Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Life turns on small things: the Mighty vs Swansea City


Sometimes I love writing this blog. Not just when we've won and I'm all fizzing with expletives and metaphors for how good we are but also sometimes when we've lost and it's a cathartic way to sort out what I've seen and move on to the rest of life. Occasionally, it's a right pain in the arse and feels like walking through treacle. Today is one of them. Why do I have a fucking blog anyway and why do I feel like I need to write a game up like my opinion matters? Is it just an extended version of a call to 606 except Chris and Robbie can't cut me off? Who the fuck rings 606 anyway? Seriously? Why would you? Why am I doing this? What am I doing with my life? No one has a blog anymore do they? Fuck's sake MCLF. What even are you? Anyone want to buy a book? No, didn't think so. 

It's hot. I don't cope well with heat. 

Hopefully the players will do better. 

--- 

I can't remember the game very well (fucking great start for a blog about the game) but we started ok and then trailed off. 

Swansea are passing. Passing. Passing. Passing. "FUCKING GET INTO THEM YOU CUNTS" shouts a bloke who doesn't seem to have noticed that it's a million degrees. 

Swansea aren't very interesting. Their manager has a name that sounds like a celebrity hairdresser and from here, in his all black outfit, he looks very much like one too. Appleton looks like a bloke who is brooding on something. His manner on the touchline gives me the feeling he's got a sense that he's forgotten something but he isn't quite sure what it is. He rubs his chin a lot. He looks on, slightly aloof from what is happening. It's possibly what people would call 'studious' if he was Arsene Wenger but to me is like the look I think I have when I've put on a boiled egg, but I'm not too sure how long to cook it for and am deciding whether or not to risk cracking the shell. 

Jerry and Bowler do one of their 'to me to you' runs and Bowler lifts the ball at the goal, but the keeper makes what looks to be a good stop with possibly a flying foot. That was something. 

Carey has a go at spinning. He loses it. They pass some more. At some point, they skim the top of the bar. Grimmy makes a save, it was offside anyway, but it's none the less a really, really good stop. Then Grimmy makes a really fucking incredible save as they shoot, the ball hits a defender and he defies time and space to pivot in the air and throw a hand down low and get a whole palm to it. It's fucking sensational but we're all too hot to really give it the credit it deserves. 

Connolly is not a right back. I repeat. Not. A . Right. Back. No matter what the big boss man with the hedge fund says, he's not a right back. He's a good player, he's a wholehearted player but he should not be doing the delicate work of trying to shepherd the ball up the touchline and overlapping when his main quality is chucking himself around in a disruptive and energetic way in the middle of the pitch. This is a long winded way of getting to the fact he's just kicked the ball out of play. 

The Mountie controls the ball. He puts his arms out for balance. It looks worryingly like he hasn't done this before. He looks up, spots a run and... puts the ball out of play. 

Jerry runs down one of their defenders. They pass it round him. Jerry turns to the rest of the team and gestures as if to say "eh? where the fuck are you?" Ten minutes later, Dougall, who is playing quite well, is the highest player, pressing with Jerry and has exactly the same message for his team mates. Everyone looks at their shoes and pulls up their socks a bit. It's not exactly pre match hugs with Gary and defensive huddles with Uncle Richard at this point. I think this unit needs to bond a bit... 

Probably some other stuff happens but it's all a bit shit. Swansea keep knocking exactly the same chipped pass and it never works. We don't do very much at all. Everyone is very sweaty. Swansea nearly score just before half time. Swansea sing a very tuneful song. Someone calls them cunts. The whistle goes. People boo. Someone calls the manager a cunt. A lot of people are very angry. I'm too hot to be angry.  

--- 

It wasn't very good. 

--- 

Mikey big arms has made a change! Lavery is on and the Mountie has gone off. He seemed perpetually surprised by everything that happened, like he wasn't expecting football to be like this. Sometimes he ran into someone and other times he fell over a bit. It's mad to think he's probably going to be at the World Cup whilst I dunno, Andy Robertson or whoever won't. The World Cup is great. It won't be great if it's hot like this though. Loads of boring possession football and probably summary execution for letting off a smoke bomb. Not far from the English League to be fair. See what I did there?  

We're loads better. Lavery is straight into a brilliant clattering tackle. The ref books him because it's a bit exciting. He's shit (the ref) but he is fairly consistently shit and he does have the added bonus of looking like he's from the 1950s cos he's a really old looking fella in mad long black shorts. Look at old FA Cup finals, refs used to be ancient, gnarled and school masterly, not the lithe blokes who look like aggressive little close cropped gym goers whose main life regret is not joining the forces because they didn't make the height limit that many refs today resemble. 

Thompson takes a throw. It goes straight up and down. He takes another. It does the same. I'm wondering how long it will be before someone says "Look, Dominic, you're a lovely lad and we like you and your careering about a lot, but that is NOT a long throw. However much you say it is. It isn't" 

Lavery is fucking flying. Book him? He doesn't give a fuck. He's been liberated by the Barrow game. Nothing can be as painful as that so now, he's fearless. There's a flick that's so bright I'm dazzled that starts the best move of the game, quick, incisive, pass after pass, the Pool are a tsunami, Swansea are running for higher ground, we fizz across the pitch and the ball drops to Bowler who hits it into the keeper's arms. For once, Bowler is the damp squib and not the firework. That was the best move we've had since about last March. 

Lavery again. Ratting, fighting. He's a man reborn. Threaten to sell him to Millwall? Make a lukewarm statement about how 'we've got no one else so we can't?' He'll show you - Shayne is a little streetfighter today and he's cutting in, chasing down, to the byline, charging about. I've missed this. You might say he's smouldering a little, maybe even a flame flickering about him. Their defence is actually a bit terrified. 


Wide again. Across the box. SHOOOOOOOT. Dougall shoots. Blocked. Back to Kenny. He flops to the ground. Penalty. Ha! Nice one. Take what you can. Jerry steps up. He looks nicely confident to me. He's juggling the ball cos he's fucking great at penalties. Here we go. One, two. Smack. Good low penalty, down the middle, keeper gone the wrong way Ye..... For fuck's sake! It's hit the keeper's feet for fucks sake. Fuck my life. Why is it shit? 

Head up Jerry. Get yer head up. C'mon Pool!!! The ball comes across. Yates spins and is clattered on the ankles. That WAS a penalty. Surely? The ref just runs off as if to say 'You know how this works. You don't get another one' Jerry trots off looking rueful. He knows how it works. No one said life was fair. We should be fucking singing his name now, not worshipping a Youtube idol on the bench but thems the breaks. One day you're king, next day, you're old hat. Get yr head up Jerry. 

Here's Bowler. I love it when he does this. He's like an overclocked electric scooter weaving between pedestrians who are trying to get out of his way. Jerry! Give it to Jerry. GIVE IT TO JERRY. JOSH!!!! GIVE IT TO FUCKING JERRY. FOR FUCKS SAKE! JOSH! Fucking hell. Jerry looks at the sky. The sky burns down on him. He sighs. He trots back. We go again. 

