Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Saturday: 3pm: Nothing


Tangerine soap
Wash ye hands!
I shouldn't feel so empty. It's only a game. It's just a distraction from life after all. There's more important things in life. At now, of all times, I shouldn't be thinking of such petty things.

'Think of all the books you can read'
'Think of all the great films you can catch up on' 
'Think of the skills you could teach yourself, the projects you could get done!' 
'It's not like you had anything to play for' 
'It's not like it really matters anyway!' 

I still do feel empty. There's nothing like it. You know things are at a low ebb, when as a 40 yr old man, the highlight of your week is a video of Armand Ganduillet washing his hands.

What I wouldn't give to park up, walk down Bloomfield Rd, avoiding dog shit and litter, passing the Brewhouse and the Aldi, taking my part in the slightly suicidal charge across the 2 crossroads, a single soul in a crowd, emboldened by the numbers coming together, stopping the traffic as we cross feeling like a tiny silent demonstration of collective force. We are Blackpool. This is our moment. I want to observe the away fans milling outside, the police horses shimmying on the spot, sidestepping, checking my pockets for the tickets, passing one to the boy and praying he doesn't let go of it in the wind, pushing through the turnstiles, drinking a pint of crap beer and then taking my seat.

I want to sit amongst moaning and muttering and to watch what unfolds. I want to forget, captivated by the chaos, enraptured by the moments when things open up, when a pass, a turn, a tackle turns the game for a moment. When space opens up or possession is won.

I want to watch each little battle, each building move. The headers fought for, the decisions made whether to run or give.

I miss the body language. I miss Fonz, so lithe and graceful yet so pained when he makes the wrong choice, his body jolted by the lightning of self critique. Feeney, head down, trudging to take a corner, coming alive with a barrel chested run, head up, glancing to the far post. Maxwell, a coiled spring, always pacing, clapping, stretching. Jay Spearing, pointing, talking, running like a clockwork terrier. James Husband, sometimes not quite in the right place he should be, but bursting blood vessels to get to it. Matty Virtue, in the right place and making the right choice, but half a yard too slow to be the player his brain could let him be. Big Armand, strolling like he's still got his airpods in, cool as fuck, mystifying and enigmatic, ignoring the ball, till it suits him.

I've forgotten their short comings. I've forgotten the passes going astray, the moments of disorganisation where everyone looks at each other and some ugly centre half just walks by and nods it home. I've forgotten that we played sideways and long for about half the season. Now all the flawed and frankly uninspiring squad fillers we've seen are as exotic as the most vaunted of superstars to me. What I wouldn't give to see Ollie Turton or to hear that Super Joe is coming on.

I really miss it. I really do.

I miss the frustration of a scoreless match as much as the elation of a goal. I miss filing out grumpy and unsatisfied or elated and energised.

I miss the radio burbling with stories from all over of wins, losses and turgid draws. The guy in front of me on a betting app as we shuffle down the steps, telling his mate 'fucking hell, Utd are 2 down now!' I mis the grim consolation that at least Preston lost as well. I miss the car on the way home, warm after the cold of the stands and some manager on the radio with either triumph or disaster tainting their voice as they claim credit or pass blame. Cliche's bring comfort. I yearn for descriptions of games elsewhere drawing pictures in my mind of flick ons, pile drivers, diving saves and diving headers or diving cheats and outraged fans.

I even sort of miss VAR, stories of the crowd's  bewilderment, leave me imagining the hollow sound of confusion from Villa Part or Vicarage Road as a goal is chalked off or awarded.

Even that is better than nothing. It might be an insult to football and everything it should be, but at least it's part of a match. At least it's something.

I keep thinking it's summer for a second and summer is OK.

In summer I can put on the radio and Jimmy will be taking a five-fer. I can imagine the the canny spinner bedevilling the hapless batsman with brains and guile, or the brutal bullying of the pace bowler. I can share the joy of a field change that takes a wicket or a beautifully set up inswinger that nails the off stump and leaves the batsman groping. I can be mesmerised by the slow accumulation of runs of the out of form opener, who saves his career or thrilled by the middle order player hitting out.

