Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Not a Gary Goal but, incredibly, just as good - the Mighty vs Reading

I'm strangely distracted driving to the ground. So much so that I come off at the wrong junction for no reason and I'm randomly driving to Fleetwood. I've done this before. Gone into some kind of broken auto  pilot mode. I once drove to Exeter when I was aiming for Bristol and after the last play off final I accidentally drove to Nottingham on the way home. 

Happily, the trance is quickly broken and via the back lanes of Weeton and all that, I make it in good time. Critch has found the selection bingo machine in a dusty cupboard and chucked together a pure classic Critch random line up like it's 2021 all over again. I don't know what to make of it, but I'm happy to see Owen Dale has a reason to be here after all and genuinely delighted to see Kouassi. 

Reading though. What are they? Does anyone actually ever get excited about playing Reading? There's a curious pall of lethargy hanging over the occasion and that not just the sideways and backwards magic dust Critch has sprinkled over things of late. It's all a bit 'League 1' - a small away crowd, a team in financial difficulties and we're banking on a signing from Sutton Utd.  


The game starts oddly. Both teams knock it about a bit and everyone looks a bit like they're running through glue, not the pristine ball green that is the latter day Bloomfield Road pitch. It feels a bit like an early kick off game. 

Reading start the brighter. Rhodes looks very slow as he chases one down. Kouassi looks like the game is passing him by, he doesn't look overly bothered, observing the ball like a bull watching a bird fly back and forth. Grimmy makes a save. Grimmy makes a bit of a mess of a poor back pass. Grimmy makes another good save. 

Kylian touches the ball. Things perk up. It results in a corner. We have a corner, then a corner, then a corrner and another corner. It's odd to watch us pinning someone in like this.  Kenny Dougall responds to a cry of 'shoooooooot' by actually shoooooting and his deflected shot skews off at an odd angle and spins just wide. From the next corner the ref bundles Matty V off the ball just as he's lining up a Matty V special. That doesn't seem quite fair. One day Matty V will have some luck. 

Then there's a seemingly harmless ball forward. Kylian is getting tight with his man and he's rolling him and he's lumbering forward surprisingly sharply and now he's threading a lovely ball, weighted to perfection, slowing up perfectly for CJ to take in his athletic stride which he does and then, ole, he's in, then, oh no, he's down and oh yes, the ref is pointing to the spot before I can even shout for the penalty... 

'Where's Jerry?' is my first thought. Jordan instead is on the spot. He doesn't strike me as a sniper. More a sporty accountant who likes a round of golf. Appearances deceive though, because he's got literally hundreds of kills to his name. He doesn't go for the headshot, instead, slitting the neck of the keeper with a papercut, a low placed effort that sneaks inside the post via the palm of David Button who looks rueful as he berates his bad luck in failing to stop it. 

The response to the goal is curiously muted compared to the usual. I don't really know why. I know we've scored and I'm happy about it, but whatever demon it is that I purge when we score a goal still seems to lurk inside of me. I'm not yet cleansed. 

I shouldn't have worried about that. I'm about to be born again at the church of goals. Owen Dale, (who added a lot today, showing willingness to both attack and defend, a nice touch and technique) is swinging it in. It's into a crowd and out. Norburn, shows perfect control and spreads play quickly back to Dale, the ball is again good, curving, and defying the defence... Kylian goes, pushing through the crowd like a man forcing his way on to a tube train, leaping with the timing of a Rolex and flicking, guiding, powering one of the best headers I've seen in years, into the top corner of the goal. 


Did you fucking see that? What a goal. Match of the Day Goal of the Month knows fuck all. All these fancy twenty and thirty pass moves. All these rockets from outside the box. Where are the far post headers? The only way you could improve on that is if it was a diving one... It was like Eyres to Bamber. Absolutely beautiful. Sometimes the most beautiful things are the simplest of all. I'm on fire. The demon is banished. I loved that. Kylian stands alone and drinks it in. Kylian is buried by the rest of the team. Football is magic sometimes. There's literally nothing else that makes me feel like this. 

