Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, December 31, 2022

A shit preview - the Mighty vs Sunderland

A conventional blog would go through the opposition and maybe get some other non-entity off the internet to tell you what they think. I do know some Sunderland fans as well and they're grand fellows one and all, but honestly, who gives a fuck about the other team? Here's my thoughts - They'll turn up swanking about like they're proper massive as if they aren't just Stoke by the sea. They have some good players. They've got the lanky lad who looks like he should be shit but is actually really good for example. 

We might as well play one of any of the available formations. We could play an old school 2-3-5 for all the good it would do. There is no world in which out of the available players you can craft a working formation that doesn't contain a couple of holes. 

We've not got the wing backs to play 5 at the back. Playing less midfielders when our midfield is made of balsa wood at the best of times rules out four in midfield. We have only got one winger with any real skill and he's so small that I genuinely, honestly, not making it up for the sake of the blog, mistook him for a mascot before kick off on Thursday. We could try hoof ball but the distribution from the back is far from Baresi-esque

It'll be 433 and so it should be.The only hope of getting out of this with the muscular lord of charisma and self expression is to double down on what we're doing and add to that. Chopping and changing doesn't achieve anything. We've got to either a) bin off Appleton now or b) add the quality of some players specifically targeted to play in particular positions in the style we've favoured all year and hope that they lift those around them. 

I'm not convinced we'll have the muscle in the market to get those players in - but essentially we need the kind of next level boost that signing Dougall, Ballard and Stewart gave us when we were struggling in league one. Those players all slotted straight in and looked very good. We've completely lacked that sort of signing.

Talking of Kev - if we're not going to get anything out of him on the pitch, maybe we should get him on the PA or in a booth under the stands for counselling? He could encourage us all to think positively and challenge any negativity... 

"Fuck off Appleton you baldy bastard!" 
"Think about where your anger comes from? Is it you you're angry at or Appleton?" 
"Fuck off Kev - it's that skeletor on steroids prick" 
"That proves my point. Toxicity breeds more toxicity" 
"Seriously Kev, that makes no sense at all" 
"It's your way of looking at it that's the problem. Think about realigning your goals and the scales will fall from your eyes" 
"I give up" 
"I win. Let's goooo" 

I think we need to play Dougall, I think we need to play Poveda wide for lack of anyone else who is any good there. I think we have to play Yates and Madine because what the fuck else would you do and I think pushing Carey into the hole Poveda occupied previously gives him a chance to get shots off and maybe get onto Gaz's knock-downs which is something he's quite good at. 

We need, again, to just chuck everything at it on and off the pitch  It's no good just raging and simmering because we might go down and we don't like the manager because the more we do that, the more it becomes self fulfilling. I don't give a fuck if we set fire to the ground at full time - I just want us to stop being a bunch of sulky fucking melts and get back to the wall of noise that blocks out everything else in the world. From 3pm to 4.45pm it's us against the world. Not us against each other. 

It doesn't fucking matter that Michael Appleton is the manager. He's just some cunt on the touchline. So were all of them. None of them are fit to lace Billy's boots anyway. Not that swimming pool attendant that came before either, not the sad eyed grave digger that we've got now.  We're stuck with this for life. They're not. We shouldn't define ourselves by him or anyone - in the dugout or otherwise. The Appleton saga will end up being a mere footnote in the history of the whole. We can ruin the best bit of the week or we can turn up and make some fucking noise because that is literally the only point in going to watch football. 

I'm sick of Bloomfield feeling like the fucking Keepmoat stadium at a reserve game cos one man or cos not enough money or whatever. We are so, so, so much better than that. Yeah, it's shit. So fucking what. Life is full of people you don't like. Life is either about wallowing in your own self pity or fucking shaking it off and getting on. 

Maybe Kev has rubbed off on me. 

Let's goooo. 



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Thursday, December 29, 2022

No one got sent off! - the Mighty vs Sheffield United

Cheers Pele!

A long, long drive home. Another drive to the gold coast. Is it really worth it? Of course it is. Of course it will be. We might have a central midfield with the combined presence of some colourful tissue paper, we may be be the only team I can think of to go with two big lads up top and then put one of them on the wing and our defence is a mix and match of whoever is fit, regardless of it they're in the right place or any good and is about as secure and steady as a cheap plastic patio chair in a hurricane but it's DARK and the FLOODLIGHTS ARE ON so for the next 2 hours nothing else exists and all who wear tangerine are FOOTBALL GODS.

Where I was at 5.30pm... 

I quite enjoyed Hull. I thought we played ok. More of the good bits from that with less of the self destructive spells would be grand. I don't mind precarity. Fuck it, I love precarity. It gives it all meaning. When did we get too cool to support a team that were a bit dodgy anyway? Tactics Michael may or may not get a load of shit tonight. I don't care. I've had enough of sullen hand sitting and muttering. Either way, we need some noise. 

Let's have it.


