Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Is there a fire drill? - The Mighty vs Ipswich

Ipswich are a side I struggle to have an opinion about. I don't hate, fear or resent them. I don't look down upon them sneeringly or look up at them enviously. They are just neutral in my mind. I can tell you about Bobby Robson and Alf Ramsey of course, but they seem distant and disconnected to me, before my time. I feel about Ipswich as I feel about a team like Malmo or Fortuna Dusseldorf. Somehow, not really my business. I don't really know why. I have vague feelings about all sorts of distant sides I don't care about. I quite like Crystal Palace and Greenock Morton and I vaguely dislike Aberdeen and Cardiff for no obvious reasons, no particular grudges or history but it's as if Ipswich have a cloaking device to protect them against the irrational judgement of the football part of my brain.

What can I say? Portman Road is one of those really neat grounds that was neat and tidy when everyone else's seemed ramshackle and mismatched. They play in blue and white trim and are sponsored by FISONS. Except obviously, they aren't but in the way that Arsenal are forever JVC, Utd are forever SHARP and Liverpool Crown Paints, Ipswich are FISONS. I'm slightly surprised that John Wark isn't still in their side every time I come across them.

I wasn't sure what FISONS actually was, I thought it had something to do with fertilizer and my research led me to a slightly more complex picture, of an Ipswich based company that did, indeed, produce chemical products used in agriculture but also asthma drugs and other stuff. Fisons was bought out in the mid 1990s by global giants and last year, the historic Victorian factory where the company was based until then, burned to ground, destroyed beyond repair

Still trading. (Harry Feeney Toyota, Vicarage Road)
I muse on whether Hafnia tinned meats are still trading? I wonder if Mr Rumbelow from off of  Rumbelows (RIP) regrets spending all that money on sponsoring the Rumbelows Cup? Is Rebecca still shifting jewellery in Southport or Harry Feeney still flogging cars? Still, whatever the answer (which is yes) his nephew Liam is doing ok at keeping the family name in tangerine and soon we'll be at Bloomfield on a blustery blue day.

The morning would have sent my Grandma into a frenzy of washing, the day cold but the unpredictable breeze enough to set sheets flying. It's that raw feeling you get just as spring is dawning when you are longing for a hint of warmth and the birds are singing but the wind carries the death of winter. When the new shoots and buds are fragile and tender but you know that the frost and ice could destroy them. 

Which, is a nice metaphor for where the Mighty are at. 3 games of football in into a caretaker stint and I'm thinking 'Dunn's Done ok.' It has to be said, there's a voice in my head saying that as well as we've done for patches, the matches we've played have been against sides as devoid of confidence as ourselves and though the players have looked like they know what the plan is, I'll be interested to see whether we can be knocked off that plan by a side like Ipswich that, though shorn of some of their best players and out of form themselves, are clearly possessed of better players than our previous 3 opponents. Bolton in particular looked a broken side and Ipswich still have a lot to play for.

Outside Bloomfield it's warmer than it was when I set off but inside the ground a chill wind is whipping round the top of the stands. Dunn has gone for the same again, which I think pleases me. I look at the side and note how high the squad numbers are. Only Fonz and Feeney wearing proper football numbers and the numbers of Ronan and Moore especially tell the tale of the churn of players through this season. I was on the fence about whether I wanted Nuttall to start. It feels like we've been 'giving Joe Nuttall a chance to show what he can do' for about 8 months and I've still not quite got over how broken he looked last time I saw him start and Madine is player with verified qualities.

They've brought a decent amount and they're belting out 'Allez, allez, allez' - I'm glad we don't sing that. Everyone sings it and I'm glad we don't conform. To be fair to them, they make a good racket all game. They remind me a bit of Portsmouth, without that fucking bell.

From the off, we're on the front foot. Madine does well to force a corner and we turn one into three. None of them come to much but it's good to have pressure. We put together a couple of nice moves, moving the ball well and showing energy in midfield again, driving forward and spreading the play, switching flanks sometimes, something we never seemed to do under Grayson. It's from a raking crossfield ball that Macdonald gets behind them, pulling off a blinding bit of control but the cross comes to nothing.

They announce themselves in the in the game, fizzing a low cross across the box. Soon after, their keeper belts it upfield and it just keeps going, with Maxwell relieved that his decision to let it bounce wide is just about right, the ball clattering into the post that holds the goal net and a moment of calamity avoided.

Fonz and Madine are an odd couple but Fonz slips the goal machine through with a lovely ball and it seems the moment is here, but Madine hesitates and opts instead to turn back and play it out to Macdonald who puts a lovely ball under the cross bar. Fonz has carried on into the box and leaps with a defender who gets just enough to divert it away, before they welly it out of play for another corner.