He's not done though. Far from it. A lofted ball. He leaps, like a spring loaded fridge launching into the air then crashing into some empty boxes. The defender just crumples. His header is perfect. CJ is through. Ole! CJ is absolutely smashed from behind. Penalty!, not yet...  Rhodes snaffles the loose ball... he's so fucking calm. Time slows down. He can make the ball do exactly what he wants it to. He dances into the perfect space, he lines it up, he rifles it into the bottom corner. YESSS!

CJ lies in agony. Jimmy clenches his fists and exhorts the crowd, the players mob Rhodes, he looks happy, but also bashful. This is what he does. He's just very good at it somehow. He can't help it. It's one of those things. Some people can play guitar, some people can understand particle physics. Some people can slow time and find the bottom corner with unerring accuracy. Hey ho. You make the most of what you've got don't you? CJ limps over. He's done good the boy. 

We're actually decent for a good while longer. The midfield trio is excellent. It's got bite and intent. I think Virtue has had a good game. He just wants to move things forward, keeps it simple but effective. Norburn is relishing having two wide men who get forward and want the play spread for them. Kenny is ticking along just fine. 

There's chances. Kouassi is in again, he hits the legs of the keeper. Virtue has a nice effort on the bounce that creeps just wide. Jimmy fizzes an absolutely filthy ball in that deserves a goal from it. There's probably other stuff as well, but to be fair, if you want a list rather than a load of random shite I thought, read the live text or something.

In short, we've absolutely twatted them. It was good. 


'We've been here before... This could be 3-3'. My neighbour at the game reassures me.  'It won't be' 


Are we going to sit in? Are Reading going to come out like a whirlwind of pained fury and inflict bruised ego fuelled damage on us? 

The answer is 'yes a little bit' and 'no, cos we're going to score fairly quickly and crush their little pitiful attempt at a revival like a merciless tank driving over the skull of a enemy, splitting it, grinding it up and spreading the pulp over the grass. 

Kouassi again. He's like a thoroughbred shirehorse. He runs with an endearingly heavy gallop. He's fucking massive. He wins the header. It doesn't go straight to Rhodes, but via some sort of shit defending and a nice touch by (I think) Weir (on for an injured Dougall), it gets to him and this boy doesn't miss. It's arrow straight, bottom corner, run to the corner flag and celebrate, how long has it been since anyone scored a hat trick? 

(The answer is Fonz 2018 apparently, but accounting for the boycott, it's a fucking long time since we've actually seen one...) 

The game is done. All that's left is to marvel at how bad Reading are and hope that Dembele comes on and scores a goal where he runs round everyone, does a one two, one two with himself off both the posts and then flicks it up and scorpion kicks it home. I might be getting a bit carried away... 

I marvel at how good Jimmy is these days. This an odd observation, but he looks more balanced. He looks more supple. I wonder if he's been doing yoga or something. He's so calm. He's rolling the ball out, he's taking it in his stride, he's skipping little clever balls up and over, he's stabbing canny passes through. He's snuffing out a Reading attack with a deeply cynical and utterly brilliant foul. He's snuffing out another with an absolute sidewinder of a slide tackle. He's absolutely at his best. I think my favourite bit is watching him dump a reading player into the advertising boards who has been giving him a bit of grief and tugging his shirt. He wanders over as if to check his well being and just stares down at him, the lad looks up. Jimmy meets his eyes. Point made. He wanders back to his position. 

Give him a fucking song for fucks sake. 

Owen Dale has a decent effort from a free kick that's touched off to him. Jensen Weir is played through but skies it after a lovely move and some excellent football from Rhodes who, not only has scored a hat trick of clinical poachers goals, but has also knitted things together in such a way that I'm left confused why he's been deemed not been good enough to start games for about 5 years at other clubs. 

