Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Keshi. Take another bow: Sheffield United vs the Mighty


I like Sheffield. If you were to let me host a BBC4 programme called 'British Cities that are reet in my opinion*' I'd include Sheffield as it's one part Victorian industrial magnificence, one part 60s retrofuturistic madness and one part generic modern european scale. It has hills, trams, glass covered buildings, metal things and loads of derelict stuff. It's kind of like if Halifax bred with an architecture brochure and spawned a giant mad mixed up offspring. Which is good. Even though it doesn't sound it. It's got loads of culture and music and that, but unlike Manchester and Liverpool it doesn't seem trapped in a relentless self referential loop of its own nostalgia. It reminds me of Glasgow in a way, in that fancy stuff brushes up with rough stuff. It's sort of like Bristol if Bristol didn't live off a trust fund. 

*I'd be kind of like Michael Portillo minus the incredulity at meeting actual people and mad coloured kecks. If you are reading at the BBC, hit me up. It'll be good. 



Anyway, that's by the by. You don't not pay me to find out what I think of Sheffield. You want football. Big leathery football words. Sweaty wintergreen scented football sentences. Penalty spots for full stops. That sort of thing.

So... I'm really not convinced we can keep winning. Beating Blackburn, beating Preston, the Reading comeback. All of it (especially the Preston bit). It feels like we've used up too much happiness. We're bound to come back to earth soon. Today's feels a good day for it to happen. Not that it would be good, but you know what I mean. They're a decent side masquerading as a shit one. They've got players you've heard of and a manager who has done it before. Surely the players and the manager will click into sync sooner or later plus, we haven't beaten them for ages. In other words, I'm travelling more in hope than expectation. 



That's fine. I don't want to carried away. It's only football. We're way ahead of where I thought we'd be. We've done fucking well, considering we've got a youth coach and his youth coach mate and a load of has beens and never weres and Bradford City's ex ex ex manager. We're doing unbelievably well in this big money filled league full of continental sorts and crazy contracts and thus, I'm not going to chuck my toys out the pram when we don't win a game. So, through the wind and the rain we go, to sing and get behind them, whatever the day may bring. 



Critch goes 442 and that's fine. He goes unchanged and that's fine too. He can do what he wants. He's earned the right. In my bones, I feel like 4231 is a better bet, but I don't know. I've not sat up for hours analysing videos or done the training sessions or owt. I've just written some shite in my blog and tweeted a bit. So what I think doesn't matter. It's sunny. The ground is almost full. There is nowhere on earth I'd rather be and whatever will be, will be. Let the world fuck off for 90 minutes. Just as it should be. 

--- 


From the off, it's clear this isn't really set up to be a football classic. For all that Bramhall Lane is a cracking ground, a proper place, an antidote to the soulless out of town bowls, it's not really very easy to work out what's happening at the other end of the pitch (or even the middle of the pitch) from the fourth row of the away end. 

What I can make out is that we're in a battle. The Blades clearly like to press and there's no time for anyone on the ball. They're also neat, tidy and quite clever when they have it. If anything, this first half is kind of what I expected the Championship to be. We look a bit ragged at times and seem to live on our wits, pressed and harried by a side who look technically better than us. 

Bowler is so quiet he might as well not be playing. Almost every time he gets it, they're onto him so he's got no chance to accelerate and either loses the ball or shuttles it backwards. At the other end, Husband is stretching everything several times to make tackles at the last and their nippy movement up front is requiring Keogh to read several moves ahead to have any chance of being in the right place at the right time. 


Their finishing is not their strong point. They work one across the box and put it straight at Grimshaw. Another good chance arises and they manage to kick it against one of their own men and out for a goal kick. 

At the other end, nothing really happens until Big Gaz breaks through and forces some kind of save or block, who knows really, it was miles away but it brings an 'oooooh' and a renewal of energy. We trade blows on a level footing with them for a while. Keshi gets a bit of joy on the left, Husband buts a handy looking ball in. Gabriel has a bit of a run, Jerry gets through but is offside - basically, we do ok-ish, but nothing we do really resembles a chance.  

Then they score. A ball whipped in, a dart onto it and a header into the bottom corner. It was the sort of goal I imagined conceding in the championship. A well executed, ruthless bit of play. I respond by eloquently shouting 'Fuuuuck' at the blue sky and just as I finish my poetic outburst and return to viewing the pitch, I notice the linesman and his highlighter pen yellow shirt, hanging his flag out like a lycra clad cyclist demonstrating how to do semaphore. He's saying 'no goal' in flag language.  

That'll do nicely. 

I'd hoped that might bring us into it more, but it doesn't. The Blades come forward again, but their lack of cutting edge (sorry) means they can only fanny about not shooting or blast it inches wide when they do finally have a go. At one point, they keep us penned in for a good four or five minutes without really creating a clear cut effort.- it's both clear why they were recently a Premier League side and clear why they are no longer a Premier League side. At one point, I almost want to shout 'shoot' myself, so evidently keen are they to shuttle it to someone else, lest they be the one to miss. Their hesitancy in shooting seems to infect our defence who are weirdly hesitant to clear it a few times, leading to the weird spectacle of a side who aren't really sure they actually want to score coming up against a defence who've temporarily forgotten how to stop them from doing what they aren't sure they want to do. 

--- 

I'm very pleased it's 0-0. We've done ok but the pressure has grown as the half has gone on and I'm not sure we can stay the same and hope for a different outcome. Madine has toiled (well, he's trotted about and jumped a bit, but that's Gaz and we love him deeply for it) but virtually all the rest of the attackers seem to have barely touched the ball. 

---


Obviously, Critch doesn't change it. Critch never changes it at this point. Again, why should he give a fuck what I think? He sends them out nice and early. We're clearly keen to get on with it and into them

When I say 'get on with it and into them' I mean 'resume where we left off, defending desperately' as the Blades come out determined to slice us open (sorry again.) They make numerous opportunities, they seem to overwhelm our midfield and be able to play up the middle and from a move, where we get a half foot on the ball but no more, they spin it quickly through a few players, out wide, then back in and Dan Grimshaw makes a tremendous sprawling stop. I'm miles away, but I can see how good it is, coming from a vicious snap shot hit low to his right that he doesn't just stop, but also turns away from the onrushing forwards.  

Then, they hit the bar. Again they work it quickly, again the shot is hard from inside the area but (I think) Keogh slides in and gets enough of touch to turn it onto the crossbar. It absolutely smacks the woodwork, you can feel the bar flex from the other end of the ground. Still, they come. We're getting stuck in. Husband is in at the death, Keough is sprawling and pointing and heading. Marvin is Marvin, Jordan Gabriel is some kind of ninja the way he leaps about ten feet in the air to win long balls. They miss another chance at the far post, a shot flashed wide that really should have been better. 