We start pretty nicely. There's 3 crosses from the left, from the right, from the left again. Beesley and Madine go for the same ball at the same time like two big refrigerated trucks attempting to deliver frozen goods squeezing into the same single space supermarket delivery bay. It doesn't end well. 

Carey has a gorgeous cushioned pass. Poveda is sent flying as he races on to it. A few moments later, Poveda is skidding inside. If Bowler would glide with the ball, Poveda is like a windsurfer, all stuttering bursts and angles as if thrown about by waves and gusts and here he goes, hammering it right down the middle, their keeper throwing himself backwards and chucking his fists up, the ball vibrating the bar. 

Thommo drops a back pass short. Grimmy belts it over the east stand. Sheff U, take a throw and then like someone doing an origami demonstration, fold our defence into little bits before adding the final flourish by striking the ball into the bottom corner. I'm too far away to decide if anyone is particularly culpable but it just looked as if they decided to play for 30 seconds and scored as a result. 

Madine and Poveda fiddle it about in the middle. Madine finds the ball. Beesley is haring into the box, Beesley is striking it above angle of post and bar. Madine as the no 10. Beesley as wide man. It's just... I dunno... What are we? 

Yates wins it at the far post .. Madine turns it on ... handball??? Beesley stabs it... It's scrambled away. Handball though? Nope. nothing doing. Free kick to them. I'm going to give up claiming anything. It's pointless. 

Sheffield United decide they'll play again. A low stone skimmer of a cross and Jimmy slices over his own bar...

Pool decide to do anything but attack for ages. Anything at all will do as long as it isn't attacking their goal. Pass it sideways. Give it to Grimmy. Knock it aimlessly forward. Get the ball with space to run into and dither. Knock it back to Charlie 'why is he in the centre half position most of the time' Patino to give it away because no one wants to run about and there's no pass on at all. It's really. fucking. frustrating. Poveda looks like the only player who actually wants the ball. 

Jimmy Husband shows some wing wizardry and stands one up... It's begging to be poked home but everyone has run to the near post. Everyone claps cos the ball went forward. It's good when your centre half is the most convincing wide player. 


Clap or grumble. Not sure. Shrug and have a brew instead. It's not really a cauldron of anything. Again. 


Intent. Passing. Running at them. Winning a handy free kick. Good start. 

Letting them run the literal length of the pitch after the handy free kick goes a bit awry with everyone seemingly unable to put a foot in or even get anywhere near them as if some kind of repelling magnetic field is at work. Poveda is desperately scrambling in their lad's wake like someone who has left the handbrake off his car running down a hill after it. Thommo is running alongside as if wondering whether to jump in and put the handbrake on but not really fancying it. Grimmy looks utterly baffled as how the Sheff Utd lad has ended up in front of his goal like it's one of those MLS running at the goalie with ball things they had instead of penalties and almost seems to dive out of the way. Not so good.

'How the fuck did that happen?' I can see Grimmy shouting. Good question. 

This is it. This is when it turns. I think. It's come to a head. A 'sacked in the morning' chant rings out. Someone is hoyed out of the south stand. Everything is fucking shite. 

We break. Beesley the pacy whippet in charge... Why is he doing this job? Madine. Slower and slower. They do ok though - It's with Yates. That's better. C'mon Jerry! Jerry passes it into Poveda's heels. Oh ffs. Let's get a third beanpole and just lash it at the box for the rest of the season. This is hopeless. Sack everyone. Sack the fucking blogger if it helps. I don't care. I'm fucking sick of this anyway. There's no joy in just writing 'and we lost' every fucking week and no one fucking reads it anyway when we lose so it's a pointless exercise...

...Hang on... We've scored! A corner. Marvin. Easy as you like. The goal is greeted with something approaching caution as if we're not collectively sure we're happy about it or believe it will make any difference but it slowly turns to joy and then to determination. C'mon Pool! 

They try. Oh they try. Jerry on the end of a move gets everything right but the direction, the ball flying and swerving into the boards behind the goal. Carey puts one across the face. Carey catches one on the D that spins and spits just wide. Corner! It's 100% our corner. Nope. Of course not. 

Lavs comes on. CJ comes on. Dougal replaces Patino. We wrestle. We fight. It feels like the wrong players doing the right things. We break on the right. It's Madine charging away like a washing machine on an energetic spin cycle juddering across a kitchen floor.. Fucking hell. Well done Gaz... have a breather. Now it's Connolly. Aaaaargh. It's just not what they're built for. Somehow we get a corner. The corner comes back to Carey. He leathers it. It's saved again. 

Dom Thompson keeps over estimating his long throw ability. He throws himself about as far as he throws the ball. Bless him. CJ has a few runs like a dog excited to be out on the beach after being cooped up for days Somewhere in this Madine sneak in on a cross. It's over the top. Gaz collapses and pounds the turf. We know how he feels. 

They spend ages fucking about in the corner. Carey nearly goes into the crowd to get the ball back. It feels like we're a dog snarling on a leash being held back, teeth bared, desperate to get at them but the dog is a chihuahua. I can't fault the players. I can't. We're just not good enough. You can't be both under confident and half a yard slower whether in pace or speed of thought than the opposition and get away with it. The whistle goes. The Blades sing. The players are applauded. Appleton isn't. 


