Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Languid summer evening - K/AFC Fylde vs the Mighty

Why am I here? I'm sure there's better things you could do with such a nice evening than watch a glorified training session for the players that Micky 'strong and silent type' Apples doesn't fancy. Still, what we're going to surely see is a few of them step up and show exactly what they're made of. We'll score 8 or 9, with one of the outcasts playing so irresistibly well that we'll all agree that it's a good job we didn't get Simms after all.

Why is K/AFC Fylde here? It's such a weird concept for a club. A team representing a wider area that already has one too many clubs anyway, even discounting Dave 'great employer' Haythornthwaite's start up. I actually quite like that Fleetwood has a club. It's a real place with a derelict fish curers, the Mount, that bit where the trams turn round and everything but K/AFC are basically based at a roundabout. Still,  snobbery gets you nowhere. Unless you are dead posh and I'm not, so I should be a bit more charitable to our hosts. Who supports them though? 

I chat to a nice fella on the way up. He tells me he goes to see Man City youth games more often than Fylde. On the way out, I see the slightly infamous K/AFC car and note that on the parcel shelf it has a neatly laid out Liverpool minikit. I wonder if that's what K/AFC are for - people who watch other teams. When we get in, I can count their fans. About 250 I think. 


Owen Dale is the player I'm hoping will be the surprise package. I like players with a swagger and he swans about like he's a little Cantona. If he had a collar, it would be turned up. I don't remember Cantona passing free kicks straight out of play though. He liked to belt it from the edge of the box but he generally put it somewhere near the goal as opposed to 10 foot wide and ten foot over. 

At least Dale has an effort. The only other things Pool do in the first 44 minutes and 30 seconds are to avoid the ball, (CJ) whallop a good chance straight at the keeper (Lavery) and knock a pearoller wide (Jerry.) Fylde are definitely the better side. We do lots of pointless passing and get caught in possession or give possession away more than once. We look very uninspired. It's not so bad not looking like you can find away through a Premier League side but this is a side 3 leagues below us and they have the better efforts. 

Maxwell tips one over that I don't see clearly cos I'm pointing out where I got my pint from to someone. Maxwell makes a decent sharp stop from a right defensive flap at a corner. Maxwell makes an excellent stop from a close range effort that is flagged offside. Jordan Thorniley is the only outfield player I can say is definitely playing well. 

Then little Jack Moore picks it up and runs with it from in his own half. He goes past two players, he offloads to CJ who cleverly scoops it on and into the path of Moore who has carried on his charge. He's like a little battery powered toy speedboat ploughing a fizzing wake through the parted Fylde defence. He takes the return ball nicely, he squares and Jerry makes little fuss of the finish, tucking it home like it's the year before last and he's a deadly poacher once more. 


To be honest we were pretty dire. Lavery is not so much on fire as doused with flame retardant foam. Dougall is just doing Dougall things but when no one is doing owt else, that's pretty pointless. CJ had one good touch for the goal and a shot on target I forgot about above but has had about 8 moments where the crowd collectively mutters "ffs CJ." Bez is nondescript. Apter is trying and is clearly a decent player but he's not a left back. Fylde have been taking it quite seriously and done ok but they've attracted a few bookings already as if wanting to leave their mark on us to prove a point. I'm not sure what that point is to be honest. Probably the best thing Dale did in the half was get up and give a bit back to a lad who quite obviously scythed him down. 

I like the ground though. It's got character in that it feels quite continental. The balmy summer evening is giving off the kind of vibes that suggest to me that we could be playing in the south of France. I decide I'll pretend I'm not on the outskirts of Wesham and that I'll overlook that the main stand looks like a Booths with some seats tacked on and instead tell myself that the sloped roof design is a bit continental and we're on a preseason tour. What else am I going to do if the second half is anything like the first? 


We are happily a good bit better second half. It seems like Appleton is really expert at halftime. Maybe he should just bollock them before the game? We aren't so painful to watch when we resume and put pressure on their goal from the off. Jerry is really good at football. He has it wide. He puts a beautiful ball over and Thorniley heads wide when he should hit the target. Jerry next tries to curl one in from a difficult angle and nearly pulls it off. 

CJ does pull off an audiacious little shimmy and knocks it to Shayne. Lavery copies him. Their defence is flumoxed. It's brilliant to watch. The ball is back with CJ. This is going to be a fantastic goal!... He twats it a mile over. FFS!

Apter gets forward and pulls back. Dougall has a Wembley-esque effort and their keeper saves low down. Jerry plays a delightful through ball. Lavery belts after it gets to it and sort of stands on it and falls over and the keeper gathers it low at his feet. His face tells you everything about how it's going for him at the moment. The word is, I think, 'rueful' 

Jack Moore has again done ok, but he's absolutely cut out by a long diagonal that he gets lost underneath. From the resulting possession, Fylde sweep the ball across and a low effort is really well saved by Maxwell who has definitely been good tonight. His distribution has been excellent as well and several times his throws start decent Pool moves. 

The most decent move of the night involves Hamilton haring down the right, leaving his man for dead. He looks so good sometimes. Usually he runs it too far or gets all tangled up in his own legs, but this time he clips it nicely for Bez who meets it beautifully and cracks it hard into the roof of the net. It's a really good finish and probably the best goal of preseason. 