I can hear the chatter and hum of people absorbed and occupied in what is happening now and what is yet to come.

It's ok in summer. It's what is natural. As May turns, the football pitches harden and colours turn to whites.

It isn't May though. There's been no 'Abide with Me'

I miss being part of something. Just a tiny dot in something much bigger. My world feels so small.

Saturday, 3pm. We'll be back.

UTMP







Saturday, March 14, 2020

Eerie Silence: The Mighty vs Sunderland

Thursday: 

I'm looking forward to this one. I really enjoyed the atmosphere the Tranmere fans brought and our second half performance in the last game. Sunderland are still in the mix and they'll bring the biggest away following of the year so it should be a cracking atmosphere. The away game was the point after which everything seemed to go wrong and it seems a lot more than 3 months ago.

Image result for roy evans
Dear Neil. Please don't be Roy. Thanks.

It'll be interesting to see if Neil 'I hope he doesn't turn out to be Roy Evans' Critchley will go for a more pragmatic approach or will favour 'we'll score one more than you' - I hope for the latter but the fact we don't score very often might be our undoing. Still, it's probably in our interests to create a defined style and play to it and then recruit to suit that, given as there's not much to play for.

Friday: 

I'm starting to get slight second thoughts about the game but I'm reassured by my mate's confidence in the fact that 'it's outside, so you'll be ok' and I weight it up against the crime of 'going to the pub' or 'going to work' and I think it'll probably be ok. Won't it? The fact it might be the last game for a while has a lot of sway. It'll be fine. I'll just not breathe.

Friday part 2: 

The game is off. It's a weird day. It's like what we've all been pretending isn't going to happen is happening.

Saturday: 

The radio is full of confusion as people try to work out what will happen to football and how we can ensure the league is completed or at least prizes and punishments divied up fairly. I'm all for coin tossing. If it's good enough for a world cup it should be good enough for the humble Football League.

I can't bring myself to feel *actually sorry* for Liverpool. Martin from Slough is probably calling in to TalkSport right now to explain how he's watched all the games he can on Sky and even once rearranged a badminton match so he could follow his 'beloved' side. In my heart of hearts though, I reckon it must be a bit shit to spend a lot of money, following them home and away and then to get nothing.

I'm surprised no one suggests a few days of five a side matches to sort it out. Or 40 minute matches, like when the Football league managed an entire 16 team tournament in 2 days.

Image result for mercantile centenary trophy wembley
The Mercantile Credit Trophy 1988-89
It's depressing to hear all the talk of legal challenges. It's a no win situation. Stop it now and the teams who go up or down haven't really earned the right. Void the league and everyone doing well is left with a sense of deep unfairness. Force the games to be played in the middle of what could be an unprecedented modern health crisis and you have to wonder about the priorities of the people in charge of the league. Insist on finishing it after the crisis and given the experiences of countries further down this grim curve, you'd wonder how long we can wait to sort it all out. We've been going since 1888 and I don't know of an instance of overlapping one season into the next.

We're implored to think of the impact - It's a business and all that. I'm not especially aware of the circumstance around 1914-15 or 1939-40 but I can't imagine many legal challenges were launched then.

We're warned by sage expert pundits about 'of course, the clubs will look to protect their interests' and by that, we know that means everyone wanting to grab the prize money that is due or protect themselves from losses in revenue by preventing relegation.

This is what happens when a sport becomes a business. It's always had money in it. From almost the very beginning but never has the winning and losing mattered so much in financial terms. It was never about making money like this. It certainly isn't Corinthian. Today's non visitors provide a lesson in the history of money in the game. What can be said for sure - their wild spending in the 1950s wasn't in the hope of securing 'broader revenue streams' and ensuring 'a next level financial portfolio' - It was the pursuit of glory and nothing more.

That's where the game has changed within my lifetime. Glory alone is not enough.

It's perhaps worth reflecting on where we began with all this. St Domingos church football club became Everton. Newton Heath Railway workers became Manchester United, Blackpool FC were formed in a pub. By some blokes.