I keep writing that 'out of context we did alright but...' - Sheffield United have ridiculous players compared to us. To lose to them is not a disgrace. We were shit at times tonight but we also put some pressure on them and made some chances. An equaliser would not have been unfair but it's the same record every week. Just as I'm fucking sick of the same tepid 80s/90s playlist through a crap PA every week like playing 'Now that's what I call indie disco' is going to hype up a crowd, I'm sick of watching players manfully battle against themselves. We keep neither losing by a lot nor looking particularly like we're ever going to win. We do ok in some ways but inevitably we fall short either through a lack of composure, quality or self sabotage. 

Other teams bring subs on who would walk into our first team. I imagine opposition teams looking at our side going 'who the fuck is he?' about half the squad. We seem to play like we know that half the time and whilst ranting and raving isn't automatically a good quality, in the spells where our belief has gone, I can't see anyone getting into the players and telling them to fucking stop being frightened and have a go. Gaz is dishing out cuddles and low 5s but that's it. That seems to be the sum total of the in game mental energy. The plan seems to be to hope that they'll learn by discovery but the other teams are too good to let that happen. We try. We really do... 

Patino is sinking under the weight of being a magical midfield lynchpin that he isn't. He's a good player, but he's not good enough yet to carry us and run a game. Carey is doing ok, he carried a bit of threat tonight, but he's crying out for someone to smash the other team about a bit and make him some space. The lack of width whether from full back or forwards is hurting my eyes when I look at the pitch. We're not completely unremittingly shite - we're really not - we're just not equipped to do what we're trying to do and it's draining watching us trying endless variations on the same thing and being not quite good enough week in and week out. It's like we're always not quite as good as the other team no matter who they are. I feel we'd be not quite as good as Annan Thistle 80-81 if we played them at their age today as we'd somehow manage to fuck it up with a 5 man sending off or a load of our players falling into a big hole... It's perfectly OK to lose to Sheffield United, but if you've lost to half the rest of the dross in the division too, it's not great.  

It didn't really come to a head tonight as it might have done. I kind of feel as if we needed to win or lose 4-0. It's just dragging on and on in the same manner. Sullen. Kind of stormy but not really breaking. It's not good. It has to get better.

At least no one got concussed/seriously injured/sent off. That's practically a victory these days. 



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Monday, December 26, 2022

Wearily familiar... - Hull City vs the Mighty

We're away. The torpor of Christmas falls from us like discarded wrapping paper. Hangovers shed like reptile skin. Out into the last late days of the year. Out into football. 

The road ahead is angelic light. The road ahead is grit and sleet. Clouds swap places with blue clarity like the elements are slow dancing with each other. One moment a sudden glare of blinding sunlight sweeps up the carriage way like a deadly laser beam. Next second it's raining again and the wheel of a lorry is throwing up spray, within which a tiny rainbow forms. You don't always see beauty where you expect it. Perhaps that should be today's motto. 

Over the tops and weird swirling icy patterns form on the moorland. Down and across the flatland and into Hull. The whole place is fences and rebuilding. Boats glimpsed. Corner pubs. Flood defences. 

Did I enjoy the drive? Yeah. Am I looking forward to the game? Not really. Ok. Just a little bit. Actually, now we're here, fucking bring it on. 


High pressing. Poveda. Madine. Poveda. Beesley can't shoot. Two players go down in the box... Jerry is snapping. C'mon Pool. This is a decent start. 

The decent start doesn't last. We're penned in. We're subject to 1,2,3,4 attacks in a row. Each time we lose the second ball or we don't clear it far enough in first place. They're putting it across the face of goal, they're slicing a presentable chance into the stand, they're causing a panic at the far post - does Grimmy save that? I'm not sure.  Now they're running the length of the pitch from left back to inside our box.

Come the fuck on Pool! 

A clearance. Beesley, (who is playing on the right wing. The right. wing. Nope. Me neither.) slides in. The ball comes out beautifully. Madine holds it in the box. Yates darts. Madine thinks about finding him, then thinks about shooting but instead, just rolls it back to Sonny Carey. The little magician winds up and YESSSSS!!!!!!!

It's a beautiful finish, Carey is racing away, he's screaming and he's running to the corner. He's sliding on his knees. He's up and into the corner where he's embraced by teammates and tangerines from the terraces alike. Someone is hauled away, seemingly for enjoying themselves, with the surreal sight of Poveda grabbing his hand as he's dragged off by coppers... That was good. 

It was so good, I barely notice that they nearly score straight away. It might. just. be. our. day. 

Talking of Ian  Yan he's tying their full back in a knot so ridiculous that when he's finished doing it, he literally laughs. The noise goes up a notch. There's some life in this lads feet. More of that sort of thing. 

Beesley again coming inside, a beautiful square ball. Apparently he's a midfield general after all. Poveda has picked it up and he's drawing a diving stop from 20 yards out.