The ball is up and bouncing in the box. CJ is up waiting to come on. It's obviously Bowler's reward for not squaring the ball. Micky has decided the egg is hard boiled. He's not happy. He wanted a runny yolk.  Bowler controls. He controls like only he can. He swivels and .... ooooh. It wasn't far away. Bowler looks at the sky. He knows. 

We're pushing... It'll come. We'll get this. We don't though. I can't summon how or why, but suddenly Fiorini is losing the ball and we've all run beyond him apart from Dom Thompson who tries to foul his man but somehow doesn't. It's one of those horrible moments where they seem to run for about 5 minutes towards the goal, Grimmy can't win cos there's two of them and no defenders. They draw out Grimmy, it's squared, Patino (fair play to the YouTube kid, he's got heart) has galloped back and nearly but not nearly enough gets a slide in and the ball nestles in the net. Swansea go mental. I would if I were them. 

His number is up. Off he goes. Christopher James Hamilton is on. I feel a bit like part of me dies when Bowler goes off. It's like Bowler is the prospect that it might happen. No matter what. Bowler sits down. Appleton lets him go with the slightest of touches. He slumps onto the pitchside and empties a water bottle over himself. He looks hollow. He knows.

Get off his fucking back. 

Still time... A free kick. nothing. Another free kick. GET GRIMSHAW UP! We don't. Nothing. 

Whistle from the ref. Fuck's sake. 

--- 

Where are we at? I don't know. 3 games is no time. It's really not. We're all in this age of instant decisions and where we're all supposed to know everything and be able to see exactly the problem. It's constant punditry and dickhead blogger and cunts on podcasts giving their opinion on shit and actually, it's a really short time. We used to give managers a season and a half unless they'd only gone into the club to troll the fuck out of it like Clough at Leeds. No, really. We did. I remember this. 

There were moments where we clicked and the movement was really good but for a lot of the time, we  didn't look coherent. It felt to me sometimes like the old guard were pressing and some of the newer players weren't up to speed with it. Corbeanu. I don't know what to say really. There must be more to him than we've seen. The first half was dire, but Appleton didn't dither and he got a reaction. We missed chances, but most of the chances were made by Bowler and missed by him which is kind of same as it ever was. Equally, we got more than a bit lucky with not being behind in the first half. We lost and we could see that as fair, we could have drawn and called ourselves lucky or unlucky and we could have won. It was fairly close but also an odd, fitful sunbaked game that was at a few points quite good, but often not great. 

I think we look too young, too quiet (there's not a lot of leadership) and too reliant on one player but there's Gabriel to return, Madine to add variety and Lavery playing like this regularly would add a lot. We must surely be in for a couple more signings though. The three above (especially Gabriel and a hopefully renewed Shayne) will help, but they won't make the jigsaw complete. There is experience missing. I actually think there's quite a lot of quality in some of the young loanees but I think we need someone who really knows their own game in their midst. Someone whose confidence is unshakable. The kind of figure that Madine or Dougall was to the Critch side 2 years ago. We need that player to knock heads and drag us along a bit by force of will. Confidence transforms teams. It transforms strikers, it bleeds into everything that happens on the pitch.

We need some. 

Onwards. 



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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Cheers Richard! (this blog marks the start of a period of official mourning)

Richard Keogh: 2021-22 (Legend) 

- Hey Siri. Show me an empty void where there used to be light.

- Why are you showing me a picture of Richard Keogh's 26 shirt?

- What?

- He's gone!?

- When?

- What?

- How?

- Why? 

- ........ 

- SIRI!!! TELL ME IT ISN'T TRUE! 

Footballers are boring. They run up and down and do the same things, game after game, week after week. The modern game is homogenised. Athletic players who play to coaching models and who can only be separated from one another by whether they've chosen footballer hairstyle A) B) or C) at the footballer barbers. 

Then you've got Richard Keogh. Eyes bulging, blazing, scanning the horizon. Suddenly pointing at things like a cat sensing something unknowable in the ether. Strands of matted side parting going all over then swept back into place, then falling loose again, then swept back into place in an OCD-esque ritual. He looks like a tramp that's escaped from a meths addict rehab centre to gorge on meths sometimes. Dapper and composed off the pitch, with a personable manner, lovely wit and clear intelligence, on it, the lad essentially looks like a lunatic. He's fucking Crazy Uncle Richard. Don't get too close. He's probably shouting about the CIA coming through the television or how God is coming back with fire, to burn all the liars and leave a blanket of ash on the ground... 

That's not fair though. He does look a bit mad (and for that alone, I loved him) but he's a real footballer. He's got the pace of a caravan with a broken axle being towed by a 1984 Ford Granada that's stuck in second gear and belching smoke but in all of his games for us, I can barely remember that mattering. He had a dodgy start, but once he'd learned what Critchley wanted or perhaps even taught the other players what he needed them to do (which didn't take long,) he played it to near perfection. His brain has him 5 yards ahead of play at all times. Those things he's pointing at that only he can see? That's the future and Keogh can read it. I can see him now, lounging with Jimmy and Gaz, telling them each lottery ball number 5 seconds before it comes out. 

"How do you do that Rich? That's canny mad that" 
"He's taped it Gaz. He's taped it. It's on playback you dopey get" 
"Shut up Jimmy" 
"Love it Gaz. Love it"
"Honestly lads, it's not taped. This telly doesn't do that. Number 35" 

Brave in the air, brilliant at a lunging slide tackle and at times, so good at blocking he's like an extra keeper, he can also talk others brilliantly through a game and we'll miss him not just for what he did, but how he made the unit better. I've never watched us train, but I imagine all Critchley needed to do for young centre backs is say 'watch Keogh, listen to Keogh.' 

What I loved most about him, was he lived every second of the game as intensely as any player I've ever seen. Everything was total mental and physical focus. Even a simple sideways pass was a work of art, lining it up, swinging his instep through it and following through, holding position like a technically gifted but obdurate opening batsman finishing a forward defensive pass with a determined and resolute flourish. 

Fans love players that care. It's all we really ask of them. You can moan if they're rubbish, but it's not their fault. We all have our abilities. Not caring is unforgivable. One of my favourite moments of my Pool supporting life will remain witnessing the unbridled eruption of joy from Keogh whenever we scored. He screamed, we screamed, he screamed louder, we screamed louder. The lights went out. The pain stopped. This is why football is what it is. Cos it's an escape. I left some twisted part of myself in Middlesbrough, screamed out of me, exorcised by sheer force of release after Keogh lofted a pass to Marvin and we scored to win a game we didn't expect to. Football is what it is because we want a stupid thing like our team to score a goal and mostly they don't, but when they do, it's incredible and Crazy Uncle Richard, with his big, soulful sad eyes and his mad, mad, eyebrows got that. 

He was a player whose brain was a cut above, a player who gave everything he had, a player who it was a privilege to watch and a man who I hope finds a role in the game that has clearly put him through the ringer both mentally and physically, but that he clearly still loves in the same way I loved it when I was 15 and still love it now. Yeah, he's getting on, yeah, injuries were clearly coming quicker, yeah, everything changes and nothing stays the same and yeah, I know he wanted to be nearer home. It's fine, but lets just appreciate what we had. 