If truth is told, the changes we make weaken us. Without Kylian, we've not got the same threat from back to front and Virtue's industry is missed a bit too. It doesn't matter. They score, but frankly, it's nothing.  Their fans do their best. I feel indifferent to Reading as a concept, but the little band of away fans, chanting sarcastically and chiding us for being shit and letting them score, in between demanding some kind of sanity be restored to their basket case of a club is hard not to feel some empathy for. Whatever the merits of our current set up, there's a stark reminder of other things in witnessing the masochism of fans who know their club is in very bad hands, caught in a doom spiral and trying to make a day out of the experience. 

The whistle goes. There is a fist pump. I find I still can't join in. It's my loss I guess. There is warm applause all around. There is Robbie Savage's lad tapping Critchley on the shoulder to shake his hand. There is a sense of relief and a sense of satisfaction. Maybe a sense that today was a page turned and a reward for a bit of innovation and a bit of a risk. 


Firstly, whoever the fuck found Kylian and decided to give him a contract deserves a lot of praise. Slating the recruitment is easy, some of it has been bizarre in the recent past, but finding a player for nothing, who can slot into a team at a higher level and have such an impact is remarkable. Similarly, I was very unsure about the signing of Rhodes, but the pair of them were tremendous. 

Reading were really poor. They helped the cause by trying to play football but doing so very badly. We'll face bigger challenges from organised and brutal teams. That said, Critchley deserves praise for both tweaking what hasn't worked and making it much better and having the bravery to start Kouassi, which seems a quite 'un-Critch' move, but shows that the imp is a man of surprising contradictions, utterly predictable in every way until the moment he isn't. It's like that little shuffle he does in interviews, but instead he's swerving the expectations and cynicism of know it all blogging, gobshite podcasting and doom laden tweeting pricks and coming out of the other side with a little twinkly 'trust the process' look in his eyes. 

I really thought Kouassi made a world of difference. Essentially, the difference between him and Beesley is that Kouassi does the same thing as Madine (no law system related jokes here please)  - he doesn't run around all over the place, but, when we're in possession or launching it, instead finds a player and plays tight to him. If you are a big, but not especially rapid centre forward, whose prime attribute is strength and height, there's no point looking for the space - you make the space for others by drawing in a man and you either flick, lay off or roll him. Madine was very good at that and Kouassi showed a uncannily mature ability to do what the 32 year old veteran of 500+ games had taken a career to master. One swallow doesn't make a summer and one very good game doesn't make a goal machine, but fuck me, what a start.

Being able to go direct matters to a team like us. It means we can choose when to play and when to be direct and know that both will worry the opposition in different ways. It means set pieces have an air of threat. It means everything. It's literally why I worshipped the ground Gaz walked on, because, for all he lacked, his strengths made us better. Kylian likewise today.  

Yes, we'll face harder challenges, yes, we very much need to go and work out away games and stop losing by trying not to lose, but that felt like a team starting to come together and realising they were actually half decent and might as well enjoy it by having a good go.

Oddly, the thing I liked most was the slightly eccentric nature of the front players. I'd found this team bland, but today, they seemed to click into something else. 

Dale is funny little strutting thing. He's got a bit of arrogance and a decent technique. CJ is the opposite. No arrogance and a lot less technique, but a sprinter's physique and a random chaotic quality. Rhodes is an old fella who exploits his wisdom. Kylian looks like a random junior boxer who has just wandered in one day and doesn't give fuck. 

Some character. Some misfits who fit together and make each other better. That's us. That's Blackpool. I think we might have just seen an actual, verifiable masterclass


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Saturday, September 2, 2023

Humble pie eaten - the Mighty vs Wigan Athletic

I'm dragging my feet. I'm just not feeling this. I've not seen a goal in anger since forever and the football has been like a lead weight. It's an obligation. It shouldn't feel like that. 