Marvin slices a ball into the box and causes all kind of unintended mayhem. Madine with a shot when the ball falls to him out of the blue. Their defence is really dreadful. They're pretty dreadful all round. How shit must they be? We're winning away. 

To be fair, we aren't by far the greatest team the world has ever seen either and we're served a pre halftime warning as they nod one over unopposed.



We've done ok. This is two poor teams playing an entertainingly low quality game with the odd flash of football in it. We've got our noses in front and Hull have to make the running now. We need this. We really, really need this. 


Jud is on, Jimmy's gone to left back. I think this is probably our best defence. I like the change. We're on top. We're moving it about quite nicely. There's a bit of shape to our play. 

Poveda tries a little flick. It doesn't come off. As quick as a flash, Hull are down the other end and turning Thorniley round. It's one on one. Thorniley is floundering, Thorniley is wrestling their lad a bit, grasping hopefully. Their lad is going down and the ref is straight over with a red. This season can go and fuck itself. That change can fuck itself. Everything can fuck off. 

They (thank fuck) put the free kick over. 

Carey is at right back for a minute. Confusion reigns. Thommo comes on and the nimble feet of Poveda make way. As expected, things get harder

Connolly puts in a fabulous tackle at the last to stop a cross becoming a shot. Grimmy makes a brilliant low double save. It's offside, but it's still sensationally good. Jerry runs a mile back to stop a ball slung deep catching us out beyond the far post. Madine and Yates terrify everyone by playing football on the edge of our box and getting away with it. 

Hull are coming again. Connolly is calm though, taking a ball down and looking, instead of lashing it away, clipping it to Patino. Charlie has played really well today, he's mostly been a right little pest in midfield but he shows his class with a curling pass into Carey who is racing away with him. Carey finds the keeper's legs, Yates smashes the rebound inches wide.  

Thommo hooks a really good clearance away. Yates takes it down, he swerves and buys some space. He feeds Beesley. The wing wizard (he's playing on the left now - no, me neither still) is brought down. Surely? Ref? Nope. Obviously not. Cos it's us. 

Now the ref ignores a completely obvious handball. The Hull lad is even wearing fucking gloves as if to rub it in. Thankfully, the ball whistles wide from the resultant play. I've had enough of feeling hard done by. We might be able to hold this. We even get away with Marvin completely air kicking one that any other week this would have resulted in a goal and probably a sending off as well. 

Thommo gets tortured by their winger. He jumps to stop a cross that never comes. Instead, Hull knock it back up the line where the full back has an age to flight a ball in. Marvin gets caught under his man and the ball goes in. I kick something. It's harder than I expect. Fuck's sake Pool. 

We have a go. Shayne comes on for Josh Bowler Jake Beesley and is sent cartwheeling in the box. It's not a penalty because why would it be? We don't have such things happen. We manage a really nice spell of passing with Madine throwing himself at a far post ball that is smuggled just wide. 

Marvin slides in and turns one past his own post, a good last ditch piece of defending. He's done pretty well overall. Grimmy 'accidentally' knocks the ball back into the stand after bouncing it about on his shoulders a few times. He gets booked. We sing his name. Quality shithouse behaviour. Love Grimmy me. 

Hull manage to make not a lot out of the remaining seconds and the whistle goes. All in all. It's a point. It could have been more. It really could. 


We worked hard, there was some spirit and it was better than it has been in some recent games. I enjoyed it. It's a low bar I guess, but I don't ask for all that much. Turn up, try, follow a set of instructions as best you can and put a bit of a scrap up and I'm satisfied. Weirdly Beesley sort of worked out wide. I say 'sort of' as I'm not sure I ever want to see it again, but he's such a game runner that he managed not to be awful. All credit to him. YTS Gaz is ok with me. I'm expecting Chris Maxwell coming into the team on Thursday as a false nine. 

I want today to be about Sonny's goal. The lad is a little diamond. The confidence to hit them will do him and consequently us, the world of good. I want it to be about Connolly's never ending determination, I want it to be about Yates' efforts and Patino's willingness to put a foot in. I want it to be about Grimmy taking his booking with a look of someone getting lectured by his geography teacher whilst his mate is grinning over the teacher's shoulder. I want it to be about Poveda's baffled excitement at how quickly his own feet move. 

Instead, as is becoming wearily familiar - it's about anything but. It's about how we need more than battling points and of course, where was Michael Appleton? He certainly wasn't reading 'The Idiot's Guide To How to Get Angry People Onside' between the final whistle and his press conference. How, after 90 minutes where I didn't hear anything but support from the fans who trekked there, the main post-match talking point in the press conference surrounds booing 5 games ago or whatever it was, I really don't know.

Appleton has a point to some extent, but this is an experienced football manager and focusing on the crowd and snapping at the amenable local rag reporter for 'negativity' isn't really an act of supreme diplomacy. How hard was it to say 'Of course I appreciate people coming - they pay my wages - I wanted the players to get the credit and that's all there is to it - the fans were great today - next question?'  