Some over serious soul will no doubt think 'Legend is a bit strong - he's hardly Jimmy Hampson is he?' but in terms of his impact as a player and the joy he put on people's faces with his character, he absolutely is one. If we ever play Ipswich and Keogh scores, don't care. We're on the pitch. Fuck it, if Keogh ever scores anywhere for anyone, against anyone, we should be on the pitch. In fact, we should invite him back to take that penalty that Gaz missed, but in front of an empty net with a giant goal and then all run on and have a never ending party in defiance of all the shite that the world is. 

Cheers Richard. Go well. We'll all miss you. Me very much included. 

There will now follow a ceremonial broadcast of both episodes of 'Group Chat' on all channels followed by a 21 gun salute and a bank holiday to allow us all to grieve. 




 

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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Must. Get. Better: the Mighty vs Barrow


So this game doesn't really matter cos the League Cup isn't a thing. It never has been really. Ffs, Swindon, Birmingham and Luton have won it. How can you take it seriously?

Except, of course, it does matter. If we could get even a tiny bit far in the competition it would suddenly become a very meaningful thing indeed.


What's more, there's an undercurrent of unease at the moment. Appleton seem's to breaking up the gang to make a new better gang in his stony image but it's not been so easy to get people in the club house (or for that matter, to kick them out.) Time will tell if this is the right time for a major rebuild but if things don't go well tonight then it's a set up for a classic early season doom scenario.

I drive an unusual route to the ground and it strikes me what a mad place Blackpool is. I see roller coaster tracks and muse at how close up, they look so basic. I see someone roller skating between their front door and their car boot like that's normal. I wonder why Lytham is generally accepted to be part of Blackpool but Fleetwood is another country. I'm looking forward to this. Stop panicking. This will be good. We've just been a bit short of a decent preseason, it's a new system. Give it time. Play a kid or two. Get a bit of raw energy in and score a few goals.


He doesn't put a kid or two in. He puts in other people's kids so Rob Apter will likely face another season without a 'Pool appearance despite having first played more than 18 months ago against a side playing at a higher level than Barrow. Still, we've got Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Wolves to think of, so fuck our own kids development eh?


Anyway... We're ready... 

Patino is doing defensive things... I wasn't sure if he did that. He at least attempts to, so that's a thing. We have a corner. Is that Marvin, with back heeled effort???? I don't know, but if it is, it's definitely a sign that this will be TOTAL FOOTBALL ARMAGEDDON. BLACKPOOL 20 - BARROW 0. There's a handball. Barrow break. Fiorini has a wild, wild tackle vaulted that he's likely relieved that missed. They're just pouring down our right like water. Thompson comes across to other side to deal with it. I like him already.

Everyone is singing about the Arsenal kid cos that's what we do now it seems. Patino passes it out of play. Everyone claps him doing that like they're actually mad. Patino takes the ball. Such a lovely touch... shimmy. He's caught in possession. A shiver round the ground. What if he's not actually any good? Finally he lofts a beautiful pass. CJ's regulation ping pong ball control renders it moot. A cross field sweep requiring the most basic control from our pacy wing wing wizard goes exactly the same way a moment later.

Patino gives ball away again. Barrow neatly get down their left. A cross. Connolly absolutely definitely handballs it in the box. Thompson breaks though. CJ takes over and runs about like he's Google maps when it can't lock on to GPS, he's going this way, that way, spinning round. Needless to say, it comes to nothing. The Mountie tackles himself with a stepover. Nice to meet you Theo! Thompson is then defeated by taking a throw in that rolls backwards out of his hands instead of forward onto the pitch.

Hmmm.


Thorniley who probably is waiting to be loaned out to Mansfield or something cos all football managers hate him has done ok and his lovely sand wedge pass from just inside our half sets Thompson away. Pool win a corner, then another but don't get lucky. Patino loses the ball, half wins it back and Dougall comes across and gives him a lesson in tackling.

Some time passes where I mostly notice the advertising boards changing colour in my peripheral vision like a mild trip. Lavery wriggles away, turns nicely, crosses deep. It eventually comes to the Mountie who cuts inside well and shoots low to near post bring good save. It's a shot! On goal! We're like Brasil only better!


Fiorini then takes his turn to lose it carelessly after good work from the Mountie who slipped him free with a clever ball. Barrow gallop forward like a sturdy barrel rolling down a cobbled street, there's a certain momentum to their stolid progress that is getting dangerous as they gather pace and Marv steps in with a great header to save the City kid's blushes.

Connolly gets cheeky in the corner by standing up and blocking his man then gets clattered for his trouble. Barrow don't fuck about. We, it has to be said, from the showing so far are fucking about quite a lot.

---

Meh. Something is missing. The Mountie has done ok-ish, Thorniley has played pretty well and Dougall has just done Dougally things but we've looked lost, passive, lacking in ideas and frankly a bit naive.

---


The moon rises over the East Stand bathing the field of dreams in soft blue and pink backdrop. It's beautiful. Connolly responds to such soul stirring stuff by shanking the ball out of play under no pressure.

Thompson gets a throw right! It's either clever quick throw or Barrow's full back has been distracted by the spectacle of the sky and as a result Fiorini has forever to pick out Lavery. He does it well and Lavery runs onto it, the goal at his mercy, the keeper nowhere and... misses the ball completely. Everyone sings the Patino song again. We're like those teenage girls that insist they are definitely going out with a boyband member, interpreting everything they do as a sign that, even though they've never met him, they are his one true love and passion. It seems we see everything Patino does, whatever it is, is he does as a sign he's brilliant... I hope he is. I'm sure he's better than this. He's shown a few flashes of absolute quality but he looks like a kid. He is a kid.


We give the ball away again. Barrow opt for the simpler chant of "Barrow... Barrow." They make a decent enough noise all night. It's probably exciting to not be in the 1970s for them.

CJ (yes, CJ) starts a beautiful move with a little flick and square ball. The resulting passing spreads the play all the across the pitch and ends with the Mountie blasting over. That's better. Patino then spreads play with a first time touch. It's a ball to die for. "Charlie Patino (etc)" The tempo and the crowd lift. It's coming... Here we go! Lavery bursts away, lays it to Fiorini who finds space with a devilish feint that leaves the full back flailing at where he was. Fiorini gives it back to Lavery for a certain goal... Imagine that little intake of breath before the roar...

He didn't score. I don't know how. I can't describe it. I've blanked it out. It's too painful. He just somehow didn't score when it looked impossible not to not score. 

3 subs come on. Chantless Jimmy Husband, Jordan Gabriel (ooh, aaah) and Bez "is he actually still with us for real?" Lubala are on. Patino goes off to boyband screams and Kenny and the Mountie trot off in his wake, like roadies at a Harry Styles concert.