We're having pressure without really testing the keeper. Turton bursts out from the back (I really like how Dunn has got the back 3 playing football instead of just launching it) and is haring through, but he delays passing and is caught in possession, they break on us, quickly and shoot low, past the post. I'm worried that they're looking quite competent at football.

Turton again, belligerent in the challenge wins a lost cause then slides it forward dangerously, two of player size up a shot that is blocked or hacked away and the chance is gone, until Dewsbury Hall picks it up, scuttles across the box to make an angles and then pinpoint arrows it onto the inside of the post and in.

My first impression of KDH (as all the hipsters are calling him) was 'headless chicken' - but I couldn't have been more wrong. He's a class act, energy, guile and belief in himself. He's got flair, but he knows when to do the simple thing.

They don't take it lying down though and put pressure on us. I feel sure Husband goes into a challenge with his feet dangerously high but luckily for him misses his man, then as they run through he slides from behind and again misses. Luckily for everyone Chris Maxwell makes a great stop and they drive the follow up into the advertising boards. They keep coming, a low shot, just past Maxwell's right hand post, he's then down gratefully gathering a well struck effort that swerves into him, now he's pushing one away and overall he's looking a decent keeper.

It looks for all the world as if Madine has been kicked in the head but mystifyingly the referee punishes their player for doing it by awarding an uncontested drop of the ball to them.

Half time comes and I think we've done well. They're obviously not mugs and we've got ahead and played really well at times. I think Madine looks much more effective than against Bolton and Macdonald too is having more of an impact. They have served warning though and I'm not wholly convinced that our fragile lead will hold, given how fragile our confidence must be.

We struggle to get into the game second half. Matty Virtue is assaulted on the touchline. OFF! OFF! OFF! We chant, more in the hope we can undermine them than actual rage at the handbags that has happened.

Their goal comes from Fonz trying to work his way out of a dead end with fleet footed magic and just getting nowhere. Moore then fluffs a tackle, maybe two and Husband does the same. There's a grim inevitability to their goal, a pull back with a clinical finish into the corner and they make a right old roar and I'm reminded that they're quite a big club and we've been tripe for months and the team we beat last week were terrible and I fear the worse.

It feels justified too as they press high and we struggle to make many chances. Macdonald is nearly through but he's not quite fast enough. We have a couple of moments like that, where suddenly it looks like we aren't quite good enough. We can't seem to make the ball stick up front. We look slower in possession and they look hungry, snapping at our heels. They make subs and the players who come on look better than the ones who went off. Faster. More direct. It seems a matter of time. They almost bundle one in with our keeper smothering it round the post well.

Dunn makes a substitute. He's bringing off Connor Ronan? What is he on!? Joe Nuttall for Connor Ronan? It's like swapping a Jaguar for an old Fort Cortina. This is why Dunn isn't a manager. What is he thinking? Of all the things in the world to do!

We shift shape a bit. Fonz is now moving accross the line behind the front two, finding channels of space. The Nut and the Goal Machine are up top.

It seems to work. Ipswich are still pressing and making chances but now with two physical presences up top, we seem to be able to pressure them. Nuttall harries and wins the ball, Nuttall gets into a foot race with the keeper who has come outside the box and brushes him aside, swinging the ball goalwards and gets a corner for his troubles. C'mon you miserable bastards around me! GET BEHIND HIM!

We make a decent chance. It seems like (from the other end) we head the ball into the goal at least three times but it comes to nothing.

The sky has gradually got grey and the spring blue optimism is now icy rain. Ipswich do a weird chant where one of them shouts something and the rest of the crowd respond, with what seems like a letter at a time. I can't work out what it says. It's quite good. I can't remember us ever having a slow chant.

We have a nearly stunning move where the three forwards ping the ball between them first time and almost release Nuttall. It's one of the best not quite chances on goal I've seen in ages but we don't even get a shot from it.

They are making us look tired. I'm getting frustrated with Dunn not making a sub. We're making little mistakes. Macdonald looks like he's run a marathon. 'Why have Bola on the bench if you're not going to use him?' I think. My inner Larry starts to wonder if Spearing would help.

Macdonald makes a great sliding challenge at the near post. In Dunn we trust.

Then they burst through in the final minutes, the shot is low and heading for the corner. This is it. It's pissing down and they're going to nick it..... But Maxwell somehow gets a palm down to it. This boy is damn good. He's really agile and though he looks like he might have the odd mad moment, he's kept us in this.

For some reason people are leaving. Why, why, why? Ipswich start a waggish chant of 'Is there a fire drill?' and we press forward. Feeney has it. He does his Liam Feeney stepover thing and delivers it. Obviously it sails beyond everyone and we all groan.