Critch has had enough. Bowler comes off and so does Jerry. Both of them have had more joy on a football pitch than today. Sonny Carey and Demi Mitchell come on. I like this substitution. Mitchell is gritty as well as skillful and Carey is an extra body deeper which we need. 

We get a bit more possession. We have a shot or two blocked. Mitchell adds bite where Bowler looked a bit flimsy. Carey is so good with the ball. Still the Blades worry me. We have a free kick. It's tapped to Madine. He weakly dribbles it wide. I'm still worried. I said I wasn't bothered but this is a long time to keep them out and then to not get a point. C'mon Pool. 

Oh, for fuck's sake. Here's Billy Sharp. We might as well go home now. 

Wintle chips a free kick into the box. It's cleared but Carey has a crack from outside the box, A stunning effort, tipped over the top. Suddenly, the away end is alert. The noise rises. We cheer Demi to the corner flag, we exhort the players in the box to give their all. We're craning our necks to watch the flight of the ball, watching Keogh, Ekpiteta and Madine as they jostle. Demi's corner is terrible, weakly hit to the near post and cleared. 

Sheffield United sweep up the pitch. Grimshaw comes out and sweeps the ball back. He's hit a long, direct, Maxwell-esque ball over the top. Keshi has broken from the pack in midfield, he's taken it down. The flag? Surely a flag? No flag. Anderson sprints on, his control wasn't perfect, he needed a moment to gather it and he's being caught. He puts the brakes on. Fucking hell Keshi, that was a chance. Now he's going to knock it back to the full back isn't he? No, wait, he's put the brakes on yes, but he's cut back inside now, he's taking a shot, he's connecting with it perfectly, the ball is travelling, it's arcing perfectly beyond the keeper's fingers, it's curling inside the post, it's fucking well nestling in the top corner, it's dropping to the ground and we are going insane. 

Keshi is sprinting away to the corner. Fans are spilling down the steps. The air is punched. Throats are screamed raw. Advertising boards are clamboured or fallen over. There's a little spill over onto the pitch. We're delirium. We're out of control. We're chanting. We're chanting. We're one big noise. Lads been collared and led away by the stewards are chanting too. Everything went a bit hazy for a while. 


How the fuck have we done that? Who cares. We have. What happens next, is in no particular order. The noise from the away end is tremendous. Gary Madine adds more to his career shithousery highlights, including a terrific blatant push on a lad who is going to retrieve the ball and brilliant pointless row about a corner that was never a corner where he picks the ball up, marches to the corner flag as if he's going to take the corner that wasn't and wastes a good twenty seconds incredulously responding to the linesman before getting pushed over himself by their keeper so he spills the ball and lets it roll away which is exactly what Gary wanted to happen. Madine plays a ball I could literally cry over it was so good, but Mitchell is just a split second too slow to respond to. The defenders defend. The midfielders tackle. Kenny rats, Wintle strokes it about. It's all good. 

The time is running out. They lose a player to injury. They've used all their subs. There's 5 minutes left. They loft it forward. We clear it. They loft it forward. We faff about a bit, but then we clear it. We're in charge of this now. Their heads are gone. We're running forward, Demi is drawing a free kick. There's seconds left. I think we're actually going to do this. The ball is somewhere. I don't care where as it's not near our goal. The ref has blown. Has he? Yes! He has! Fucking hell Pool! 


--- 

I don't care how we won it. We did. The change was important and came, in retrospect, at the right time, but we did incredibly well to stay in that game. I've only been really impressed with first half Bournemouth and Coventry so far this year. Huddersfield were ok and Cardiff bullied us into submission, but Sheffield Utd were a striker away from looking like one of the best sides we've played. 

What amazes me is the character of the side. Yeah, ok, we didn't have the balance of play, but we won. We kept on keeping on. Keshi is just incredible. Every goal contribution has been ridiculous. The mad finish in the league cup, the stupidly clever falling assist, the weird curling golf putter finish against PNE and then this beauty. 

Keogh deserves a mention, this was a hard game for him today. Clearly they targeted him in the first half, slipping their extra man in midfield forward with pace but he reads the game so well that he coped, he prospered. The rest of the defence cleary deserve credit too but Dan Grimshaw played really, really well. His kicking was sure footed and accurate and he made a superb stop and several other really competent ones. Sonny Carey continues to defy logic by looking so incredibly calm and adapting to this level of football and made a real impact when he came on, in a way that conventional football logic should dictate he just wouldn't. Madine was the definition of unselfish and as ever, horrible to play against but his defensive contribution from set pieces was particularly magnificent. 

I'm still convinced that we're going to hit reality sooner or later, but looking at the table, of the teams we've played who are beneath us, there's only really Cardiff who've thoroughly outplayed us. Which is weird. Where has the fear of the division gone? Am I actually starting to believe we can do this? I don't know. I don't think so. Maybe. Who knows? Perhaps? Probably not. But then again? 

Fuck it. Just enjoy the ride. The downs make the ups. Enjoy it all. A perfect smash and grab is a filthy delight to behold. 

utmp


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Saturday, October 23, 2021

We are superior: the Mighty vs THEM



Imagine being in a little hut made of stones, or a cave. Outside, the air is clean, the birds are singing. You're deciding whether you'll spend the afternoon gathering berries to eat eat or wood to feed this new fangled invention called "fire" when suddenly the noise outside changes. There's a commotion, the energy is all different. The birds are disturbed, circling in the sky, their sweet calls now discordant. People massing together, purpose in their step. All eyes are on the edge of the clearing... 

"What is it?" 
"It's THEM"
"Who?" 
"the others, the ones from the next cave along... and they've come to take our stuff..." 
 
I'm not sure the blog will make any sense today. I've got no opinion to offer other than. Win. Just win. Tactics and shit, that doesn't matter. I don't know who I want to play or how I want us to play. I don't give a fuck if we're dreadful for 89 minutes then the ball goes in their net off someone's arse. Derby games are different. They don't fit with the general pattern, they buck trends, they stand alone. Normally there's always next week but this is different. Next week doesn't matter and neither does last Wednesday. It's an unfair facet of football that the spellbinding comeback against Reading, where we played probably as well as we've done since... well, since a long time, will be overshadowed if we don't turn up today. 

Just turn up Pool. Turn up. Please. Don't let Andy Saville score. 

--- 

Critch has picked the team that no one else in the world would. Fuck knows. I'm passed guessing or commenting. The smoke from flares lingers in the air outside the Armfield. We're chanting already and it's barely 2 o clock. This is really happening. 


There's something old fashioned about today. I can almost see the Kop swaying and the paddocks filling as the ground rocks to the noise of the fans during the warm ups. All seater stadiums are all well and good, but there was something magic about the way the atmosphere built in the old world, everyone in place early as if you turned up on the whistle cos you'd been instagramming yourself in the concourse if such a thing had been possible, you'd have shit spot or you'd have to literally fight your way to a decent one. They get well and truly booed off. We get a rousing exit. Then two sets of fans sing to each other. Or more accurately, we just sing over the top of them. More of this sort of thing. The flag. The flag. The flag. Genius. 