The radio tells me that there's a couple of changes but that CJ and Callum Connolly continue in their respective roles. I tell no one (I'm on my own in the car) to fuck off. My mind wanders. I imagine Critchley over complicating normal life like he seems to over complicate picking wing backs. 

N: "This breakfast will be a masterclass Janine. An elite breakfast... I've been thinking of new ways to cook traditional favourites" 
J: "Have you put the egg in the toaster and the bread in the kettle again Neil? That didn't work last time and it's not going to work this time. Cut it out. Just stop doing innovations for the sake of it and cook breakfast like a normal person." 
N: (under his breath) "Mike never talks to me like this... " 
J: "What was that?" 
N: "Nothing" 

I'm a bit late, so when I get there I buy and neck a pint I don't really have time for. I need to stiffen my resolve to survive another 90 minutes of death by coaching manual. I've decided on balance, after careful deliberation, we're not very good. I know, because I'm a self appointed expert with a blog. I have declared my dissatisfaction. Critchley might have worked his entire life in football, but I've got 311 posts on a shit blog. Therefore it is I, not him, who is the real football genius out of us two. 


It's the strangest of things. As soon as I'm up the stairs and into my row, everything changes. There's a sea of Wigan fans and an ocean of tangerine. There's a pitch of lush green and players streaming out of the tunnel. There's the noise, lifting me out of the doldrums and pitching me forward onto a wave of sound. The bluest of skies a backdrop to the steep rake of the North Stand. The air is warm and pulses with an expectation I didn't feel until moments before.

This is more like it. 

What's not more like it is the moment it looks very much like we concede an early penalty. The referee isn't having it though. It's at the other end, so I've no idea if it's just my nerves reading the worst into a moment or it actually was a lucky escape. Whatever, it was or wasn't, we'll take it because we've not been exactly overrun with luck of late. 

On the topic of running, Jensen Weir is striding forward. He slides it out wide to CJ. CJ pushes it out of his feet and then he's into overdrive, his body strangely still and his legs going at impossible speeds, he's cutting inside, go on CJ, he's glancing up, c'mon CJ he's going to skew it or put it behind everyone, I know he is, but he hasn't that's a good ball and FUCKING YESSSS! YES!!! THAT'S A FUCKING GOAL!!!! YES!!! CJ!!!! YES!!! 

Rhodes applies the most gloriously deft of finishes, darting into space and glancing it perfectly home, changing the angle of the ball in a lethal manner, falling away to clip it just perfectly. The ball fairly kisses the net, spins and drops to rest. As it nestles in the goal it looks beautiful. That was an absolutely gorgeous moment. Maybe Rhodes isn't old and slow and pointless after all. Maybe, just maybe, I'm wrong sometimes. Maybe CJ can do this role. Maybe this is one of those times when Critchley gives something long enough to work, where other people would have binned it off because people moaned about it. 

We've been prone in the last year to good starts that fade. This was a really good start, but early goals always first settle the nerves, but then make you nervous if you don't add to them. Don't sit back Pool. For fucks sake, don't sit back... 

We don't. Weir who is really bright in the first half has a shot that rises and draws a nice save. Weir sets up Rhodes from wide, but he cant quite control his header. Jimmy Husband nearly scores an immense and truly random goal as he fizzes an exquisite cross that dips, spins and curls so much that it almost goes in. Callum Connolly stuns in a clever little swerving free kick that both nearly gets a touch from Morgan and goes in of it's own right. 

We're dogged, we're fighting for everything. Beesley is winning stuff. Norburn is looking twice, maybe thrice the player he did last week - he's getting higher and cutting off their moves. We're pressing and we're out from the back quickly. Pennington is fantastic. I missed his debut and Wolves was a bit of a general mess so it was impossible to tell if he's shit or not but today, the answer is absolutely not. His use of the ball is tremendous and it's the way him, Casey and Husband can all play and play quickly that starts us off in a totally different tempo than we've played before. 