I've got a feeling that Thursday is literally make or break. We either come out and blaze Sheffield United off the pitch in a hitherto unseen blitz of tangerine fury and fire or we lose 3-1 and it all turns nasty on the telly. 

Either way... bring it on. 

Here's the archaeological record of Sonny Carey's knee slide so we can end on the shit that matters. 


You can follow MCLF on facebook or Twitter or use to get posts sent to your email If you appreciate the blog and judge it worth 1p or more, then a donation to one of the causes below which help kids and families in Blackpool would be grand. 

Saturday, December 24, 2022

A shit preview: Hull City vs the Mighty

What's the point in travelling to Hull and back? It's fucking boxing day. We could be putting our feet up with our families or sleeping off hangovers. It's a fair question but I find that answering "what's the point to anything?" usually deals with most questions - existential or otherwise.

I can't say I'm anticipating a festive feast of free flowing football. Such delights have been in short supply of late. I can't really come up with a particular prescription for how we should set up or who we should pick. Poveda has earned a go, though I'm haunted by a feeling that as soon as we put any faith in him, he'll disappear like a mirage of anonymity. Grimmy must play but that goes without saying.

Should Marvin come back in? I honestly don't know. Such is the decline of his previously imperious quality that I'm creating internal torment by wondering if Williams should keep the shirt.

Left side of MCLF brain: Leave Marv out.
Right side of MCLF brain: Don't be a mentalist. He's class
Left side of MCLF brain: Aye, but he's been shite.
Right side of MCLF brain: He'll come good though.
Left side of MCLF brain: When?
Right side of MCLF brain: I dunno, but he's better than the other options.
Left side of MCLF brain: Is he though? Is he?
Right side of MCLF brain: FFS. This is depressing.
Left side of MCLF brain: Sigh.

The mood in the fan base feels sullen. Whereas last year we transformed terraces far and wide into what felt something akin to a Latin- American atmosphere of constant and insistent noise, a throbbing mass of life and passion - now it's often like being surrounded by a load of moody 14 year olds who occasionally burst into some angry invective and then go back to muttering. That's not a moan, I'm as culpable as anyone else. There's something lacking from my rhythm. There's a fizz missing from my can of lager.

My Appletiser has gone flat.

"How beautiful it is to get out of the house!" sing Italian ultras. I think that's a great song to sing about football. It's often (to use a technical term) shite but undeniably, it is not our own front rooms. We have, at least, been somewhere else.

We're not the spectacle we once were. I looked at the numbers for the division this week. It was sad. In an attacking sense, so few of our players have anything of note about them. Wor Gaz is good at heading. Jerry is ok at dribbling and has a knack of appearing in the right place. Patino and Carey are reasonably accurate at passing. There's nothing though that suggests we'll tear or slice anyone anyone apart. Kenny Dougal can win the ball quite well (the 19th best tackler in the division fwiw) but do we really do anything with it very often?

All I want for Christmas is Josh Bowler. I'm not writing the lad another letter though.

Whatever happens. It will be beautiful to get out of the house. 'Humber' is a really satisfying word to say. Hull are a bit shit too.

It feels like it will be inevitably attritional fayre with a horrible mistake or a classic referee fuck up dictating the outcome.

Have a good Christmas. 

Big Fleetwood awaits.


Saturday, December 10, 2022

Cold, grey and goalless: the Mighty vs Birmingham City

Bleak, bleak, bleak midwinter. A building site, all mud and semi frozen sludge. Icy showers a flurry of disruption. There's a painful beauty in this weather. Winter's fangs are sharpened. Gulls sit, fattened by summer's discarded promenade chips. Terns dart, unperturbed, used to churning arctic hostility. A kestrel, all hollow bone and lean muscle hunts the bare fields. 

I feel strangely underwhelmed by this game. My attempts to persuade myself that we're only a favourable bounce of the ball away from turning this round haven't really worked. My head says one thing. My gut says another.

The team is thin wintery gruel. I like our options going forward. I like less the idea of the ball going the other way. We'll just have to attack. All the time.


Gathering dark clouds. Early ominous, shadowy floodlit advances by the team in blue.

Scrappy midfield warfare with rusty out of date armaments. Half convincing build up play falls apart at the final ball. Gloom becomes mist. I've enjoyed the World Cup. I can put my fire on and watch that. I think the team would probably rather still be in Spain.

Finally something happens. Williams with a nice ball forward. Madine with control every bit as good as anything in Qatar. Patino takes over and burrows forward before sending it wide. Garbutt finds a decent cross. and there's a stretching Madine and a diving Lavery. The ball bisects them both but at least it's worth clapping and hey, clapping warms your hands... A free kick shortly after that looks good, but Garbutt slams it into the wall. Brum go up other end very fast and win a corner. We give them all the space in the world to work it short, sling it in, nod it back and somehow, spoon it over the top. Was that the moment we needed?

Ref goes through a concerted spell of giving everything to them. That happens every week so it's barely worth commenting on.