From the off, it's clear, we have turned up. There's absolutely no doubt that these lads a) want it and b) are neither overawed nor overhyped. We pin them back, we're quicker in the tackle. Little lads like Keshi jump higher than their big lads and win headers. Oh, Blackpool. I love you. 

There's a tension in the air, but the players are dispelling it through sheer force of will. Bowler is electric. On one run, he looks like a dog at crufts, hurdling defender's legs like a whippet leaping over little fences. Shots are blocked, corners are won. Madine nearly melts my mind with his impudence as he takes the ball down, holds it up in the corner, then plays the sexiest back heel you could dream of to put Bowler away, Bowler's cross is deflected into the path of Kenny Dougall who briefly summons Wembley memories but his shot screws just wide. 

They come into it a little bit, but we're still the better side. Jimmy surges forward some more. Yates gets a chance at the far post but the angle is tight and he falls over as he puts it at the keeper. Somehow the keeper doesn't pick it up and there's a big old scramble. Nerves are fraying, but Pool are playing proper stuff. 

Keogh drifts it forward. Jimmy has it. He's wide left, he's crossing low and it's a good one. Keshi is free, in miles of space, he's hit it. It's really weird, he's hit it, but it barely moves, it rolls, delightfully from a Pool perspective, agonisingly for the wrong footed keeper, slowly and directly into the near post corner of the goal. 

Havoc. Pandemonium. Delight. Joy. Disbelief. Did it actually go in? Did it even reach the line? Yes. IT FUCKING DID! Keshi is a beautiful footballer, a magic little fella, full of tricks and always trying something. Whatever has gone on in his life this last week or so it can't have been fun and I couldn't be happier for it to be him to get that goal. 

I'm lost for a little while whilst the aftermath of the goal plays out. I couldn't tell you what happened for a good 5 minutes, but the next thing I remember is a foul and a yellow card. Then another. Then another. We're so good that they just resort to kicking us, Gabriel and Bowler are running wild and all they can do is flatten them in response. At least one of them looks like a possible red to me and that's not me being one-eyed. 

From one of the free kicks, Keogh leaps and stretches everything but the ball bounces off his head and loops over. He sinks to the ground in disappointment. The whole ground feels it. A goal from crazy uncle Richard would really have sent us into the stratosphere.  

__

A terrific half. We achieved that quality we'd managed against Reading, where whenever we lost it, we seemed to just pick it back up again. We've been crisp, adventurous, fearless and so, so committed. They've had the odd moment down the middle but nothing especially horrific and really, not put any consistent spell together. They look, frankly, very predictable and a bit slow. 

--- 

Hmm. They've come out to play this half it seems. This happens in football. Especially in games like this. You think you've got the game won and then it turns out you've been lulled into a false sense of security. I wonder sometimes if it's a deliberate plot by the opposition to look shit, then play a different way after the break. We're fucked. 

This is my mental response to them winning a corner. I need to have word with myself. Keshi has a word with me, chiding me for my lapse in belief by running what feels like the length of the pitch before being tackled (fouled?) at the last and giving us a corner. It's ok. Corners at that end are good. I must not doubt. 

Jimmy makes a really strange pass and gifts them possession. They use it, four of them bearing down on Gabriel. The only problem with being a total footballing force that commit men forward is, when your left back gives it straight to them on the half way line, it means there's no defenders aside from poor old Jordan, who doesn't know what to do, back pedaling, trying desperately to work out which of the players he should go to, knowing any choice he makes, they'll just switch it and leave the keeper completely exposed. Switch it they do, playing in Whiteman, who is ahead of the desperately sprinting Husband and the desperately slow Keogh, bearing down on the far post. All he has to do is hit the target and it's 1-1. It's virtually impossible to miss. 

HE FUCKING MISSES IT!!!! 

That felt like a goal to us. It's a terrible miss. Actually, it's a brilliant miss. I'm doubly glad cos Jimmy is one of my favourites, a player who never shirks, who was superb on Tuesday, has been superb today up to and aside from this moment and who never seems to get the love he deserves from some of our fans. 

The noise. Allez, allez, allez. Again and again and again. We're struggling still though. What came easily in the first half is looking much harder. Passes are going astray. The ball isn't sticking. 50/50s are rolling the other way now. 

We're the only team in football in Tangerine and white... Still we toil, but they're not much better. In fact, if anything, they're worse. We give it away, they launch it out of play. It's got messy. They bring on some subs including Tom Barkhuizen and I worry again. I should have learned to just trust Critch, but subs change games, ex players and all that. Immediately, as if reading my mind, Keshi comes alive again, lashing one just over the bar. 

C'mon Pool. We've got this. Marvin makes one of those sliding blocks, where he just watches and pounces. That'll do. C'mon Pool. They have a corner, we sing as if it's ours. C'mon Pool. 

The Pool do indeed, c'mon. We break. Madine, lovely control. Shielding the ball. Madine, a little (so calm he might as well just light up a fag as he does it) sand wedge chip to Yates. Jerry juggles, wriggles, darts and writhes his way forward. Gaz is deep, but he's trotting forward, he suddenly gathers paces, he points, Jerry reads it perfectly and strokes the ball as if rolling a cue ball up to kiss the black against the cushion and glide it into the pocket... Madine barrels on to it and with the deftest of touches, like a bull handling china with the gentleness of cotton wool, glances the ball beyond the keeper and inside the far post. 

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! 

All goals are great goals if we score them, but Gary Goals are something else. He's paid off his one year contract with that alone. He can spend the rest of the season on the sunbed and have done his job. Kebabs all round. ALL HAIL THE GOAL MACHINE. We can breath a bit now. 

What happens next just passes in delirium. Just in case they don't realise they're getting battered, we remind them frequently. They bring on the world's most arrogant player in Brad Potts who runs about like he's trying to show off a wonderbra, so chesty is his gait. They miss a few more chances, one in particular seems to go across the face of goal with almost impossible good luck. They have a shout for handball, but we just roar even louder, so no one hears it. Keogh is literally superhuman as he defends with every minute of his immense experience showing. Bowler has a mad run but doesn't make the most of it but knocking Bowler for not making the most of his dribbling is like saying Picasso was shit cos his paintings weren't realistic. Demi, Connelly and Carey come on. Madine gives a world class display of shithousery, getting seriously injured at least three times. 

Wintle catches a PNE player. The PNE player lashes out. All hell breaks out. Sonny is squaring up like his second name is Liston. Keshi is snarling in to protect the young lad. Gabriel steaming in, Marvin running about trying to stop it all like new teacher dealing with his first playground fight. Gary is probably chuckling to himself leaning on the post, chewing a toothpick and thinking of the time this is eating up. At the end of it all, the ref waves a few yellows, then sends off Browne. This day cannot get better. 

