Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Got into 'em: the Mighty vs Bristol City

The transfer window is over and we've still got Bowler and Marvin plus the rest, who are mostly loads of wingers and fullbacks, many of whom we won't/can't play because they're a) Owen Dale or b) injured. On balance, not selling our good players is great but I also can't help thinking that our approach to signing a central midfielder might have been a bit flawed. 

I'm not saying I lifted the transcript below from the audio on the CCTV in the modular building (NOT to be referred to as a bigger portakabin than the old one in any circumstances) at the training ground but then, if I had done that, I wouldn't tell you would I...? 


Transfer team: Right, Neil, this new software lets you put in attributes and comes up with a list of players that match what you want. 

Neil Critchley: That's clever. We could really unearth a diamond in the rough with this. Someone we've not heard of. Someone on no one else's radar! 

TT: Exactly. It's state of the art stuff this. 

NC: Great stuff. Try putting in "Cameron Brannagan" 

TT: Er, ok.... Right, I was hoping we could try something else, but I'll give it a go... (sound of cogs turning) ... It's come up with "Cameron Brannagan" 

NC: Great! We'll buy him! 

TT: Neil, it's got over 30,000 players in from all the leagues in the world! It's got the Russian third division, the Japanese reserve league, the Malawi League...

Neil Critchley: Fair enough. Ok, try "plays for Oxford at the moment, but also was at Liverpool when I was" 

TT: Erm, right. Give us a second... It's come up with "Cameron Brannagan" again. 

NC: That's a sign that is. What were the odds of that?! Mike, go and see if you can flog Jordan or Ethan at the car boot on Sunday... We need to act on this. 

TT: Neil, with respect, we're paying quite a lot for this software. Can we give it one more go? How about we compare this Brannagan lad's attributes with say, players in Eastern Europe? We can search by region and even estimated wage expectations... We might find a 'Brannaganovski' if you see what I mean. 

NC: It can do that? Clever. Ok, let me think. Ok, search for 'players that have a second name that's similar to a brand of crisps that do an excellent,very strong ham and mustard flavour...' Mike, remind me to remind Jannine to see if they still do them when she's in ASDA next week*. 

TT: .... 

NC: Sorry... Ok, I'll take it seriously this time. I won't even say 'ex Crewe youth players' 

TT:... Thanks Neil. We just want to help. 

NC: 'Players that rhyme with Bameron Hannagan?' 



It's not like we've done badly of late, but every time I see a starless midfield made of Kenny and a centre half, I worry. I picture a turgid game with the ball flying over the top and Callum Connelly in a ragged, filthy kit, looking like a hapless WW1 soldier stuck in no-mans land trying to fight off machine guns with just a bayonet. Bravery is great, but if the enemy has better technology than you, then it's kind of a horrible irrelevance. 

The centre halves don't fill me with confidence either. I'm sure we've had slower pairings than Keogh and Thorniley (Broadfoot and Mackenzie weren't exactly Carl Lewis/Linford Christie were they?) but neither of them are exactly fleet footed and Bristol City are quite sharp out the blocks from the little I've seen of them. For what it's worth though, both of them would also be excellent tragic figures in a heart rending WW1 story. Captain Keogh in particular would tug at heart strings, beguiling the troops with his life story and homespun wisdom, facing his fate with his face smiling but his sad eyes giving away the truth of his soul. 

Happily it's not 1914-18 (thank fuck) and Crazy Uncle Richard is chatting amenably with the referee, not cowering from shellfire. He's very much enjoying wearing the armband and if Trickie Dickie is happy, then so am I. We've got Jerry and Gaz up front and loads of pace on the wings, so stop worrying about it and get into em! 


Immediately Bowler justifies my claim that him staying is the triumph of the transfer window by not reading Jerry's cute through ball and letting it roll out of play with a kind of baffled look on his face. 

CJ is never going to be the technical wizard that Bowler can be, but he's played well recently and he starts well again. A mad run... Go on CJ! Go on! Go on! ... sees him pull it back for Yates. The sniper can't free the trigger, the ball is under his feet, so he squares it for Bowler who draws a decent stop. It was almost the Fulham goal again. 

I think readers may have gathered that I don't quite see Connelly in the same class as Pirlo or Iniesta but here he is with a crazy tekkers first time volleyed ball into space. Go on lad! Just to keep things grounded, he's also put it out of play up the touchline twice, but on balance, he's doing ok and showing intent to go forward. Bayonet in hand and all that. 

Brizzle have had nothing, but then they break. I don't see who gives it away, but they're on us like a rash and it takes a good sprawling stop from a slightly neater looking than usual Daniel Grimshaw to keep things level. I reckon Grimmy's nan makes him get his beard trimmed and hair cut from time to time and I reckon Grimmy, whilst otherwise seeming like a lad who doesn't really give two fucks what people think, wouldn't want to upset his nan for anything in the world. I digress. 

Dougall breaks up play (an occurrence that will become a pattern) and slips it to Bowler. Here he goes. Everything stops. When he runs it's like that Matrix scene where everything slows down and the rules of physics are suspended. He goes all the way down the middle and is only denied at the last, his spell on the ball broken by a Brizzle toe that diverts it for a corner. I'm already worrying about the next window. 