We've ceased to exist as an attacking force. Birmingham break again from a Gaz flick on that no one picks up - it's three or four quick, incisive, direct passes and a square ball a man in space and surely a goal... but the ball comes off the inside of a post and somehow stays out. The relief is almost like we've scored.

Their wing back cuts in and out on the left, he dives into the box, he seems to torture our entire defence and then having put everyone he possibly can on the floor in a vain attempt to stop him, squares it to someone else who sweeps it home. The offside flag saves us. The offside flag prompts a rousing chorus of celebration in the North Stand and a mini riot in the East. Someone is on the pitch. Someone is bundled away. 


We've struggled. Half time talk turns to the bench. It's difficult to see how we improve this much. Gallows humour abounds. 


A really ropy ball out is intercepted.  Birmingham are all in on their left. A deft ball to the near post to the near post. Maxwell, frozen (in more than one sense) is lucky to see it bounce through to him as not for the first or last time, Birmingham can't quite apply the finish. 

Madine decides to play creator. Madine the schemer. It's a new look. It just might be all the rage... It doesn't go very well. His schemes amount to slowly controlling it, losing it and then watching with horror as Birmingham cut us open again then finally, looking relieved when they shot wide of left hand post.

Patino is getting all the love from the Birmingham defence who randomly decide to kick him about for 5 minutes. This is dire. I'm too cold to even bother getting angry at anything. 

A corner! Here we go! Oh, for fuck's sake just forget it.  

Finally we do something slightly good. An accurate cross from Carey. Madine holds off and nods it goalwards. It's always too slow and always too wide but we go 'oooooh' anyway just because we've been starved of anything to go 'ooooh' about. There's some anaemic chanting and the patchy crowd briefly rouse themselves. 

Carey gives it away. Garbs is left exposed and trailing in the wake of the winger, he slides in late and is lucky that their man vaults his outstretched leg and then we're collectively lucky that he chooses to chip a bizarre cross as if he's trying to miss anyone on the middle.

We're under pressure again. It's so quiet you can here the players shouting at corners and goal kicks. Jimmy is not happy. Maxwell gives it to Lavery. It's a terrible pass. We get away with it. Birmingham pressure and Connolly with a brilliant last ditch tackle. Another through ball and Maxwell sprawls at the feel of an onrushing striker. It's a great stop.

Lavery and their number 6 have a war to see who can wind each other up most. The ref tries a strange tactic of getting them to come together and make friends. They square up

Poveda comes on for angry Shayne. The crowd collectively shivers and mutters 'I forgot about him.' Released from winding up Shayne, their 6 nearly runs through the middle. Poveda offers tricks but not tracking.   

Pool put together maybe 10 passes. A Jerry flick, Poveda runs on to it and loses it, but we muscles it back. we go square. Garbutt is wide and then oh for fucks sake, he just passes it out of play. This is not vintage fayre. 

Carey and Poveda exchange passes and spins. Carey is through! Carey pulls it wide... I clap like it was the greatest piece of football ever because, frankly in the context of this game, it felt like it. Poveda has given us a little bit extra and next, starts and then finishes a move that ends with him wriggling through, always too late, trying to get past the defender with the desperate lunging manner of a bronze medalist trailing the gold medal winner...

It's got the crowd going a bit. Allez. Allez. Allez. Charlie Pa-ti-no. He knew the place to go. 

Husband has been good. He puts it out for a corner. The ballboy is sodden, his puffer jacket looks to have absorbed the fine foggy rain and doubled in weight during the game. In it comes... Fucking hell. Goal. Nope. Another offside. Another celebration for us. You have to find joy in whatever you can I guess.  

Ball through. Williams dallies. They nip in. Maxwell stops it well again. Another good bit of work. 

Then CJ... go on CJ, go on... He does. He flies, he cuts inside, he cuts it back. There's all sorts of hacking and chopping it at. A shot. Blocked. It nearly falls again... Handball? No. Maybe. I don't know. It's smuggled away...  

There's time for Patino to slap it over the top and that is that. 


That's a game that has been played out so many times on muddy, inhospitable December afternoons. It was scrappy, unsatisfying and lacking in quality. Birmingham will probably feel hard done by and we're probably not much more optimistic than at kick off. No one leaves games like this talking of the beauty of football and feeling they've witnessed magic. It's a world away from global brand ambassadors gliding across carpets in air conditioned stadiums and yet, what makes football magical is that this sort of weekly attrition is as much part of the game as any gloriously exciting back and forth final. Without the shade, then what is the light? 

We didn't offer the attacking threat I hoped. We seem to start so deep. There were slim pickings for everyone who hopes to play in the opposition half. The midfield lacks the authority to control the middle of the pitch, the defence doesn't really bring the ball out, we're stuck knocking it amongst ourselves too often in areas that don't worry the opposition. We've no magic. 

A clean sheet is something. Williams did well enough, Husband was good. Connolly is the grit we need throughout the team embodied in one man. Garbutt had his moments for better or worse. It wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. Which is, I suppose, something. It's a long cold winter. We need more fire.   


