Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Friday, April 28, 2023

Down - the Mighty vs Millwall

The evening is beautiful. It's warm. There is anticipation. There is hope. There is a wild, wilful optimism. The odds say 'no' but the heart says 'just...maybe...' My brain says 'If people followed their hearts more instead of worshipping the cold mysterious objectivity of numbers then maybe the world would be a better place. In fact, whole cultures have existed without the same reliance on counting and calculations as the modern world, so there... Fuck you league tables, fuck you betting odds, fuck you permutations, economics, wages bills, CEO salaries and all of that and most of all fuck you the rest of the division. We can do this...'

I'm not really convinced by myself but Dobbie has dialled up 0891 ATTACK again on the team selection hotline. Of course he has. I love him for it. I've met someone who has come all the way from Canada for fucks sake. We'll turn up. You can't not in such circumstances. It would be rude not to go for it. 


Grimmy's trimmed his beard. Maybe it's deference to the gaffers majestic effort? We're pressing again. Keshi wins it and we're so nearly through, but I've barely processed the opening of the game when they break and score. 'Shall we go?' asks the lad impishly. I give him a hard stare. He doesn't ask again. 

Millwall are horrible to play against. They swarm all over us. They give us no time. The referee and the linesmen in their shitty Sunday cyclist luminescent gear are both shit as fuck. Keshi is wiped out and Millwall break. The linesman just watches like a gormless glow in the dark Easter Island head, staring blankly across the pitch past the prone and furious Anderson. I hate him. 

We make a half chance. Their keeper collects, hoofs it long, Super Jimmy is lost and their lad runs in on goal and belts it wide. Thank fuck. The pattern repeats. We get it, they kick, bite and snarl. We're hurried and uncomfortable. When we finally get a position, we take possibly the worst free kick routine anyone has ever tried, ever, which involves passing it once and then passing it to the other team for no reason. 

Then Morgan Rogers (baby...) flicks one over the head of his man and charges forward. He's flying. He's got his head down, he's in, he shoots.. It's parried wide and the ground erupts. That's the moment it swings our way. 

We've got space suddenly. We've got Keshi swaying his hips and caressing the ball. We've got Jerry dancing in the box, he doesn't lose it, because, he never does. We've got a couple of passes and now we've got CJ on an angle picking up his own rebound and he's sprawling because he's clipped and its........ YES!!! It's given! 

Jerry. I feel sick. Jerry. We wait.... Here we go. He looks to the side. He makes a little jump to start his run and he's like a beautiful oiled mechanism as he draws back the trigger and the hammer ignites the gunpowder and the bullet flies down the barrel and its in the back of the net!!! One more headshot from the sniper. I am in heaven. That was a fucking shotgun blast. Flesh everywhere. 

We're all over them. Corners. Runs. Penning them in. We've got this. We have. 


My heart is going ten to the dozen. This is us. Where have we been most of the year? Why are we only any good now? Millwall are decent. They're nothing special, but they're well set up and seemed to understand what we'd do and countered it well, but we found a way to get at them and now, we're on top. 


We come out in the same fashion. We're pressuring. We're trying shots. We're playing. All of a sudden though, something happens. I'm not really concentrating for a moment and they're through with one pass, Grimshaw is trying to narrow the angle, someone is trailing in the wake of their lad but it's in the back of the net before I can even panic. That was lethal and we fell apart like a slab of beef cleaved by a sharp blade. 

It's a hollow feeling. It's like when you're on a boat on a rising swell - riding up the wave is fun, but crashing over the top is a horrible moment. You feel like the sea can carry you forever, but as the boat falls, you remember the depths and the drowning and the fact that a boat is a slender barrier between you and sinking into darkness.  

I love Stephen Dobbie. Other managers would fiddle about with the full backs or swap things like for like. The tired eyed bearded Glasgow maverick is having none of that pointless defeatist deckchair shifting. If this is the titanic, then fuck the furniture and get the band playing. A band needs a soloist and Josh Bowler is that man. Off goes a centre back for the least practical player in the division and suddenly, I believe just a little bit again. This is going to go to pieces or it's going to go brilliantly. 

We probe, we push it about. There's give and goes. There's a slide rule pass that nearly has us in. There's moments when we might shoot and we don't but then, just as it feels like the little flurry of energy that Bowler gave us is ebbing away, then, almost out of nowhere, Fiorini skims one that arrows into the bottom corner and I'm first shocked and then elated. YES! We don't score goals like that, except it seems that now, we do. That was miles out. I'm almost too stunned to go mental. 

Patino has a go. Keshi has a go. Can we do this? 

They're running at us. Gabriel stumbles and bounces back up in a tumbling feat of gymnastic desperation, like an acrobat who is frantically trying to mask a fluffed landing, but try as he might, he can't make his ground, Fiorini is lunging to cover and I know, before contact is made, that this is a penalty and so it is. 

Grimmy does everything he can, clowning, waving and chucking himself in the right direction but the ball is just a fraction too well hit and his hand a fraction too late and in that that few cm's of distance, between his glove and the leather of the ball, is the death of our survival hopes. 

Dobbie doesn't do giving in and he shuffles what he can out of a thin pack of cards. Holmes and then Marvin, with Nelson going up front but we can't get the pressure on and when Jordan Gabriel goes down in a heap after lunging to try and keep our hopes alive and the stretcher is summoned, it seems symbolic of a season where so often we've played with 10 men that we go down chasing shadows and scrapping in vain with a man short and an injury to a key player. 

Full time. Jerry. Oh Jerry. He takes forever. We know what this means. He's drinking it in one more time. His home. He's Blackpool's no 9. For one more game. I will miss him painfully. 