It's hard to imagine some blokes in the pub, some Scouse church goers or a bunch of lads from the railway depot thinking of legal action as the first resort to a Victorian public health crisis.

The debate over the next few weeks and months will be endless. Fairness will be cited time and time again as if football is fair.

As if the teams at the top haven't colluded to break down a system that ensured money coming into the game was distributed fairly. As if those teams didn't force a break away that screwed over everyone else. As if those teams didn't create a self perpetuating system of champions league prize money that kept them at the top and guaranteed qualification the next. As if they aren't financed to the hilt by global corporations whilst the rest of us deal with local butchers shops and taxi firms.

I think, as I listen to some ex pro talking about the 'integrity of the league,' of the story of the Scottish footballers employed in non jobs in mills to get around the rules against professionalism, being paid just to sit in the office whilst people were getting their fingers lopped off and arms mangled by machinery for a fifth of their wage. I think about the way the beauty of everyone kicking off at the same time on a Saturday or Tuesday has gone out the window on the alter of TV money and how it seems next year there's plans for yet another pointless European league to add yet more games that no one but sponsors and telly want.

I marvel at how much time they spend on this conundrum without one of them going a bit mad and telling the rest to shut the fuck up.

I think about how football was conceived as a game primarily to entertain the players. How it grew into a national obsession on the basis of being the best game in the world to both play and watch. How it is still, at its heart that same game but how it's weighed down by legalise and business.

I marvel sometimes at how fans seem as enthused and passionate about the commercial activities of the club as what happens in the actual game.

I think about lengthy threads I've read online dissecting marketing and commercial operations of various clubs, of the fascination with contracts, wages and the clubs 'standing' in the media or twittersphere. I think of something I heard about how Manchester United fans are ashamed of how Old Trafford isn't as plush as some of their new money rivals. I wonder what they'd make of the old Bloomfield Road or, for that matter, of just about any of the pre Taylor report grounds.

I wonder when football became a destination, an experience, a consumer choice on par with a hotel chain or an expensive restaurant and not just a place you went to watch the football.

I decide I can't think of this any more. There's no football and none of this is football.

- Give Liverpool an engraved clock for a good effort. At least they can keep it.
- Acknowledge that Blackpool's 1939 100% record is better.
- Sort out how to keep clubs alive...
- Switch off the radio and wait for something to actually happen.

Recognise that football is meaningless and unfair and ultimately pointless. Know that we'll all burn up in the dying sun anyway in the long term. No one will care about the unfinished season then.

It's ghostly quiet. It's like summer but without cricket.

At least we've got panic buying to talk about.

Strange times.

UTMP


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The wrong hat: the Mighty vs Tranmere


A miserable day has become the perfect night for football. The M55 was blanketed by a thick layer of darkness, with the light over the coast in the distance. I drive fast and full of anticipation for whilst I'm heading into the failing light of dusk, this is a new dawn for the Mighty.

Neil Critchley (I don't hold with this overfamiliarity of 'Critch' - we barely know the guy, show some respect!) had an ideal game to showcase his style. Whilst Fleetwood aren't exactly Ajax (and certainly aren't derby rivals) they do play the game to feet and we'd already played them off the park this year.

Tonight we face one of the tougher sides. Technically inferior but more likely to get behind the ball and be difficult to beat. Simon Grayson mk2 had a tendancy to match this tactic with the cunning plan of doing something similar to them and our results against technically lesser sides were poor. We looked like a team running at a modern steel plated, kevlar enhanced, nuclear bomb proof security door with a wooden medieval battering ram at times.

Will Neil Critchley have inspired us to pick locks, hack circuits, show guile, stealth and initiative? I don't know for sure but I'm looking forward to finding out. Huge credit should go to David 'Dunny' Dunn for his work because it doesn't feel unfeasible that we could be really good tonight. Going from Larry to Neil in one leap might have been a jolt but the first half at Fleetwood showed the players were open to what Critchley preaches and I think that is testament to the work done under Dunn.

