand channel for him to win with his head. John Beck would be thoroughly approving of such a tactic.

Keshi glides out on the break, Husband races outside him, Keshi gives it, Jimmy crosses, Madine drift accross the box, he's wide, he's taken it and looped a shot back across goal, he's hit the post! That would have been a weird goal, befitting of a weird game.

Grettarson goes in for a challenge. It looks like he's tried to flick it to someone as he has been doing but not made proper contact. Boro have it now now on the edge of the box. It's slid through. Everyone is frozen, as if everyone can't quite remember what the plan is at this point. Who is supposed to deal with this? Me? You? The other guy? It's almost as if we aren't used to playing a back five. It's knocked across. Marvin and Grimshaw slide into each other in trying to stop their man turning it home, but turn it home he does. A deft finish that barely hits the net. I'm gutted. I can't see how we can come back from that.

It takes a little while for Critch and everyone's favourite youth club worker Mikey G to summon the subs we all know we need. Critch does a weird amount of clapping intensely, like he's broken and can't stop clapping. Sadly, clapping isn't as effective as subs. If it was, we'd be 3-1 up. He's way better at clapping than Wilder.

Bowler and Lavery finally come on and we're better straight away. Bowler finds space and uses it. Sterling seems relieved to have someone to pass to. Connelly has a shot deflected wide. Bowler whips a corner, Connelly glances and the ball glances the post... We're chucking everything (ok, mostly a makeshift defensive midfielder) at it. Marvin gets up but it's blocked. Jimmy Husband throws himself at one, but it's wide.

Time is ticking away and reality is biting. Then, Lavery chases down a sloppy touch and slams it home! YESSSSSSS! It happened in a split second. It happened out of the blue. It was the stroke of luck, the bit of fortune that has deserted us and it feels magnificent. I really didn't think it was on and it was. That's silenced the Boro fans, that was a tremendous moment. It's a fucking masterclass. A point well earned, In your face chemical industry. Fuck you Bob Mortimer. Stick your parmos where the sun doesn't shine.


Husband plays it out. Mitchell takes it and.... 'for fuck's sake Demi!' - he's run into their player and lost the ball inside his own half... I have a flashback to the Demi Mitchell we signed who was, in my humble opinion one of the poorest left backs I've ever seen in a Pool shirt in terms of his defensive qualities (and I saw Scott Darton and Ben Dixon). I like the Demi who plays on the wing and grafts his arse off, I just never, ever want to see him at left back ever again. It's a freak set of circumstances that has led to him being there...

The goal is vile. We shadow their runner but without ever looking like we want to stop him. Jimmy tracks but never looks like pouncing. They slides it in and Watmore tucks it away from what seems like about an inch out. Again, he just kisses the ball and glances it home. It goes in slowly, which makes it all the more painful. They erupt. Some of them run on the pitch. We'd do the same. Lets not pretend we wouldn't. Let's not get all sanctimonious. Cos we would. It's heartbreak.

Pure fucking heartbreak. Again.


It sums up the way it's going that after going away to Huddersfield and wiping the floor with them for an hour, playing lovely football, the midfielder we'd finally found a place for that allows us to play such football broke his foot.

We're then scratching around for another way to play and coming up with a plan that involves defensive full backs being key to unlocking the opposition. It's just frustrating as it kind of worked. It was really admirable the way we created pressure and played with everything we had. Anyone grumbling at players application can fuck off. Anyone grumbling that we don't quite have the quality probably has a point.

It was quite clear tonight that getting tight on Keshi was more or less all Boro really needed to do. It was also quite clear that the frequent changes of system have effected the fluency. Equally, those changes have (recently at least) been borne of necessity and whilst the goals were both horrible, the players absolutely knew what the plan was and did their best to execute it.

If this was a real crisis, you wouldn't see that. You'd see a shapeless, hopeless team. What we've got is a squad who aren't far off but are desperate for some reinforcement. We're like a runner who has run well but needs the second wind to kick in. We're like a decent enough soup but one that needs a good grinding of salt and pepper cos it's a bit tasteless.

We need a quality midfielder most of all. Do a thought experiment. Imagine Kevin Stewart had been fit all year. How many more points do we have? In my head, at least 4, maybe 6. Kev is never fit. It's no good moping after Kev. We need a new Kev as a starting point. There's no point chucking a big strop and demanding new everythings but we need that player so badly. That player would improve everyone.

Tonight was painful as any game can be. Tonight was a really engrossing game of football. Tonight showed what we don't lack (application, desire, will to overcome the odds, a plan, the ability to be flexible, Gary Madine) but it showed what we do lack as well (genuine depth of quality, creativity, cutting edge and luck)

After the match, I didn't know whether to be thankful I'd seen a cracking game, with two noisy sets of fans and experienced the horrendous, sado masochistic pain of football or to just sit in the car and have a little cry. Pain is at least a feeling I guess. At least I know I'm alive. Fuck's sake Pool!