Wigan aren't very good this half. When they get the ball, they quite often kick it out of play. They look flustered by us. They keep chucking themselves on the ground. They pull our shirts. The ref isn't especially observant. In fact, he's really bad but we're we've scored a goal and we're winning so it's all pretty enjoyable, even the berating of the ropy officials. 


That was good. I've no complaints at all. More please. 


We have been known to reappear after half time and not be the same side. If anything though, today, we come out even better, at least at first. CJ who is having the best game he's had in what seems like forever is marauding is being serenaded by the whole ground. Be honest, did you have 'CJ's name ringing round the whole ground in celebration of the fact he's in unplayable form' on your Blackpool vs Wigan bingo card? I didn't. 

There's shot from Morgan that's well saved. There's a run and a cut inside by CJ that ends with a shot that is also well saved. Everyone wanted that to go in so much. He'd have deserved it. There's Rhodes, throwing himself at stuff that comes across the box, or lashing a shot from all angles like he's a young kid trying to make his name and not some knackered old pro whose already proved everything twice over. 

I'm really enjoying this. It's so, so, so much better. All I want is a team that has a go and we're having a go. Gone is the hesitant, cautious, over complex football and here is confident, aggressive football that looks, well, fun, to play and therefore is great to watch. Ok, we're not Puskas' Real Madrid, but it's all relative and anyway, white is a shit kit compared to tangerine so Real can fuck off. Boring Club. 

The minutes tick on though and we've not added a second. Things go a bit quiet. Wigan start to knock it about and stop making silly mistakes. Perhaps our intensity drops a little bit and they've got the time to play. 

It feels like we need to do something to regain our dominance. I don't know what, but I start to get itchy for something to change things. 

Wigan assert more control. They start to load the pitch up with attacking players. I think of the away game last year where things fell apart after a good performance. They just put more and more players on until eventually the weight of numbers forced the ball home. They overload us, there attackers are good when they get the chance. They switch the ball quickly with purpose, they move at pace... they're switching and the ball is eluding us and it's suddenly a clear site of goal and there's Grimmy, flinging himself, his guesswork and reflexes perfect. He's very good at doing nothing, but then coming to life. 

The ground are singing Grimmy's name. He gives a little thumbs up. He tips another one over the bar. He wellies his kicks right up into the blue sky. He flexes his gloves and hitches his shorts. He prowls, he watches. Nothing for show. He's too sleepy to ever bother showing off. I love Grimmy. I wonder if he's my favourite ever keeper. 

Virtue is on. It's the right sub. He's physical and helps us move the ball away. He makes the right choices and the new protein powder powered Matty Virtue (the body of Madine and the game of Phil Clarkson) doesn't get pushed off the ball as easily as the old, nice lad from next door Matty Virtue. 

Dougall comes on. I'm really not sure about Dougall any more. It feels as if he might have been permanently spoiled by the recent past. I can't really see the point in him these days. He's got more steel and thus suits the moment more than the fading Morgan (who did well, but is now looking a little spooked by Wigan's physical and footballing revival) 

We're stuggling to get out. We're under pressure. I'm starting to really feel this now. I kind of enjoyed the Wolves game because it was so obvious, so quickly that there was no point in feeling anything towards the game. It's nice sometimes to actually watch the game as opposed to care about the game. This is making me feel sick. Pennington does some ridiculously skillfull defending, levering a Wigan player out from under the bar and then, sensationally getting to the ball. He does some more, a ridiculous deft touch, that not only kills the danger but sets us away. I could get used to having a set of defenders that could actually function as a rudimentary set of midfielders. 

Owen Dale, he of mysterious abilities comes on. No one actually knows if he's really any good. I don't think Critch even knows. Possibly Dale himself has no idea. We're really sitting back now. Either that or we're forced back. Wigan's tricky no 11 runs right across our goal. At some point (possibly earlier,) Hubby makes the most sensational diving block that's as good as a top save by a top keeper. If it was literally anyone else, we'd sing his name. Why we don't is even more mysterious than the matter of Owen Dale's actual talent level. 