The dark draws out the luminescent and the temperature is relatively mild. The Greggs on the crossroads near Marton Institute is looking like the most fabulous piece of architecture I can imagine - I’ve driven past this countless times and never noticed it looking so white and ornate before. Let's see what the new era brings.



Tranmere are loud, their singing backed by not one, but two drummers. Like a prog rock band with ideas above their station. One of the drummers looks very young. Hoggy's drum is deeper in comparison. A bass note to their tiny toy drum.

We come out in white jackets. For no apparent reason.

Joe Nuttall is playing. I resist the temptation to say 'for no apparent reason' for this is the new era, where Joe Nuttall will be fed by liquid football and score freely.

We start well. We always do. Nuttall has a clever flick to Fonz, which results a near post cross which Nuttall is close to bundling in. As the ball escapes we see Callum Macdonald exemplifying the high press (which is what people who watch football on Sky call ‘getting stuck in’) and winning the ball on the touchline. This is what it's going to be like from now on. Edge of the seat football player in their half. We were promised and it shall be delivered.

Nuttal bundles through and shows strength. He doesn't look like scoring but its commitment and as his shot lollipops as harmlessly as a balloon would float to the keeper he gets a round of applause. New era. Clean slate. Super Joe.



Then, somewhat out of sync with the script, Tranny counter and have a low shot not far past the far post. It's ok, cos our drummer is doing that gunfire bass thing he does when we do that UB40 chant. 'do do do, do-do-do doo' - that one, you all know it, and when Hoggy does the quick rapidfire beat on the drum while the chant goes on over it it's one of my favourite things ever and has been for years.

They have pressure, which leads to a horrible ping pong sequence in the box, it's going every and anywhere but we finally wrestle it away and there's a beautiful ball from (I think) Ronan to Feeney, the length of the pitch, slicing them to ribbons. Starman squares it to KDH who for once doesn't do something outstanding. From one end to the other in seconds. I'd forgotten football could be like that.

There’s already sense of something a bit more breathless in the air. This could be a love affair, not a grudging sense of going through the motions. I notice Neil Critchley is wearing trainers. I like my managers to wear boots or shoes. One of the two. Trainers seems a weird hinterland between ‘footballer’ and ‘boss.’ I’ll forgive him that. It’s a new dawn.

Tranny win a free kick. A hitherto unseen coach runs out and makes gesture a gesture which to me conveys a hotwheels toy car doing loop on a plastic track. Whatever it means, he does it twice, very urgently and from the free kick Maxwell punches, unconvincingly. He does like punching the ball. It drops for them and I think they've scored but they haven’t.

Then Fonz leaps like a salmon and hits the bar. Which for our Nathan is essentially a goal. It's the beginning of a hectic few minutes as he's scythed down after turning and skinning two of them for pace. If that wasn’t enough, shortly after, at the end of a long move he curls one into the arms of the keeper from 20+ yards. He probably needs a little lie down after all that excitement. Which is what our entire side does for the next 15 minutes.

There’s a grotty period where they seem on top. Feeney having a shot that is alway going wide is our sole highlight..

They score, a cross from right. Ferrier muscles past his man and plants it in the corner. They maybe deserve it. Put it this way, we’ve played better football, but they’ve had a spell where they’ve stopped us and looked a bit dangerous.

From the restart we summon a lovely move where we remember to not over complicate it and just make the obvious pass. It feels a bit like they are trying slightly too hard to play great football at times, but this move is slick and instinctive and ends with James Husband nutmegging his way into into box and winning a corner which comes to nothing.

I think they are already time wasting and it’s still the first half.

Then Virtue, slips, is pulled or just drops a pass short (for the second time in the half) and they have a second goal which hits the post and bulges the net. James Vaughan scores it who is about 45 by now surely but as much as him and Ferrier are a handful, they certainly don't deserve to be 2 up.

Half time: I think what this reminds me of more than anything is what it was like under Macmahon. We’d try to play the right way, and just crumple sometimes. We could be electric but we could also just let goals in. Whether I’m just seeing ‘Liverpool connections’ that aren’t there or not, Critchley has had a nasty introduction to playing nasty league one teams. How will he respond?

