Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Sunday, January 28, 2024

The gods did not smile upon us: the Mighty vs Charlton Athletic

There's a certain optimism in the air. The Mighty have won an away game, the Mighty have acquitted themselves very well on live TV against a Premier League team, the Mighty are in enviable form at home. The sky is a kind of washed out January blue that holds a hint of warmer days to come. 

Charlton Athletic by contrast have little cause for optimism, their main positive is that they are no longer managed by Michael Appleton, a fact bemoaned by one of my neighbours who gets a far away look of of bloodlust as he regales us with a vision of what we've missed out on... 'We'd be at him, they'd be at him... fantastic' 

It's not to be. Charlton have Curtis Fleming in the dugout and as far as I know, we've got no collective opinion on him at all. The team is kind of the one you expect Critch to pick. I'm not convinced I'd have picked them all in that order but it is what it is. 


Charlton look quite smart in their all black kits. I imagine if GCHQ have a football team they'd wear a kit like this. The keeper runs over and the mysterious vibe goes up a notch as it appears he's come in disguise, his face mask giving the game a surprising but welcome feel of a masquerade party. 

We're on it from the start. There's several 'Pool's this season. At one end of the scale there is 'hopeless and lethargic Pool that bang it aimlessly at the box and look a bit fed up' and at the other is 'clever, aggressive Pool who look like a decent Championship team and go at the other team with invention and intent' and we've clearly got out the right side of the bed today. 

Chances start to build up. An early corner. Coulson in on the keeper. Was he cleaned out? An early run from Morgan, Jimmy Husband, leaning back and lashing one across the box that somehow doesn't get a touch. Another corner. Coulson with a scrambling effort that is somehow scuffed away. Nearly... Nearly... Nearly. CJ gets in and slams it across the box. Almost. Not quite. 

A corner, Marvin leaps and wins it and the ball goes all across the face of goal like it's taunting us and past the far post, somehow not getting a touch from any of the flailing limbs. A ball across and Rhodes smashing into a defender gets a touch. The keeper grabs it off the line. That was over? No? It looked it! 

We're looking really good. Charlton look a bit dizzy, like a bunch of kids who've been playing on a roundabout and for whom the world is now spinning. Simple passes go out of play. Easy moves break down. That's perhaps the legacy of the sad eyed gravedigger. They're absolutely without confidence. We're full of it. 

Rhodes charges down the keeper. Perhaps the keeper's vision is impaired by wearing his Venice carnival gear and he slams the ball straight at Rhodes. Here we go. The goal robot sways with the impact, the ball allready heading towards goal. His spatial recognition circuits note that it requires a second touch. His ball dispatch system fires into life and he steadies himself and drives the ball... weakly at the keeper.  Rhodes stands there. He can't believe it. We can't believe it. Zorro can't believe it. The goal robot has malfunctioned. 

Dembele does a thing that is one of the best things I've ever seen anywhere. He's wide and he's losing a physical challenge. He's controlled the ball poorly and it's heading out of play. Then, it isn't. He's flicked out a boot, caught the ball at the nanosecond before it leaves the pitch and swerved it down the touchline, leaving his man staring at a space where he was, going one way round him as the ball goes the other... This boy is unreal

Kyle Joseph is also a fine player. This is becoming increasingly evident. He's galloped around showing skill and strength. He's linked, he's flicked, he's danced past defenders and now his taking it on an angle, his cushioned first touch and acceleration is taking him free. He draws the keeper, he lifts it past him and the ball is on it's way in. I'm in full pre-celebration mode, my fists clenched ready to punch the air, breath drawn in to scream acknowledgement of the moment, and just as I'm about to let go, the ball smacks against the post and instead of leaping high, I fall to my knees. How? Did? That? Not? Go? In? 

Then, the stuff of nightmares. Charlton score. Husband and Casey seem at odds as to who is going to shut the wide man down. The ball comes in and there it is. For fucks sake Pool.

Hang on though. IT was a nightmare. The linesman is there, his flag waking us from the horror and it's still, somehow, all square. 


We've played really well. It's 0-0. It really shouldn't be. It's not just the chances we've not put away, but the flow of the game has been almost entirely with us. We've nearly scored in multiple different ways. 


Charlton make a change and we replace Rhodes with Lavery (the goal robot having been involved in a nasty far post clash of heads in the first half) but it doesn't appear to make any difference. We're still dominant, we're still not scoring. A ball from the left finds Casey at the far post but his header is rushed and wide. 

