Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

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"
"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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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1 comment:

  1. What a game , what a team , what a football club , another great read UTMP


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