Please blow the whistle. I'm done. 

He does. We're in heaven. 




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We've played better football, we've triumphed over better teams, but we've rarely, if ever, given so much as we did then. Critchley is a calm man, a softly spoken little twinkly eyed imp of a bloke but he's got them totally and utterly wound up for that, without it spilling over into wildness. It is, quite simply, another masterclass. No one picked Madine for that game and yet, there he is, on the scoresheet. A lot of us would have benched Keshi in favour of Dale, but there he is. On the scoresheet. 4-2-3-1 was all the rage. 4-4-2 won the game. 

From 1-11 they did their job. Grimshaw with a first clean sheet in a tempest of an atmosphere. Gabriel just giving everything and more. Jimmy sliding and pointing and pressing forward. Keogh and Marv are just a wonderful pairing. Wintle is basically everything you want in a no 8. He really impressed me today. Again. Can we pretend we've misplaced him, so if Cardiff want him back, we'll have to send Sarkic as the nearest thing we have to a replacement? Dougall was just Dougall which is praise indeed, Bowler had some runs today that took my breath away, Keshi was fucking class, Jerry is so much more than a tap in merchant, his assist today was outrageous and Gaz just brought the edge, both the rough and the silky smooth. 

As for them - they weren't very good and they probably need a new manager or something. Who gives a fuck though? They're just a slightly bigger Chorley with a jumped up library, a bus station and not much else.  

What can we achieve with this team? I don't know. I don't want to think about that. I want to think about today. At some point this year, we'll hit a bump. We'll be jolted into a cold reality by a side who just outplay us. When that happens, think of today. Think of the effort. Think of Gabriel sprinting 40 yards and sliding in, think of Jerry chasing everything down, think of Keogh, conducting the crowd with 5 minutes to go, his head nodding in time to beat of the chants like a frantic, crazed jack in a box that had just popped up. Think of today and forgive them whatever mistakes they've made cos whatever happens next, they gave us this. 

Fucking unreal. Again. We turned up. We won. Seriously. Stop for a moment. Think of Wednesday. Think of today. Tell me you don't fucking love this team. Tell me it's not special. You can't. Dreamland. 

utmp

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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Patched up Pool are patchy: Nottingham Forest vs the Mighty


Idle cooling towers. A buzzard glides low overhead, uninterested in the speeding metal prey below. Past Wigan, we turn a corner and the Manchester plain lies before us, towers rise out of the hazy distance, the sky a seascape of heavy ribbed grey, flecked with with a white spray of lighter cloud, the Pennines a charcoal blur in the background that mark the divide between the land and the heavens. 

More idle cooling towers. Trees, still green but turning yellow at the extremes as if bleached at the tips by autumn. Grass, burnt dry in summer heat, a faded straw memory of a faded season covers the embankments and central reservation. Drive-thrus. So many drives-thrus. What did we do before we could get coffee at our car windows? Won't someone think of the flask industry? Yet more cooling towers, this time 8 of them and this time, active, steam rising into invisibility. 



A tram ride disrupted. A medical emergency blocks the line. An ambulance standing, the door ajar, a stolen guilty voyeuristic glance into the darkened interior sheds no light on what has happened..Who knows what or who hangs in the balance inside. The tram, now rerouted on the other line glides on. Nottingham slides by. A walk through an industrial past and more floodlights than I know what to do with. Meadow Lane, Trent Bridge. The City Ground. Leaden skies turn to riverside sunshine and rowing boats racing. A dodgily drawn Brian flogs 'Cloughie's Cobs' - It's what he would have wanted. 



I've not speculated about the team I want because choice is a luxury that comes with fit players. I've got visions of Critch just getting on the bus and hoping he can count up to 11. When the team does arrive, Keshi is out, Sterling is out. Two further surprises to add to those we already knew about. Maybe Critch should just do table tennis in training next week and see if Reading would like to simulate the game on Football Manager. Mind you, Daniel Gretarsson would probably swallow the ping pong ball or get electrocuted plugging in the laptop, so probably best not to risk even that. 

--- 


The City Ground is a tight old stadium. It's probably best not to go if you're more than 6 ft tall. It's rammed with Pool and pleasingly, also rammed with Forest fans. Going away to big grounds can be a dispiriting reminder of the fickleness of supporters and the realities of post Premier League life but the ground has both a ramshackle authenticity and plenty of noise. This isn't a club of fair weather fans who only turned up to see the opposition when the opposition were Man Utd and Liverpool. Pool are lightning in the first minute or two. Bowler and Madine combine to force a corner. 

That's about as good as it gets for a good while. Madine goes down and I curse fate. I assume his groin has gone but it looks like he's getting treatment on his ankle. He limps off in a way that suggests a substitution but then limps back on again in a way that suggests 'no strikers on the bench.' Forest keep us penned back for ages without really doing anything much other than have a few shots blocked. We don't really do much in response. 

I'm right up close to the away fans and I'm convinced if you put the gestural antagonism of the two sets of fans on at some kind of French performance art show it would be declared a new level of mimetic perfection, a gesticular triumph of artistic expression. One of our lads is particularly expressive and spends the entire 90 minutes just grinning at the Forest fans whilst goading them with a creativity I can only express awe at. 

On the pitch itself Bowler is just about everything creative today. 'If he had an end product...' sighs the lad behind me. I suspect that might get written on Bowler's gravestone. 'Here lies Josh. He was fucking mint to watch, but, oh, if only he'd had an end product...' John-Jules is not exactly Keshi. We'll leave it there for now. 

Madine is one of those moods where jumping is beneath him. Maybe his ankle? Jerry is fizzing about as he does but aside from him, we're flat, both metaphorically and literally. The triangles aren't on. Forest press and we go sideways or vertically down the flanks. They're doing better in terms of playing diagonally and they undo us with a raking ball behind Gabriel who gets caught a bit flat footed, their lad races behind him, knocks a cross in and they score with a tap in. One of those horrible easy goals. 

At some point Marvin makes possibly the best challenge I've ever seen him do, which is to say, one of the greatest challenges of all time, following his man diagonally into the box, waiting, waiting and then lifting a leg, taking the ball away from him in the air, on the stretch and somehow not laying a touch on him. His timing is unbelievable. To think it's barely a year since he looked a possible liability and now he's captaining the side and looking like an absolute (genuine) Swiss watch of a player. 

We do absolutely nothing other than get pissed off at the referee (who is shit) until the very end of the half, a corner, Madine, a proper header, an almighty scramble, groans and oohs, someone has another effort, the ball is hacked away and we're denied. Madine isn't happy about something. I've no idea what as I barely saw any of it having emerged from the concourse by the wrong staircase, got baffled by the randomly closed gates protecting Pool fans from other Pool fans and then had to go back to the concourse, back up another flight of stairs just to get back to the same place but two yards away and walked into the moment with none of the build up or context. 

