Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The mighty vs the irritant.

I find a certain difficulty in my relationship with Fleetwood Town FC. I like the place (Fleetwood itself) a lot. There's a lot to like about it. I lived there. I lived there because I didn't want to live in Blackpool. I am a major advocate for the qualities of Fleetwood, which include, in no particular order,

- a stunning view from the beach.
- the North Euston Hotel - thus named because for a period, Fleetwood was the terminus of the West Coast Main Line.
- the best chippies in the world, bar none.
- A fascinating set of architectural gems, it being a largely planned town, designed by Decimus Burton consisting of Georgian Style terraces, gardens and man made lakes and amazing streets of terraced houses, each one distinct from each other with it's own architectural flourishes.  I'm not joking when I say, if Saltaire is a World Heritage Site, why is Fleetwood almost unknown? 
- An inland lighthouse, for no apparent reason. 
- A certain quality, that cannot quite be defined, but that is best explained by my mate asking me once 'Why is it 1974 here?' 
- Lots of other reasons.
Yet, I cannot extend that warmth to their football team. It's not hatred, or even dislike, it's just a sort of irritation. A shrug that disguises anxiety. A pretended nonchalance. 

It's not that I'm bothered that they seem to have a desire to deliberately court notoriety and bad boy chic in signing up Joey Barton and Ched Evans. Barton is what he is and Evans is a very good player. It's football, not the moral maze and everyone loves a good villain at the theatre.

It's not that I genuinely fear them - they've will find their ceiling very soon. In a way it's admirable and realistic what they've done - investing in training and community facilities and a tight, neat ground, bringing something to a town that frankly makes Hull seem positively metropolitan (I also like Hull) - It's a far cry from the ego driven madness of the Reynolds Arena for example.

Yet, never the less, they are problematic - they're Accrington Stanley without the milk advert and the heroic back story and the midas touch of John Colman. There's a whiff of Gretna FC about them - there because of the backer and not a lot else. They're not Yeovil or Dagenham and Redbridge, or even Morecambe. They're a bit of a construct. Plucky little moneybags Fleetwood.

That said, fair enough - all teams at some stage or other were 'a bit of a construct' - The teams we now romanticise as 'proper old fashioned clubs' were once the playthings of money men - Sunderland, nothing more down to earth and real than them, were 'The Bank of England Club' - Preston played fast and lose with the registration rules and fielded a team made up almost entirely of exotic foreigners (Scotsmen) and gave them fake jobs at the mills owned by their board as recompense to dodge accusations of excess professionalism, the first £100 transfer was pretty swiftly followed by the first £1000 transfer to the chagrin of the authorities and a press who viewed all this money and professionalism as terribly distasteful so, really, who are we to sniff at the new money and claim to be football aristocrats? (Even if we have history and tradition and won the greatest FA Cup final of all time, provided England captains, can claim 2 of only 22 men to ever be part of an English World Cup winning squad as well as possibly the greatest winger of all history anywhere ever and that's leaving out Jimmy Hampson, Stan Mortenson, that Micky Walsh goal, being robbed of the league title by Hitler and all the rest of it)

I think what it is, is that they are a bit like your little brother, wanting to come on a night out. You've got all your mates and you're off into town and then along comes your little brother insisting he can come too. You just don't want him there. He has a few drinks and he starts to join in with the banter and it just grates a bit. It's not that you hate him all the time, it's just that you don't want to have to deal with him right now, not here. A few drinks more and he is now getting feisty and giving it this and that, and you really want to just wait till he goes to the gents and leg it, because you can't be bothered with him at all. If he'd only know his place, you'd be able to get on very well.

The next bit only works if you've watched the second season of 'The Wire'. If you haven't you can skip it. 

Think Ziggy from 'The Wire'. That's Fleetwood Town FC. 

Blackpool, Preston, Bolton, Burnley, Blackburn are all drinking at the bar, Wigan are on the other side, still viewed with slight suspicion having only worked at the docks for 15 years, compared to the lifetimes of the other lot - but grudgingly accepted by now as long as they remember their place. Then there's Fleetwood, showing off, taking the piss, dancing on the bar with his pants round his ankles, behaving with no sense of decorum or tradition or understanding of the fact that if they carry on like that, they'll get a slap from one of the big, burly old time Stevedores. 