He goes again minutes later, Yates winning a flick on, the ball rolling into Bowler's path. He destroys one defender, he's haring past another, he tries to dive between the man he's nearly beaten and a third player desperately coming across. The ball bounces up. It hits a Brizzle hand. Penalty?!! Nope. 

Now CJ is off... I love this pair. Pace on both flanks - it scares teams. We're on the front foot, we're not checking back and fannying about.... Where is Keshi going to play?... Imagine him in the middle pulling strings with these lads wide. What lack of creativity? Anyway... Hamilton on the left is a revelation. He can cross! With his left foot! Who knew?... (insert stuff about inverting being a stupid modern fad here) 

Whilst I'm musing on all this, Madine has pulled away and pointed, Hamilton fizzes it over, Gary throws everything at it and it's a whisker away from being a fucking incredible goal. Madine at the far post on a delicious cross. Honestly. Football heaven. I'd be happy to tell St Peter I would eschew my drink with Jerry to have had that go in. 

CJ has another go, another arrowing ball is turned away. Another Pool corner. C'mon! In it comes. Madine goes in at the near post. The ball goes out except it doesn't and everyone thinks it does but by the time Gary realises it hasn't gone, it has. C'mon Pool! We need a goal. We're on top. These are shite. Just score! 

Grimshaw livens up a dull interlude with a bit of skill to outwit an onrushing forward. I imagine him with a spliff dangling from his lips, hunched over some decks on some decks scratching at a party in a flat in Manchester. A smile on his face, just for him. Lad doesn't give a fuck. Grimshaw for England. No, really. I mean it. 

We put a lovely move together, the ball goes left to right like a series of passes in rugby. Gabriel is the man outside everyone else who will take the ball over the try line. He hammers it and the keeper tips it away... 

Rain drums the stand roof. It sounds exactly like one of those rainstick things that only exist in primary school music rooms. Brizzle are a bit better for a while. Connelly, who has done well, balances up his good work with a terrible touch that lets them in. Keogh comes across. Their lad pulls out a swan dive and gets nothing other than mockery for his trouble. 

I'm starting to think we've maybe missed our chance to score.

Madine flicks it. It's not found anyone. Everyone on both sides thinks the moment is dead except for Josh Bowler who does brilliantly to keep it alive. Gabriel swings in a cross. Yates is there, it's too far for Jerry to nod home but Jerry isn't thinking of scoring so it's not too far at all. The sniper leaps, and turns it back the way it came, into the path of CJ who slots home with raw delight! YES! It's his first goal forever and well deserved by both him and the team. 

Bloomfield rocks with delight. CJ's name is sung. The Albert Hall can get to fuck. This is music.

We come forward again. We're on our feet again. C'mon Pool! A far post ball, CJ scrambles and keeps it in, CJ battles and wins a corner. More noise. Dougall spots it up. No fuss, none of that getting it on an exact blade of grass shite. It's a good one too, swinging out slightly, far post. Who is there? It's only the shark made human himself, Gary Madine. He lies in the water, basking. Nothing to be seen here. THen he gets the scent of blood. A flick of the tail and he's moving, first away from goal, then another flick and he's going up and forward, crashing onto the ball, powering it toward goal. He's torn into the cross, feasted on his prey. A defender sprawls but when Gaz gets a header right, the ball stays headed and the hapless Brizzle player can only turn it into the netting. 

I've gone. I've practically whited out. My head is just pure static. It's Madine. With a bullet header. From a corner. I could stop writing for the season now. 

Seeing Richard Keogh bellowing his heart out in delight, a mirror of a fan at the front of the stand doing the same is a sight that stays with you though. The arl fella is magic. He just likes football. The fan and Crazy Uncle Richard roar in tandem. Then he drapes himself around Gaz. The two of them have a moment. Something about redemption and coming back from stuff and all that. Honestly. I think I've got something in my eye. Richard Keogh has got to be the best player that I ever once thought was complete shite. Have I ever been more wrong? 


Weirdly, at half time, I'm more nervous than if we'd been shit. We've been really quite good. Ok, we're not playing the sexiest modern football ever, but we're going at them and we're making and scoring chances. What's not to like? 

I've been here before too many times. Game of two halves and all of that type of thing. I know the drill. They make a sub, we stand off, they score, we wilt, they score again. We rally, we miss a chance. They nick it. We all go home and rage about life. 

"A third would kill it. Be nice to get another just after half time." My neighbour offers a more optimistic take. 

As if that's how it goes though! 


He goes.

Dougall sees him go and hits a raking ball. It's a good ball, floating and falling exactly where Bowler is. If the ball is good, the control is something else. A football dropping from the sky is fast, heavy, hard. It swirls in the air to defy your best efforts at reading it and it bounces away if you get things a fraction wrong. Having a big lad running at you as well would put most people off their touch but Bowler doesn't see the wind, the rain, the defenders charging after him. He just hears music. It's classical, balletic music playing just for him. The ball is a dove, flying gracefully to land at his feet. He takes it down with the most gossamer soft bit of skill imaginable. He caresses it, brings it close to him and then he explodes at the box. A defender? Who cares. A shimmy, they're gone. He stands the keeper up, sits him down and puts the ball neatly into the other corner than he was looking at. 