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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Stick or twist? Half term report.

If only the season could have stopped after Preston and Coventry? Imagine how you'd feel? 3 weeks of basking in a couple of great wins, a free scoring side creating chances for fun, results improving on the back of a run of half decent performances. A manager banishing doubts by vanquishing his former employees in a hail of goals. Hell, the lad could even fist pumped us then and we'd probably have responded with glee. 

Instead, everything fell apart. I can't even pick the games from each other. A sludgy puddle of listless, mistake ridden, yes luckless but also often lifeless dreck. Building tension and boos. A manager castigated and catcalled. Unrest and anger abounding. Folded arms. Thousand yard stares. Hands on hips. Embarrassed teapots. Players trudging off to the dressing room. Subs benches full of players on the naughty step and pitches full of tired limbs. 

The break comes as a relief. There's only so much you can take from going over the same problems. Sometimes it's best just to step away. The team is running on empty. A core of players stretched to the limits, mostly admirable souls who have given plenty for the cause over the years running on loose sand dunes, stumbling through game after game, desperate for a foothold. Every time they seemed to be ascending a summit, a sandslip, a calamity, an injustice and they land, face down, exhausted, defeated, embarrassed, ashamed. They need to regather, they need to recharge. They need to find a belief again. 

The World Cup has been a buffer. It's insulated us from our turmoil but now it moves through the gears, accelerating towards its end, thoughts turn back to us. Can we turn this round?

Lets see... 

Grimmy reflecting on being dropped...?

Appleton should accept that bringing back Maxwell hasn't had the desired effect - it wasn't a stupid idea - the defence (we'll get onto that shortly) did initially appear to benefit from the more experienced man marshalling things and Grimmy, whilst a fantastic keeper, did look befuddled at times by the need to pass it around at the back - the problem is, as much as Maxwell is better at the short game and pointing at stuff, Grimmy is better at actually saving things and his general command of angles and positions is remarkably consistent. The younger man does have things to learn and work on - but he's got a considerably higher ceiling and is, well, younger. Neither really command their box, but one of them is just starting out and thus can develop his game - whilst the other has had his ways formed by a decade of first team football. I'm never going to join the 'Maxwell is the second coming of Satan' bandwagon - but Grimmy needs to go back in. Now. 

Defensively, we're a shambles. There's no dressing it up Jordan Thorniley can hold his recently concussed head high but we've looked a right mess. We miss Keogh obviously, but really, the problem isn't him leaving. He was becoming increasingly injury prone and more relevantly, we've also changed the way we play. Not replacing him with a player with some similar attributes was a crime - but I think, much as I love crazy Uncle Richard, I can really only imagine him limping off several times looking sad this year.

The most frustrating but also fundamentally solid aspect of Critchball was his insistence on packing the midfield with defensively minded central players - this restricted our creativity but it also meant that Marvin and co almost always had an easy out ball (and often several options) because our midfield's main purpose was to shield and to stay deep to receive. In short, we're now asking more of the same players and Marvin has struggled to adapt to a more expansive definition of 'centre back.' 

The full backs have also struggled. Husband has done very little other than be injured. He's been quite good when he's played, but that's been a rare occurrence so his qualities have really been a moot point. Luke Garbutt's one appearance resembled a lad dragged out of retirement and that's meant we've been reliant on Dom Thompson's deep unpredictability. It concerns me that we've got 3 left backs and none of them (for different reasons) could be described as 'reliable.' At right back, Gabriel has also been conspicuous by his absence and we've thus been dependent on Connolly. Connolly can absolutely be described as 'reliable' but I'm far from convinced that right back gets the best out of him. We've been in dire need of someone to crunch into tackles and mix it in midfield and Connolly is the nearest we have to an enforcer - he had some tremendous games there last year (and his aerial prowess is useful in midfield and making late runs into the box), whereas at right back he's essentially plugging a gap - in that position he's more old school stopper than flying wing back and it's probably the latter that we really need in order to make our chosen formation work. 

The absolute priority in January is a central defender with presence and some footballing ability. We need a taller, louder right footed Jud basically. We've not just lost Keogh, but we've also lost a large part of what makes Marvin magic to a maelstrom of misjudgements and too many times our downfall has been self imposed. Lyons gives us another option at fullback but we still look weak there, but I have more faith in either Husband getting fit or Thompson finding some consistency than I do the shakiness in central defence magically resolving itself - Thorniley, Williams and Ekpiteta out of form simply doesn't contain enough quality to be the foundation of the team and on performance throughout the season, it's got to be Thorniley plus one. 

Midfield is our strength - or, at least, had we had any semblance of luck this year, it should be. Appleton rightly identified the stodgy nature of our central options as problematic and addressed it with some theoretically decent players. The problem is, those players have largely been injured or unavailable to play in that position. Considering that for several games, we had almost no one to play, it's mind blowing to think we have the following players under contract who can play in central midfield: Patino, Fiorini, Carey, Anderson, Dougall, Wright, Stewart, Bridcutt, Connolly, Ward and the on loan Virtue. That's up to 11 players for 3 slots in the starting 11 and on paper, there's some genuine quality in that list. 

