Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Oh, Nathan Delfouneso! - Goodbye to an enigma

No, thankyou Nathan. 
The curious case of Nathan Delfouneso. 

10 years ago our Nathan was hot property. Full of skill and trickery, getting on the end of things for Villa and England u21s. Pace and hard running, a stylish package full of potential. 

The goals came slowly at first but such a classy looking player would surely add a more clinical side to his game as he gained experience… 

Cut to now, and it feels like the Fonz has re-lived his early career year upon year. Each season bringing a couple of moments of wonder where he's a world beater and a frustrating blend of fleet footed forward forays and bungling blind alley dribbles. 

Every next match might be his game, every next season might be the one. 

He's lost nothing on his initial promise. He's every bit the player who had the world at his feet, but now he's 29. 

He's the ultimate enigma. Drop him and you miss him. Play him and you're guaranteed to be rueing the opportunities he misses that any carthorse would have buried. Brilliant positioning and lovely movement, a perfect touch and athletic physique, the crowd up as one only for him to nod or scuff weakly into the hands of the keeper or (as he managed this year against Wimbledon in a feat of incredible skill) to run with the ball along the goal line itself evading the oppositions desperate lunges but somehow not putting it into the net when it seemed literally impossible to not score.

'Fuck's sake Fonz!' 

Every miss, every wrong decision was slightly more painful than the next. Every time he was left out, thought that he might be done lingered a little longer. 

A curates’ egg of a player. Is it a striker? Is it a winger? Is it a whatever people call an advanced midfielder these days? No, it's Nathan Delfouneso. None of the above and yet weirdly all of them at the same time. Criticised for never nailing down a position but used all over by managers grateful for his willing versatility. 

In a period where players come and go everywhere, Blackpool’s doors have revolved with a particular speed and it's very tangerine to have a player in his 4th spell at club as the one consistent presence. He’s been the one link to before everything went really properly sour. 

From exploding into the total football side under Ollie, through seemingly endless lumpen and defensive managers through to a new fancy technical high pressing style. Past fans in court, owners in court, mobility scooter pitch invasions, judgement days, relegations, boycotts and homecomings, Fonz has been an enigmatic flame flickering, sometimes shining bright, sometimes barely smouldering but never extinguished. 

He's ridiculously talented compared to the raw stats on his recent CV. He's like a thoroughbred racehorse in a group of ponies but you get the feeling he's never had the right jockey. You could imagine him galloping into an insurmountable lead but then being spooked and refusing the final fence. 

If he was a golfer, he'd lead after 17 holes  and then slice the ball into the water for a triple bogey at the 18th before tripping over his golf bag and falling in himself, emerging from the water with that hangdog expression on his face like this sort of thing is always happening to him. 

If he had a go on one of those mad fairground things where you run a metal hoop along the wiggly wire, he'd do it perfectly then sneeze at the last. 

But still, he was ours and each miss was balanced by a moment of sunlight that shone brightly on grey days where honest but limited pros slugged out games of head tennis and long balls and Fonz seemed the only player capable of doing something on purpose. 

He’s not perfect, but nothing in our recent history speaks of perfection. If he wasn't so flawed he'd have gone long ago. If he wasn’t so essentially Fonz, he’d be a Premier League player. For all that he wasn’t, he was a player who could lift us, who could have us singing his name through an era where many of us stopped watching and so many of those who wore the shirt are forgotten within a week of the season ending. 

If his new boss can finally work out what it is that Fonz does best, if he can get him in the stalls with blinkers on, if he can whisper the right words in his ear then we might finally see what he can really do. 

We loved you even if sometimes we didn’t show it. You loved us even if sometimes it went wrong.

Go with your head held high. You played the game the right way and you gave a shit about taking the time to notice those in the stands. You might have thought a bit too much in front of goal sometime, but you seemed to think about the supporters when others barely noticed who were paying their wages.

One of my favourites that I’m sad will go with that sense that he never quite did what could have done. I thought he'd have been a decent player to have around, a player who could maybe add the experience at the right time, whose clear hard working willingness would have been a good influence, whose seeming thoughtfulness might have been helpful in a dressing room full of young kids. A play who might have relished playing in a side encouraged to throw caution to the wind and might not have had to think as much in the sort of style Critch seemingly wants to play. For Critch, however, read Evo and maybe he'll feel at home with a manager he played with, who clearly wants him around and wants his players to play like Fonz tries to play. All the best* Fonz! 

Once more for luck…

‘Oh, Nathan Delfouneso’

(*did you have to go to them though?)


Post a Comment

Follow on Twitter!

Get MCLF in your inbox!

Subscribe with a feedreader!

Buy the book (proceeds to Blackpool Foodback)

Blog Archive

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 ...