Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Jekyll and Hyde - Fleetwood Town vs the Mighty

I'm sat in one of the dark side streets that run on to where the docks used to be. I'm eating chips. They are good chips. They always are here. A police car cruises by very slowly. I'm just eating chips. Why is it so interested in me? A few minutes later another car parks up in front of me at a weird angle, headlights shining at me. It waits. It's like it's watching me or expecting me to do something. It's a big car with tinted windows. I eat some more chips. I like that if you ask for plenty of vinegar in Fleetwood, you always get it. I think I might have accidently parked up in some kind of drug dealing/some other kind of vice spot. I decide to eat my chips elsewhere as I don't really want any Fleetwood narcotics. 

I park up in my alternative spot and finish my meal undisturbed. It's windy. It's always windy here. When I lived here, the absence of wind was more noticeable than when it was blowing forty miles an hour. I stand in a puddle. It's really unexpectedly deep. Fuck's sake Fleetwood. The chips were good though. 

Highbury Stadium is a stupid name for a ground. It's like us playing at somewhere called 'the Goodison Ground or the 'Anfield Arena.' It has rubbish floodlights too. They're more like something you'd get at a supermarket car park.  

What's this team? I can hear Critch now. 'Mike, lets give the same lads another chance - let them show us what they can do.' Fleetwood aren't, by any measure, particularly good. They've sacked a manager and replaced him and got a little bit better but we seem to have set up to counter them. I realise that in Critch's mind, the fact he's dropped Thommo for Dale is a sign of intent. I suspect he's a man who thinks Bryan Adams is heavy rock music. 


We're definitely better than them. It's weirdly not at all windy in the ground. They look ragged and we're quickly on top. Our decent start yields a shot from Rhodes that smacks the bar. All is going well. Fleetwood are limited to a couple of breaks and it seems only a matter of time before our fundamental superiority tells. Super Sonny Carey has a go, he absolutely smashes one from out side the box following a nice run into open space and as ever, finds a keeper just about able to claw it out. He scored last week, but I wasn't there. I make that 7 goals I've almost seen Sonny score this season. 

Never mind though, because it's only a matter of time. 

Except it fucking isn't because Fleetwood have scored. What the fuck was that about? They just ran up the pitch, passed it to their striker who waltzed past two challenges and poked it in. There's some classic small dog in the face of the big dog action as their lad celebrates in front of us. The ref picks up the paper cup that heads in his direction and takes it to the police like it's important evidence. Chucking shit at people isn't good craic really, but it's a fucking paper cup. Fuck's sake Pool. 

We're not immediately back on the bike. In fact, the bike seems to have got a puncture. We're dazed by the goal. Wobbling about uncomfortably and not really in control. Then, the chain falls off and the whole idea of being on the bike at all goes out the window. They loop a long ball in and then, in a way that we don't seem to keen on doing, commit loads of players into the box. The lad who scored wins a header, a shot comes in. Grimmy is possibly guilty of smoking a slightly stronger strain than usual as he acts quite surprised by the sudden movement and just pats it back to their best player (their no 14 who I noticed earlier had lovely control) and he can't miss from about 4 yards out. 

What happens next is we're fucking shite for ages. There's no maelstrom of intent. No stung pride and desperate scramble to get a goal back. Next to me, I hear someone predict the exact pattern of play we churn out before it happens and watch it come absolutely true. We knock it square between the back 3, the keeper and then give it to Dougall in the desperate hope Kenny will conjure something from the array of static bodies in front of him. Passing football requires movement. If you've no movement you need a plan B and Kylian isn't really cutting it as a Madine replacement, so that's not really working either. 

The highlight of the latter 32 minutes of the half is CJ running back, fighting, making a good challenge, getting the crowd on his side, then crossing the ball. Into his own box. Ole. 

Fleetwood could have scored again. We're absolutely shite. It's basically Owen Dale vs Fleetwood. 