---

It's been a really frustrating half. It's summed up for me by a move on the left where we broke, waited for no reason as John Jules and Garbutt faffed about and then one of them put it out of play trying to pass to the other. We've had no real pattern to our play. I've just realised as I typed that that's the kind of thing people say because they've heard proper football analysts (there's a mental job if ever there was one) say it instead of just saying 'we've been shite.' It's palbably not true. There's always a pattern. Today the pattern has been. Get it. Don't do a lot with it. Give it back to them.  

The problem as I see it is that with both Bowler and John Jules you have wide men who essentially struggle a bit with their positioning and whilst Bowler is worth it because he drags players all over the place, John Jules just doesn't suit the role and having two is one to many, especially if one of them isn't on his game. 

That means Stewart and Wintle are playing as a two a lot of the time and where Mitchell or Anderson would be comfortable dropping in to make a three, the two wide men today aren't. It's neither Wintle nor Stewart's fault they're not the world's most creative players and it's not John-Jules' fault he really doesn't seem to be a left sided midfielder nor to possess the bloody minded impudence/arrogance of Anderson nor the pace of Mitchell. 

It's not working. All the subs please Critch. 

--- 


Obviously, Critch doesn't make all the subs. Either he doesn't just give up on players like a fan would or it takes Mike Garrity ages to find a biro and then write down the subs for the 4th official and we thus physically can't make any until at least an hour in. We're much better early in the second half though. We still concede chances but we make some of our own. Wintle whistles one just past the near post from distance after good work on the right. It's a decent effort. It lifts the crowd. We're here in numbers but the Forest stewards have insisted people sit where their ticket says and that's muted it a bit, plus having Forest fans right up against us and above us making sound of their own seems to have made it harder to get the continuous deafening noise going but with the Mighty attacking us and looking as if they're up for it now, the sound becomes more whole instead of pockets of noise. 

A throw. Gabriel winds up but Yates comes short instead and lays it back. It comes to Bowler, who puts it in, it's headed up by a defender, Gabriel is first to it, he sees Yates and nods it into his path and the shirtless sniper buries it. YES! We erupt into raw joy. Jerry celebrates wildly, right in front of us and then we sing deliriously in collective celebration of the idea of drinking with Jerry in the afterlife. 


Yates is looking like the Jerry we know and love and it's his pass that splits the defence and sends John-Jules away. At this point, I want readers (hello - that's you!) to understand I write this blog on memory, not off the highlights and thus, when I say that to me, it looks like John Jules can't decide whether to run his man or to shoot and in his panic as he realises his indecision has cost the chance, decides on a third option of throwing himself into the Forest defender, that's the honest impression I got. Cameras may show otherwise and I could be wrong. 

Despite my doubt, I implore the ref to give the fucking penalty because I've seen them given for less and who gives a fuck if it was or not but the fucking ref won't give the fucking penalty and sooner rather than later the mood of promise that's been building all half is burst as Forest score again, Lewis Grabban sweeping home from close range after an agonising set of nearly blocks and stops, first from Marvin, then from Grimshaw. 

John Jules makes his way off. Mitchell comes on. We look instantly a bit more complete in midfield. We play some very nice short stuff. Mitchell gets in behind on the end of a nice move he's really involved in and curls a cross that just drifts out of play. He comes across the midfield and tucks inside, Garbutt goes outside. He kills one in the box and has run that is ended by a crunching tackle. 

As much as we're a bit more creative now, Forest are able to break at will and if Gabriel was at least partially culpable for the goal, he saves at least 3 in the second half as well as belting down the right flank with intent. He's everywhere, cropping up at centre half, full back and right wing and we can't forget his Madine-esque knock-down for the goal. I fucking hate it when people just point out a player makes a mistake that leads to a goal and therefore must have had a bad game. Players always make errors and sometimes they lead to goals. The mistake is still the same mistake, it's not a worse error because it led to a goal, it's just that the opposition played particularly well after it. 

Kevin Stewart goes off. Guess what? He's injured again. It's selfish as fuck of me to be frustrated with him but I am. When I've calmed down, I reflect that we might be seeing this lad's career falling to bits as he simply can't stay fit for more than an hour at a time. All the work, the endless rehab, the comebacks, the sense that this time it will be different and then the same trudge to the touchline. He never limps off or gets carried off. It's always just a shoulders slumped walk to the bench and what must be the hollow feeling of dismay that his body has let his mind down again. I feel sorry for him. He's a good player. It must be fucking horrible to never be able to hit form and play with constant doubt about yourself. 

Jetlagged Kenny comes on and mixes some forward thinking play with some dallying on the edge of the box. Madine goes off and Critch sends on Sonny Carey. It's a cute idea, but it doesn't work. Jerry is knackered, he's running with the bow legged Brett Ormerod gait he gets when he's put a proper shift in and one shattered lad, plus a previously non-league midfielder is not a strike force for the last ten minutes against a team who've defended really well all afternoon. There isn't anyone else though. (assuming Dale isn't really fit yet) 

Gabriel flies away on the right and pings a cross in. It strikes a hand. There's a yellow card, but it's clearly outside the box. Keogh and Marvin jostle at the far post. Carey sprints to the near post to receive it, it's short, it's a good idea, but his man sticks to him like glue and the idea ends up looking silly as all Sonny can do is pass it back to the kick taker. Carey is lively with his movement but he's not the powerhouse or pacy striker we need now. I watch him for a while. He's not daft. He goes wide, inside, back, forward, looking for space. In one move, he shows three times for the ball, but peels away three times. finally taking up a fourth position in space but the ball is just a fraction to late and he's given up on it and is looking for the next position so he takes it on his heels and is robbed. 

The end of the game is painful. Wintle and Dougall seem stuck just in front of the defence. Madine gone leaves no outball and the energy is just not there to pass and move our way round them. Marvin has the best run forward but even that ends up with us passing it square and then backwards. It's frustrating watching us stick to the principles, even if it's probably hopeless to bang it at the players we have up front and probably the right thing in the long run to insist we keep playing because it will pay off one day, it would be at least fun to chuck Keogh or Marv up front but we don't roll like that. 

The whistle goes. There's a surprising degree of mutual respect from some of those most keenly involved in the miming of insults to one another. One forest lad who has been enthusiastically signifying some kind of carnal act with (presumably) the close relatives of the Blackpool fans offers some particularly heartfelt applause but the respect of the Bridgeford end is little in comparison to a point or three and we trudge out, leaving them to raucously appreciate their manager and to receive applause from the winner of the Fonz award for best applauder in football 2021 (Jordan Gabriel) 

--- 

On balance, I thought we lost this game. On another day we could have got a draw but I don't think we were as good as them. They really restricted us and they missed chances in the second half. I still haven't seen our penalty shout back, nor have I worked out what Gaz was angry at in the scramble so we might have been robbed but to me, we struggled to create and we spent long periods under quite a lot of pressure. We mostly defended quite well but we lacked the explosive and instinctive quality we've had in at least some games this year. We looked laboured. 