Except it doesn't, it's a beautiful ball for the oncoming Joe Nuttall who bullets it in at the near post twisting nicely and planting an unstoppable last minute header in.

Scenes. Again! Nuttall into the crowd who hug him and I hug my boy, then I hug the fella next to me, who hugs me back, then he hugs my boy and we all wonder at the magic of it all. Joe Nuttall, last minute. It's their turn to have a fire drill now.

There's still time for nerves. Just enough time for me to remember that we can cock this up, especially as they win a corner and bring the keeper up, which reminds me how exciting it is when the keeper comes up but we see it out and we win. We beat a proper team and Joe Nuttall scored the goal. I'll take that.

At full time, it's nice to see Madine and a few other make a fuss of big Joe. I thought he did well today. He looked hungrier, he looked more decisive. He looked like he had fun. We did too. We love you Blackpool we do. 

As we file past the club shop and the Ipswich fans walking out into the driving rain, I can't help but feel a bit for them. Only a bit, mind. They seemed to be almost pretty good. They moved it well and at points, seemed to be able to toy with us but there was something missing in their play. Probably their two decent strikers.

On another day, that game could have gone against us, but I'm really warming to this 2019/20 mk2 Blackpool. We gave everything, we kept playing, we kept our heads up and we did it. We look like a team. We aren't the best football team in the world, but for a bunch of lads many of whom came together a matter of weeks ago, and some of whom probably won't be here next year, we played our hearts out and we tried to play the right way. Dunn clearly knows what he wants and who he wants to do it and that feels like a massive step forward. He's made some big calls and so far, he's got them right.

If only we had a proper derby match to look forward to. Still, it's Sunderland and Tranmere soon. They'll be decent. Can't remember who's up next. Some tinpot club probably.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

OK will do just fine. The Mighty vs Horrible Horwich

This is it. The night we ignite. A carnival, a fiesta of football. It's fucking Bolton. Not that tinpot lot up the road or some non-entity of market town with a stupid nickname like 'the Barley boys' or 'the jolly jousters' 

It's Bolton. It's 53, Nat Lofthouse and some other things that are much less worthy of celebration. It's grim industry versus Seaside paradise. It's a grudge match and it always will be. Let's just leave it at that. 

To be honest, whatever the context, we could do with beating Bolton. Grayson lost a lot of goodwill at the Reebok when he seemed to barely toy with idea of trying to win the game at a point when we were very much 'on the up' and they were pretty weak. We could do with doing a lot better. They are still pretty weak. 

In front of me the lad says "the season's dead, not going up or down" but I'm not convinced. We could really do with these points. Just to be sure. Just as insurance. Just to soothe nerves and maybe let us play a bit. Play without fear. That's what we've craved all year. Players who slip the leash and have a go. 

It's same again on the pitch and the bench. I thought  we did ok against Wimbledon. Nothing more, but ok. I'm predicting we miss about 10 chances in a row tonight and just as the game looks lost, we score the worst goal in history. As bad a goal as Fonz's miss last week and that lifts a floodgate and we batter them like we've not battered anyone in ages. 

*And we all live happily ever after*

The players are read out. I'm worried it feels a bit hollow. It's not really feeling like a blood and thunder derby match.

There's bright start and 45 seconds of liquid football. We even win a corner. 

Reality then kicks in as nothing happens for 5 minutes. 

During this time Maxwell takes a weird goalkick to Husband. I note Taylor Moore has the squarest body in world.

Dunn is quite active. He has a habit of coming out and shouting, but he starts pointing before he's left the dugout and has finished what he had to communicate before he gets to the edge of his technical area. Still, I think he's doing ok, he's done the right thing in letting the same team try and build on the weekend. 

Then Fonz, bustles, shoves and shimmers through, into the box. Of course, he doesn't score. The resulting penalty appeal seems more in hope than anger. 

Husband, who I like at centre half, runs out from back, interchanges with  Macdonald and then the ball is worked worked across the edge of the box to Ronan. We chorus Shooooot, almost in jest, because we don't score goals like that - and he only goes and belts it in. From outside the box and everything. It curls but it seems a bit like the keeper dives round it. He's good is this lad. 

Bolton manage a few forays forward that end in ineptitude. 

Maxwell makes his choices at goal kicks like a contestant on the Crystal Maze who doesn't quite grasp the purpose of challenge. I worry that he is taking goal kicks too seriously. He really does look flustered. One time he gets visibly cross with the outfield players, another he looks like he might get stuck in an endless loop of 'short, no long, no short.' Several times he places it, steps back, then moves back to the ball and shifts it a yard right, then takes the kick. 