---

The second half starts early with a huddle. There are changes. The changes mean business. Jay ‘he played in the champions league y’know’ Spearing is on to replace Matty ‘He was Liverpool u23 captain y’know’ Virtue. Critchley has shown a tough side taking off a player many think is his natural favourite. Joe Nuttall who hasn’t done a lot since the opening few minutes is replaced by the greatest player in the world, Armand Gnanduillet.

They keep us waiting. Our players, bounce and jog and look hungry.

We press and probe and try angles until a ball forward to Gnando who shows awareness to lay it off well and there’s a simply perfect hit from KDH (as the young people call him) which swerves and sends us into raptures.

Almost straight away Connor Ronan from further out and at a more acute angle tries one that is either tipped wide or hits the post or both.

KDH and then Armand gee up the crowd who respond. We are finally outsinging Tranmere who have been brilliant. They’re a lesson in how to support a team. Constant noise, everyone singing. The whole ground is up, all sides.



This feels electric.

We have wave after wave after wave of attacks, we play lovely stuff at times but don’t quite make the nailed on chance we need. Callum Macdonald stretching at the far post, Feeney half volleying one that is switched to him into a desperate defender. We win corners, we play a one touch move that I could relive for ever that just falters at the last.

We are so much better than them, that they have to resort to blatant fouls. Feeney in particular is blocked and pushed shamelessly and we win dangerous free kicks and more corners.

The ref is making no sense. He books Macdonald for kicking the ball back to their player so they can get a move on, then ignores a blatent dive from Vaughan that he signalled himself. Gnandulliet is literally being sat on at one point but is penalised, presumably for getting in between the Tranmere player and the grass, which is a new rule the ref made up tonight just for the kicks.

We keep coming. Husband cracks a low drive which is well saved, we try to find Heneghan or Armand at the far post to no avail. They offer nothing until about the 86th minute, other than slowing the game down and pretending to be more injured than they are. I don’t blame them, but I do wish the ref would get a grip.

I don’t really understand why Grant Ward comes on for Fonz but we’re running out of legs and strikers so why not.




We keep coming. 5 minutes of injury time doesn’t seem enough. It feels like Tranmere have wasted at least 10. We win more corners. We shout ‘shooooot’ then ‘fuck’s sake’ as players shoot over the top. We never quite force that chance and the game ends as cross to Super Gnands football genius isn’t quite in his zone. He looks leggy. Well, to be fair, he always looks ‘leggy’ - that’s his whole style, but he looks like he’s not fit by the end.

It hurts. I feel absolutely gutted. We turned up, we really, really had a go and it wasn’t enough. Football is like that. You can be the best team and lose. You can have more quality than them, but lack the quality to win the game. It’s a funny old game. Someone should make a catchphrase out of that.

Tranmere celebrate like mad. I hope they stay up. They were by a mile the best away fans this year.

I bemoan the outcome with Lee and then, on the way out something on twitter about puddings makes me realise it’s actually my fault we lost. As I left home tonight I was in a rush. I don’t know where my actual Blackpool hat is so I plucked a red hat out of the bag in the hall, not having time to find my reserve Blackpool hat (A Membranes hat which had seen a good run of results) It’ll do, I thought. It didn't. (Do)



Secondly, I’ve stood up for the entirety of the previous two home wins. Tonight, I sat down for the first half. I stood up for the second.

Neil Critchley - can I call you Critch? I can!? Delighted to make your acquaintance - I’m sorry. Your lads gave it a right good go. We were fearless and brave and there was a bit of magic in the air for a few minutes but I wore the wrong hat and I sat down. Blame me, not Matty V. I should know better. He's only a kid.

More of this sort of thing please. With proper strikers.

Blackpool, I fucking love you. It’s unconditional and undying and you are beautiful, even when you lose.

Somewhere Larry will be muttering 'I'd have drawn that you ingrates'
UTMP!



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 ...