The exceptions were (as ever) Bowler, who was his usual box of tricks, even if some of them ended up in him dropping the cards and Jerry. It's that latter point I want to take away from this game. We're not going to win all our away games and Forest looked had some decent players playing as a unit. They were a championship side and maybe their bad start disguises their quality a bit and makes us more expectant. We weren't completely blown away and we were way off what we can be. The important thing though, is that Yates was making things happen. His touch was back, he played some clever little chips, he ran across the lines, he hunted for space and his movement for the goal was masterful. 

The converse to Jerry's re-found verve is the increasingly frustrating John-Jules who needs something to go his way. He's a player I really want to succeed but he's fitful. In some moments, he looks class, in others he looks ropy as hell. He can go charging in one moment and the next shy away. He's capable of silky skill and lead feet in the same move. He reminds me slightly of Kaikai, but whereas even at his most diffident Kaikai evoked memories of previous magic, John-Jules only evokes a vague feeling of a promise that I can't quite put my finger on and some nice passes here and there isn't enough to keep belief alive forever. He's not a wide man, he's fallen apart in front of goal quite a lot so he's not worked as a striker. He might be a number 10 in a 3-5-2, but we've already learned that Critch doesn't do that and in any case, we've got/had other players who could do that. I'm becoming increasingly unsure what he's for, especially with Demi kicking his heels on the bench who has only improved throughout his Pool career and is the most obviously 'Anderson-like' player on the books. 

I said Keogh was shite and I was utterly convinced Simms was just a school team player and look at what happened there. In other words, I talk shit and he might come good. He might hit 15 goals this year or he might be this year's Ben Woodburn. Who the fuck knows? Not me.

We really missed Maxwell. Not because Grimshaw was horrendous, but he's not Maxwell - by that I mean, you could sense the defence just weren't at ease with playing it back to him and we didn't go on the front foot from throws and clearances like we can do. Grimshaw actually played some nice balls out, but it's the pace at which Maxwell can play and his communication that it's simply not fair to expect a kid to be able to replicate. Hopefully he'll grow with games. Maxwell wasn't this Maxwell early in his career either.     

Jerry is back though. That's not three points, but it's something. We'll be reet. Can't win every week. 

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Everywhere we go.



It's been a while since I've written some aimless shite about nothing. *At this point as a reader you can make a joke about 'exactly as long as it's been since your last article' and feel clever about yourself*

This is really about nowt. Read it or not. Up to you. 
 
If you've read this blog for a while, you'll know I don't always write positively about things like the 'Mega super best ever league in the world on Sky Sports (TM)' or the way that football is essentially a big corrupt gravy train with billionaires ladling filthy money into the engine's firebox as they go, the fetid smoke belching out and turning everything in its wake black and dirty. 

You'll probably imagine me writing a lengthy piece about how the Saudi takeover is a grotesque conclusion, an endpoint in a journey that has been taking place for years, the logical extension of the way more and more shady characters with ever bigger wallets have been actively sought by clubs desperate to climb an ever greasier poll. I'd probably write something like 

"if you're acting all outraged, what the fuck did you think was going to happen? Greenpeace buy Newcastle? We've all enabled the game to be sold off to anyone and everyone for years to a point where only super villains can afford it cos only super villains have spare billions to invest in something pointless like a football club in another country cos if good billionaires exist, (which is a long debate we should avoid), they're investing their spare billions in AIDS treatment or something and whilst it's not a good thing when a deeply questionable regime buys a club, it's a systemic issue that comes from football being a model of neo liberal values in that it now needs ever more investment to support perpetual growth into ever wider markets and actually, eventually, what may well be the result of this is we stop pretending that elite football has any morality or values at all and thus treat it with the contempt it deserves - and in a roundabout way, whilst that doesn't help Yemen or anything like that, it might actually speed the inevitable collapse of the game in its current form because if people really are forced to see that the biggest clubs exist literally in brand name alone and that those brands are actually pretty toxic concepts that's going to cause issues eventually in an industry which is kind of the ultimate exercise in brand loyalty" 

I'm not going to write that though. It's depressing and it possibly misses the point of stuff and things. I dunno, I'm just a knobhead, I'm not presenting the moral maze or owt. 

I am instead going to write a short article on the following.

1: We don't know how good we are as a fanbase. I've not seen every Blackpool game for the last 30 years though I have seen a good few and this year, the atmosphere has been magic and it could well be the best I've ever experienced over a consistent run of games. It's certainly close to the best ever. 

2: We must never take this for granted. It's immense. It has a palpable and positive effect on my mental health. It's Wednesday and I've worked for about 12 hours, I'm tired and I've got loads on but I'm already anticipating Saturday. I think it has that effect for others too.

3: When we concede, we get louder. When you listen to whining, spoilt fans complaining about only just scraping into the Champions League and compare that to our journey it's astonishing. When you see and feel the connection between players and fans, when Critch punches the air and everyone cheers in perfect sync because we've won and your heart skips a beat, it makes you wonder if other fans wouldn't actually be better going through what we've been through and learning what we've learned, when you stop and realise that the moment is everything, that the event is everything, that nothing at all compares to being there, when you drink it in and appreciate it, it's fucking magic. That's all you can say. 

We didn't know what we had till it was gone and we lost it twice (which is one more than most) but we appreciate it so much more as a result.

4) That's in part down to Simon Sadler because of who he is and how he conducts himself but it's also down to us. It's down to the noise, the crowd, the group, the kinship. It's the random fella who I hugged at Wembley as tightly as I've hugged anyone. It's the bloke I stood next to at Bournemouth and sang my heart out with, not saying a word to until the end of the game and then just sharing a terse 'see you mate'. It's the flags, the banners, the collective. The sense of belonging to something. It's all of us. The lads under the stand chanting before the game, the arl fellas sitting quietly musing on years of memories, the lady who shouts 'defend!!!' every time the other team attack who sits near me. The kid leaping excitedly on the seat and shouting words that his mum looks at him with a firm stare and he doesn't repeat. 

All of them. It's all of it. All at once. 

I was done with football 3 or 4 years ago. I'd had enough of the pathetic governance, the breathless coverage of money as if that was all that mattered, the grinding predictability of who won what. Without games to go to, without a club to support (for how could I support what the club had become?) I honestly thought it was over for me.

3 or 4 years ago, I never thought I'd feel like this again.

I do though, and for that, every single Blackpool fan is responsible. Cos we're fucking ace. 

Let's be loud. Louder than ever. Louder than them. Louder than war!

Cos we're tangerine. Cos all we expect is the players to give their all as we give our all. Cos Josh Bowler will run with it. Cos Jerry scores goals. Cos Marvin is a colossus. Cos we're there and that's everything. 