I'm not one to lay into players but Oakley Boothe is stretching my sense of charity. Football is hard. Players have a weird job, training all week for a performance they ultimately can't control. Imagine being an actor but someone keeps trying to change the words of the play and stop you reaching the right entrances and blocking your exits. That's a bit like what being a footballer must be like. He's really not looking arsed though. I don't know if I'm guilty of just reacting to his body language and making assumptions but he looks diffident and a bit surly. Like, it's somehow a bit of an inconvenience having to play. He then pulls out of a tackle and responds by shoving the player who has beaten him in the back. It's not so much shithousery as just shit. It's a (lack of) effort that makes Carey look like Gary fucking Brabin and surely, the only reason Oakley Boothe is on the pitch is to carry water for others and if he can't be bothered doing that in a committed way, then I don't know why he's there. Maybe he's not fit. If not, why is he there? 

Not on the pitch


It's not so much conceding the two goals that has pissed me off but the limp response. Goals happen but we look so devoid of ideas and in some cases desire. 


On the pitch

The atmosphere is instantly changed. Lavery (the White Pele) and Dembele (the new Messi) are on. Immediately we start chanting for Lavs. There's a sense of intent from the very first second of the half and the crowd respond. Football isn't played in the stands, but it's that sneaking sense that what happens in the stands feeds onto the pitch that makes being there special. From the off, we're chanting Lavs' name and he's bustling, hustling, hovering and at his annoying waspish best. We roar our approval, he draws breath and hares after the ball again. 

Then the moment it properly turns... Sonny, on the edge of the box. He's dallying... He's dropping his shoulders left and right. There's an easy ball outside. He's hanging on to it too long, Sonny, make your mind up, he's pushing out of his feet, he's hitting a shot and it's through a crowd and it's in! YESSSSS! Down the terrace, into bodies, back up again, grabbing a coat of a random person, someone yanking me back, YESSSSSSS! I fucking love this. Game on. 

We're everything we weren't in the first half. We're snapping into everything, we're moving it quickly and crisply. We're penning them in. Dembele is wriggling through, he's like a little ball bearing bouncing off the walls of some kids toy maze game, he's fucking magic jack in the box, he's laying it out to CJ, CJ with a cross, it's deep... Carey, Picks it up... Picks his spot.. hits the spot!!! YESSSSSSS. Mania again. This is football. I honestly almost black out. This is the boy doing what the boy can do. All goals are great goals etc... 


Then it gets better. Lavery to Rhodes. Rhodes with a little touch round the corner that Madine would be proud of. It's absolute class. Lavs is racing onto it. He's going shoulder to shoulder, he's poked it ahead of himself, he's shot and though I can't see it hit the net, I know it has from the ecstatic roar that I become part off and the ensuing pandemonium that seems to lift me from my feet and launch me not just down the terrace but somehow far above the ground at the same time... It's honestly the best thing ever being on an actual packed terrace when the Pool score a goal like that... The players are in front of us, CJ is imploring us for more noise... We give it. 

I've no idea when or what order the following things happen in. Some of them came before the goals and I think some of them after. Stop complaining. I'm not carrying a notepad just for you for fucks sake. You can literally watch the game back for 2 quid.

There's a fucking mental bit of control from Dembele, he takes the ball with his feet like someone catching a ball with their hands. He teases the defenders like someone torturing a dog with a treat they keep whipping bag from it's slavering jaws. He's outrageous. There's another moment where he bustles through, hitting the ground and bouncing up, coming out the other side of a sandwich of bodies like a cork tossed on a waves surfacing and floating again towards shore. We lap it up. 

There's a cross field pass for CJ that he stuns and charges onto his own touch like he's pure class. There's numerous shots charged down and a sense that we're way, way on top now. I read on a forum a thread about us needing to think of something witty and original to sing about Pilley. We rise to the occasion with the subtle, eloquent and elegant 'Pilley's getting bummed' which I think encapsulates a lot of stuff about life, justice and power and such. Sonny plays a divine ball, conjuring a swerving, spinning pass to Lavery who tries and almost achieves burring down the line and smashing it through the keeper. Maybe he should have pulled it back. Lavs' best feature though is the fact he's stupidly desperate to score. 

Then somehow, it begins to ebb a little. There's a gnawing sense that we're tiring perhaps. That such a blitz can't last forever. There's no real sense that Fleetwood are coming back into it particularly, just that now, it resembles a game of football, not a training exercise of attack vs defence. A ball back to Marvin. He flaps. He freezes. He gives it away. He saves himself with a superb challenge but I didn't like that at all. 