What is there to say? It's likely the last time we'll see many of these players at Bloomfield. Some we'll miss and some we probably won't. 

Like all of the Dobbie games, there was a lot to like in what we did. Like the season as a whole at times, we did some very daft things but we played with pace and we didn't give up. 

There's been some frankly fucking horrendous decision making this season. We've seen in the last few games what a team playing with belief and focus can look like and it looked like one that could have got plenty more points than it did playing the majority of the season looking confused and lost. The fact we've only got to the point of looking like we're understanding a plan on a regular basis after hiring and firing two managers and turning in desperation to the youth coach says an awful lot about where things need to be better next season and it's not just on the pitch. 

That's then though. Tonight was everything I love about football aside from the result. It was intense, loud and hard fought. We lost and it hurt, but that's not what sent us down. We weren't good enough over the course of the season. It happens. Every day of joy has a dark twin. Every team that wins beats someone. Every promotion is balanced by a relegation and now, it's our turn.  

My lad says 'Dad, Wembley was for nothing' and I say 'Mate, football is for nothing. None of it actually means anything' but despite my words of reason, I feel a sadness that reaches my bones. 

No one likes Millwall, but I like the idea of them going kicking lumps out of the Premier League. They're like a horrible Cockney Rotherham. It's just funny to think of them knocking seven shades of shit out of Man City. They were more than the sum of their parts. Fair enough. They do what they do well. 

We've got a long road back. We shouldn't even be taking it. We had a platform and we threw ourselves off it. This relegation was aided by shit refs and players made of bone china and horrible tactics at times but it was forged by ourselves as much as anything. You end up wondering how the fuck people in football earn so much to make such gash decisions and how we've had such obvious holes in the squad for so long. There's all of that... but despite it all and despite the temptation to retreat into rage, ultimately, the journey is the point. We keep going. We keep moving, we keep believing. There'll be a pitch and a team in tangerine and we'll be there. What the fuck else are we going to do? Football is an absurdity in a life of absurdity but it's stupid fucking game that I love as much as anything else I can think of and if it didn't hurt sometimes, it would be a hundred times a poorer game for it. 

We go again.

We go again better.

Stephen Dobbie's Tangerine Army. 


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Friday, April 21, 2023

So much, but not nearly enough - the Mighty vs West Bromwich Albion

Dobbie's at the wheel and he's decided the car will be fast, sleek, sporty, dangerous and downright impractical. I fucking love it. To be honest, I didn't mind Appleton's flawed concept car as at least it was an idea but Mick's battered boxy D reg Ford Granada with a dodgy clutch and knackered gearbox of a team was horrible. 

I'm absolutely done in. There is no more blog in me. I can't say the same things again as I've said all year. I don't know why I do it anyway. It's weird. A grown man writing up football games like it's a kids scrap book. What the fuck is wrong with me? 

The game was beautiful in a way. We played well. We could have scored 4, maybe more. We didn't. The crowd was magic. I don't know if I can make Millwall. If I can't, that's my last game this year. It's sad. I may not see Jerry again. One pass in the corner, in an impossible hole but a shimmy and a ball so cute that it seemed to teleport to a 'Pool player. I might not see Keshi again. A clever player, a run on the diagonal, telegraphing a pass, but then switching direction and fooling everyone. I might never see the ghost of Josh Bowler who fluttered and stuttered and made one little run that was like the merest, shortest lived spark but one that ignited an inferno of memories of the actual Josh Bowler. Maybe no more of Jud's trudge... 

All of that is sad. The page turns one way. You can only go forward. Never back. 

I can't be the only one for whom the ten minutes early in the second half where we sung and sung and sung and they attacked and attacked and attacked was something akin to bliss. I just want a team in tangerine to play like that. A stupid football team, drunk on football, playing without fear and going again. They didn't give up. Fuck the world. Play with joy, play with swagger. 

West Brom were crap. A load of robot lumps who scored from a corner and a crap failed clearance. 
We were invention, we were intent, we were down the line, over the top, movement this way and that. Even CJ was decent and appeared to know why he was on the pitch. Dobbie weaved what he had into a compelling tapestry. Every move he made was the right one. Even as the game ebbed away, the driving force of Anderson and Fiorini gone, he sent on Brad Holmes and that put a little bolt of energy through the crowd. 

With the quality we have in midfield off the pitch, we couldn't make anything more though. Holmes harried and chased, we threw players up but if you've nothing in the middle, then the game will pass you by. That's the story of the season. 

What makes it sad was that this was one of the more engaging chapters. Most of the teams we've played this year have been shit. Had we bothered to play football a bit more, had we got an actual midfielder or two, we'd not be going down. A team that turned up and played like that every week would win their share of games. 

I can't be arsed blaming and raging now. It's all been said and whilst some it is wild and ridiculous, there's a lot not been done right. Not on Tuesday though. That was a hell of a lot better. That was Blackpool. For better or worse. That's who we should be. A football team. Players playing the game they want to play, for each other and with purpose.

Well done Mr Dobbie. 


Saturday, April 15, 2023

A new dawn or a last hurrah? - the Mighty vs Wigan Athletic

I'm full of melancholy today. I need to shake this feeling. It serves no real purpose. If I was some kind of guru, I'd tell myself to just accept how I feel, to allow myself to just 'be' and 'work through it' but I'm not a guru and those Californian 'wellbeing' coach types tend to ignore that life isn't really structured like that. There's always something to do and whilst I'd like to spend the next week or so staring at my reflection in a millpond still lake and listening to birdsong until I become as one with my feelings, that isn't really an option. I'll just have to get on with it in the fine English tradition of having a brew and cracking on.

