Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

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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