We get to see Tayt Trusty who is gloriously rugged in the tackle and Brad Holmes who has a half chance he doesn't react to quite quickly enough but the game plays out without much further incident aside from the referee blowing confusingly early and no one quite realising the game has ended for about 20 seconds. 


Did we learn much? Not really. Bez has added a little to his highlights reel for prospective employers. Jerry played ok without quite setting the world alight and again, he and Lavery didn't really combine very well. CJ was the best and worst player on the pitch at different points. Thorniley continues to trudge about looking like a fella doing a double shift carrying bags of cement but being quite good at being a central defender in a way that sadly for him, football managers don't seem to fully value. The kids didn't do much wrong but neither of them really screamed 'definitely will eat up the Championship and spit it out with impudent disdain if you start them on Saturday.' I think Apter is the more ready of the two and whilst not a left back in a month of Sundays, I did like his willingness to tangle with attackers. 
It was a kickabout in the sunshine. It didn't matter at all. I quite enjoyed it in that sense. The long grind starts very soon. 


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Monday, July 25, 2022

Read yourself back to sanity (part 2)

Books are grand cos they're a mentally healthy alternative to the constant churn and anger of social media. I don't read enough of them because my brain is fucked cos of the constant churn and anger of social media.

Here are some books I have managed to persuade my attention deficit mind to focus on for a few hours that I think are decent.

I'd love ye to recommend some stuff too just cos I'd like to read some good stuff. Here goes... 

Be Good, Love Brian - Growing up with Brian Clough - Craig Bromfield

I love Cloughie. I find him the most fascinating of people. He's probably the single greatest football manager to have ever lived and a singular personality with plenty of sharp edges to compliment his undoubted humanity. This book is an amazing journey. In short, the author meets Clough by chance one day and ends up living with him, becoming a kind of adopted child to the Clough family. It's as much about the author's experiences of childhood poverty and his relationship with his own family as it is the Cloughs but that works really well. He draws a beautiful contrast between life with and without Brian. Football only really makes its way into the story quite late on but that doesn't matter. Whilst at times, he creates a warm picture of his memories, other details are chilling - the details of midnight flits from an abusive father are sketched through child's eyes in a really powerful way. Clough's presence in his life grows bigger and bigger as he gets older and the reader gets to feel the same open eyed wonder at being up close with Brian as the author must have felt. One of the most unusual football books I've read. 

More than Game - Saving Football from Itself - Mark Gregory

This isn't a riveting read in some senses, but stay with me for a moment. This is one of those 'football is a right old mess' books but where other books provide angry polemic and political tub thumping, this book approaches the situation with cold hard facts. It's written by an economist. It shows. Again, that's not a criticism. It's the kind of book that you can refer to in order to make a point properly. It's the kind of book which looks at evidence first instead of just telling the story the author wants to tell. It's got interesting perspectives for sure, the writer is thoughtful and looks at things like his own relationship with a club funded by gambling fortunes and is especially interesting on the way that football funds community work but overall, the facts and figures of the finances are the star. It's an important book that illustrates some of the structural issues of our game in a stark and inarguable fashion. 

Another book about the state of football, but this time one with an amazingly tense story despite seemingly set around footballing backwaters. Calladine and Cave begin investigating a kind of crowd funded football club purchase that on the surface appears all about benevolence and democracy but as the numbers unravel, turns out to be built on quicksand and deceit. The authors weave their own alarming experiences of threats, violence and shoddy police protection together with broader picture details of the wild west of football finance. This is an eye opening book about the vulnerability of the game to the kind of nefarious sorts that are attracted to football club ownership and the painfully poor protection we all have from scams and con artists.  

I loved this book. It is to my shame that I don't know all that much about the Spanish Civil war and (as Clough would have it) all that type of thing. I now know a lot more about Spanish history and a lot more about two clubs who dominate the world football landscape and about Spanish football in general. Lowe gets the level of detail just about right, lingering on certain players or managers like Di Stefano or Herrara just long enough to give you a feeling of intimacy with the topic, but managing to not stray into banal detail. Whilst the football is at the fore, he contextualises the two clubs in terms of their position in wider Spanish society and he does so fairly, showing that the idea that Madrid were simply 'the Franco team' and Barca 'the heroic upstarts of the resistance' is a gross over-simplification. 

This is how it feels - An English Football Miracle - Mike Keegan

In contrast to some of the above, this is quite a light read. It's ace though. If, like me, you are slightly wistful for a bygone age when a decent manager and the sort of money you can pull together from a board of local businessmen could occasionally disrupt the football landscape, then this book will be exactly the sort of escape from an era of oil money, global branding opportunities and executive salaries that you need. Royle is probably not remembered in the way he should be - he comes across really well in this book. Football as whole back then seems simultaneously a lot more ramshackle but also kind of more raw than it does now. I read it in one sitting which says a lot. 

The Peoples Game - Football, State and Society in East Germany - Alan McDougall

This is definitely the hipster choice. When I bought this, my heart dropped. This wasn't a football book, I thought, but an academic study. It appeared dry, wordy and serious minded. I persevered and discovered it was anything but. Details of life in the DDR burst from the page. Fans gathering at the wall to hear games they'd been cut off from, clubs encouraged in and out of existence. Terrace culture and the sense that a football crowd could be a tiny oasis of free expression (and violence at times.) The astonishing and at sometimes comically inept details of Stasi officers tailing the national team abroad. This book may have its roots in academia but it's a sensational history of everyday life in a place that still feels shrouded in mystery even today. 