Football will have to do instead of meditative contemplation. What could possibly go wrong there? I love the feeling of immersion you get at a game. In a world of constant expectation and never ending connection, the football is one of the few times where I feel as if I switch off for any length of time. Granted, this year, it's been less 'blissful moments watching the sunset over the sea from the top of a mountain' kind of a reverie and more 'watching a packet of crisps being blown around a muddy puddle' but we live in hope. Dobbie's at the wheel and magic can happen anywhere and all of that.

I'm too old to be too heartbroken by football. What will be will be. I just want to see us having a go. I want to see us play with some joy and desire. Football isn't important but that's what makes it important. Football has placed itself on a ridiculous pedestal whereby it takes up the time and the minds of those involved to a degree that is arguably quite unhealthy. Football is a fucking game. It's just a game. Those who are good enough to play it for a living - they should surely get some joy from it, otherwise what is the actual point of us all trekking to watch them? If your watching a team going through the motions, playing with no excitement or no belief in themselves or each other, then frankly, you might as well just go and watch someone inputting data into a meaningless spreadsheet or making telesales calls for a product no one needs.

Whilst I was writing this intro, some Jehova's Witnesses knocked on my door and asked me (this actually happened) if I wanted to know about 'light and joy' - maybe that's a sign? I turned them down, politely, because whilst I don't really understand what the fuck they're on about, if that's what they get off on, then fair play to them. I'm going to look for salvation watching 11 lads booting a ball about so who am I to call them mentalists? What sense does any of this actually make? That's the beauty of it though. C'mon you Pool!

The team is light and joy. A striker! The skilful players! Some lads to stand about at the back and impersonate a defence! Grimmy!!!! Grimmy IS FREE!

The sun is shining and Stephen Dobbie has put out the best team. It's all I could ask.


We're pressing! Pressing! Like a football team in the 21st century and everything! The ball breaks for Keshi, he's storming through like it's 18 months ago, he's slipping it at an oblique angle like his finesse has never gone away and there's Jerry drawing the keeper and smack, it cracks against the post and comes back, nestling in the side netting of the near post... Yes! We're tremendous again!

It turns out that we're not as tremendous as it first seemed but luckily Wigan aren't remotely tremendous at all. For the first 20 minutes or so, we keep up the harrying and aggression. Jerry touches off for Josh Bowler to welly over the top. Poveda and Jerry close down the two Easter Island statues in Wigans defence and a hurried clearance smacks off Yates and rolls just behind.

Wigan offer next to nothing. They remind me of us in those games under Appleton where we passed it about aimlessly and didn't think to shoot on goal. The main excitement of their half comes when James 'winning hearts and minds' McClean has a hissy fit about something said to him by the crowd.

We decide before halftime to give them as much possession as we possibly can, perhaps assuming that conceding goals just before halftime is something you're supposed to do. Jud makes a terrific sprawling challenge and a heroic block. At some point Grimmy waves at one but then makes a good stop. I love Grimmy. He's just wandering about looking sheepish and bashful at the crowd chanting his name, stifling a yawn here and there.


There was some joy in their feet. It was only there in flashes but we flicked and spun and passed our way around. We even managed to have an attack repelled and start another one at one point. Fuck it, we're winning. I'm nervous as hell mind. Jimmy keeps taking off his shirt to readjust his databra. I think that's some sort of metaphor. Nothing feels comfortable.


Wigan make a change at halftime. Such has been our fragility that everything an opponent does feels like it's a likely masterstroke and our demise is always coming over the horizon.

The second half, we dig in. It's not pretty. It's not the free flowing football we expected when seeing the line up. Curtis Nelson is so determined to keep the ball out that he clobbers Jimmy Husband who has had a nervy afternoon and ends up leaving the pitch in what looks oddly like a blindfold to a round of sympathetic applause. A little later Nelson does his best to wipe out Jud but happily he survives the onslaught.

Rogers too has looked oddly edgy. Nothing has quite worked for him. Every flick has been behind a man, every pass over or underhit. Gabriel and Carey come on.

Wigan are having all the possession but they're not really doing anything with it. I'm nervous. I don't know why I'm so nervous. Actually, I do. It's the prospect of hope. The hope is making my sinuses ache and my eyes feel like they might burst. We're flying in for tackles but we don't seem to ever quite win them. Poveda is buzzing about like he gives a shit though, which is nice. Poveda! Bowler slashes a shot into the keepers arms. Poveda has a couple of runs.

CJ comes on for Bowler. He's his usual chaotic self. At one point he makes a heroic run to keep the ball in, offering welcome movement and pace and then, having done the difficult but just passes it to Wigan because... Because, well, he's CJ. To be fair Bowler literally ran away from a header just before he was subbed and everyone is flawed in someway. To err is human. One day we'll see robots programmed by AI competing in football and we'll sob for the lost days of such human frailties in our heroes...

Poveda wins a tackle and skates free, Poveda limps away from the tackle and just touches the ball forward and then hops off the pitch. Welcome to the first team Mr Dobbie. Everyone is made of papier mache. Patino comes on.

Sonny turns one to Jerry, the sniper shields it but he can't get his shot off. We're don't even pretend to attack after that. Wigan nod one over, the ball bounces into the South Stand concourse and Grimmy leans over the barriers chatting to the steward waiting for the ball to come back like he's making small talk about a late bus with a fellow bus stop denizen. I love the man. Sometimes you just need someone to not give a fuck.