When did goal kicks get so complex? I don't remember Steve Mclhargy making it that complicated.  

Virtue has an absolute belting shot. It swerves, rasps and dips. I can hear it fizz from the other end of the ground. 

We have two penalty shouts. Madine bundled over then a hand ball. The ref seems to feel sorry for Bolton. He alsi doesn't book anyone for ages despite Madine being cynically tripped just outside the box and Virtue taken out with deliberate and entirely unnecessary force on the touchline. 

We play quite well. We look sort of 'coached.' The players know where each other are. We attack when we get the ball. 

Bolton are a shit, fat, slow Accrington. Let's keep things in perspective. They are rubbish. 

Dewsbury-Hall is full of energy and drive and he completes the trio of 'midfielders actually having a decent go at goal' with one that nearly drops to the onrushing Fonz in 'incident no 854 in which Nathan Delfuoenso nearly scores' before the keeper smothers in at the second attempt. 

Nothing happens for last 5 minutes aside from an excellent tackle from Husband to rob one of the surly binmen with a hangover masquerading as footballers scoring. 

I have time to reimagine Fonz's career as a filmscript. It would be about a dashing, super talented, quick witted and wily burglar who can shimmy up drainpipes, outwit Lazer beams and unlock any safe. Only after every raid he FORGETS TO ACTUALLY TAKE THE JEWELS. Or he forgets to arrange a get away car and has to put the jewels back before the police come and find him standing on the street corner. Or he orchestrates the perfect burglary….. on the wrong house and what he thinks are the jewels end up being a box of false teeth. Oh, Nathan Delfuoenso. 

I love Fonz. His day will come. He'll pull off that perfect heist at the end. Wait and see. 

It's half time. 


Second half and Bolton manage to look like a football team a bit. Not too much, but let's be fair, it doesn't take much to shake us up. 

Maxwell makes a stunning one hand stop from the ground stretching his arm up more strongly than he has any right to. It is brilliant. 

Feeney has a weird spell where he fluctuates between brilliant and hopeless. Haring through one moment, completely failing to stop a simple pass the next. 

Virtue leathers another shot that is deflected just over.

The midfield 3 pull off a lovely one touch move, that ends with Virtue playing a really delicious cross to no one at the far post. 

Fonz nearly runs through on goal for the 980th time in a Blackpool shirt. 

Dewsbury Hall is absolutely clattered and catches the free kick well but it's dead centre and into the keeper's arms. 

They start to get a bit of a foothold and nearly bundle through a couple of times. They are really bad at shooting though.  

It feels like time for sub. Surely, this is made for Spearing. It feels like an actual manager would have made a sub. It feels like Dunn is thinking *if I balls this up with wrong sub, I'll be fuming* and hoping we start to play like the first half again. It's definitely time for Spearing. 

They fashion a good chance A cross, cut back, they must score but it's  headed straight into Maxwell's arms. 

Dunn finally hears me telepathically and Ronan's last act before Spearing replaces him is to get on the end of direct break with Feeney belting through, sliding it to him but the little wizard leans back as he stretches to reach it and it flies into the north stand. 

With Spearing on we settle after a few minutes

Feeney's low cross has Gary Madine sliding in and… he hooks it off the line. The ball is further away from goal than when he started after it. I don't know about Madine. He's more aesthetically pleasing to the unimaginative mind than Super Gnando and he certainly know how to play up front and have people play around him but he doesn't actually *do* that much tonight. Like a lot of our team. I suppose he needs a bit of confidence. 

We put pressure on, the crowd are baying us on for the killer goal. We string 3 attacks together…

… then there's a bomb. Or a firework. It didn't help that 5 minutes before the big screen was showing the 'run, hide, tell' message. The stewards mill about a bit and no one appears to be dead so we carry on. The atmosphere is cracking. Life is good. 

Then the fucking jammy scummy bastards score a goal. It's one of those crap goals where they just score. It defies description. It just 'goes in' They attacked and scored. Why do you even want to know about it anyway? Football is a shit game and we're absolutely shite and we've got no backbone and I'm sick of this shitty non entity of a season. Dunn can fuck off as can all of the players. 

But wait. We can do this. We're the MIGHTY!... 

We attack again. We get a corner. I think Feeney takes it. I think it might be flicked on, maybe by them, maybe by us. Who cares. Watch the video… but I do remember it drops to the tireless Dewsbury-Hall who pick his spot and smashes it home. 

It's mayhem. I shout for about 20 seconds. Block a and b spill forward and the players run into them. I can hear Chisnall squawking about 'idiots on the pitch' in my head but who cares? This is magic. The players look elated. As the spill recedes Macdonald (I think) clenches his fists in salute. 