Dynamo - Defending the honour of Kiev - Andy Dougan  

More Eastern Europe but this time, Ukraine. I read this book before Putin's own siege and several times since, I've been struck by images from it. It follows the story of the Nazi attack and occupation of the city and tracks what happens to players. Resistors, collaborators, those who flee and those who end up in death camps. The story of the war is one that is endlessly retold, but the details of everyday life beneath the dates and figures are fascinating. The fact that football goes on at all is incredible, but the account of the infamous 'death match' in which a scratch side of Ukrainians including some of the Dynamo Kiev stars play the best players the occupiers can put together is astonishing. 

All of the above stuff you have to pay money to read but here are some things that you don't. 

The Lonely Season - Coventry City blog

When we played Cov, one of their fans paid my blog the compliment of 'it's a bit like the lonely season but not as good' - I hadn't read the lonely season. I therefore read the lonely season. I could see what they meant. It's decent. It seems to have stopped in March - I hope it carries on. 

Loft For Words - QPR fan site 

The writing of Clive Whittingham makes this site special. Most sites where there is a load of links, fancy pictures and a few adverts tend not to be very good but this has the quality you'd expect when the website has a pun so good that it works twice for its name. It's superb and as with the Coventry page, it's a pleasure to read something that is idiosyncratic and skilfully put together that feels true to the writer as opposed to an attempt to ape a more commercially familiar style. 

I'd particularly like some suggestions for other blogs that are really good. I know I've read some others I've liked this last season but I can't remember them -

This year, I really need to collect them into one app or suchlike as it's harder and harder to find content that is actually decent and isn't just some trolling shite where people speculate wildly about fuck all and call that 'content' or incredibly boring official stuff which is just basically placeholder material with a nice picture. 

My previous set of reading recommendations are here. You can obvs read this blog for free too if you want. 

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Sunday, July 24, 2022

Ready or not... the Mighty vs Everton

We're going to be just fine. Look at them on the pitch pre-match.... They're wizards. The lot of them. All this doom about not signing people is just teeth gnashing and wailing because we haven't made Sky Sports News enough. Success in football isn't dictated by column inches or amounts of time spent on the revolving ticker. It's forged by skill and effort - yes, individuals matter, but it's above all a team game. 

Other clubs might have more shiny new faces to wonder about and project hope upon, but we've got plenty of devils that we know and are maybe thus better off, even if that's less exciting. It's kind of harder to get excited about players who you know all their faults, but that's just the 21st century attention deficit at play isn't it? Woosh... Keshi curls it home. Smack... Gaz hits it so hard, it nearly takes Stuart Moore's hand off. Fizz... Virtue tucks a drive away neatly. They look a million dollars in this warm up. 

What the fuck are we thinking about going into the season without any new signings? We look shit. Everton have done us twice, scoring piece of piss goals, making Luke Garbutt look like Carlo was spot on in his assessment. You can imagine Everton's wide right players looking puzzled and going 'who???' when asked about what it was like to face our left back today so far away is he from them. The first we give acres of space for a cross to the far post which is then turned home far too easily. The second looks like it could have been offside, but for all Uncle Richard's pointing and shouting and jumping on the spot, the flag doesn't show, the ref isn't interested and we're 2-0 down within ten minutes. 

The rest of the half is really, really boring. Everton aren't very good in the global scheme of things but they're enjoying being 2-0 up and just knock it about without much effort and look a league apart from us. Which, to be fair, they are. We run about after them to no real effect. Appleton stands on the touchline musing in a black serious looking tracksuit top. Boring Frank stands on the touchline in leisurewear that makes him look like he's attending a very expensive new money wedding but wearing his dress down clothes as it's the night before the big day and he and all his new money pals are casually lounging in the bar drinking fashionably expensive whisky and talking about fashionably expensive motors whilst their fashionably expensive wives carry big fashionably expensive balloon glasses of gin and big fashionably expensive square glossy paper bags from fashionably expensive boutiques. At least no one is wearing a fucking 'gilet'. 

We huff and puff. Carey can't quite get his foot on the ball. Bowler has a couple of foreys. Fiorini looks most likely but his flick knife is blunt and his two shots on goal are poor, one scuffed into the arms of the keeper the other wellied over the top. I stifle a yawn. The clock moves slowly. This is a double period of science at school of a half. Connolly provides a bit of cheer by putting in a tackle or two. Williams doesn't look especially good or especially bad. He certainly hasn't shown that sheen that occasionally a high class loan can bring yet. Gordon is really good for them, except he keeps falling over for no reason. Dele Alli has one moment where he runs at us and it looks like we can do absolutely nothing about it. He looks world class for a second or so, until he over-complicates it and then tries to buy a foul which the referee just laughs at and gives the other way. 

This is boring as fuck. Here's Bowler though. He's anything but boring. He goes, he glides, he's unstoppable. He's smacking it... It's saved. It's in the air. It's Gary Madine!!! He's missed it? No he hasn't. He's headed it home. I think. Has he? He has! It's a total playground finish but who gives a fuck. It's a Gary goal! 