Wigan have had a man over on loads of occasions. Finally, they have the idea to try and pick him out and Jordan Gabriel gets into a rib breaking challenge to keep them out. They do it again and Grimmy is flinging himself and Gabriel again sliding desperately... That was close. Too close.

Even Grimmy is feeling the nerves. He slices it out of play. I'm being eaten up by the tension. It's like I imagine water torture to be. Each second dripping, ever more agony. We piss about in the corner. I try and not miss Gaz. I fail. I fucking miss Gaz. Wigan are resorting to singing in celebration of having the ball. They're free from hope. I sort of envy them. A slow motion 'on the ally-ally-oh...' goes round the ground. A heartfelt 'We love you Blackpool.' 'Come on the Pool....' I actually feel a bit sick. I don't even join in with acknowledgement of the fact Patino fucking hates PNE. It's like being underwater... I feel weirdly distant...

Then. The whistle. YES!!! We're still alive! Yes!!! YES!!!!!


I don't know whether today was the last hurrah or the start of something magical. Who can say? We were fortunate that Wigan were incredibly, lower on confidence than ourselves and you couldn't really call much of the game a feast of football but we showed intent and we looked, well, organised... That's no mean feat seen as how we played today was about the 15th different tactical approach we've tried and whilst the pressing was patchy and you could see that there's a lot to learn for the squad about the way Dobbie wants to play, some of them seemed instinctively to 'get' what they were doing and that's more than you can say for many of our games this season.

We'll need to be better against West Brom. We'll need luck and a touch of magic but the win will do wonders for us. Wigan didn't lie down, they just weren't very good but we've lost to shit teams plenty of times this year. We had to fight and we did. Going off the pitch Sonny was leaping with joy, arms aloft. That's what you need to see. Carey, probably more than anyone epitomizes the fragility of what we are. A wonderfully talented player for who this season must have been like being dragged unexpectedly through the mud behind an evil tractor belching the smoke of despair and confidence and indeed, joy in such a player is essential.

Keshi played well. He was at the heart of everything good. He had a directness that some of the younger flair players could do well to emulate. Jud was good because, well, Jud is good. Nelson was a vital bit of physicality. Grimmy stopped the ball from going in when he had to. Fiorini gave us that little bit more something in midfield. Jerry was the difference. He's a sniper. Headshot. Bang. Blood everywhere.

It was far from vintage. But we were less shit than Wigan and we overcame another ridiculous ref and that, in a season of very little was something and bigger things have to grow from something as only nothing comes from nothing.


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Friday, April 14, 2023

The Mighty vs Wigan Athletic - a shit preview

I am writing with a raging hangover. The kind where it feels as if your eyes are being levered out of their sockets by small spoons. The kind that comes with a side order of existential dread. What's the point in my existence? Have I wasted my life to this point? Is it much too late to do anything about it?

Fear not, for it's football tomorrow. That'll cheer me up no end! Honestly... I have no expectations. Stephen Dobbie is a top chap and I hope we can go out in a blaze of glory. It would be lovely just to feel a bit of pride and warmth towards the players.

We could still stay up but me insisting the we're not doomed and we're just a favourable bounce of the ball away from being brilliant has miserably failed to inspire triumph and delight all season, so instead, I think I'll just accept whatever I'm served up.

Football is a great game. It's snakes and ladders and there's no point being like a 4 year-old who only wants to play 'ladders' and refuses to accept the presence and purpose of the snakes.

Over bank holiday I was away and I happened to drive through Hereford just around kick off time. There's worse fates than going down to Div 3 is probably the point. Edgar Street should be preserved for all time though. Standing outside marvelling at the irregular corrugated iron and the overall ramshackle tacked together appearance of it all was an appeal to memory of what things were once like.

When I started following the Mighty, almost every ground was a piecemeal construction of sheets of metal, strips of rusting barbed wire, uneven roofing and faded paint. Bloomfield Road today would have seemed like the far future. Wigan's ground an absolute fantasy.

I miss those days. I miss Springfield Park - an oval of cold comforts with grass (grass!) bankings. I miss the many quirks of Bloomfield Road, the way the terracing ran to below pitch level, the faded roof of the East Paddock, the ancient wooden seats with the ancient wooden smell in the West Stand, the ridge in the side of the pitch that a canny full back could exploit when lobbing the ball down the line.

We play a team tomorrow with as little hope as we have. Both of us on an almost certain hiding to nothing. A win will likely only prolong the agony. A good performance will probably provoke a feeling of 'what if?'

I don't know what the point of this (or indeed any) blog is really. I think what I'm trying to tell myself is, that for all the misery of the season, it's important to remember to try and enjoy the game. There's something wonderfully stubborn and futile about football. Hereford's famous old ground, clinging on despite their fall from grace. 10,000 plus people turning up at Bloomfield Road to watch two almost certainly doomed sides scrap out a game that will likely have no more impact than deciding who finished bottom.

There's a certain beauty in that. Football is so much noise and so much opinion. For all of that, for all the endless words, sometimes you are shit and that's the way it has to be. Tomorrow we just need to be less shit than Wigan. 3 points and... Y'never know...


Wednesday, April 12, 2023

The strange case of Daniel Grimshaw

I have never played football at any notable level, but in the few teams I got picked for I played as a goalkeeper. That means I have particular sympathy for goalkeepers and the way they get the blame but also a particular appreciation for the talent and abilities that goalkeepers have. You can consider me as 'an expert pundit' therefore for the rest of this article, on the basis that I was in a school team about 30 years ago... 