We keep playing the higher tempo game. It's better than it was. A nice scooped pass. CJ is in... he shoots hard, he's done ok there, the keeper spills it and it falls to Lavery who is a millimetre from walking it in. He's so frustrated with his lot that their keeper actually consoles him. We have a corner. Lavery wins his duel, heads it down, it bounces over the top. Fucking hell. You could douse him in ethanol, put him in a match factory and drop a hydrogen bomb on it at the moment and he wouldn't catch fire. How many mirrors has the lad smashed?

Carey is on now and he pulls out a genius ball, lifting it from deep, spotting a great run from CJ. You'll never guess what happened next! His. Final. Touch. Let. Him. Down. Let me digress for a moment. Recently, my sensible reasonably priced midrange estate car expired. I needed a new car. My other half is superior to me in many ways but in the world of cars, she is clueless. She found a car on Facebook exchange. "It's free!" she said excitedly. It looks great! It did look good in many ways. It had electric windows and nice alloys, a spoiler and lovely big leather seats. There was just one problem. It had no engine. That's basically how I see CJ. He does such good things sometimes, but he's undermined by one fundamental flaw that is too big to overlook and too costly to make good. I suppose the metaphor is a bit strained, but I'm running out of ways to say 'CJ does some good stuff then cocks it up'

Then to add to the general sense of calamity Marv and CJ both don't shoot and instead run into each other after Bez has a shot charged down. It breaks kindly though, Lavery smacks it. It's surely in. It's deflected. What does he have to actually do? I think he needs exorcising or something. Carey has a tigerish run. He's got a bit of fight about him. He makes the space and Fiorini takes it, hitting a fizzing, swerving effort, the keeper arcing away to left to make a decent save.

Husband is on and doing well in a surprisingly advanced role. He puts a decent cross in. He links well. He plays the loveliest weighted pass. CJ races on to it and.... falls over. He literally kicks the air and collapses in a heap. The half empty north stand lets out a collective gasp of angst.

Carey runs away from goal, pivots then feeds Gabriel. He whips it in... It's CJ fucking Hamilton!!! His header is tipped over.

Barrow have a free kick. Bez concedes it. He's on yellow already having been feisty early and I'm slightly concerned he might be on a yellow + cos he had a right strop and chucked the ball away when he got that card. It would be such a 'Bez's Blackpool career' thing to get sent off in this game... He's not sent off. Rooney (not that one) takes and Maxwell (who does nowt wrong tonight) saves well and holds the ball, springs up, bowls out to Husband - he finds Carey who again lofts a lovely ball. Lavery brings it down, turns, finds space and hits a low shot. It's on target but he just doesn't look like he believes he'll score.

Charlie Patino gets man of the match. Why? Is this what Beatlemania was like? Am I seeing this how other people see Club Gaz? Fuck's sake, I was trying to do a match report without mentioning Madine and now I've fucked it. Anyway...

Time is running out... Carey has another go... racing away he beats one. Takes on another, goes past but he's chopped down. Sonny gets angry. The ref is a peacemaker. He takes the floated free kick, Marv wins it but it balloons away.


Penalties.. for fuck's sake Pool. The moon is now high above the south, it's big and incredible as the craters are visible The surface of another planetary body. Mad. I never get bored of the moon. I'm wondering, as I wait for the penalties, how it is that the same species of people who literally put people on that rock in outer space also pass their time watching people kick a ball into a rectangle and get so worked up about it. 


They score - Connolly is a banker... No he isn't. He blasts it, but it's a good save. (0-1)
They score - Now it's... Husband? What the fuck? Jimmy will obviously miss. Jimmy steps up. He stutters. He hits the back of the net! Never doubted you Jimmy. (1-2)
They score... Bez.... does a funny run around and... scores! (2-3)
They score...Shayne... just kicks it at the keeper. Why bother? When it's not you night, it's not your night... (2-4)

I start to leave but halfway down the step I realise the ref has taken pity on Lavery. He's giving him another go!



Lavery steps up (again) and... scores! (3-4) At last! Let the goals flow!

He'e we go...Maxwell saves! Yes! Everything is good again. This is the moment the season pivoted on. No more doom, no more gloom, no more pessimism... 


Fiorini spots it up. He's so confident. This is what you want. A young kid with no fear. He'll break the net... He strides in and smacks it... into the South stand. Of course he does.

Fuck's sake Pool.

---

I dunno. I really don't. Firstly, I'm not going to question the quality of the kids we've got. They're clearly decent at football and I thought Fiorini did ok and if Patino is half the prospect he's supposed to be, he'll improve. He wasn't great tonight but that's ok cos he's fucking 18. Them being the beating heart of our side and ironing out the kinks in their game with us is a brave choice though. I hope it pays off. For the sake of the song if nowt else!

We didn't really cause enough problems. Yeah, we should have scored and yeah, Lavery could have had a hat trick but this wasn't a weakened team and Barrow were resolute but rarely threatened us and whilst it felt like 'one of them nights' it also didn't feel as if we really pushed until well into the game. Again, it clearly took a bollocking at half time to get us playing even remotely like it... 

This is clearly the ugly bit of the transformation from one style to the next and we don't really seem to know who we are. The first half was dreadful. Slow paced, unadventurous and stale and whilst the second half was better, I found myself frustrated at the number of times we seemed to start a passing move only for someone to decide to take it solo and lose the ball when there was an alternative progressive pass on. I've missed the first two league games, but the same concerns I had in preseason were there. At times we didn't seem to have a method to our play.

If I'm forced to be positive, I did like the flashes where players really moved about, Yeah, we ran into each other a bit and I'm clutching at straws but it was noticeable that we were much less positionaly static as the game went on and there were some nice runs late in the game. The flipside of the positivity is that palpably lacking was the kind of togetherness that was our best feature under Critch Bodywarmer turncoat. Yeah, there was a bit of clapping and a few pats on the back or 'never minds' to each other but I just didn't feel like this felt like this lot looked like a unit.

There's a lot that could be said about the broader picture and the coherence of various strategies but this blog is already too long and the season is but young... Fuck it. It's only the League Cup. If that doesn't give some players (and maybe people dealing with bidding for new ones) a kick up the arse then what will. Husband and Gabriel are both good at giving some tempo as well, so there's that. More straws clutched maybe.

It would be 100% pure Blackpool to go and deck Swansea... Lavery won't be able to stop now... Tidal waves of goals. Dixie Dean's record broken by March. 

Onward! 





 You can follow MCLF on facebook or Twitter or use Follow.it to get posts sent to your email If you appreciate the blog and judge it worth 1p or more, then a donation to one of the causes below which help kids and families in Blackpool would be grand.

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Saturday, August 6, 2022

Fitba Special: No one got lucky: Arbroath vs Inverness Caledonian Thistle



The end of any holiday is sad, especially when it's been a beautiful week of serene coastline, wilderness, the sound of waves breaking on the shoreline interrupted only by occasional visits to a tiny pub run by (somewhat unexpectedly) an unbelievably knowledgeable Werder Bremen supporter to talk about football.


There's only one thing that can soothe the sadness of coming home to reality and that thing is Fitba. I love Fitba. I love how, aye, you've got the Old Firm but outside of that, the game is low on money and high on thumping tackles. Pretend they don't exist and it's a brilliant league, unpredictable and passionate. Scotland is most Fitba mad country in Europe per head of population and as I've mooched around a far-flung corner of it this week, every half town and more like a village really worth its salted herring has something that resembles a proper Fitba ground.