We've looked really vulnerable down the flanks and the attacking endeavour has been minimal. It's hard to work out what exactly the formation is, but despite there being quite a few theoretically exciting players on the pitch, the reality has been, we've really not got forward very well. I'm not sure if it's our own ambition limiting us, or Everton just being well drilled. Boring Frank and 'well drilled' aren't really a set of phrases you put together, so I'm inclined to think we've just not really clicked with whatever it is we've been asked to do. 


We're looking loads better. It's always more fun when they kick towards you and a few minutes in, I've enjoyed this half a lot more. We're creating pressure. Everton break and score again. Of course they do. Again, it all seems really easy. Hmmm. 

We're not bowed by that though and pressure leads to a corner. Luke Garbutt puts in a lovely delivery and Callum Connolly sneaks towards the near post and glances home. Yes! I always said Garbs was great! 

We then have a really good spell. We put the Toffees under a lot of pressure, dragging them around with some smart movement and showing a desire to pick up the ball, move it forward and get beyond each other to make an attacking option. I really enjoy this spell of the game. We come close a few times, the most notable being a stunning curler from Bowler that Pickford saves wrong handed, diving beyond, but chucking his trailing arm up and showing remarkable strength to turn it over and a corner where Keogh darts with a surprising turn of pace to the near post and is an eyebrow away from getting a glance on it that would surely turn it home. We have to remain off the pitch for another week... 

The pressure doesn't tell though and Everton leg it up the other end and score another goal from their right hand side. This one, hard as it is to tell from the other end, seems to be stabbed home in front of Grimshaw from a fairly routine ball through albeit after a delicious lofted first time pass from one of them on the halfway line caught us flat footed. 

Keogh goes off after feeling a bit of discomfort. We bring on Jack Moore, Thorniley, Jerry, Shayne and Rob Apter over the next few minutes. We play quite well still. Moore looks ok. He looks small though. Apter looks like he's a bit more physically ready and he's does his best to get us going in his brief cameo, creating a good moment purely by being direct, where even though he scuffs the final action, the ball breaks kindly and we seem to be through for a second. 

I'm distracted at the end by a mad lad in a luminous body warmer who seems to want to offer first Pickford, then the entire North Stand out for a fight which is a strange but somewhat diverting sideshow. At least he wasn't doing heart gestures at us in his body warmer. We have some free kicks we don't do very well with and an effort from Fiorini which curls, but way too late and is always going wide. The ref plays an extra 30 seconds to let us take a corner. Nowt comes of it. 

Time is up.


Overall, I enjoyed some of how we played - I liked the second half desire to get at Everton and we were probably the better side. We were so far the inferior side in the first half and some of the defending looked so flimsy that it's difficult to complain about the result. It's a joy to watch a side with players in the middle of the park that want to go forward. It's less of a joy watching a side who don't appear to really have a left hand flank. Garbs is the only option at the moment defensively and Keshi seems the best fit in the current squad, but neither of them excelled. 

It's an interesting spectacle, watching Appleton trying to impose a different mentality. Critchley's pragmatic ethos suited our squad. Results tell that story. It did, however, leave us wondering about the little flashes of exciting football we saw. Could these players be more? Was Critchley too cautious? On this evidence, I don't know. For a start, preseason is where fools rush to make judgements based on deeply flawed evidence but if I'm going to stupidly join that rush, I'd say we've sacrificed the defensive solidity and not really yet compensated by finding a natural looking attacking fluidity. I'm all for scoring one more than them, it just feels a bit like we might be in danger of scoring one fewer than them... 

Gary Goals Goal Machine Madine showed a couple of moments of sublime skill (to compliment the bundled home goal) but playing with his back to goal is his strength. It felt to me as if we really needed someone playing facing the other way making the ball for the midfielders, opening space in front of them by dragging players out the way. Either that, or we need to be bolder getting midfielders forward or wide players tucked into a front 3. Lavery feels the natural fit for that forward aggressive runner, but he again came on wide, where, to be fair, he showed his waspish side for a few minutes and seemed to add to the attacking threat though I'm sceptical about his all round game being good enough to play there. 

It's idiocy to read to much into kickabout football though and idiocy to read too much into the opinion of a shite blogger. 


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Friday, July 22, 2022

The price is right?

After Covid, it was mooted that football might possibly have been served a dose of reality. The transfers of multiple players this summer serve as a stark reminder that football is still firmly in fantasy land. Haaland (who is, after all just a shit Gary Madine) is the big galumphing tip of a very big, expensive iceberg of transfers.

I don't know if you've noticed, but it's not just footballers who are getting more pricy. Even Aldi doesn't seem quite as good value as it was these days. Money is quite topical. It's a grubby thing for sure, but try doing the weekly shop without it. Foraging is great if you are a trust funded Guardian columnist with a book on 'getting away from it all' to flog but for the rest of us, living off petrol tainted blackberries and bracken soup isn't really an option cos we're too busy spending our wages getting to work to earn the wages to get to work to spend our time gathering and making organic broth. 

In recent weeks I've read about price rises at many clubs (including my own), the ludicrous prices for premium fixtures in the Premier League, such as Fulham's £100 tickets (which are, astonishingly probably aimed at tourists as opposed to Fulham fans) and debated the fact that many clubs have ignored Reading's reciprocal pricing offer in the Championship. It's heartwarming that football clubs are responding to the tightened financial circumstance assailing their supporters by raising the bar for entry.