The time ticks. Wigan have it on the right. Dale is drifting across like it's an afterthought. There's a little exchange of passes. Dale observes the play without getting involved. There's a cross, it's deep and it's eluding everyone and there's two Wigan players and one of them is going to get it and Grimmy is nowhere and for fucks sake Blackpool, for fucks sake, why are you such a fucking drain on my life and my energy because the fucking ball is in the fucking net and we're not coming back from this and Wigan are on the pitch and one lad is running right across the pitch and I'm not even in the mood for this in the slightest because I was enjoying this and now look at fucking state of it. Why can't we just win for once? 

A long delay. Kick off. What's the point though? Fuck off. 

The point is Jordan Rhodes is a complete revelation. Despite being obviously knackered he's still going and this time he's provider. First there's a glorious ball on the turn, that is perfectly spun, it's like a gloriously weighted crown green bowling ball using the camber of the green to curve into position. Dale is away, the ball is in and... no, not quite. 

Rhodes again. A flick with his head. It's perfect again. Dale again, taking it, running, seeing the right ball and playing, Virtue is charging on as he likes to do, he's meeting that ball from Dale, he's looking up, he's fired it across and OH. I can't breathe. There's a little moment where I can't believe either. I'd forgotten football feels like this sometimes. It must be a split second but it's a moment where time is frozen and then I'm screaming my self hoarse and the white, white, white noise is like the roar of so many oceans all at once and I'm clenching my fists and roaring incoherent delight in a way that nothing else in life would ever let me do. I could actually cry. There's a moment. A breath and another clenched fist, punching wildly. Grimmy is knee sliding, celebrating in front of the Wigan fans. If Grimmy's awake and roaring, this must be a moment. Fucking hell. Fucking hell. Fucking hell. That was good. 

Who scored? I haven't a clue. 

Kenny Dougall! I told you he was important to us. Class player. Never said anything to the contrary. 

There's time to bait the Wigan fans. There's too much time to beg the ref to stop. There's some headers. There's some wild hopeful balls forward. There's time for us to attack again. There's time for the horror of what seems like it might be a break and there's time for it to break down. There's so much time... 

Then there isn't and the whistle is there and the game is done. 

Ole Ole, CJ CJ! God love you CJ. You deserve that. For putting up with us fucking knobheads. I love us again. I'm sorry I doubted. 


Lets not get carried away. It wasn't perfect. But fuck that, lets enjoy it like it was, because, in comparison to so many games in the last however long, it was just about perfect. To win a game you thought you'd thrown away is magic. For a team to turn up and play with everything you thought they didn't have about them is magic. No one played badly, everyone contributed. Rhodes was a joy to watch, kind of like Gary and Jerry combined into one super striker. I was really surprised by how good his all round game is and by the level of running and desire he had. CJ was genuinely tremendous. The ball zipped about much quicker and we got back to front frequently and quickly. 

Wigan were decent when they got going. They had some very impressive players. We were the better team. We deserved the win. 

What more is there to say? We could bang on about this, that or the other, but one thing I hate is know it all blogger cunts that think they understand shit about football when actually, it's just a load of hot air. 



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The curious case of Rob Apter (What are we? )

Last night I joked with someone that 'we'd probably let Apter go out on loan just to piss me off' Lol. Banter. What are we like eh? 

Then we actually did that.

I'm still fuming about it. It might seem a bit weird to pick a kid who hasn't actually done anything yet to lose your shit over, but I've thought it through and I'm still hopping mad. 

Apter is literally the embodiment of the vision we stated we had when Sadler took the club over. I've seen 4 games this year and we haven't scored any goals. (It was my luck to be on holiday for the week we scored 5) We've looked timid, cautious, lacking in technique in certain positions when receiving and moving with the ball and we've also played games where we've been crying out for a different threat to break down teams late in the game.