You feel the same thing in a few grounds or with a few away fans. Coventry this year, Tranmere a while back to name a couple. It's always the teams who've been to the wall and back. Always those teams who have ended up staring into the abyss and maybe as a result coming to terms with who they are and what this really is. 

Football hasn't changed a bit since 3 or 4 years ago. We have. 

Football could learn a bit from us about who and what it really is I think

Saturday, October 2, 2021

2 week lie down needed: the Mighty vs Blackburn Rovers

Strap in. It's bumpy ride. 

Proper journalists would do a proper introduction. There isn't one because proper journalists wouldn't have to do their actual job on a Saturday till 2.30pm, leaving them with a mad dash across town because their actual job is proper journalism. Proper journalists wouldn't have to run from where they'd parked the car, risking life and limb to get across roads in attempt to get into the ground before anything happened. Proper journalists wouldn't find out out about the first goal on Lidl car park from a bloke looking a bit bemusedly at them legging it between cars and saying 'I think they've scored' and motioning in the general direction of the stadium. Proper journalists wouldn't have to stop for a minute to catch their breath and hear the sound of the cheers and chanting wafting on the air towards them. 

You get the idea. I missed kick off. Luckily, I'm not a proper journalist but shite blogger instead so it doesn't matter. Not being a proper journalist also means I can swear profusely in what follows and don't really have to bother about putting things in the right order because, frankly, who the fuck knows exactly what happened after that game? You want facts and that? Look up one of those websites that turns everything into a graph for fucks sake.   

---


I get in at about 8 minutes past 3. "1-0, Lavery" says the steward. We're on the attack. I don't even know the team. Madine is playing. TJJ isn't. Bowler is there, Yates is not. I start to squeeze into my row to get to my seat. We're still having what is turning into a very good attack and I've realised now that I am that twat that pushes past you at a crucial moment. I don't know what to do. I've gone too far to go back, but I have to push past more people. I can't stay where I am. If we score, someone might thump me for being in the way. I would deserve it. Maybe I'll ban myself for 3 years. I push determinedly on. We don't score. I sit down. I'm fucking knackered. Work is shit. Running is shit. Missing the first goal is shit. 

Blackburn are shit. This is a surprise. I already knew work was shit so that's no shock, but I expected Blackburn to be good. We're cutting them to ribbons. Shayne is on fire and their defence is terrified. Bowler is flickering fitfully and not quite exploding into flames but their defence is still terrified. Big Gaz. Big Gaz. Ladies and gentlemen. It's Gary Madine. He's not on fire, he's gone full nuclear, flicking, chesting, prompting, controlling, laying it off. Their defence is not so much terrified as numbly impotent in the face of his genius. We look superb. Madine does a back heel flick down the line to set Keshi away and all the shite of the workday week melts into nothingness. 

Lavery goes wide, he goes round his man and the Rovers defender barges him. Lavery goes down in a heap. No foul? Why the fuck not? The fans from the next milltown along from Burnley bay and howl at him but Shayne is not pretending. Off he goes. A strange cameo, a goal and some brilliant running but cut cruelly short. On comes Shirtless Jerry to reunite himself with the football phenomena that is Gaz Maz. 

Yates is the ideal replacement for Lavery. We don't really break stride. We're moving the ball so well. Wintle is crisp and clever. Dougall is having one of those games where he rats to perfection. Keshi is getting away on the left. Garbut is getting up the pitch. His relationship with Keshi is blossoming. Sterling the same on the right, he's so good, it doesn't really matter that Bowler doesn't defend. With Madine in form, we look balanced, we have options. We play it short, we move it directly, we spread play, we do triangles. We mix it up in the best possible way. 

Keshi gets away on the left again, a ball comes in, it's a beauty and oh. my. fucking. god, it's the Goal Machine, steaming in. I love goals like this, I love thumping headers from big strikers. They're timeless. Yes, there's all the tiki taka Cruyff love in stuff, there's pressing and moving through phases of play, there's Bielsa and Lobanovsky, there's Samba football, all of that glorious, intricate, technical, special stuff but, really, is there anything better than a big lad, steaming in at the far post to knock a cross home like they always have, like they do on Pathe news reels where all the crowd wave their rattles and throw their caps in the air... like they do on 70s football clips where the crowds tumble down terraces as the ball hits the net, like they've been doing forever and ever... 

My hat is about to be launched, rattle ready to be cranked, I'm about to tumble down the south stand, Madine has killed his run, peddled backwards and now he's coming towards it, he's launching himself into a dive, he meets it perfectly, it's headed downward, on a true path to goal but somehow their keeper stops it... 

For fuck's sake. Can I not have anything nice? 

But wait! What's this? It's the one player everyone of tangerine persuasion wants to score. It's Jerry 'deadly last year but a bit lost this year' Yates and he's found himself now, he's tucking it home with a mini diving header of his own, like he's copying Gaz but on a smaller scale, the keeper is sprawled on the floor, Jerry is wheeling away and we're going mental and this was worth running in the rain like a lunatic for because we're 2-0 up and we're on fire and JERRY YATES HAS SCORED... WHERE WE GOING?!!! (the answer is, not on the piss just yet, not before we've been over to shush the away fans first. Who doesn't love Jerry?) 

Still we play. Still Blackburn are absolutely dire. They keep giving the ball away. Their touch is awful. We keep winning the second ball and attacking. It's one of those halfs you never want to end. We make chances. We scuff it about in the six yard box. Crazy Uncle Richard has a wonderful run right to the D but loses heart and passes sideways when the whole world wanted him to have a shot. We are so far and away the better side that it feels like the fag end of last year and battering Northampton or someone. 

---

I've not eaten or drunk anything since 7.30 this morning and that was just a brew and a single piece of toast and it's now 3.50pm. I'm deliriously happy though. That was fucking brilliant. I think Maxwell made a save somewhere in the half but what I've seen has been us, at our best, better than I thought our best was, utterly dismantling a decent-ish championship side. That Copa-America lad they bang on about hasn't had a sniff. This could be 4 or 5 if we can play like that again. 

---

Miracles abound and I get a drink at half time. Can this day get any better? 

The answer is no. It can't. (well, not until later anyway) 

Firstly, tricky Dicky Keogh, the world's best centre half* has gone off and been replaced by Jimmy 'are we definitely sure he's not a left back?' Husband

*certainly he is if you narrow it down to ones with mad eyebrows that look like they're velcroed on. 

Secondly, shit Blackburn have swapped shirts with good Blackburn. They look exactly the same as each other, but one is shit and one isn't. The second half side start immediately doing everything the first half one didn't. They press, they harry, they give us no time. They pass to each other. They run past us instead of into us. They win headers and shut down our passing game with no real problem. 

Where has this come from? Just as I'm thinking 'we just need to weather this, it can't last' they sweep a ball across the box from a deepish right sided position and that fucking lad from the Copa America just runs in and scores. Maxwell and Sterling are helpless. The worst sort of goals are ones that seem so easy. 