What strikes me as odd, in all of these cases, is the number of supporters I've seen online who seem to actively want to pay higher prices. The argument generally goes something like this:

- if we want to compete, we need to back the club

This is essentially true in that ticket revenue is a significant income stream, but of course, the higher a team climb in the pyramid, the less true that becomes. The better a team is doing, the less the supporters in the ground actually matter to the club. Roughly half (in some cases more) the income of a lower league club comes from matchday revenue whereas for a top flight side, it's more like 10% of revenue.

Fans also say things like

- Well, it's £20 to watch non-league down the road so £48 with a £17 one off sign up fee to entitle you to buy tickets in the first place is a bargain when you think about it...

Again, we're ignoring the fact that as we get to the top, football clubs get greater and greater subsidy. There's something odd about the way that as more money comes into these clubs from TV, the last thing on the minds of many directors is protecting the ticket prices for supporters who previously kept the clubs afloat when there was little or no TV money. 

It's as if the clubs can't conceptualise that they might not always be at that level - that they might once again rely on the revenue through the turnstiles and it's unlikely that whatever new money they're aiming at with tourist tickets and corporate pricing is going to be flocking to watch a club grubbing around the lower reaches of the pyramid.

- it's just business - supply and demand dictates cost.

Again, yes, this is, of course, on a surface level at least, true, but as this blog has written about at length previously, football doesn't actually resemble a business in any conventional sense.

Football as a whole seems to do absolutely nothing to manage the costs it passes on to its consumers. Imagine supermarkets celebrating that they've struck eye wateringly expensive deals with milk suppliers. Building companies don't fall over each other to pay more for their materials and then triumphantly wave their overspending around and call it ambition do they?

I've no desire to see football run as a pure business. In my mind, it is first and foremost a sport and it is ceding control to business thinking that has left us with a lopsided, distorted and ultimately damaged model of competition where the sport is now secondary to the TV spectacle and ripping fans off and calling it 'an opportunity to display your loyalty' is the order of the day...

We can't, however, have it both ways. It can't both call itself a business and then act as if it's not a business just as Barclays Bank can do a bit of token charity fund raising or virtue signalling but by the nature of its business, is fundamentally not a charity or a moral force, but a bank and thus tied to profit.

The point is this. Most businesses outside of the most elite brands (like say, Rolex or Ferrari) are subject to tremendous pressure from consumers to hold down their prices and get the best possible deals for their supply. Asda, Curry's, Home Bargains etc wouldn't last five minutes if they entered a war with their competitors to overspend.

Football is of course, not Asda or Curry's. I've never had an out of body experience in a branch of Dunelm Mill. I've never chanted till I'm hoarse about Office World. I wouldn't travel across the country on my day off to eat at a new Toby Carvery just to say I've been there...

When Saturday Comes....

Football is not like those things and yet, we've essentially ended up with the worst of both worlds - one in which football as a whole IS run like it is a business and therefore our clubs largely have to accept the shitty financial structures that condemn most of us to a bleak, mid table at best trophyless future of eternal mediocrity and where it also relies heavily on the fact that to fans, it ISNT a business as we have to fund the wild and desperate efforts of our clubs to compete in the face of almost impossible financial barriers. If it was 'a business' then we'd all fuck off to Aldi as Asda took the piss.

As the cost of living bites (and it really is), petrol prices rise, food costs add up, each £30 matchday ticket, each rebranding of a previously standard block into a premium seating area with 'benefits', each hidden service charge, each yearly new shirt (always three a season now as well), each ridiculously priced training top which is essentially some shite you can by from JD sports for £25 quid more than doubled in price cos there's an iron on logo on it, each piece of 'exclusive news' hidden behind a subscription paywall is akin to a slap in the face to someone. It's basically a rich lord of the manner stood at the gates of his private estate shouting "fuck off" to the commoners who paid for it wanting to walk through the grounds they paid for.

That's possibly harsh. Not all club owners are, to use a technical term, irredeemable cunts. Some are even 'alright.' A select few might even make it to 'decent.' The problem is this - individually, clubs can have good intentions but they exist in a collective structure. Individually a club can choose to set whatever prices they want but of course, the price of competition is set by the interplay of competitors. In business, that generally drives prices down, but football has become like Formula One - spending is the key to success to a greater and greater extent, so that competition has the opposite effect on pricing to what it would have in an everyday market. 

The logic of fans is simple. We want to enjoy football. We want our team to win. For some, the game is about the experience, the community, the friendships and that aspect is essential but I suspect for the vast majority of us, even if we subscribe to that, the bottom line is - we're happier when we win and more fed up when we lose. The experience is fundamentally defined by the fact it's competitive. If it wasn't, then we could just meet our mates in the park with some cheap cider and watch pigeons wandering about aimlessly for free. There's a reason why we congregate around football and that's because it's a fucking brilliant game. 

This is the rub. We want to win and so we find ourselves cheerleading price rises and urging our fellow fans to spend, spend, spend because we hope it will make us more competitive whilst at the same time celebrating the game as a binding part of a community. It's something we should reflect upon. Yeah, that extra £5 might be affordable to you, but the lad who stands next to you, or the family who sit below you might not be there next year. 