Last year Fraserburgh stole my heart in a midweek game but this year it's the Red Lichties who I'm lending my tangerine love to as it's on the way home (sort of) and Arbroath is one of those grounds I've always wanted to go to as it stands as a reminder that you don't need all the millions spent on shite when you've got some concrete steps with the relative luxury a bit of a roof over some of it.


"Sorry hen, ma wife has decided she will go on the dodgems after all" says a man trying to gain reentry to Pleasureland behind one of the goals. His wife is nowhere to be seen. Wonderwall blares out of the arcade, mixing with the tinny pop being blown from the stadium's PA. Little kids bounce on those big elastic things, flung up high above the away end and plummeting back down to earth with delight.


Inside, it's a bit like a miniature cold war era eastern European bowl with authentic (much less biting than it will be in a few months) wind whipping round it. As the Caley players warm up, a ball is belted on to the roof of the stand, it rolls off. I get a touch to it to tip it on to the man next to me. It's years since I've touched the ball at a game.

Caley make noise even though they've only got about 60 fans here by the look of it. They do that running through of the same songs everyone sings one after the other thing. Arbroath pay absolutely no attention to them at all. The real Dick Campbell appears. He's more interested in chatting to the lady in the smart clothes who seems to run hospitality than anything else. It's the fucking real Dick Campbell. It's actually him!!!


Caley very much appear to have the actual real Ben Stokes masquerading under a false name playing right back for them - it would explain why he's ditched ODI's I guess. Arbroath make the first chance, a ball from left nodded wide by the rangy but skillful Daniel Fosu. I look him up. He was playing for *checks notes* Thatcham last year. Thatcham? No, me neither... For a while it feels like the whole game is one long tackle contested by both sides snapping at each other's ankles relentlessly with the ball a bit of an afterthought till Caley break the offside trap and a lofted effort from the edge of the box beats the keeper and is cleared off the line.



Arbroath respond with a spell of neat play that peaks with the legendary Bobby Linn slipping in McKenna whose curling effort is stylish but saved easily enough. A corner is won by hard pressing which brings a rousing applause. Even more rousing is the applause for the defensive. back header that follows the poor corner and long kick forward in the wind.

Bobby Linn bedevils and nearly picks the lock. McKenna is through and and for no reason at all chips it at the keeper. "What the fuck was that?" enquires the man behind me. It's a fair point. Caley have an intelligent effort from the edge of the box that looks as though it might catch out the keeper and a great move featuring a vaulting run and some quick passing that ends in a low shot wide.


The game hits a lull but Arbroath come on strong as half time approaches. The man behind me implores them to "get lucky" as swirling balls are put in the box. I'm shouting "get lucky" from now on whenever we have a cross. Linn drifts inside and aims at the top corner it's one of those where as soon as his foot's cocked, you know it's on target but it gets charged down. Linn drifts outside then cleverly stuns a beautiful curling ball to the near post. Someone gets a touch, there's a save and Fosu smacks the rebound, it's saved again somehow... Hands on head... it was offside anyway...

---

It's been hard fought, with few chances but I can see why Arbroath are a team who've done well. They give nothing away and are quick to pounce on any opportunity to break.

---

For the second half, I move behind the goal. It seems the right thing to do. I watched the first half from close to the half way line and, as I always do, I thought 'you can read the game better from here' but I like being behind the goal when my team are attacking and today, I'm all about Arbroath. Bobby Linn has a wee bit of the Paul Simpson vibe about him. He's old, aye, but he's fucking class. I like Fosu who is billed as an attacking midfielder but seems to be leading the line and I really like the no6, Nicky Low, who has been here there and everywhere but is a bullish presence in midfield, a little lad who is always looking for a tackle and a chance to move the ball forward.


The Red Lichties dominate which justifies me moving. Wide left, they get going, Linn involved, the ball moved inside. It's tucked to Fosu who takes it in, tries to find space for a shot and goes down... Penalty!!! The ref says dive... My new neighbour isn't happy... "What the cunt? ye wee cunt" I look at the ref, who is strikingly diminutive and has that unhappy refereeing tendancy of holding his gestures fair longer than anyone needs him to as if to emphasise he's in charge. Sometimes referees are cunts to be fair. It's just the way it is.
A stunning shot strike the post behind the goal that holds the net up... Nicky Low is in the action again, seeing a chance on the edge of the box... he strikes it hard... Saved.

The ref holds his arm in the air for no apparent reason every time there's a goal kick "get yer arm doon, ye wee bald cunt" - I check. He is bald. Sometimes refs are.


Goal kicks are great fun. Firstly, the kids in the crowd berate the keeper with the cry of 'Paedo, Paedo' every time he (reasonably enough) comes and collects the ball from the ball boy. Secondly, whilst I'm very sure it's windier than this sometimes, and absolutely 1000% definitely colder too, there's a fresh breeze from the north sea and every time the Caley keeper puts his foot through the ball it bends out of play about 30 yards in front of him, much to everyone's joy. What with the ref with his bizarre gestures, unwarranted abuse from 12 years olds and the wind making the whole thing a charade, I'm finding myself looking forward to goal kicks more than anything else in the game.

Arbroath are just getting the ball back time and time again and coming forward like a surfing maroon wave with a storm powering it. They send on an exotic new signing, an ex Man City player, Deri Corfe, who last played for *checks notes* FC Tucson and once scored a bag full for Wright City Raiders. Nope. Me neither. He is lanky, with floppy dark hair and a bleached streak that gives him a kind of front man in a nu-metal band vibe. He does ok.

Fosu gets chopped down. Here's a chance for the magician Bobby Linn, who kisses the ball, stands, stock still, his shirt flapping in the wind like a windsock. He's sensing everything. This is it... He puts it into the stand and I nearly get a second touch of the ball.


Linn then on corner duty. "C'mon Bobby!" The first is an arrow to the near post that's headed away, the second curls gorgeously to the far post, everyone tumbles like dominoes but doesn't quite get to it. Michael McKenna gets up with a look of 'what might have been' and the crowd beat their encouragement.

There's amusement as Caley for once realise that playing into the wind, it might be an idea not to kick it high into the air and counter attack, tucking the ball home but the offside flag is raised as their fans go wild and the home end realises way before they do.

It's a temporary respite though as Arbroath show some canny play, pass, move, pass move, trying to work the angle, lovely interchange work and then, as Caley get half a foot in to deflect the ball out, Nicky Low charges from deep and hit's an absolute bullet of a 30 yard drive that even though the keeper is squarely behind it, he has to collect at the second attempt.


Another Arbroath sub (I think it's Kieron Shanks) bursts through, lifts the ball over the keeper, a Caley defender races back, it's half flicked away and looks to be falling for Shanks to nod home but the keeper is up and slaps both the ball and Shanks' head... Outrage. "What about that ya cunt? Linesman, you saw that, what are you for ya cunt?"