This is why VAR is shit. It's awful. It's an invention of dementors and literal minded jobsworths who make parking officers seem like angels and who should be banned from every football ground in the country. That moment. Just imagine if we had to wait for it to be 'verified' by someone in a booth somewhere in a soulless industrial estate. That's NOT football. 

That elation is football. We were playing Bolton. We deserved to win. We fucked it up and then we we snatched it back at the death. And we went mental. Because we haven't done that for what feels like forever.

Cos life is that crap sometimes that to leap around and scream feels like the best thing ever. That's football. 

I don't care that we made hard work of beating a really poor side. We gave it a go, we took some risks, we showed some spirit, we attacked, we looked like we cared and we won. 

Husband was excellent. Turton is a different player at right back. I like the way Moore is able to step out comfortably from the back. It's odd to see that Macdonald looks the perfectly competent player we thought he was, when he's spent so long not playing. The young lads in midfield might have the odd mistake in them but they add so much purpose. If we'd had Super Gnando Football Genius playing we'd have won by 3 or 4. 

We did ok. After the run we've had, ok feels like magic. 


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Valentine's week breakup - Goodbye Larry x

So, this is the end. 

It's more of a half hearted wave than a tearful goodbye. Too much has happened. We grew apart and you broke our hearts. 

You tried again, but whether we couldn't get over what happened last time, or whether you were just with us to be with someone, it just didn't work out. 

We tried too. For a few moments, it sparkled and shone as if yesterday was alive and here. We sang your name and we tried to believe but all too often it was sullen and just, I don't know, not quite right. 

I'm quite sad to be honest, that in the end, we didn't make it work. That's because I'm getting old and I wanted to live in the past. I wanted it to be 16 years ago and everything newer and clearer. I wanted to be less jaded and less tired, less trapped, less cynical. I wanted you to take me back there. Right back before the perfect ten and everything that followed. 

Instead, you reminded me of the ravages of time. A mirror to my own aging. A reflection of how we all lose touch with what is new and now. You reminded me of the impossibility of living twice, the difficulty of returning to a dream once awoken, how you can't make a flame from what has already burned up. 

I want to remember the good. You played for us. A lot. You put in graft and grit and you weren't bad. You were a decent player with a decent pedigree and you did more than just claim a pay packet. You put a shift in, often in a dreadful, directionless team.

You won the dubious honour of managing us and gave us the Keigan Parker goal at Wembley. You gave us Wes and Andy Morrell. The 6-3 game and those years scrapping in the league we hadn't been in for 30 years. 

You took us and made us into something more than a lot of us had ever known. 

Let's try and forget that you left us for for your true love. Let's forget that you went to *them* and most of all, let's pretend that this season finished after Matty Virtue's scorcher at Sunderland when it seemed that you'd found your mojo again and we'd got a swagger and Simon Sadler who knew what we were after and we were going up. Just at that moment, it felt like we could *trust* again. 

But it fell apart and there was just too much water under the bridge. Maybe we were a bit harsh but after what's gone before, we needed more. We needed to be loved. Not just to feel like you were going through the motions. It never used to feel like that. You used to say the same words but somehow, it felt like you meant them, whilst this time, it just felt empty. 

Once it felt like there was method in your madness but now just madness (or apathy) in your method. We couldn't understand you and you didn't seem interested in explaining to us. 

Here's how I used to feel. Here's what I wrote about you once. I meant every single word and I dearly wanted to feel this way again. (this is something I wrote on a football forum after we beat Scunthorpe 4-1 way before Uncle Val or Wembley or any of the success you started)

"Last night,some of the pride and love for my team came back, it was like Hendry had never been there. Simon has brought in 8 players and shipped out some of the deadwood. 8 players! What's more impressive is half of them are permanent signings and a few more are season long deals.

We have gone in the space of two month from a dire side, with no imagination and entertainment to a side that possesses player who can pass, players who can score and players who you can warm to. We have looked like actually deserving results for the first time since 2004. The players we all know are good we already had are playing for Grayson. We pass the ball on the floor, use wingers and actually have more than one attack a game!

We will struggle still I think, we won't have a meteoric rise or anything, but I for one feel so much more positive about things and though I recognise very few posters actually give a toss about the affairs of the seasiders, those people who say things like 'it's been grim being a *insert name of team in champions league* fan, really should get the 'Hendry Years' DVD and imagine watching that week in, week out, then watch a few of our Grayson performances and you will understand why I make this declaration of delight.