Give me a 'G.E.N.T.R.I.F.I.C.A.T.I.O.N' 

This is, of course, all driven by excessive spending at the highest levels. The top clubs have essentially become lifestyle brands akin to Rolex. Obscenely expensive products that sit in a totally different category to the things the rest of us buy. 

We're falling over ourselves to embrace this world. Our clubs are like wannabe aspirational brands and we love it. We wet ourselves over the fact that our clubs have business managers, data scientists and elite level facilities -  whilst at the same time there's a foodbank collection outside the gates of the ground. The costs of running a club rise every year. The tins pile up and football collectively doesn't give a flying fuck. Plenty of people individually care, but we've done a spectacularly bad job as a whole of managing the cost of going to games - virtually every stadium in Europe is cheaper than it is to watch a game in the UK. It's cheaper to watch the German top tier than it is to watch some of our non-league teams. 

We might have 'the best league in the world' but it's come with a literal cost and that cost has cascaded down to all of us. In a month where (happily) the woman's game is being celebrated for creating access and a new set of fans, it might be worth stopping and wondering about whether, if it's bad (and it obviously is) that people are cut out of the game because of race, gender and sexuality, isn't it also bad that people's economic circumstances preclude them from being part of the 'football family?' 

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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Season Preview 22/23

An introduction

In the last few years, the club has been kind enough to get the transfer business out of the way nice and early. That's been very helpful to me as a blogger as it's given me loads to chat shit about about in preseason. This year, things have been different which has left me hovering over a keyboard, trying to work out how not to say the same things about the same players... 

Various theories have been posited as to why this is - a selection are offered below: 

- We're skint cos... Ben Mansford spent the transfer kitty on expensive looking open necked shirts with very posh looking collars. 
- We're skint cos... Ben Mansford spent the transfer kitty on attachment therapy after some twat in a body warmer who he thought was his BFF walked out on him for a scouse gangster who is best known for falling over at an inopportune moment. 
- We're skint cos... Ben Mansford has had a bit much Chablis when doing big Gaz's new contract and added a couple of zeros by accident. 
- We're skint cos... we've paid so many people to look for and evaluate transfer targets that we've not got any money to actually buy any of them. 
- We're not skint... and we're just taking time to adjust to the new priorities that a new manager and a new style of football brings... 

'An enthralling read. 5 stars'

So far, the signs are that Micky Apples a) won't wear a sleeveless padded jacked and club polo shirt ensemble on the touchline and b) will want to play football. 

Preseason isn't always a great guide to what will happen but we've set up to pass and several times thrown quite a few attacking players on the pitch at once. He's signed a midfielder who, on first viewing, likes to knock it about and attack the goal (Fiorini) and a supposedly footballing centre-half (Williams.) He's also given game time to Yates and Carey in key positions. These are two of the best 'footballers' in the current squad, which suggests he wants players with technique in crucial roles. 

The squad (as it stands): 

I'm looking forward to seeing how this all works. With Anderson, Fiorini, Carey and Bowler (provided he stays, which, if it was up to me, he would) there should be plenty of firepower/creativity coming from deeper or to some extent wide. Connolly adds steel but also isn't averse to a late run into the box or a shot and if Matty Virtue can stay fit, he could be an excellent balance between attacking and defensive midfield. This should also allow Dougall to do what he does best without the pressure of having to also run a game of football. We might even see Kev Stewart once in a while... 

I'm loathe to write off a player, but I'm struggling a bit to see where CJ fits into this system. He's very good at haring away from players, but less good when he's found the space. His technique isn't such that it's easy to visualise him fitting into a one touch pass and move system. I think CJ could probably win an Olympic speed skating medal but he just doesn't use the ball quick enough for the system I can see us playing. I could be wrong - I never thought Madine would fit into Critchball, I though KDH was shit at first. I though Simon Wiles would be the second coming of Stanley Matthews and so on... I hope he shoves this shite down my stupid gobby blogging throat. 

I've liked what I've seen of Rob Apter - his directness and ability to deliver a fizzing ball shouldn't be undervalued in a squad who last year couldn't cross to save its collective life. He's clearly got stuff to add to his game and I'm not quite on the 'play him at full back' hype train but like Carey last season, my impression of him in preseason is that he doesn't look at all apprehensive about playing with the big boys and that they seem perfectly happy to give him the ball. Sometimes you see youth players being nursed through the game but that's not been the case. I'm not sure he's ready to be thrown in at the deep end immediately but I think he's a player to definitely keep about the squad. Sooner or later one of the young lads has to be given a chance and Apter needs either a really challenging loan where he'll get lots of minutes at a good level or some minutes here and there with us in the league and to play in the cups. 

The Italian has a vibe of casual violence about him. In a good way. He's all flick knives and technique. I could see him in a Clockwork Orange or Trainspotting.  He should add a lot to our set up. He adds something similar to Sonny Carey but if we are going to play football, we need more than just him. He's looked excellent in the flashes we've seen of him, and he seems to have been eating some nourishing food since he's been injured as he's also put himself about more, winning the ball, clattering into people. That's really promising as, whilst I've no doubt he's got ability and a lovely football brain, the few times he didn't impress last year, he looked a bit waif like and blown away by the physicality of high level football - hopefully, that will be less of an issue this season. 

Fiorini has a certain style... 