From the inside of the ground, the side of the kids bouncing up over the wall of the away end is tremendous. I don't think I could be bored at this ground.

Fosu has his shirt pulled as he looks to drift inside and through... "They really get on yer cunt these cunts. I could fight the cunt. Honestly." Campbell is even off the bench now. This ref really is quite wee, he's quite bald and whilst the first two things are no thing to deride him for, the fact he's seemingly a cunt makes the grief fair enough.

Time is running out. There's a late corner .. c'mon!!!! Honestly, I really want this... It comes to nothing.

"We should have beat them, they were shite"

It's hard to disagree. ---


Nothing about this game changed my view on Fitba. It's fucking great. You're missing the point if you sneer at Scottish football for not being the Premier League. Aye, Man City would beat Arbroath, but the English game is all to often bloated and self important, so get to fuck. Aye, England has got more money than Scotland in it's football but Prince Andrew has more money than you (probably) so again, get to fuck with all that shite. What more do you want from football than two sides that give their all and loads of terracing? Now it really is back to reality...


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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Languid summer evening - K/AFC Fylde vs the Mighty


Why am I here? I'm sure there's better things you could do with such a nice evening than watch a glorified training session for the players that Micky 'strong and silent type' Apples doesn't fancy. Still, what we're going to surely see is a few of them step up and show exactly what they're made of. We'll score 8 or 9, with one of the outcasts playing so irresistibly well that we'll all agree that it's a good job we didn't get Simms after all.


Why is K/AFC Fylde here? It's such a weird concept for a club. A team representing a wider area that already has one too many clubs anyway, even discounting Dave 'great employer' Haythornthwaite's start up. I actually quite like that Fleetwood has a club. It's a real place with a derelict fish curers, the Mount, that bit where the trams turn round and everything but K/AFC are basically based at a roundabout. Still,  snobbery gets you nowhere. Unless you are dead posh and I'm not, so I should be a bit more charitable to our hosts. Who supports them though? 

I chat to a nice fella on the way up. He tells me he goes to see Man City youth games more often than Fylde. On the way out, I see the slightly infamous K/AFC car and note that on the parcel shelf it has a neatly laid out Liverpool minikit. I wonder if that's what K/AFC are for - people who watch other teams. When we get in, I can count their fans. About 250 I think. 


--- 

Owen Dale is the player I'm hoping will be the surprise package. I like players with a swagger and he swans about like he's a little Cantona. If he had a collar, it would be turned up. I don't remember Cantona passing free kicks straight out of play though. He liked to belt it from the edge of the box but he generally put it somewhere near the goal as opposed to 10 foot wide and ten foot over. 

At least Dale has an effort. The only other things Pool do in the first 44 minutes and 30 seconds are to avoid the ball, (CJ) whallop a good chance straight at the keeper (Lavery) and knock a pearoller wide (Jerry.) Fylde are definitely the better side. We do lots of pointless passing and get caught in possession or give possession away more than once. We look very uninspired. It's not so bad not looking like you can find away through a Premier League side but this is a side 3 leagues below us and they have the better efforts. 


Maxwell tips one over that I don't see clearly cos I'm pointing out where I got my pint from to someone. Maxwell makes a decent sharp stop from a right defensive flap at a corner. Maxwell makes an excellent stop from a close range effort that is flagged offside. Jordan Thorniley is the only outfield player I can say is definitely playing well. 

Then little Jack Moore picks it up and runs with it from in his own half. He goes past two players, he offloads to CJ who cleverly scoops it on and into the path of Moore who has carried on his charge. He's like a little battery powered toy speedboat ploughing a fizzing wake through the parted Fylde defence. He takes the return ball nicely, he squares and Jerry makes little fuss of the finish, tucking it home like it's the year before last and he's a deadly poacher once more. 


--- 

To be honest we were pretty dire. Lavery is not so much on fire as doused with flame retardant foam. Dougall is just doing Dougall things but when no one is doing owt else, that's pretty pointless. CJ had one good touch for the goal and a shot on target I forgot about above but has had about 8 moments where the crowd collectively mutters "ffs CJ." Bez is nondescript. Apter is trying and is clearly a decent player but he's not a left back. Fylde have been taking it quite seriously and done ok but they've attracted a few bookings already as if wanting to leave their mark on us to prove a point. I'm not sure what that point is to be honest. Probably the best thing Dale did in the half was get up and give a bit back to a lad who quite obviously scythed him down. 

I like the ground though. It's got character in that it feels quite continental. The balmy summer evening is giving off the kind of vibes that suggest to me that we could be playing in the south of France. I decide I'll pretend I'm not on the outskirts of Wesham and that I'll overlook that the main stand looks like a Booths with some seats tacked on and instead tell myself that the sloped roof design is a bit continental and we're on a preseason tour. What else am I going to do if the second half is anything like the first? 

---


We are happily a good bit better second half. It seems like Appleton is really expert at halftime. Maybe he should just bollock them before the game? We aren't so painful to watch when we resume and put pressure on their goal from the off. Jerry is really good at football. He has it wide. He puts a beautiful ball over and Thorniley heads wide when he should hit the target. Jerry next tries to curl one in from a difficult angle and nearly pulls it off. 

CJ does pull off an audiacious little shimmy and knocks it to Shayne. Lavery copies him. Their defence is flumoxed. It's brilliant to watch. The ball is back with CJ. This is going to be a fantastic goal!... He twats it a mile over. FFS!

Apter gets forward and pulls back. Dougall has a Wembley-esque effort and their keeper saves low down. Jerry plays a delightful through ball. Lavery belts after it gets to it and sort of stands on it and falls over and the keeper gathers it low at his feet. His face tells you everything about how it's going for him at the moment. The word is, I think, 'rueful' 

Jack Moore has again done ok, but he's absolutely cut out by a long diagonal that he gets lost underneath. From the resulting possession, Fylde sweep the ball across and a low effort is really well saved by Maxwell who has definitely been good tonight. His distribution has been excellent as well and several times his throws start decent Pool moves. 

The most decent move of the night involves Hamilton haring down the right, leaving his man for dead. He looks so good sometimes. Usually he runs it too far or gets all tangled up in his own legs, but this time he clips it nicely for Bez who meets it beautifully and cracks it hard into the roof of the net. It's a really good finish and probably the best goal of preseason. 


We get to see Tayt Trusty who is gloriously rugged in the tackle and Brad Holmes who has a half chance he doesn't react to quite quickly enough but the game plays out without much further incident aside from the referee blowing confusingly early and no one quite realising the game has ended for about 20 seconds. 

--- 


Did we learn much? Not really. Bez has added a little to his highlights reel for prospective employers. Jerry played ok without quite setting the world alight and again, he and Lavery didn't really combine very well. CJ was the best and worst player on the pitch at different points. Thorniley continues to trudge about looking like a fella doing a double shift carrying bags of cement but being quite good at being a central defender in a way that sadly for him, football managers don't seem to fully value. The kids didn't do much wrong but neither of them really screamed 'definitely will eat up the Championship and spit it out with impudent disdain if you start them on Saturday.' I think Apter is the more ready of the two and whilst not a left back in a month of Sundays, I did like his willingness to tangle with attackers. 
 