A win under Hendry generally involved getting a goal, then hanging on for grim life or hoping the other team were so off form they couldn't score. Last night we deserved more than 4 and several draws so far really should have been wins. Under Hendry, Bloomfield was depressing, now there is an air of expectancy and hope I had forgotten existed. I had forgotten it was possible to enjoy the game"

Let's just ignore it all and agree to remember the good times and perhaps, it would be better for all concerned if we just agreed not to see each other for a good while. If not forever. In fact let's forget about each other and just move on. It hurts to much to see someone you loved turn into something else. 

A new start. Attack, attack, attack, attack, attack. 


Thursday, February 6, 2020

The spiritual argument against VAR

How was your week reader? 

Was it an awful crushing weight that threatened to smash the beetle like carapace of social nicety that you constructed in order to negotiate the agony of interacting with the awful creatures around you? The ones whose ugliness and painfulness derives from the fact they are mirrors to your own pathetic self?

Was it sheer terror and fumbling from moment to moment, blindly negotiating a world whose rules you don't recognise? 

Was it an agony of superhuman effort, to force yourself through a series of tasks you didn't want to do that you didn't understand the reasons for?

Image courtesy of Granada TV (1973)

Was it a textbook, cast iron, 100%, stone cold definition of what Karl Marx (from off of 'Marx and Engels', ITV's short lived attempt to create a more political version of Cannon and Ball) called 'alienation?' 

If not, you lucky fucker. 

If yes. Join the club. Here's our membership pack: The world is full of cunts who want a piece of you and who have the protocol, the paperwork and procedures on their side. Get with it. It's post Thatcherite chic. We all look haggard and our only dream is to ascend to to an ironic heaven, where we dress like our parents and shuffle awkwardly betraying no outward emotions whilst tweeting about the tyranny of other people's unspoken judgement. 

In short. We should probably just press the button, drop the bomb and have it done with. You and I are verminous swine that have polluted the world with our greed and now sit, without hope or meaning, going through empty motions without a story to believe or a purpose to follow. 

Woe is me, you and all in between. 

That is where football comes in. Football. Beautiful, pointless, stupid football. 

The rhythm and the flow of a game. Hypnotic. The crowd. United in one desire. Pitted against one another. Tribal, warring, like some remnant from an era gone by. 

Stupid, simple football. Lumpen and lumbering, delicate and graceful. Divine and earthly. 

It is not of the everyday. It is not the world of targets and pitiful mediocre ambitions. Not the real world of childhood dreams shrunken to pathetic career aims. It is a glorious and absurd place of hope, of magic and worship. Blind to reason and immune to sense. Long live football.

Football is Len Shackleton, football is that moment in the pub when for a minute Wayne Rooney was Pele and England were going to win something, It's snarling Terry Hurlock dragging Millwall to the top flight, it's the deft touch of Roger Milla and the hip swivel at the corner flag sending a continent insane. It's Brett Ormerod, charging, chasing harrying and scoring, in every division. It's the Trent End tearfully serenading a tired and worn out Brian Clough, not giving a fuck they've been relegated because that's just the paperwork and this moment is bigger. Far bigger. 

Football is the moment of transcendent bliss or hollow pain when you or they score. It's the weightless feeling when it's you. That feeling. 

All goals are equal, scruffy miss hits, piledrivers, half volleys, diving headers, 15 pass moves of total footballing bliss or route one flick ons and tap ins. It's like coming up slow or fast, it's like raw bare driving rhythm or psychedelic patterns weaving through your mind. It doesn't matter which. It gets you where you want to be.

It's Tuesday night. Liverpool (boooooooo) are sullenly and sulkily going through the motions of playing Shrewsbury (hurray!) 

I don't really care about this game, but I've been ill, tired, overworked, I don't even know what I want in my own head and am struggling to find much joy in the February cold. I need a place to hide. That place is the radio and a game of football. 

Only a soulless corpse of a Nazi could possibly not want Shrewsbury to win. 

It's not going the way I want, I should know by now, that the more I want Liverpool to fall on their faces, the more likely they are to fly. Fly they do, with commentators purring, gushing, fawning, sounding like breathy teenage girls describing a boy band... 

"They're so talented" "wow, look at that skill" "these boys are giving us a real treat tonight" 

The Anfield crowd are soaking it up, going through their 'legendary' song book at half pace and applauding rabonas and one-twos. It's a lesson in the art of coaching and funding, a triumph of resources over desire. 

Shrewsbury are barely mentioned. 

I'm unhappy at this, but Liverpool don't score and it's half time and maybe, just maybe, the Shrews will find some fight. 

I've seen them this year. They're fast, direct and organised. They've got spirit and a plan. They don't have the skill and technique of Liverpool's kids but they have battleworn players. They have rejects with a point to prove. They have 7000 fans for whom this is more than a novelty day out, for whom this is the best chance to believe in years. 