Up front is a bit harder to work out (though it has just come to mind, that I still have no idea what Owen Dale is for - to the extent that I thought about players like Apter before I thought about him... anyway... the front three...) Bowler (see above caveat) will likely do a decent job in front three but then who plays with him, I don't know. On paper, Lavery has the best blend of physique and pace but his touch and link play can be a bit lacking and he really does need to stop falling over so much. Yates has all the link play, but he sometimes struggles to impose himself. Gaz has link play of an angel (no, really) but doesn't really seem born to play the role of lone striker, in the same way a big shirehorse is a wonderful thing if you want to pull a truck full of beer, but perhaps less so if you want to win the Grand National*. Beesley is injured and a bit unknown still - I liked what I saw, but I also don't really feel that a side built around Beesley feels realistic. Lubala deserves credit for his attitude and he's got a blend of pace and muscle that gives him a little bit of difference to the other lads, but it has to also be said, he wasn't very good in the division below. 

*What I'm saying here, may appear, (to the reader who is not attuned to nuance), as if I am calling wor Gaz 'a carthorse' - I suppose, I am in a sense, but with the logic that a thoroughbred shire horse is a magnificent beast. Dressage ponies are all fine and dandy, but frankly, a shire horse would deck any other horse, Red Rum included. #allhailthegoalmachine.

(I'm hoping very much that next season isn't like 'Animal Farm' and wor Gaz isn't playing the role of Boxer - the last two seasons show us that best laid plans can go in the bin and plan B can become plan A and honestly, dropping the whole 'hilarious' Gaz-worship thing for a second, Gaz has never looked fitter and as an option we've already got contracted to change things up, we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth)

He's a goal machine... 

It's the left side of attack/wings that baffles me a bit. I've already said what I've said about CJ and Appleton has shown no sign of playing Keshi there. Who else is there? I really don't know. It feels like a bit of a gap we need to fill to me. I think we'll probably have evolved from hopeful long diagonals to the corner, which is the tactic upon which CJ really excelled early on in his Pool career. 

Defensively, we're looking much the same as we did last year and again, we seem to have less fullbacks than is wise. I'm not wholly convinced by Garbutt. I am convinced by Husband. Many would have it the other way round, but I think Garbutt is quite a reactive (and injury prone) player who looks stylish but has problems with positioning. Husband is more rugged but his crossing is weaker, though I think his short game and ability to set a tempo on the left is vastly under-rated as his general attitude. He's a perfectly respectable fullback in my view. Any decent side ever has skilful players of course, but they also invariably feature a sprinkling of players whose attitude is their main asset - I think Jimmy is one of ours. If Phil Neville can win a European cup then so can Jimmy... 

On the right Jordan Gabriel is a legend. He might sometimes try and play every position, but his energy is such that more often than not, he'll be an extra man in a situation rather than missing in his own position. Jack Moore, like Rob Apter is obviously quite good at football. Whether he's good enough to be a championship player, I don't know. We do still really need a right back and also, Burnley can fuck right off hovering about Gabriel like some rich bastard going to a food bank cos they've heard there's caviar in stock this week. 

In the middle, Marvin remains and that gives us a lot to work around. Trickie Dickie is a year older and injuries were starting to bite last season. I don't think it's physically possible for him to lose pace, so we just better hope his eyesight holds and his creaking legs make it through one more year, cos he's class. Personally, I think Thorniley is decent enough and can clearly play football as well as defend. The lad from Liverpool hasn't come with glowing recommendations from my Liverpool mate, but then he also doesn't accept that Brett Ormerod in his prime was probably the greatest player in football history and definitely better than Salah, so what does he know about football at all? I've nowt to say about him till I see him play. 

If Keogh scores... we're on the pitch...

I really like Douglas Tharme - He's decisive, big, has that Madine-like quality of being better with the ball than stereotypes would suggest he will be and his name is wonderfully 1930s. 'Douglas Tharme' sounds like someone who might have been an adventurer back in the days before drones and Google Earth meant you didn't need to actually go anywhere anymore. I like to imagine black and white footage of him emerging from a jungle in Borneo or setting off to the arctic aboard a whaling ship. I hope he gets some decent football this season and we find out if he's really good or really a budget Ben Heneghan. 

In terms of keepers, though it seems some have decided Maxwell is worse than the lovechild of Kingson, Capleton and Sealey, he's not suddenly become a bad keeper. He is, however, firmly back up to Grimshaw, who is without doubt, the number 1 for the season, barring anyone trying to kick his head off again. 

A prediction-y bit. 

I don't know what the season holds for us. I don't think we're going to go down. Whilst we don't have quite the same fair wind in terms of crisis clubs around the division and promotion excitement driving us on, there's a few teams looking shaky and we also still have time to go into the season looking stronger than we did last year. I wasn't hugely impressed with many sides and whilst that might be dangerous, I think we can mix it again. 

I'm really hoping a couple of players can join the likes of Marvin in stepping up and properly establishing themselves. Carey is the obvious one, though I think we need to be patient to an extent and realise how inexperienced he is. Connolly could be a really important player, especially if Appleton commits to playing him in one position. I really would like Matty Virtue to have an injury free season and then we can at least know if he's got it or not. Sometimes I think he's a yard off the pace, other times I adore his style and endeavour - every time he's had a run, something happens, be it Covid, or repeated injury. This season could be big for him. 