I really like what Appleton is *trying* to do - I like the idea of a midfield that has attack as its prime function - Objectively, the previous manager did a very good job, but it was absolutely apparent that there was a limit to what we could achieve playing a safety first game predicated on individual flair. Appleton has tried (with limited success) to build a team whereby the opposition needs to consider 6 of our players as an attacking threat (possibly 8 if we got full backs involved) instead of just 'sitting on Bowler and watching us flail hopelessly when he's closed down' - It has worked at times, but far more often it hasn't - here, though, I feel a lot more sympathy for him than I do for our defensive woes. 

We lost the two bright young Premier League stars to injury just at the point (QPR away) we seemed to click into gear. We lost the best young player (Carey) to suspension immediately afterwards. Keshi got sat on in training then exploded the moment he came back. Wright looked really good for about an hour and then appeared to forget how to play football completely thereafter. Just about the only midfielder we've been able to rely on throughout the season has been Kenny Dougall and whilst King Kenny has many qualities, the 5 above are very different players to him. If we can get those players fit and firing (and Carey has been excellent in recent weeks, adding a combative edge to has game) then we should be a lot stronger. 

If we can perm 2 from 5 attacking talents, we should also be able to balance that with 1 from 4 more defensive minds. I know it seems absurd, but it's just possible that the positive thinking property magnate (Kevin 'lets gooo' Stewart' might play again. He might. He's really fucking good. If he wasn't, his absences wouldn't piss everyone off so much. Failing that, Bridcutt has made us look better when he's not been injured. Dougall is an ever ready willing runner and Callum Connolly released from right back would give us presence. The frustration is - we clearly need a player to play the anchor role and dictate the game and/or to break up play and makes things hard for the opposition and we've got 2 or 3 players who really should be perfect for that role but are never available to play it. 

Gary Madine 22-23

Up front, we've got 3 players I think are adequate. Jerry has been fantastic. There's no other way to describe him. He's scored goals, worked hard, linked play and been an absolute model. Lavery has taken a bit longer to adapt to the wide role, but he's increasingly looking comfortable charging up and down. He's not as technically adept as Jerry but he compensates for that with a brute physicality and directness that I find really hard not to like. Gary Madine should not be the point of focus for a technical 433 but whatever it says on paper, he is, and as at every point of his Blackpool career - apart from the league one run in - we look worse without him. He's evolved his game, he's run himself into the ground and he's definitely got a big role to continue playing but he can't be the only option. It's just not humane.  

The problem up front isn't those three. It's that that's all we've got. We can hope Jake Beesley can give a bit of relief to Madine (and indeed, hope that his greater mobility is a useful attribute) but out wide, the cupboard is bare. Poveda has thus far looked to be a shit Rob Apter - it's hard to imagine Apter having less impact than the lad whose name isn't pronounced 'Ian' and Theo, whilst managing some neat finishes and crazy runs, simply can't do the job that Yates or Lavery does. CJ is definitely the least worst option and that really does show how we've failed to improve the attacking options - In fact, when we factor in the loss of Josh Bowler - a player who seemed to be really benefiting from being released from the strictures of Critchball - the options seem considerably poorer. Had we got any quality wide, we could play Yates in the middle (or, for that matter, Lavery) - we managed to put together a convincing Gaz free 3 when Bowler was there, but without him, it's been pointless. A little bit like Connolly, Yates and Lavery both have been forced to play roles that possibly aren't their optimum ones (or at least, having the freedom to vary their role might benefit us) 

We have to therefore do the following: 

Put Grimmy in. Get a reliable, experienced centre back who isn't scared of the ball. Pray for the fitness of the potentially pretty good midfield. Get a wide forward who has a brain in his head. Very possibly we're a decent fullback light too. 

I still like the theory behind it all - but we desperately need to see more in practice and much more often - It's not simply down to the manager - we need to back up the plan with some elements that will make it work and get some key transfer moves right. We need to sort out the perpetual injury crisis that's plagued us since League 1. We need some signings that actually IMPROVE the squad, not just add bodies. We've stretched the League 1 team to the point of absurdity and they're still largely the best players at the club. 

I want to see far less football that I'm not sure how to describe. We've totally lacked any plan B and whilst the luck has been horrible, at times the judgement has been lacking too. We have fleetingly shown fluidity and flair but the flip side has been formless football. 

We'll go again and I want to see us double down on the attacking intent. It might be suicide, but the slow death of percentage football could be just as miserable. We just don't have the squad to switch to another way of playing but we're sorely lacking in some key areas in terms of playing the way we want to. I think we need less investment to improve at what we're trying to do than we need to play a totally different style. To me, it makes more sense to try and put the pieces in the jigsaw that are missing, than to throw away the box at a time where it's very difficult to put together a whole new approach. 

For better or worse...

Other views are available. 


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