I'm not really listening to the second half, probably thinking about tomorrow's grey duties, then the pitch of the commentary changes. It's suddenly purposeful, alert, a cross into the box and A GOAL!!!!!!!!! 

They did it! They fucking did it! They forced the self-regarding Scousers arrogant indifference back down their throats. They gave all of us one tiny crumb to flick at their indifferent superior faces. They might be champions of the universe but they couldn't fucking beat Shrewsbury. 

I'm almost motionless externally. I'm slumped on the couch, but inside I'm screaming. In my mind's eye there's flailing limbs and primal screams, there's lads running down to the front and scarves twirling round, there people on seats and all the noise is turning into a song and the whole stand is joining in, there's stars in front of people's eyes from the sheer exhilaration of screaming so loud for so long. 

The release of it all. The release of everything that ties you down, the release of all the hope against hope, that just for this moment, you could be in that crowd and feel this good, this free, this light and this much a part of something beyond yourself. 

This is ecstasy. This is pure. This is all you need to keep going. All you need to stay on the right side of sane.

Then there's a hush and the spectre of V.A.R is evoked. Silence as the seconds tick by and the replays whirl and god knows who is thinking god knows what... then... Anfield offers a half hearted cheer of derision and relief.

It's not a goal. They are safe from the one bit of mockery that might come there way and the delirious moment before lies punctured on the ground. The Shrewsbury fans must feel like a child who had their ice cream pushed from their grasp by an invisible hand and was then forced to watch it melt before them. They had the one thing they wanted and it was taken from them. Something beautiful smashed before their eyes by an unseen force. 

I'm deflated. I know know that it's over. The Liverpool kids will win and they do. 

It's the first time I've had anything approaching emotion about a VAR decision. I don't have any particular feelings towards Shrewsbury but tonight I wanted them to win. Not that much, but enough, enough to vicariously share a tiny bit of their moment. Like an ex smoker standing downwind, getting a trace element of the drug I crave. 

I think - I'm not sure I could stand that happening to the Mighty at a ground I was at. 

I think - when did football decide to rob itself of the very thing that makes it what it is? Football without the instant ecstasy of the goal, is like alcohol free beer or like an F1 car with a lawnmower engine. 

I think - how will we celebrate goals in 5 years? Polite applause and a cheer when the computer finishes declaring it legal? 

I think - what will happen to those moments where the players lose it, and the crowd rush the front and everyone just gives in to a madness? I think, how it's still, despite all the ways in which the games, the grounds, the occasion is sanitised and corporate sponsored, it's still beautiful and a little bit frightening and just about perfect. 

Most of all, I think - how has football become at the mercy of the kind of dark minded, literal, dullard, pedants who pedal this perversion? People who cannot see that to rob us of that moment is to rob us of everything and that some things are simply measurable and that some things are just about the human spirit and the moment you are in. 

There is no argument. The only defenders of VAR are:

- Mindless drones who truly believe that 'fairness' can be achieved by measuring data and drawing lines rather than upheaval and destruction of a status quo that that rewards the elite and keeps down the oiks. 

- Brain-dead armchair scumfuck wankers who tell you that 'it's a big money business now' as if you hadn't fucking noticed and think that it's fine to rob you of the one thing you actually enjoy in an average week in order to ensure they get a bit of extra value for money out of their Sky TV subscription. 

- Pundits no one needs telling you blindingly obvious things you already knew who are delighted to have something else to pad out 20 minutes of cheap, shite, pseudo stylish TV before cutting to a montage. 

- Loathesome deviant and spiritually empty cretins who parrot opinions forged by morons who wouldn't understand the word 'joy' if you tattooed on their eyeballs whilst screeching 'it's a fucking shit dark world, cling to the things that give you a moment's pleasure and understand that whilst the rational power of logic and the human mind is in itself awe inspiring, it is the unknown and the unexpected that really moves the soul and that to apply some kind of pseudo science to football in an attempt to tame it is to misunderstand the very essence of what it is!' 

I fucking hate it. Purge it now. 

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Cheers Tilty!

Image result for curtis tilt"

So, it’s goodbye to a load of players and hello to a load more. It’s hard to shed many tears about most of them going, seen as we’ve either never seen them play, or when we did, they were pretty average. I think Callum Guy will do well at Carlisle but whilst he’s liked for trying and ‘having a go’ I can’t think of many games where he’s really put in a definitive midfield performance. Michael Nottingham is the living definition of the phrase ‘a squad player’ - I honestly don’t have any thoughts about the rest.

The one notable departure is Curtis Tilt. I for one will miss him. 