I also think, if we are going to play fluid, attacking football, we could see a reborn Jerry Yates. The lad can really play and the fact he gets assists as well as goals shows that he's all about vision. That little pass for Lubala vs Rangers is just the latest in a line of frankly outrageous stuff he's done in Pool shirt. Of everyone, Jerry really didn't suit the direct style our former manager employed and he's a player who could yet prove himself because you don't score the kind of goals he scored in League 1 (or finish as our most productive forward last year) if you are shite. 

I'm going to say we can improve on last year - I think we'll finish somewhere around the middle, maybe 14th if you're going to pin my down and do that typewriter thing on my chest till I blurt out a league position - but we'll play with more style. I'm being horribly optimistic perhaps, I'm assuming that we'll sign a few more (primarily a left sided winger/attacker and a right back) and they'll be decent, I'm assuming that the players are warming to Appleton in the way I have so far and I'm assuming that we can make sense of a forward line that doesn't wholly make sense. I can also see a season of struggle. This is the infinite joy of football - that it beguiles and makes fools of us all. It would be crap to support PSG. It genuinely would. 

'Mystic Mitch' 

To be honest, I don't really like predicting stuff. In fact, I'm so shite at it that basically, you can put a cast iron bet* on that CJ will be top scorer and end the season valued at about £30 million. Whatever happens, it will be football and one of the teams will be in tangerine and there will be noise. 

*not now I've written it down though. 



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Praise for 'Was that a dream? - Blackpool FC 20/21' 

"A bit better than I expected" (SAFCblog) 
"A few typos" (Amazon) 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Sun, Sonny and a stampede - Southport vs the Mighty

Preseason with no new players is a bit weird. So is seeing Bez up front for us. Hands up who'd forgotten he still plays for us?

Southport is looking suburban and splendid in summer sun. Pool knock it about quickly and refreshingly purposefully. We score quickly enough. Carey steals possession and audaciously spins himself into some space that didn't appear to be there but was. He gives and goes then burrows into the box, pulls it across and the ball is tucked home by Ireland's own CJ O'Hamilton.

The second goal doesn't take long. Carey again the provider, this time from a corner. Keogh goes for it but Bez gets his head to it and sends the tangerine army into raptures polite pre season applause.

We dominate thereafter. Keshi has a lovely run (although today he did look as if he's mostly been practicing not passing) Apter looks very forward thinking and has one hugely satisfying Bowler-esque drift from wide that he crowns with a beautiful touch through from which Yates does everything but get the crucial touch to lift over the keeper.

Someone hits the bar whilst I'm marvelling at the Southport firm (average age about 13 and a half) massing as close as they can get to us.

Sonny gives the Yr 9 army the side eye as he waits to take a corner. He's not the only one who has noticed them and the presence of a few more senior chaps arriving to greet the boys brigade sparks a sudden stampede back towards the home end. Things get a bit daft as a barrier gets pushed back and forth and a Southport player leaps into the crowd whilst Pool players run across and try and calm troubled waters.

We all stand around for a while. Ben Mansford comes and explains that every needs to move up a bit so 4 coppers can stand where some little kids had been happily running up and down the terracing chasing a balloon about. The coppers are unequivocal that some 4 year olds being on the wrong bit of terracing might cause a mass incident. World peace is secured by blocking off a toilet.

Eventually we're off again. Bez shows slick feet and forces a save. Keshi whistles a shot just wide. Sonny knocks a pass I could watch on a loop all week, splitting the defence with a languid ease and weighting it like dream for the man running on to it.


It's only Southport, but that was fun. We looked like we wanted to score goals.


Fuck my life. This half is awful. NOTHING HAPPENS.


I'll do my best. Douglas Thame (the footballer with the most 1920s name in the modern game) is dead big. He plays right back, which isn't his natural position I don't think.

Bowler and Gaz wander about. Gaz isn't in the mood for jumping. Lavery chases shadows. The lack of creativity is palpable and painful. Dale at least has a go. Thorniley does the best thing of the half - a lovely slide tackle - and the worst thing of the half - a mad slice out of play where he seems to pass to a player in his imagination.

Grimmy makes a good stop when they cut us open late on and Marv tidies the loose ball up to save our blushes. Southport are probably the better side this half to be honest. It really was turgid though.


It's a run out. There's not a lot to be learned that we didn't know, but... I like Rob Apter in the flesh a lot. He didn't always get the final ball right but he knows what he wants to do and never went backwards when he could go forwards. More of him please. 

It's slightly concerning that Bez appears to be the feel good hit of the summer. Good luck to the lad and all that, but when an appearance by a lad you'd last noted not doing much at all for Northampton because he'd been ostracised from the club is the most exciting bit of the squad news you know the market has been quiet so far.

Sonny tho. Every fucker in tangerine says "Carey could be the key this year" in a knowing way. He really could. He's exactly what wasn't on the pitch second half and exactly what we need more of in our transfer dealings. You can tackle and run about all season but without that bit of vision and ability, it's going to be a big ask to turn that effort into anything worthwhile.

Good day in the sunshine though. It's only preseason. However we play means very little. Ideally we'll get through the rest of it without being the subject of hand wringing articles in the Guardian...


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Yet another bad owner. Where do they breed them?

This is Brooks Mileson. He owned Gretna FC. If you don't know who he is or what the score is with Gretna, it might be worth giving it ...