We're not quite good enough to make the luck we need. We're not quite quick enough to react to things, not quite on the money with changes, not quite clinical enough, not quite holding on. It's not so bad but it needs some fixing. A bit of fresh paint. New batteries. It's ok saying we're close, but we're definitely not there. We'll sort it.

We'll make that luck when we do.


Sunday, December 26, 2021

Mist, Madine magic and misery: Huddersfield Town vs the Mighty

I used to live in Huddersfield. It has an effect. I sometimes say "us' ouse" instead of "our/my house" but I will never ever stretch to describing a chip barm as a chip teacake. There are standards to maintain. 

Welcome to Yarkshire: Abandon all hope

It's a very Huddersfield day. Fog clinging to the hills. The slopes disappearing into a slate grey blanket that passes for 'sky'. Some might say this is 'dismal' but the folks from round here probably think this is a relatively tropical day. I once lived in a house about 3 miles outside Huddersfield and all there was to do was watch the rain, sleet and snow sweep up the valley. I quite liked the place to be honest.
The modern bit of Huddersfield...

If the day is typically West Yorkshire winter, the team selection seems weirdly un-Critch. You've got a Gary! With a Jerry! With a Sonny Carey! With a Viking for good measure. Lovely stuff. I absolutely adore it. Get into them instead of fannying about worrying what might happen if they get into you. ---

Civilised Lancashire types

Get into them we do. Bowler cuts out a loose pass and sets off down the right. This is the all new Josh Bowler though and instead of excitingly but ineffectively running to nowhere in particular, he less thrillingly but more effectively feeds Yates. Jerry has quite a lot to do but do it he does, putting the ball into the perfect spot beyond the keeper's grasp with laser guided accuracy, wheeling away after he's scored like his body is a counterweight to the direction of the shot. The sniper is back. If the goal against Peterborough was a bit clumsy/lucky, that was a beautiful finish.

At this point, young people would say #scenes - I am not a young person so I won't, but you get the general idea. Hang on... Huddersfield have (as they will do throughout the game) used width and hung a ball up in the box. Their player is barrelling onto it, Grettarson is looking a bit lost. Their player is meeting the ball. The ball is in the net. Grettarson is remembering what first team football is like. Fucking hell. That was a bit simple.

3 minutes gone and we're back where we started more or less. Game on. If the Viking looked rusty for the goal, he redeems himself with some well timed challenges and nice touches. Bowler is looking nippy, Jerry is full of life, Carey is full of the joys of youth and Keshi has finesse. This is a decent game. Grimshaw foils an effort at their striker's feet. We put a few in the box that Madine can't quite make a decisive contact on. Gaz comes deep. Gaz shields the ball. Gaz makes to lay off then send it the other way. We pass it about a lot. Gaz meanwhile trots innocently towards the edge of the box, moving like a bloke out for his Sunday paper and a packet of fags. Bowler has it. Gaz makes a little dash, as if he's seen the newsagent is about to close. Bowler has given it to Keshi. Gaz has broken into the box, he has his arms up now, he screams for it. Keshi loops the most delightful ball in, Madine leaps, he heads it down, the keeper reads it but though he gets his hand to it, it's in... YESSSSSS! IT'S MADINE!!! All goals are great goals but Gary Goals goals are the greatest goals. This was a peach. A lovely football move started and finished by Madine. This is turning into a great day! Pool are generally really good for the first half. We work a great move that ends with Yates putting it on a plate for Keshi to head wide. Gabriel puts wide from the same man as well and after a massive gap in play whilst Tom Lees is treated for concussion and Ollie Turton comes on, Sonny Carey either rattles the bar or forces a good stop from the keeper (I can't tell, I'm miles away) Huddersfield have their chances. They nearly equalise quickly and put a great chance over the top, but we are clearly the better side. The only real worry going in at half time is two daft yellow cards - one for Jimmy Husband for a shoulder charge and the other for Gabriel for what looked to me (i didn't see it that well) like a daft late attempt to tackle a player who'd already crossed it. --- We've been really good. I worried that when I said I like the line up that would immediately condemn it to being a disaster but we've played on the front foot. Madine had been at his best, both orchestrating and getting on to the end of things, Jerry is fizzing with effervescent Jerry-ness and looking a real player as he does at his best. The midfield is primarily concerned with getting the ball forward to those two and I like that. I hated the Callum Connelly in midfield thing and whilst this is putting a bit of pressure on the defence and the back line is looking a bit shaky at times, we've tried the 'sneak a one-nil win away' for the last x number of weeks and it's not worked. So let's try and sneak a 4-3. It's more fun that way. You can't expect us to attack, attack, attack and defend, defend, defend and I know which one I prefer... C'mon Pool! ---

Huddersfield manage a bit more pressure but we're dangerous on the break. Carey is delightful to watch because he's so good at picking it up on the edge of the box and you don't know what he'll do - shoot, chip it, lay it off or drive at their defence. He tries all the options and a couple of times they nearly work. He chips it through and for all the world it looks like Keshi is being held as he tries to run on to it. He runs at the box and it gets stuck under a series of players' feet and just as it nearly falls to Jerry it's gets nicked away. This is going well. They have, to our delight, a goal disallowed. Ha ha ha. 