When we ‘came home’ - for people like me, who'd given up altogether, it was like going to a party with a load of strangers and one mate (Fonz.) A potentially awkward affair. - Tilt was like the lad who you instantly took a shine too, who checked you had a beer and had a bit of a natter and made you feel welcome.

In other words, there wasn’t a whole lot to latch onto on the pitch. The team was wholehearted for sure, but skill and quality a bit lacking. I’ve nothing against Nick Anderton but it’s hard to really imagine him as a ‘hero’ (which is probably a bit unfair, giving he’s a grafter.) Ollie Turton is very competent but whole games go by without me really accepting he exists. Chris Long might have been quick, but watching him run after the ball and nearly get it, but not quite wasn’t going to set my heart on fire. Was this team really 'mine?'

That’s where Tilt came in.

He wasn’t a thoroughbred but there was a charm in seeing him go from his relaxed, slightly awkward looking gallop to putting on the afterburners and gliding across the pitch at a superhuman speed. He reminded me of a computer game sprite going from normal, to turbo mode. 

We might choose to remember a few recent mistakes, but I think there were countless occasions when he appeared from nowhere, dived into a tackle and came out with the ball, leaving the opposition crumpled and digging us out of a hole or putting us on the front foot. He could be imperious, dominant and when he headed it, it stayed headed.

He wasn’t an anonymous graduate of some academy, playing football according to a theory he'd had drilled into him. Tilt had got to us the hard way, via Birmingham non league and via (as his twitter account illustrated at new year) manual labour on the way.

View image on Twitter
(left) not the sports science department of a billionaire funded Premier League academy

It showed (in the best possible way) in the style of his game. He still played like a lad on the park, like a lad in his school team, like a lad in Sunday football. Galloping forward from centre half, arms going ten to the dozen, eyes blazing with intent. Yes, once, or twice, it put us in trouble, but sometimes it came off. He had that manic intent that wasn't trained out of him, to take the game and grab it, shake it and change it.

He wanted to score, Tilt going up for a corner wasn’t just a training ground exercise, it was an expression of desire. You could see he wanted the roar, the scream of ecstasy, to clench his fists to the crowd and drink in the moment. It was a delight to see him move in the box, twist, jump and stretch every muscle to reach the ball. The lad tried so much when he was on it that it looked like his desire might burst out his skin.

Yes, there was a patch where it seemed like his head had gone. Why? I don’t know. It could have been a loss of form. He was that good when he was good, we forgot quickly that he was only in his third season of League football. It could have been having his head turned, it could have been living in the hotel, it could have been just about anything. I don’t know. I don’t know Tilt the man and can pass no judgement on his character or psychology, but I liked Tilt the footballer.

Image result for curtis tilt fifa 20"
More than computer code

He had the odd strop and I don’t mind that. It shows feeling, it shows that the lad is more than a FIFA 2020 animation and is actually a living breathing soul. He’s not an over coached, media trained drone. Sometimes he got upset. Like you, like me. I don't have any insight into the training ground, the contract negotiations, his agent or anything else. All l and 99% of other fans can do is guess what is going on behind closed doors and watch what happens on the pitch.

He led from the back, he brought a bit of soul to a team that needed it. He scored the overhead kick that helped us remember how much we love the Pool.

It also has to be said, though he had one patch, where I think Grayson almost had no choice but to let another centre half have a go, when he was recalled, he was decent. It would be wrong to dismiss him as a sulker as the evidence of his recent starts (from Sunderland onward) showed commitment, fight and quality.

Here’s one final memory of Tiilt that will sum him up for me. I think it was from the Rotherham home game (but it could have been from any of our home defeats) - we were playing poorly, being bullied by them. Our display could best be described as ‘insipid.’ One of their players picks up the ball on their right and make for a run. Tilt strolls out to meet him, he turns inside and shields the ball. Something in Tilt’s head says ‘I’ve had enough’ and he shoulder charges him with a superhuman strength. The lad bounces off him, like Tilt is covered in rubber and hits the advertising hoarding with a thump and Tiltinho ((c) Terry Mac 2019) has it, looking up, coming through the challenge with a cool head, as if he's just flicked the lad out the way like a Subbuteo piece. We’re on the front foot again. I shout ‘Good lad Tilty’ and the ground claps encouragement and roars in that desperate way it does when the game is shit, but someone has finally done something half decent.

We lose anyway, but for that moment, Tilt was way above anyone on the pitch and an inspiration. He wasn’t perfect, but who is? He gave us someone to cheer and he mostly, he played like he was living a dream he didn’t think he would get to have. What’s not to appreciate about that? 

Good luck Curtis.


Follow on Twitter!

Get MCLF in your inbox!

Subscribe with a feedreader!

Buy the book (proceeds to Blackpool Foodback)

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 ...