We can rage back and forth about notions of 'ambition' and that can get very binary and very murky and everyone falls out but risking a player like Apter costs us absolutely nothing. It's a free hit. He doesn't even count towards the squad numbers. Pretty much everyone wants to see him have a go. I wasn't the only one who waited to see him come on when we were 5-0 down and it was late and I had a 3 hour drive home and had to get up at 6 in the morning. That's a sign that the fan base rate him. Football fans can be unreasonable but they're also, by definition, into football and one of the glories of football is, it's actually quite accessible. It's not 4d chess. It's not Brian Cox banging on about particle physics. Most fans can spot a half decent player and most of us have seen something in Apter. 

It's a good move for Rob, I get that, but how he hasn't had more minutes and a chance to stake his claim, is, in my humble opinion, bizarre (and that's me carefully choosing an adjective), at a club where the owners stated vision is to develop youth talent and the manager's stated goal is 'front foot football' and who is also on the record as not wanting to put too much faith in loans and to prefer having 'our own players'

How does that then square with the fact our two best young players are not here (Moore and Apter) and our other talented one (Holmes) can't even get a gig on the bench when there's no one else to play his position? Why? 

I've seen Rob play maybe about 11 or 12 times, maybe a bit more. I'm adding up preseason, youth games that were streamed and his odd appearances for the first team. He's clearly got some ability. At Wolves, he gave us, for 15 minutes, a bit of tempo. The other players perked up, we held the ball better, because he wasn't frightened to receive it and hold/turn. He wasn't frightened to make direct runs at them either. He gave us, relative to other players who've played this year, an outlet. There was a sense that he made us a better team for that brief period because he constantly showed for it and was good enough to at very least give and go and make another pass. In some of our attacking play, that basic element has not been present. Apter looked to have some confidence. A bit of self belief. His attitude was 'fuck it, I'm going to score or make a goal' and in a game that isn't actually as complex as sometimes we make it out, it's quite handy to have that kind of intent and instinct, especially when you've not seen much sign of it all for ages... 

Granted, my impressions of Rob are fleeting ones. I actually have no idea if he's going to make a long term impact because technique alone isn't always enough but part of what makes football worth watching is seeing narratives like young players testing their mettle and I've not been as interested to see one get a chance for ages.

I'm excited to see Dembele, don't get me wrong... but I'm absolutely shocked that his incoming means Apter's outgoing - as if we can't have more than one creative player at any one time. It's also true to say that he's not our player and if the model is develop and cash in and incrementally improve then Dembele doesn't really add anything to that long term vision. 

In this league, we're not a little plucky success story. We're actually a relatively medium to big fish. There are teams who we need to get at, teams we need to blow away with quick, skilful attacking football, dogged defences we need to unlock with movement and interchanging and angles. We need pace, verve, energy and invention. Apter possesses that.

I feel like I don't know what we're trying to do. We've got a load of fairly middle aged players (by football standards) and a couple of slightly younger ones and one or two older ones. We've played boring and not particularly effective football in all the games I've seen so far.

I look at other squads and I see them embracing young players. I see fan bases who are enjoying that but meanwhile we're playing a cautious brand of football with some honest, but not particularly thrilling players. I can see us improving, but I don't see the thrilling football team lurking inside what I've seen so far. 

Apter made his debut 3 seasons ago. He then played in the Championship. We won the game he started and he set up a goal when he came on. I'm looking at players who, to be honest, I'd have to go and look up to find the last time they actually did anything for us. 

It's far too reductive simply to say 'fans just want signings' and 'fans are entitled' 

I'm not at all into the idea of buying the league. It actually doesn't interest me. I like seeing players grow and develop. I like seeing players who didn't fit elsewhere coming good. I like the feeling of winning because of tactical nous and bravery. I like the feeling of winning because we try harder or are more together than the other team. I like the notion that sometimes, the other team can have better players but the best team wins. I honestly don't mind losing when we've done our best and it just didn't happen. I don't mind losing when we played well last week because 'you can't win them all' or you think 'an off day' and you look forward to the next game. 