It was a kickabout in the sunshine. It didn't matter at all. I quite enjoyed it in that sense. The long grind starts very soon. 


Onward... 


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Monday, July 25, 2022

Read yourself back to sanity (part 2)


Books are grand cos they're a mentally healthy alternative to the constant churn and anger of social media. I don't read enough of them because my brain is fucked cos of the constant churn and anger of social media.

Here are some books I have managed to persuade my attention deficit mind to focus on for a few hours that I think are decent.

I'd love ye to recommend some stuff too just cos I'd like to read some good stuff. Here goes... 

Be Good, Love Brian - Growing up with Brian Clough - Craig Bromfield

I love Cloughie. I find him the most fascinating of people. He's probably the single greatest football manager to have ever lived and a singular personality with plenty of sharp edges to compliment his undoubted humanity. This book is an amazing journey. In short, the author meets Clough by chance one day and ends up living with him, becoming a kind of adopted child to the Clough family. It's as much about the author's experiences of childhood poverty and his relationship with his own family as it is the Cloughs but that works really well. He draws a beautiful contrast between life with and without Brian. Football only really makes its way into the story quite late on but that doesn't matter. Whilst at times, he creates a warm picture of his memories, other details are chilling - the details of midnight flits from an abusive father are sketched through child's eyes in a really powerful way. Clough's presence in his life grows bigger and bigger as he gets older and the reader gets to feel the same open eyed wonder at being up close with Brian as the author must have felt. One of the most unusual football books I've read. 

More than Game - Saving Football from Itself - Mark Gregory

This isn't a riveting read in some senses, but stay with me for a moment. This is one of those 'football is a right old mess' books but where other books provide angry polemic and political tub thumping, this book approaches the situation with cold hard facts. It's written by an economist. It shows. Again, that's not a criticism. It's the kind of book that you can refer to in order to make a point properly. It's the kind of book which looks at evidence first instead of just telling the story the author wants to tell. It's got interesting perspectives for sure, the writer is thoughtful and looks at things like his own relationship with a club funded by gambling fortunes and is especially interesting on the way that football funds community work but overall, the facts and figures of the finances are the star. It's an important book that illustrates some of the structural issues of our game in a stark and inarguable fashion. 


Another book about the state of football, but this time one with an amazingly tense story despite seemingly set around footballing backwaters. Calladine and Cave begin investigating a kind of crowd funded football club purchase that on the surface appears all about benevolence and democracy but as the numbers unravel, turns out to be built on quicksand and deceit. The authors weave their own alarming experiences of threats, violence and shoddy police protection together with broader picture details of the wild west of football finance. This is an eye opening book about the vulnerability of the game to the kind of nefarious sorts that are attracted to football club ownership and the painfully poor protection we all have from scams and con artists.  


I loved this book. It is to my shame that I don't know all that much about the Spanish Civil war and (as Clough would have it) all that type of thing. I now know a lot more about Spanish history and a lot more about two clubs who dominate the world football landscape and about Spanish football in general. Lowe gets the level of detail just about right, lingering on certain players or managers like Di Stefano or Herrara just long enough to give you a feeling of intimacy with the topic, but managing to not stray into banal detail. Whilst the football is at the fore, he contextualises the two clubs in terms of their position in wider Spanish society and he does so fairly, showing that the idea that Madrid were simply 'the Franco team' and Barca 'the heroic upstarts of the resistance' is a gross over-simplification. 

This is how it feels - An English Football Miracle - Mike Keegan

In contrast to some of the above, this is quite a light read. It's ace though. If, like me, you are slightly wistful for a bygone age when a decent manager and the sort of money you can pull together from a board of local businessmen could occasionally disrupt the football landscape, then this book will be exactly the sort of escape from an era of oil money, global branding opportunities and executive salaries that you need. Royle is probably not remembered in the way he should be - he comes across really well in this book. Football as whole back then seems simultaneously a lot more ramshackle but also kind of more raw than it does now. I read it in one sitting which says a lot. 

The Peoples Game - Football, State and Society in East Germany - Alan McDougall

This is definitely the hipster choice. When I bought this, my heart dropped. This wasn't a football book, I thought, but an academic study. It appeared dry, wordy and serious minded. I persevered and discovered it was anything but. Details of life in the DDR burst from the page. Fans gathering at the wall to hear games they'd been cut off from, clubs encouraged in and out of existence. Terrace culture and the sense that a football crowd could be a tiny oasis of free expression (and violence at times.) The astonishing and at sometimes comically inept details of Stasi officers tailing the national team abroad. This book may have its roots in academia but it's a sensational history of everyday life in a place that still feels shrouded in mystery even today. 

Dynamo - Defending the honour of Kiev - Andy Dougan  

More Eastern Europe but this time, Ukraine. I read this book before Putin's own siege and several times since, I've been struck by images from it. It follows the story of the Nazi attack and occupation of the city and tracks what happens to players. Resistors, collaborators, those who flee and those who end up in death camps. The story of the war is one that is endlessly retold, but the details of everyday life beneath the dates and figures are fascinating. The fact that football goes on at all is incredible, but the account of the infamous 'death match' in which a scratch side of Ukrainians including some of the Dynamo Kiev stars play the best players the occupiers can put together is astonishing. 

All of the above stuff you have to pay money to read but here are some things that you don't. 

The Lonely Season - Coventry City blog

When we played Cov, one of their fans paid my blog the compliment of 'it's a bit like the lonely season but not as good' - I hadn't read the lonely season. I therefore read the lonely season. I could see what they meant. It's decent. It seems to have stopped in March - I hope it carries on. 

Loft For Words - QPR fan site 

The writing of Clive Whittingham makes this site special. Most sites where there is a load of links, fancy pictures and a few adverts tend not to be very good but this has the quality you'd expect when the website has a pun so good that it works twice for its name. It's superb and as with the Coventry page, it's a pleasure to read something that is idiosyncratic and skilfully put together that feels true to the writer as opposed to an attempt to ape a more commercially familiar style. 

I'd particularly like some suggestions for other blogs that are really good. I know I've read some others I've liked this last season but I can't remember them -

This year, I really need to collect them into one app or suchlike as it's harder and harder to find content that is actually decent and isn't just some trolling shite where people speculate wildly about fuck all and call that 'content' or incredibly boring official stuff which is just basically placeholder material with a nice picture. 

My previous set of reading recommendations are here. You can obvs read this blog for free too if you want. 


 You can follow MCLF on facebook or Twitter or use Follow.it to get posts sent to your email If you appreciate the blog and judge it worth 1p or more, then a donation to one of the causes below which help kids and families in Blackpool would be grand. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Ready or not... the Mighty vs Everton


We're going to be just fine. Look at them on the pitch pre-match.... They're wizards. The lot of them. All this doom about not signing people is just teeth gnashing and wailing because we haven't made Sky Sports News enough. Success in football isn't dictated by column inches or amounts of time spent on the revolving ticker. It's forged by skill and effort - yes, individuals matter, but it's above all a team game. 