Fucking hell. C'mon Pool! 

What follows is pure hell. Blackburn pour forward. We scramble, we slide, we fight for everything but they fight just as hard. They look like they're fresh and we look like we're clinging on. To be honest, seeing as they barely played in the first half, it's not surprising they've got energy. Maxwell bursts out of goal, completely fluffs his kick and then has to run backward, getting back just in time to stop a shot from the edge of the box that pops out and he has to pounce on. Thank fuck for Chris Maxwell. Even when he's making mistakes he makes me feel glad he's there. We'll need him, every ounce of his organisational skills and leadership, especially without Keogh. 


Maxwell is down. What is this game? Why is it always like this for Pool? He's getting treatment. I feel a bit sick. He's testing his leg. It's really not right. I'm not a physio but I've stood behind lots of goals watching lots of keepers and even the late Les Sealey (RIP) moved better than this when he couldn't be arsed playing for us. He's carrying on. I want him to carry on cos he's the best keeper in the world, but a keeper on one leg is no keeper. He smacks a clearance, it's a good one but immediately he pulls up. He's done. He goes down again. I feel sicker. He's hobbling off with the two physios. He shrugs off their arms, he hugs Stuart Moore, he's in his ear, talking to him for a good 20 seconds before letting go and on comes the largely unknown property to guard the goal. It's all a bit weird. I feel strangely emotional at Maxwell being injured. I don't know quite why but I feel really protective of him. I think it's cos he's a bit special, he's the sort of footballing keeper combined with a genuinely focused and determined leader type character you can't easily replace and because he's one of those players who've played the football of their life for us.  

Blackburn carry on in the same manner. We can't put passes together. The Goal Machine wins it, the ref blows for a foul. The Goal Machine wrestles the ball under control but it's nipped away from him. Jerry tries a turn but the ball won't roll. Bowler runs into traffic. Keshi gets clattered. Fuck my life, why is this game like this? Keshi is in agony. Not another one? Surely. Keshi gets up. He's got no choice. 

Marvin gets booked. He's actually, for once in his life not timed a slide to perfection. They burst in. Dujon Sterling flies in, he takes the ball, the man going with it. I wince in anticipation of a whistle and breathe out when it doesn't come and wince again when I see that Sterling has hurt himself now. All these injuries and the Viking isn't even on the pitch. It's a good job as he'd probably have been decapitated if he'd played in this game. 

Corners, headers just wide. Shots dragged wide with Moore diving after them. Runs into the box, around the box. Marvin skidding in and blocking a shot. Jimmy heading it in a weird direction. The stand groans. C'mon you fucking miserable bastards, GET BEHIND THEM... The ball cut across, Jimmy air kicks, it's horrible, it's horrific but it's smuggled away at the far post and we survive. GET BEHIND THEM!!!!!!!!! 

Jerry at right back. Even Bowler is tackling back. Wintle makes a beautiful professional foul, chasing back as they break, bursting through, the defence being peeled away like paint by a blow torch until he slides in and clips/wrestles his man down. A yellow card has never been applauded so wholeheartedly. Jimmy has settled down. Bowler has done some quality shithouse stuff, kicking the ball away to waste time. Moore is spotting up his goal kicks perfectly, checking carefully for the exact blade of grass he wants. 

The Copa-America novelty player scores, but it's offside and it's one of those great ones where we see the flag before he does. We cheer it in. It relieves some tension. We're getting there. Bit by bit. We're leggy, we're tired but as the timer runs down, we're putting everything into it. . Keshi has totally gone. He's playing just in front of Garbutt and he's barely able to jump, but he's doing his bit, running on fumes. Madine is lumbering but he still presses and occupies their defence. We're hanging on. Bowler has a shot. It's wide. Madine has a run but he can't find the pace to put himself in a shooting position. It's ok though, because we pass it about instead and maybe things are calming down. 

8 minutes!!! 8 minutes? Are we playing till Blackburn score or something? What the fuck?! They've practically been allowed to disembowel our team and the ref has found 8 minutes to let them score. Fuck off. Fuck off. I can't watch this. Fuck off. We do well. We get it up to Madine, he pisses about in the corner with it. It's beautiful to see. We do it again. We can just do this for 8 minutes! 

We can't.

They get down the right. They get a cross, there's a header, then another header, it's looping in, I'm feeling like what it must feel like to realise your plane is falling out of the sky when Stuart Moore goes backward, springs and tips it away. The plane comes out of the nose dive. We survive. The ground is electric. All three sides are on their feet. Moore clutches the ball to his chest from the next move. We're on our feet again. A minute ago I tasted death, now I feel like what I can only describe as ecstasy as the entire ground bounces, as the noise ricochets around. There's moments when your life just feels right, sunsets on a long drive, when you just look at the person you are in love with and feel a delirious calm, when your kid does something that makes you proud, when you first felt the kiss of MDMA and the moment when the music was just right or whatever the fuck it may be and there's this. This. I can't put it into words. It's fucking incredible. This is something else. It's always been special when it's like this, but it's more special than it's ever been. Week after week, we make this noise, they play their hearts out and the noise just grows. I want to savour every second of it. I want this to last forever. Every fucking person in the ground as one. This is out of body stuff. 

Moore kicks. The whistle blows.

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!

--- 

It's recency bias that makes you think the last game was the most dramatic or most intense but I really struggle to think of a game recently where I've been that on edge and where I've been that wound up. Wembley was 2-1 but it was the opposite in that we started beautifully here and ended clinging on whereas Wembley felt like a win from the moment we equalised. Maybe Sunderland away with Maxwell's string of wonder saves, but that was on the telly...  Maybe Fulham this year, but I dunno, this seemed a level up from that. 

Don't take clinging on as a criticism. We clung on with the fire and fight of a team that doesn't ever know it's beaten. We lost 3 of the most important players we could lose. I kept looking at the bench and remembering we couldn't do anything. Madine played his first 90 minutes since Wigan away in January. That was surely not the plan. 

We clung on pretty fucking well and apart from Moore's wonder save Rovers didn't come that close. We were superb in the first half and I have to say, Blackburn were very good in the second. Some of their individual work was superb, their aggression in the tackle really something to behold. But we beat them, probably because we were a better team compared to their superior individuals. We're in the top half. We're taking points, taking them regularly and not just against the weakest sides. We're playing football, we're winning ugly, we're playing triangles, we're throwing ourselves full length in blocks. We're Wintle's short passes and clever fouls, we're Keshi's impudence, Marvin's timing, Kenny pragmatism and Bowler's completely impractical magic. We're skill and little nippy darting forwards and we're Big Gaz at the far post.

Let's not think of injuries. Let's remember instead that we're fucking WIZARDS! 

I'm going to lie down in dark now. 

utmp 

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