Rewind just over a year and all seemed to be going very well for our Daniel. He hadn't yet had his head kicked off by Cameron Archer and he'd established himself as the firm no1 choice with a series of excellent performances. He's not a dominant keeper, but he showed himself to be an absolute master of anticipation and angles. It's the combination of those two things that, in my humble (expert) opinion puts him ahead of Maxwell. He's capable of reading the game very well and putting himself in exactly the right place to make the stop. He often makes saves less spectacular than they could be, with the ability to make a spectacular one if needs be. That's a quality that reminded me strangely of Neville Southall.

This article is not intended to be a critique of Chris Maxwell. The man has produced several of the best saves I've ever seen and one of the most wondrous goalkeeping displays of our history (Sunderland away in Lg1). It's just intended to explore the oddness at the heart of the ongoing decision to permanently bench one of our brighter young prospects in a season where we've essentially tried everything else twice over and then one more time for good luck. 

Grimmy had a really good 21/22 season. The numbers back up the impression his performances gave. If we look at Footmob's 'Goals Prevented' stat (basically speaking, the number of goals a keeper would be expected to concede from the shots they face) Grimshaw comes out as the 4th best keeper in the division with a score of +4.3. For reference, Maxwell this season is 17th in the division with a score of -4.1 - Yes, Maxwell has been in front of a weaker defence, but the metric simply considers whether or not any given shot could be expected to be saved - and the more shots you face, the more saves you can make. By this simple measure 21/22 Grimmy is worth 8 goals more than 22/23 Maxwell. 

That was last year vs this year though. It's not a fair comparison. Grimmy was playing behind a much more cohesive unit and thus his decision making was much easier. Maxwell has played behind an ever changing and ever more calamity prone unit and we have to understand how that can eat away at the keeper's ability to make the right choice in any given situation. His own stats for the previous season were a far more respectable +1.4 which suggests he also benefited from a more stable defence in front of him. 

Lets look at this season instead in a bit more depth than Footmob can provide. 

This season, Grimshaw struggled a bit with the more possession based style of play that Appleton attempted to enforce. He'd thrived in Critchley's more direct style - to the point where Grimshaw to Madine was the single most frequent successful pass by any keeper in the league (whoscored) - but playing triangles with the equally struggling Ekpiteta and hapless Williams exposed one of his weaker abilities. 

When Maxwell came into the side, I could see the logic. Grimshaw isn't a communicator - or, at least, he isn't a voluble organiser like Maxwell is. Without any particularly experienced defenders, it made a certain amount of sense to try the goalkeeper in an attempt to bring some leadership to the backline. 

What I find really strange however, is, how we've continued with this all season, despite it palpably not working. The stats below (fbref) show a story. Grimshaw's (even this season, where he was not, in the limited number of games he played, close to his best) numbers suggest he has been worth another opportunity

Grimshaw has conceded goals at a lower rate than Maxwell (1.46 per game compared to 1.71) 
Grimshaw has made more saves per 90 minutes than Maxwell (3.62 vs 3.07) 
Grimshaw has a higher clean sheet rate than Maxwell (23.1% vs 17.1%) 
Grimshaw's 'post shot XG 'is a lot higher than Maxwell's (+1.2 vs -3.0) 
Grimshaw's 'post shot' XG vs GA per 90 (no, me neither) is higher than Maxwell's (+0.09 vs -0.11)
Grimshaw's completion rate of long passes is higher than Maxwell's (39.5% vs 35%) 
Maxwell has the edge on stopping crosses (5.4% vs 1.2%) 
Grimshaw's overall pass completion rate is higher than Maxwell's (61.3 vs 52.9) (whoscored) 

Analysing the data reveals another interesting element between the two. Grimshaw plays much deeper in general than Maxwell. That's a surprising fact given his history as a Manchester City keeper, presumably groomed in the art of 'joining in' with outfield play. Both of them have played deeper this season than they did last year - Grimshaw in particular has retreated about 4 metres - IS that tactical? Is it a product of defensive changes or uncertainty? Is it a product of the team being under more pressure or setting up deeper in defence? It's difficult to know. 

The only notable area I can find where Grimshaw is palpably weaker is 'stopping crosses' - which is possibly a product of Grimshaw making an active decision to react as opposed to intercept - there is an argument that a keeper who always stays is easier for a defence to work around than a keeper who is indecisive. Maxwell's relative strength in this area isn't absolute either - the previous season, Grimshaw was marginally (3.8%) better than Maxwell (3.2%) at stopping crosses - but both of them are very low in the overall standings for that particular metric in both years. 

I want to reiterate that I'm not writing this article to make any particular point about Chris Maxwell. What I'm writing it for, is to question the oddness of the fact we've willingly left out a goalkeeper who, whilst not good on crosses, is demonstrably good at other things. Here's a few more interesting stats to back up the idea that Grimshaw has evident strengths that have been overlooked. 

In 21/22 Grimshaw was the 1/65 keeper in the entire championship for accurate long kicks. It seems, therefore, particularly bizarre to have left him out in the latter part of the season where we've played directly. This season he has been 7/50. (fbref)

In 21/22 Grimshaw was 7/65 at shot stopping in the championship per 90. This season he was 13/50 (fbref)

Both seasons he has played for us, his passing average overall has been superior to the other keepers on our books. (whoscored) 

Both seasons his goals per game conceded has also been lower. (fbref) 

In short - I'm mystified by the ongoing decision to leave him out. He may not be the greatest on crosses, but every other available metric suggests he's at very least, worth another chance. It has been mooted that he's been involved in some kind of bust up or falling out - which is of course, possible, but it seems genuinely strange that if that were the case, that he's travelled across the country with the squad as back up all season, instead of being shipped out on loan to allow another goalkeeper to come in?