Subs. I'd take Sonny off. He's given his all. He looks knackered. Critch takes off Dale and Rhodes. I'm not sure. I think the midfield needs stiffening. There's a kind of rumble of nerves around the terrace. Sonny has it. Dembele is darting, he's peeling off his man. Sonny tries a little cute pass. He stubs it a bit. Tired legs. Tired pass. They break. They run right through us. It's a knife through butter. The 14 has it. He's good. Fuck me. That was very good in a horrible, horrible way. 

I feel empty. The hideous, tinny, awful Captain Pugwash theme plays. I am fucking gutted. It was a sublime finish. Where the fuck did that come from? 

We go again. There's 10 minutes. From flares and stuff I assume. 10 minutes. C'mon... C'mon... It's been an absolute heartbreak moment, but if we can pull it back again, then it will be insane. 

Lavery. He's got Sonny just inside him. In acres of space. On a hat trick Pull it back! He doesn't. He's Lavs. One of Lavs' best qualities etc.. Fucking hell, c'mon. A shot. from I think Dougall, a scream for handball. It looked quite handball to me. A ball in. There's some kind of mad hacking mayhem. A shot. I can't see. It's blocked, saved brilliantly. Someone (Marvin?) is on the ground. Another shot. I can't see. A howl of agony from behind the ball. It's hacked away from the line. C'mon. Seconds are left. We dither at the back. It's launched finally. It comes back to Hubby. He can't control it. It runs out. The ref blows. 


The end felt so flat after all that. It was almost a wonderful turnaround and then it wasn't. The two players who really added most second half got caught out trying to add a fourth and I don't care about that. We conceded an equalizer trying to put the game to bed. If you're going to moan about that, then in my humble opinion you're missing the point of what we need to do more of. Fuck 'game management' and stuff. It's that thinking that drags us into our shell. 

What I do care about is the fact we keep giving ourselves a mountain to climb by 'respecting the opposition' and trying to be solid, but we're shit at it. There's no point playing a kind of patient, measured football, if you can't do it and it's not the first game of late where we've looked wank trying to contain and brilliant just going all out.Oxford, Wank, then brilliant, Stevenage - brilliant, then wank. Peterborough, wank, then brilliant with 10 men. Today, fucking utter gash, then incredible for a bit. We haven't got it in us to be a contain and pounce team. It's just not us. Our flair players are better at being flair players than our solid players are at being solid. 

Dembele just being there gives everyone hope. Honestly, I don't see the point of being all compact and tight and having a system and all that shit if we don't find a place for this kid. No, he doesn't have all the positional discipline and make great recovery runs (I don't actually know what a recovery run is) but he literally seems the point of having a system in the first place. The system is the platform for him. Surely. Otherwise, it's like going to watch a concert and there being no artist, just the lights and the wires and shit.

We're a big club in this division. It's all relative. Listen to us at away games for fucks sake. The low roof of the stand reflects back the chants. The chants radiate out. The players attack. It gets louder. We're desperate for players to show no fear. We love that football.

Why do we fuck about worrying about the other team? We've got a kid who is sensational. Can you imagine Barcelona deciding not to play Messi against some tinpot La Liga side? Because he doesn't track back? Because he's not disciplined enough? I can't. What is it we fear? I know we can't attack like that for 90 minutes solid, but when we play with the bit between our teeth we look a genuine force. When we trot around, we look like we're waiting to get picked off. 

Last time we went up, it was all about solidity. I honestly think Critchley needs to realise that perhaps, this time it's about something different. I credit him with showing the intelligence to realise he couldn't just come and work the same trick twice and try something new. I really hope he understands that we can be something special if we properly commit to being what we are, which is a team who needs to attack. It's evident. It brings out so much more in what we have. Surely to god he sees what we see. A side that is fleetingly great to watch when we let ourselves loose and painfully average when we're constrained. 

It was a good game. It was a heart breaking game. I hate that Pugwash theme. I'm sure they're delighted that I do. 


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  1. A great sum up of the game. All went pear shaped when Rhodes and Dale went off and Connolly and Morgan came on. Too defensive and we should have gone for the fourth goal and put the game to bed, Tinkerman needs to realise we are far better attacking than defending.


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