Not the bar from 'The Wire'

The Wire reference is over now. 

Anyway - the convoluted opening is to basically say, until we are out of the same division as them, it's a bit like an annual commitment to playing one of those arcade games where you have to hit stuff with a mallet - they pop up once a year, we knock them down, but then, there they are again. All flares and drums and desperate to be taken seriously. And you know what?

We hate Preston. We all hate Preston. Stand up if you hate PRESTON.

The game seemed a bit stodgy to begin with. It struggled to get going, it was rugged, without really being a proper needle match. We got stuck in, they got stuck in but nothing much went right. Then, a ball from the right, Matty Virtue found some space, miscontrolled it but it dropped to Liam Feeney who belted a diagonal shot home, just reward for being essentially fucking brilliant all year.

Then it seemed we'd score more, Fleetwood just weren't on their game - they were overrun in midfield and we, despite not looking quite as fluent as we can (Gnanduillet seemed a bit rusty after a few games out) found it quite easy going. A couple of beautiful runs from Delfouneso came to nothing, but begged the question of why a player with his close control and ability to explode from a languid trot into a slaloming firework of a dribble has achieved as little as he has. There's no one I want to succeed more with us.

Matty Virtue - who I like more and more each week for his endeavour and willingness to try something from time to time threw himself at a near post ball from Feeney and the ball squirted over the top.

Fleetwood got a bit more control of the game and half time came with a feeling that maybe, we should have scored more.

Not to worry, though because second half, Sullay KaiKai (when he's good he's outrageous, when he's not, he's invisible) squeezed a free kick that looked like a cross straight into the corner of the net and  now we're flying.

The bloke a few rows down is giving it large to Joey, who is stood in his technical area dressed in his weird outfit and 'trademark' cap that makes him look like a cross between a redneck trucker and a skier.

Then, from the left, Pool get free, there's space and time for a delicious cross and time stands still as Big Armand (now linking up play beautifully having had a quick brasso rub from Phil Horner at half time and definitely free of any rust) leaps about 12 feet in the air and nods it in. Only diving headers are better than proper strikers headers at the far post and we're all singing the big man's name because he's mint. Now, there's a Fleetwood fan on the pitch and we can't really even be bothered with the animosity and to be honest, it's quite good fun as the stewards seem baffled by his decision to run and to also change direction when one of them comes near, then there's two Blackpool fans who get fed up with watching him run free and run on and take him down, then the Fleetwood fans want a scrap and it's all a bit feisty but also a bit like when a small dog barks at a big dog and finally the game is off again... 

Now we're utter class. Jay Spearing is dictating things, Matty Virtue is flicking things into the path of oncoming players, Gnanduillet is nimble, strong and lithe, gliding around like he owns the place. Fonz and Sullay are running at them, creating back peddling chaos and when they get the ball, Big Ben Heneghan who is fucking mint is calmly martialling things, pointing, keeping the line tight and heading everything, seeming two cuts above.

It's like when we had them in the cup and LuaLua destroyed them. It's the natural order restored.

Then they score. 

And suddenly it's all a bit tense for a bit as they remember they can play. Madden and Evans link and move, their full backs push on and suddenly they pass crisply, are all triangles, movement, sharpness and we get tetchy. 'Larry! Where are the subs!?' 'Larry, if you're good for one thing, it's making a game killing defensive sub!' 'Larry!'

Of course, Larry responds, because in Larry we trust and the game is killed, What's left of about 4% of Fleetwood's population file off home on the 14 or the tram and there's no repeat of the grandstanding of last year, no bus windows kicked out and thankfully no equine horror stories.

We're delighted and relieved. It's the 'not a derby annual match against out most local football league team' that we REALLY don't want to lose and we won, quite easily. But it's not the gloating ecstasy that would come with a win over PNE or Bolton. It's just a sense of a job done that needed to be done.

So all is well and I can go back to generally quite liking Fleetwood (the place) for at least another few months. 


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