I have no idea what the situation is - but what I see, is a talented goalkeeper - not perfect (but what keeper is? A big lad who takes all the crosses often lacks agility or mobility) who is being left to gather dust at a point where he could and should be learning important lessons and improving. As the stats above show, whilst Grimshaw didn't have as good a start to the season as he might have done, he's still at very least, performed no worse than the player who replaced him (and arguably, better) and it therefore seems bizarre that the lad has been pushed to the fringes, when squad selection has at times seemed to be done via a bingo machine.

It makes no sense to me at all in any respect - Grimshaw on 21/22 performance was becoming a valuable asset. We gave him a new contract to acknowledge that. He was a valuable contributor to the team. A few questionable games (mainly Rotherham away) shouldn't render him completely valueless and indeed, the majority of the data paints his performances this season as far from calamitous.

I wouldn't seek to blame Chris Maxwell for everything that's gone wrong this year - I'm just perplexed as to why the football club appears to have made Grimshaw the individual scapegoat for a season of disaster.  If the reason is simply that he's poor on crosses (which is the only reason the numbers suggest) and our team is collectively tiny, then playing a keeper who is not that much better either (and actually a little bit smaller) is hardly addressing the concern. 



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Friday, April 7, 2023

Wipe the slate clean - the Mighty vs Cardiff City

Last week we were down. No question in my head. This week, it's the start of a spectacular leap of faith from the perilous place we're in, to the safety of 21st. I don't know whether I believe that or not, but having passed an ambulance on the way, nosing it's way into a suburban street, lights flashing blue dread reminders of mortality, then I'd say life is too short to worry too much about whether your love is blind or not. If it looks and feels like love, who gives a fuck eh? Cling on to hope, cherish life whilst it's there. Might as well just go and lie in a grave and wait for the earth to close above you otherwise. 

Granted, I'm writing this before I've read the team news and whilst bathed in sunshine. It could well be that in 8 minutes time, I'm thinking 'what the fuck is that Mick?' and wishing I'd brought a coat as the sky takes on the complexion of Welsh slate.

The team news hasn't had any affect on the colour of the heavens, but I'm now thinking 'it's not as warm as it looks' as there's 3 full backs, one of who is Thommo, none of whom are Andy Lyons, all the wingers and no Jerry. No Jerry. There's no Jerry. There's always a Jerry. I don't quite know how to process this news. We've got NO STRIKERS. None. Not even so much as a kid. NO JERRY??!?! It's full backs and wingers all the way. I'd suggest we played Curtis Nelson up front but then we'd have no defence either. Fuck it, bung Grimmy up there. 

I love you Blackpool, but fuck me, this season is trying my devotion to it's very limits.


We start ok because we almost always start ok. We get behind their full back a few times and fizz a few balls across the box. No one is there because we have no striker. Everyone looks nervous. Cardiff have worn a really grey kit as if they're hoping not to be noticed. Thommo is too wound up to kick the ball where he'd like it to go. We're too edgy to get it down and play. So are they. The ghost of Josh Bowler briefly materialises into his mortal physical form and cuts inside and unleashes a superb shot. They block it. Obviously.

As often happens, we don't make anything of our chances because, frankly, even when we've got strikers, we don't tend to do that and so with no strikers, it's even less likely we're going to be able to win the game in a ten minute burst at the beginning because games last a lot longer than that.

As also often happens (unless we're playing QPR) the other team gradually take control. They make a few chances and because our defensive play is about as ordered as playtime in an ill disciplined reception class with a disinterested supply teacher, sooner or later the other team usually score.

The first has the ground collectively asking 'What the fuck were you doing Maxwell' as he waves ineffectually at a loopy cross and then leaves the goal unguarded for them to loop a header in.

The second has the ground going 'fucks sake' as Super Jimmy Husband nods a ball back towards the neatly groomed and shouty but statuesque and increasingly calamity prone Maxwell and a Cardiff player just nips in and takes it from between them. Well done everyone. Mick'll sort the defence at least! I'm glad we had the 'organiser' in goals for those two. Imagine what disasters could befall us if we played that Grimshaw lad? 

The third, I can't remember. I could look it up, but it would just lead me to writing more about it and frankly, I don't want to write it and you don't want to read it. All I can remember is it felt like the moment everything collapsed into a pile of dust. At this point the 'bumper bank holiday crowd' basically all left. The club should at that point have probably sent someone round with a sign up form for League 1 season tickets because essentially, that was the size and make up of the crowd that remained. Idiots like me, looking glum and thinking about where else they could be. Oh, what a feast for the senses. 


Fucking horrible.


Second half was boring as fuck. We scored late on and like last week, it got a half-hearted cheer. Keshi came on and looked ok. CJ came on and ran about. Bowler poked the ball home after work from those two on the left. Oh what joy. Not some much #limbs as #vaguelyperkedupforafewsecondsbeforerememberingitwasfuckinghopeless 

Like last week, we made a few chances, I think Husband missed with a header. Connolly certainly did. Carey hit a rasping effort and probably some other stuff, but ultimately, if it's becoming a habit that you only really have a go when your 3 goals down, then it's likely that you are going to lose more games than you don't. It seems there's a lot of jobs in football at the moment. It's possible that in the future I could get paid 6 figures annually by a football club to reveal that sort of insight I suppose. 

Until then, I'll write shite like this for nowt cos I'm a fucking idiot.  


I don't feel angry. I just feel sad. There's something palpably not right. We're whimpering towards the end. I, mean, deep down, I know we're not actually that good, but it feels as if we're at least better than this.