The more they go forward, the more likely we are to score a third on the break. Here goes Bowler. This is the new look Bowler but he's still got the double edged thrill and frustration of the old one, tying his full back in knots, beating him, finding himself in the clear on the by-line and then just chipping it into the keepers hands. He's off again haring down the right. He runs straight into the full back. The ball pops lose and seems to be there for the challenge. Gabriel steams in. Their no 8 who looks to me, very much like Paul Scholes clears it though. Gabriel catches him. Shit. I've seen the red in the refs hand before he shows it. Fucking hell. 

Now I'll say it - this ref is fucking wank. He's totally inconsistent. Only fucking boring pricks who ring 606 go on about 'the consistency of refereeing from game to game' - refs, like players are human and have different styles and I don't mind if what is a yellow in one game isn't in another but this lad just seems to hand out cards according to whether he likes the player's hair or not and he obviously doesn't like Gabriel's highlights. He even booked one of their players for protesting that a player with a serious head injury merited stopping the game. What's a foul one minute is play on 5 minutes later. He's shite. 

This has fucked it right up. We play for a few minutes with Dougall at right back and Jerry dropping deep then take off the sniper and Bowler for Sterling and Keogh. We're going to try and shut up shop. In retrospect it's a terrible move as we just offer ourselves up for them, but at the time, I thought it was an attempt to try and get the full backs wider and dealing better with their threat from wide that made some sense. They make chances but we still manage to get the ball up the other end. Madine is a focal point and Keshi is managing to get onto the end of his flicks. Nothing so much as resembles a chance, but we're at least pressuring them. Keshi has a sensational run. No one is with him at all. He's been terrific, again.


Madine's number is up. We're still winning. Lavery comes on. Again, in retrospect, the minute the Goal Machine trots off, we barely manage to hold the ball in their half for more than few seconds but at the time, Shayne's chasing and harrying and two player's worth of energy seems the thing we need. 

When it comes, it hurts. They seem to shuttle it sideways a ridiculous amount of times before the last player at the end of the move slams it home. It felt more like a series of rugby passes than it did a build up to a goal. They've got those stupid big flags they wave for a goal. They can fuck off. 

 The third, I can barely remember. It seemed to bounce about, we hacked at it and missed it, it fell to a lad on the edge of the box who smashed it through the players in the box. The shitty flags wave again. Their fans sing a bit. The mist swirls. For fuck's sake. Football can fuck right off. This was going so well. 

Still, there's time. I wonder, as Critch throws big Marv up front he's been reading this blog and decided to grant my wishes. I doubt it somehow. We get a deep free kick. Everyone crowds the box. They head it away. Marvin is quite good at flicking it on but either no one gets to it or he flicks it to a lad in an offside position.

This has a grimply inevitable feel to it now.

 Grimly. Inevitably. The whistle blows. It's a cruel game. 


This was a match of if, buts, maybes. I don't know if Gabriel was unlucky. He certainly made two daft challenges but maybe on another day he gets a talking too for one of them. If we'd put one more of our first half chances away we'd have likely held on and not felt so inclined to make daft challenges. If we had stuck to two banks of four we might not have ceded the midfield and invited such pressure. If we'd had Wintle or Stewart fit enough to replace Carey (who played really well, but isn't perhaps the ideal man for a backs against the wall midfield) we might have felt more inclined to do so. If Keogh hadn't been out for so long, we might have been a bit more alert in the last 20 minutes. If the ref hadn't been a twat who made it up as he was going along then... You get the idea. If. But. Maybe. Fuck's sake. I'm still pissed off. 

That's football in a proper league though. It hurts, but it's the way it is. Any given week, you can win, lose or draw. We played really well for long spells but we played really poorly with ten men and got done again by a quick burst of goals. Huddersfield have been basically matched by us over the two games but have taken 6 points. After the Derby game, I said something like 'I'd rather have lost 3-2 and given it a go' - It's sort of easier just to say 'we were shit' though and today we weren't.

I'm trudging back in the mist and rain. I hear two Huddersfield fans saying 'Ah don't durn't knur why they tried to park the bus - they took their best player off too, that 11, he were brilliant - soon as he went, they were turtally predictable' 'Aye, it never works that. I mean, it must do sometimes otherwise managers wunt do it, but it never seems to to me' 

I'm trying to turn left onto the main road. Some cunt in a BMW beeps at me cos I've not got the nerve to mow down the kids on the pavement in front of me and am thus blocking his way out the car park too. Perhaps if you have brand new BMW you can mow kids down but last time I checked the highway code, it definitely suggested it wasn't good conduct. I think about getting out of the car and smashing his windows with my fist to make me feel better after that end to the game, but I think better of it. I think of Gary Madine at the far post instead. Fucking hell football. I'm fuming that we played so well and got fuck all. 

C'est la vie. Hopefully anger will be an energy on Wednesday. 


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Yet another bad owner. Where do they breed them?

This is Brooks Mileson. He owned Gretna FC. If you don't know who he is or what the score is with Gretna, it might be worth giving it ...