Other clubs might have more shiny new faces to wonder about and project hope upon, but we've got plenty of devils that we know and are maybe thus better off, even if that's less exciting. It's kind of harder to get excited about players who you know all their faults, but that's just the 21st century attention deficit at play isn't it? Woosh... Keshi curls it home. Smack... Gaz hits it so hard, it nearly takes Stuart Moore's hand off. Fizz... Virtue tucks a drive away neatly. They look a million dollars in this warm up. 


What the fuck are we thinking about going into the season without any new signings? We look shit. Everton have done us twice, scoring piece of piss goals, making Luke Garbutt look like Carlo was spot on in his assessment. You can imagine Everton's wide right players looking puzzled and going 'who???' when asked about what it was like to face our left back today so far away is he from them. The first we give acres of space for a cross to the far post which is then turned home far too easily. The second looks like it could have been offside, but for all Uncle Richard's pointing and shouting and jumping on the spot, the flag doesn't show, the ref isn't interested and we're 2-0 down within ten minutes. 

The rest of the half is really, really boring. Everton aren't very good in the global scheme of things but they're enjoying being 2-0 up and just knock it about without much effort and look a league apart from us. Which, to be fair, they are. We run about after them to no real effect. Appleton stands on the touchline musing in a black serious looking tracksuit top. Boring Frank stands on the touchline in leisurewear that makes him look like he's attending a very expensive new money wedding but wearing his dress down clothes as it's the night before the big day and he and all his new money pals are casually lounging in the bar drinking fashionably expensive whisky and talking about fashionably expensive motors whilst their fashionably expensive wives carry big fashionably expensive balloon glasses of gin and big fashionably expensive square glossy paper bags from fashionably expensive boutiques. At least no one is wearing a fucking 'gilet'. 


We huff and puff. Carey can't quite get his foot on the ball. Bowler has a couple of foreys. Fiorini looks most likely but his flick knife is blunt and his two shots on goal are poor, one scuffed into the arms of the keeper the other wellied over the top. I stifle a yawn. The clock moves slowly. This is a double period of science at school of a half. Connolly provides a bit of cheer by putting in a tackle or two. Williams doesn't look especially good or especially bad. He certainly hasn't shown that sheen that occasionally a high class loan can bring yet. Gordon is really good for them, except he keeps falling over for no reason. Dele Alli has one moment where he runs at us and it looks like we can do absolutely nothing about it. He looks world class for a second or so, until he over-complicates it and then tries to buy a foul which the referee just laughs at and gives the other way. 

This is boring as fuck. Here's Bowler though. He's anything but boring. He goes, he glides, he's unstoppable. He's smacking it... It's saved. It's in the air. It's Gary Madine!!! He's missed it? No he hasn't. He's headed it home. I think. Has he? He has! It's a total playground finish but who gives a fuck. It's a Gary goal! 

--- 

We've looked really vulnerable down the flanks and the attacking endeavour has been minimal. It's hard to work out what exactly the formation is, but despite there being quite a few theoretically exciting players on the pitch, the reality has been, we've really not got forward very well. I'm not sure if it's our own ambition limiting us, or Everton just being well drilled. Boring Frank and 'well drilled' aren't really a set of phrases you put together, so I'm inclined to think we've just not really clicked with whatever it is we've been asked to do. 

--- 

We're looking loads better. It's always more fun when they kick towards you and a few minutes in, I've enjoyed this half a lot more. We're creating pressure. Everton break and score again. Of course they do. Again, it all seems really easy. Hmmm. 

We're not bowed by that though and pressure leads to a corner. Luke Garbutt puts in a lovely delivery and Callum Connolly sneaks towards the near post and glances home. Yes! I always said Garbs was great! 

We then have a really good spell. We put the Toffees under a lot of pressure, dragging them around with some smart movement and showing a desire to pick up the ball, move it forward and get beyond each other to make an attacking option. I really enjoy this spell of the game. We come close a few times, the most notable being a stunning curler from Bowler that Pickford saves wrong handed, diving beyond, but chucking his trailing arm up and showing remarkable strength to turn it over and a corner where Keogh darts with a surprising turn of pace to the near post and is an eyebrow away from getting a glance on it that would surely turn it home. We have to remain off the pitch for another week... 


The pressure doesn't tell though and Everton leg it up the other end and score another goal from their right hand side. This one, hard as it is to tell from the other end, seems to be stabbed home in front of Grimshaw from a fairly routine ball through albeit after a delicious lofted first time pass from one of them on the halfway line caught us flat footed. 

Keogh goes off after feeling a bit of discomfort. We bring on Jack Moore, Thorniley, Jerry, Shayne and Rob Apter over the next few minutes. We play quite well still. Moore looks ok. He looks small though. Apter looks like he's a bit more physically ready and he's does his best to get us going in his brief cameo, creating a good moment purely by being direct, where even though he scuffs the final action, the ball breaks kindly and we seem to be through for a second. 


I'm distracted at the end by a mad lad in a luminous body warmer who seems to want to offer first Pickford, then the entire North Stand out for a fight which is a strange but somewhat diverting sideshow. At least he wasn't doing heart gestures at us in his body warmer. We have some free kicks we don't do very well with and an effort from Fiorini which curls, but way too late and is always going wide. The ref plays an extra 30 seconds to let us take a corner. Nowt comes of it. 

Time is up.

--- 

Overall, I enjoyed some of how we played - I liked the second half desire to get at Everton and we were probably the better side. We were so far the inferior side in the first half and some of the defending looked so flimsy that it's difficult to complain about the result. It's a joy to watch a side with players in the middle of the park that want to go forward. It's less of a joy watching a side who don't appear to really have a left hand flank. Garbs is the only option at the moment defensively and Keshi seems the best fit in the current squad, but neither of them excelled. 

It's an interesting spectacle, watching Appleton trying to impose a different mentality. Critchley's pragmatic ethos suited our squad. Results tell that story. It did, however, leave us wondering about the little flashes of exciting football we saw. Could these players be more? Was Critchley too cautious? On this evidence, I don't know. For a start, preseason is where fools rush to make judgements based on deeply flawed evidence but if I'm going to stupidly join that rush, I'd say we've sacrificed the defensive solidity and not really yet compensated by finding a natural looking attacking fluidity. I'm all for scoring one more than them, it just feels a bit like we might be in danger of scoring one fewer than them... 

Gary Goals Goal Machine Madine showed a couple of moments of sublime skill (to compliment the bundled home goal) but playing with his back to goal is his strength. It felt to me as if we really needed someone playing facing the other way making the ball for the midfielders, opening space in front of them by dragging players out the way. Either that, or we need to be bolder getting midfielders forward or wide players tucked into a front 3. Lavery feels the natural fit for that forward aggressive runner, but he again came on wide, where, to be fair, he showed his waspish side for a few minutes and seemed to add to the attacking threat though I'm sceptical about his all round game being good enough to play there. 

It's idiocy to read to much into kickabout football though and idiocy to read too much into the opinion of a shite blogger. 

Onwards. 



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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 ...