It's sad seeing a set of players some of whom deserve better than this for their 'Pool swansong and some of whom we've literally wasted running about looking so disjointed with their heads bowed and so little to say to each other. It's barely a year since you'd watch them warm up and there'd be hugs before the games, little huddles with the different units. Now, I don't know. It's a miracle when they manage to pull off a passing triangle.

Last year we matched everyone more or less. We're not this shit. We weren't this shit even this season. It's only about 6 months since we took Sheffield United to bits, since we blitzed Burnley, since we battered PNE and so on.

We are shit though. We've got no tactics at all. Sonny had no idea what his job was today. Patino ended up coming deep and sitting in front of the defence and we lost any connection with the front 3 so we had nothing once that happened, but speculative play. At one point, Bowler was waved into the box to defend whilst someone else stayed up. Cos he's brilliant in the air isn't he?. Rogers ran and ran, but asking him to play with his back to goal is like asking a fucking Ferrari to plough a field. Once they'd cottoned on to us trying to get behind their full back with pace (about 12 minutes in) and they'd sat a bit deeper to nullify that, we were lost. There wasn't another plan.

We change every fucking week. We've got no clue about who we are and why we're there. We've got injuries, yeah, but we never dream of playing one of the kids or even so much as letting them near the bench, preferring instead, to shoehorn the same players who've been losing for months and months into ever more absurd positions. We played some of the best players today - they looked like strangers. They are practically strangers. We left one of the best players on the bench in Fiorini. Why? Who fucking knows. We're lost. Absolutely lost. 

The slate needs wiping clean. It needs starting again. It needs building from the ground up. I don't think it's remotely hyperbolic to say, in terms of football at least, we're back where we were at the beginning of Critchley's first full season. We'll be saying goodbye to a load of loans and players who've past their sell by date and it will be (depending on how you view it) - a massive and unenviable challenge or a brilliant project for someone to rebuild us. 

We might as well just get on with it. The problem of now is twofold - it's not just that what we're doing is not working, it's that it's not seemingly having any positive impact on the development of the players we will still have next year. Lyons is in and out like a yoyo. No one seems to actually understand what Carey is. The best keeper is employed to hit crosses at warm ups and fuck all else and Rob Apter is learning his trade and gaining valuable experience by sitting in the stand so we can have an extra full back on the bench for no fucking reason at all. 

Fuck off football.


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Thursday, April 6, 2023

One more time... A shit preview: the Mighty Vs Cardiff City

Here's the thing. 

You're allowed to dream. To hope. To fantasise. 

In fact, if it was up to me, then dreaming, hoping and fantasising would be a compulsory daily activity. 

Perhaps if it was then the world might shake itself out of the depressing stasis its been stuck in since... Since, well, as as long as I can remember. 

I've digressed already. The point is, we're not down yet and we can win games. You know the drill by now. 

Bowler is the best dribbler in the league, if not one of the best in the country at any level. Poveda is a little spinning top who is made of surly magic. Patino has gold in his boots. Fiorini is a snappy quick witted little street rat. Morgan Rogers is CJ if CJ were really good. Fuck me, we've still got Jerry Yates for fucks sake. 

So, dream a little. Risk it. What's going to happen if you do? You might be disappointed by a football match. So fucking what? Grow up. 

The whole thing is absurd anyway and I've never heard of anything more absurd than going to the game with a fucking face on chatting on about losing to protect your precious feelings. 

You're not a pundit and neither am I. A shitty blog isn't fucking Sky Sports is it? 

You're a fan. A fanatic. We aren't there to disect it and say assonine rubbish like 'on balance Brian, I fancy Cardiff' and 'looking at the heat maps from the last 14 games, I'd give Cardiff the edge'

We're there to watch the game in a one eyed and biased manner. To howl at any injustice, however slight. To back the lads in tangerine as they go up against the world. 

Back them. Back them. Back them. Back them. 

We want risk. We want adventure. We want... 'Attack.... Attack.... Attack.Attack.Attack.'

We can't expect that and sit on our hands or jump down their throats every time they lose the ball. You can't expect them to risk it all on the pitch if we can't even bring ourselves to risk a little hope. You can't expect self belief of we're dismissing them as doomed failures. 
Sing their names. Urge them on. Summon that magic that we know they're capable of. Think of Yates hitting a volley with one foot and then another with the other for a magical brace. Remember Bowler making you almost cry at his ridiculously effortless grace as he slides through yet another defence. Think of Poveda burrowing past a statuesque centre half, changing direction with the bubbling effervescence of the frothing water of a young alpine stream running against the rocks, of Rogers bursting away with his electric pace, of Fiorini knocking a first time pass right where it should be, of Patino going deep to find space and then pivoting and spraying the ball into the perfect place for one of the above to run onto. 

To quote a sage of recent times "they have our dreams at their feet" 

Fucking dream. We don't give in. We don't give up. We don't accept. We believe because we're tangerine and tangerine is magic, it's love and it's blind, unconditional and stupid but it's what we are and what we have. 

Why the fuck not? 

One more time. 

Come on you POOOOOOOOL 


Saturday, April 1, 2023

Best players benched - them lot vs the Mighty

Here's the bit where I normally say something a bit off topic before coming to the game. I saw a mill chimney with a sickly looking tree growing out of the top of it. There you go. I can't be fucking arsed. Here's some pictures for no particular reason other than it saves me writing much more.

This is the bit where I say something about the team. Fuck that. We're picking CJ ahead of players like Bowler. What do you think I'm going to say?