I like the idea that when the game kicks off, you don't know. I'd actually hate to support Man City. Genuinely.

I look at us right now though, and I don't understand what it is we're trying to do. Critchley keeps saying things like 'I want us to be us' and I actually don't know what he means. I know Lavs is waspish, Grimmy has a beard and mostly sleeps and Matty Virtue often doesn't quite score the goal his bustling intent nearly creates but it feels slim pickings in terms of definable character.

'Us' - what is that? Anyone? shapethegrouponandofftheballinandoutofpossessiononthegrassmomentsofqualitygoodpositions etc. Rinse. Repeat. What are we actually aiming for? For what it's worth, I understood the Appleton idea. It just didn't work often enough. I'm struggling to follow the logic of playing a defensive midfielder/utility right sided centre back on the left wing and so on and so forth. 

I actually think we've got a decent enough squad in some respects. It feels as if we're short of maybe 3 pieces of quality and that that quality would in turn, bring out a lot of the quality in the players we already have. Players with reasonable all round quality need players whose attributes are skewed in one particular direction. For every Connolly you need a Bowler so to speak. For every Turton, you need a Madine is a another way of looking at it. 

What is frustrating is that Apter looks to me like at least half of one of those pieces of quality. He has something a bit different to offer. Letting him go out seems fearful. It seems risk averse. It seems to smack of 'we've got too many senior pros and we don't want to upset them by giving Rob a bench place or a game ahead of them' - it seems like the easy way to go, the way you'd go if you wanted a quiet life... 

I've been baffled by some of the tactical choices we've made and I've been baffled by our reluctance to use some of the squad and I'm baffled when I look at players like Apter (and to an extent Dale and the way we use Carey as anything but what he is good at and a different thing every other week) and I then look at other teams and see them doing those things and enjoying themselves.

I know Apter doesn't fit a conservative 532 particularly, but again, if it was up to me, (granted, I'm neither a holder of an Elite Pro Licence nor in the employ of any professional football club,) I'd want my substitutes and fringe players to have the ability to give us options. Flexibility was, after all one of the key elements in our previous successes under Crithley. Apter, Carey, Dale and Dembele all strike me as players who could make, say, 4231 work in certain circumstances and whose youthful zest and/or technical ability could be helpful in feeding a clinical and  but somewhat aged striker in Rhodes. 

I think I'm probably more pissed off by this than even watching Mick have Curtis Nelson drill long balls at Ian Poveda because things had clearly spiralled out of control and the car was on fire and that happens sometimes and when it does, you just have to hope it's over quickly and you can salvage something from the wreckage. 

This season seems like a calculated plot to not take any risks at all and I frankly don't understand it, especially in the light of the fact that last season, when we did chuck in the kids, we actually improved and looked at valid proposition after months of being dysfunctional. I'm not writing this blog to have a go at players but some of the 'established' players have been poor for a long time. 

I think it's important sometimes to wonder if the noise about money obscures the fact that money has to be used well. Don't get me wrong, I think we needed to be a lot more active in the market, but also, I'm looking at our players and I'm not convinced we're making the best of them and I'm certainly not convinced that we've taken the chance of a reset and a return to the vision of the club as outlined at the outset of the new era. 

If we're not going to trust some of the youth OR make signings to fill some of the gaps then what are we expecting to see as a result? Granted, Gabriel and Joseph will improve us a lot but they're nowhere near fit. 

I honestly don't know how 'Lavery pressing until his hamstring goes again whilst we stay as solid as we can' is going to propel us up the league. I could be wrong. I am often wrong. I want to be wrong.  

I genuinely hope that having written this that my words are shoved down my stupid blogger throat and we win the next 20 games 10-0. 


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Yet another bad owner. Where do they breed them?

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