That was genius. 

The game is over. The cheers are weirdly muted as if we can't quite believe it. This doesn't normally happen. It takes a while before the noise really builds up but when it does, it's beautiful. A rare 40 minutes stretches ahead of us. We're so on top, we're way ahead and we can just watch football. Not biting nails and imploring for more, just watching the game for the sheer hell of it. 

CJ is still hungry. He bustles down the left. He's tackled but he snarls into his man and takes the ball back and smacks a cross in. Another corner... Go on lad! I really do like him on the left. In my head, I'd sold him to Wycombe or someone about 3 weeks ago but here he is playing like this. People who claim expertise in football are idiots. 

The game drifts on pleasantly. Allez Allez Allez! Owen Dale gets a little run about. Bowler gets a heroes reception and responds by high fiving all the people in the bottom rows as he walks back to the bench. There's just a feeling about him at the moment. He's got something you just don't see every season. Every team, even the shite ones, has a player or two that you get behind and rest your hopes upon, but every now and again, you happen on a player who makes you feel anything is possible. I think that Bowler could be the first one for ages who really fits that billing. 

Brizzle do a bit more cos what else are they going to do with their time? A lightning break with lovely swift interchanges sees a shot slammed into the side netting. That was probably the best football of the day (outside of Bowler's control) so they can't be this shite every week surely? 

There's a flash point on the touchline. Madine is fuming. Madine squares up. This might not end well. Jerry goes haring in and has a scuffle. Don't fuck this up Pool! A yellow card is a welcome relief. 

Yates has a little dance on the edge of the box. There's a load of players in it, but it's as if Jerry is determined to tee up his mate so picks Gaz on the edge instead. Sadly, Gary can't dance round the defenders and finish with a little chip up and scorpion kick. He turns quite slowly and loses it. Jerry gives him an encouraging gesture though. The two of them are a proper pair. Every know and again, they come together and low five like gangsters before trotting away. Are either of them the best striker at the club? It's a moot point, but they are without question, the best partnership. 

Charlie Kirk and Jake Beesley come on. Kirk looks more like a wing back to me than a winger in terms of physique. He links nicely in one move, him, Jerry and Dale combining really well, but the final ball, beautiful as it is, is to no one at all. Beesley, I really like. The best way I can describe him is 'like an athletic John Murphy' and he moves a lot. He's strong and surprisingly quick and could have been in had Jerry not tried to flick a Keogh ball that was arrowing right towards the new man who had lost his marker intelligently in the box. 

Brizzle keep going. They get a bit tetchy and hack a few down and finally get a goal. It's a bit of a shit goal to concede as we fall asleep at the far post but it doesn't matter. The end isn't tense at all. We calm it down a bit and stop looking for the fourth goal and just play a bit of football instead. When do I get to write that this year? 

The whistle goes. Delight! Critch keeps the crowd waiting and then it's YES! YES YES!!!!! 


As I practically skip down Bloomfield Road, I think that we probably controlled that game as well as any this year, aside from maybe the PNE match. We didn't really play champagne football all the way through or owt like that but we won the war. Our midfield bullied theirs. Connelly got stuck in, Dougall was fucking terrific. He snapped into them high up the pitch and when he won it, he used it well. 

We pressed effectively. CJ and Bowler are both doing that very well at the moment. Our goal at Fulham came that way and the two first ones today saw those players simply not giving up on a loose ball and making something happen a few moments later. For all the beautiful play, Bowler seems to have realised something about his role that is making him work for the team far more. Whatever that is, I hope he has it written down so he never forgets it. 

There's a directness to us that has been lacking. We didn't faff about. We mixed it up, we got it wide, we went down the middle. We got at them. We played like we believed in the defence, instead of playing like everyone needed to defend. We gambled with players like Gabriel getting forward. We really rattled the other team. 

I look at the table. 5 points to 6th. Madness to think about that. Nothing today really said anything other than we put away a side having a bad day. Football is madness though. It's a beautiful collective insanity. We've got no chance. I'm getting carried away. That's the point though. Football takes you away. We've still got no chance. Not without a midfield, not against all that money, not against everything that makes it obvious that we've got no chance. We really haven't. 

Have we?  


* It is my awful duty to reveal my extensive research has led to a discovery that Brannigan's crisps have been discontinued. Please consider the picture below to be a tribute to a truly sensational potato based snack. RIP. 


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1 comment:

  1. Fantastic writing once again pal, love the WW1 imagery! Can imagine Dickie Keogh sat next to a roaring hearth in his rocking chair with his grandad shirt and braces, pipe and slippers regaling youngsters with his tales of yesteryear! ๐Ÿคฃ Great stuff, keep it up, COYP ๐Ÿงก๐ŸŠ


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