We had two shit shots and they scored twice. The first was fucking Brad Potts because of course it fucking was. The second was a free kick that made Maxwell look like a school second team keeper. Both times their players celebrated with us instead of their own fans which was a classy touch. Lighters and bottles missed their targets. We gave up after the second. I normally try and see the positive, but it was fucking dire. We didn't do much other than hopelessly lump it forward in the hope that something might happen. I don't know what we were hoping for, but whatever it was, it didn't come to fruition. Kicking the ball to where no one is hasn't to date been a noted success in any era of football history and today was no exception.


This is the bit where I normally give a pithy one liner about how I felt at half time. We were utter wank. They weren't even that good, but we look petrified of their cunning tactic of 'going forward sometimes' and really confused by their defensive strategy of 'tackling us sometimes' - By half an hour in, I started to think about how, last weekend, I went walking and had a really nice time and there was no sense of crushing despondency and powerless mute anger - just trees and birdsong and fresh air and peace and quiet. This season has been horrific.


After half time we brought on some better players and lo and behold, with good players playing, we played a bit better, but they scored again. They caught us on a break and Husband ended up running away from their player for no particular reason before they slotted it home. At one point Mick went to pass the ball back to us for a throw and put it wide of whoever it was that was taking it from about two yards.

We weren't actually that shit second half to be honest, but the game had long gone and when Yates scored a goal we celebrated like someone in thousands of pounds worth of debt being told they'd got a 500 nectar point bonus. Yay!


Here's where I do the summing up.

What can I say? We're done. Cooked. Fucked. Gone. Dead on our feet. It's sad. It's pathetic. It's fizzled out. It's like watching the walking dead shuffling round the pitch. Some of the players are like hollow shells of people you loved reduced to braindead husks.

I give up. We're down. It's for the best. It's like watching a pet limping round and wheezing and whining in pain. Put it out of its misery.

Goodbye to the past. Move on. Start again. We've got some ok players but we've tied ourselves up in a mess of misdirection and out of position players all season and we need to skip 75% of what we've got in order to build around the 25% that's worth it because those 5 or 6 half decent players are not getting anything out of this at all.

Anger is an energy, but I haven't got any left to give. I'm resigned to our fate. We could go through all the mistakes we've made this year, but I'd need to stay up till midnight and I just want to go to sleep.

At half time, I watched Bowler, Poveda and Patino warm up. It was the most skill I'd seen on the pitch in ages. In the second half, Patino gave us a bit of calm and vision. Bowler and Poveda some threat in their ability to beat a man. We passed it about. We got higher. We made a bit of pressure. It was something. 

Lets be honest, Bowler still looked like the ghost of himself and ran the ball out of play for no reason at least twice and basically Patino and Poveda showed they could control a ball and pass to someone in the same colour shirt but nonetheless, they offered flickers of ability that was light years above what we saw in the first half. We should have scored at least one more when Husband briefly turned into a flying winger capable of crossing with heat seeking threat. We made 3 or 4 decent chances. Rogers ran his arse off and was involved in almost everything we did that wasn't shite. He didn't even play especially well, but he at least showed intent and won the ball and backed himself. I'm not going to even try and pretend the result was unfair though.

This season we've had no idea who or what we are. This game encapsulated that. First half we looked like we'd wandered out of a VHS called 'The best of midtable Div 3 football 1986-87' and then, in the second half, we looked like the players had just decided to try and play a bit and whilst, it wasn't as if we turned into vintage Barcelona, the way we played bore little resemblance to the random hit and hope rubbish we'd wasted 45 minutes on.

Why? How long does it take for us to realise that Jerry needs through balls and that we can't contain the opposition because trying to do that against anyone with any sort of ability at all always ends in disaster.

The thing that did my head in was the gulf between us (fucking terrible) and Preston (not particularly good) was huge in the first half - but it wasn't as if Preston were doing anything unexpected. They started by making quite a few mistakes but we didn't press and hurry them up. We let them hit their stride, we ceded the midfield, despite having left out our best midfielders to accommodate players who aren't our best midfielders and we were incapable of moving the ball between us. Preston moved it side to sideand switched play in a quite predictable way, but that baffled us. We just ran down the flanks and got tackled (because we'd left out the skillful wide players) or lumped it forward and watched it come back (because we OBVIOUSLY haven't got anyone big to enable us to play that way) and gradually got more and more panicked and got worse and worse.

I don't know why it takes 45 minutes of football to notice what is fucking obvious from kick off. I don't know why we keep swapping stuff about constantly game after game, week after week. I don't know why we played a half fit Keshi from the start in at 10 where he's literally never played well for us before when both Poveda and Carey had played that position well last time they played it.

I don't know why, when they're quite obviously bigger and faster than us, we matched them like for like cos that was just basically giving them carte blanche to do what they wanted for 45 minutes because in a straight up battle of physique, we've got fuck all chance.

Fuck Critchley. Fuck injuries. Fuck shit loan signings that were obviously going to leave us soulless. Fuck stupid pivots of direction that undermined any possible identity or progress. Fuck the waste of mercurial talents. Fuck Kenny Dougall corners. Fuck shuttlecock throw ins. Fuck leaving two players back for a corner when your losing 3-0. Fuck appointing managers just because they happen to be free that week and it 'might work out.' We're back to 'fuck Critchley' again in that respect. Fuck punts on players who are obviously crocked, fuck shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic. Fuck the complete lack of vision and planning behind everything we've done this year.

Just fuck the lot of it.

This season is summed up by the spray of spit that hit the back of my head as someone shouted 'Fucks sake, useless fucking cunt' at one of our players. It was probably CJ but it could have been most of them.

Clean slate. Fresh start. Something new needed. We'll obviously beat Cardiff now and the hope will be ignited again. Hope is agony.


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