Kyle Joseph again, another bit of magic and... fucking hell. For fucks sake! This game is becoming like a torture exercise! Joseph has lifted a placed and powerful shot beautifully but he's placed it against the bar. I'm actually kneeling in front of my seat now looking around with my arms outstretched, appealing for someone to explain to me how we've not scored yet. Heads are shaken, or hands are placed on them. Come on Pool! 

The atmosphere is good today. The ground feels fuller than perhaps it is. We're playing really well. We just can't score. They're hacking us down. The referee does a comedy run, a luminous bald headed fella with a just for men sculpted beard jogging with high knees, like he's riding an invisible unicycle to retrieve the ball and tell their keeper to get on with it. He doesn't book him. Why? He's quite amenable it seems as he also doesn't book them for twice nearly snapping Kaddy in two. A sketchy ref always adds to the noise though. 

Albie Morgan makes things happen. It's his tenacity that won't allow Charlton to get away with dallying at the back. All day he's carried the ball well, been neat and tidy with his passing and prompted our best work, but now he's snarling into a tackle and then poking the ball onto Kaddy. Dembele has the acceleration of an illegally tweaked electric scooter and he motors free, scrambles the keepers mind by faking to go for one corner then slashes it brutally into the other. 

A dam bursts and the relief pours from the stands. It was, in the end, an emphatic goal that broke the deadlock. It was more than well deserved. YESSSS! 

The noise goes up a notch. The songbook is revelled in and collectively, we begin to dream. We're finally playing consistently well, we're enjoying watching the team, it's all coming together at last. Charlton have a week shot that Grimmy pats down dismissively. We've played so well, I've barely noticed we've got a goal keeper. I've been more than a bit down on Critchball at times this year, but then perhaps all the shape work and stubborness is worth it, because today, we've looked really good, we've played with a confidence and a movement that will trouble anyone. The misses were freaks. Play this again, it would be 4-0 by now. A play off berth is inevitable. In fact, we've got a bunch of teams higher up to play. You never know. We might still be capable of better. We're hammering them. Marvin is up for a corner, he causes a bit of mayhem and Lavery nips in with his head... It's inches wide. We'll get another, maybe 2. Possibly 3. 

Nothing. Can. Go. Wrong. 

They clip it forward. Alfie May. CJ is wrong side but he gets tight. CJ stays tight. May isn't phased. He rolls CJ like a rizla and blindly hits the ball into an area. Marvin legs instinctively goes to block. 99 times that ball cannons away. This 1 time it bounces, skips up, hits Marvin's leg at the perfect angle to richochet into the bottom corner. 


I actually can't believe it. 

C'mon Pool. C'mon. 

We've given a lot today. We've played well. We don't deserve this. We are looking leggy. Charlton are buoyant now. There's a football team lurking under the shambles we've seen for the past 68 minutes. Suddenly they look more likely than us. 

Our midfield dominance has faded. Why isn't Critch freshening this up? Hamilton hasn't had an attacking impact for ages. Kaddy now looks peripheral. Norburn and Morgan aren't snapping into it like they were. Finally Gabriel comes on. For Coulson? Why? I don't get that. Virtue (whose combination of forward thinking and aggression I think we really need) warms up but then doesn't come on for about 10 minutes. Charlton break on us after some really dicey play. Marvin chases back and makes an outstanding challenge in the box. Charlton fizz one across the goal line. Alfie May takes one down, spins and fortunately gets under it and I'm really not enjoying this. 

There's comically little injury time given the amount of sluggishness from Charlton at every set piece and the number of stoppages for their fouls. It takes us till 91 minutes to try chucking Marvin up front. 

The whistle goes. 


That game was like being at a great party where a power cut turned out the lights and stopped the music. We all shuffle out a bit shell shocked. Charlton fans get a bit lairy. I can't be arsed even looking at them. It feels a bit like reading a great book and then finding the last few pages have been ripped out. I can't quite figure out why we didn't refresh the players on the pitch and have a good go at a side we'd dominated for 68 minutes when we conceded. I can't help but wonder if having a player like Dale or Apter on the bench might have been the second attacking wind we clearly needed. 

Today, though, is not why the playoff are still frustratingly far away. Today is not why we're seeing the number of games tick down and the points we need per match slowly tick up. Today is not why we're somehow behind Stevenage Borough. Stevenage tho. Stevenage. We played really well today for the most part. Things conspired against us. The universe was not kind. The universe was distinctly unkind.

We need to play this well again. Then again and then keep playing this well until there are no more games to play. 

There's very little margin for error. There's no room for fear. 


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Thursday, January 18, 2024

All goals are great goals but a Gary Goalie goal would have been the greatest of them all: the Mighty vs Nottingham Forest

Ok, let's do this. You don't want flim flam. This is the FA Cup and it's here and now. So it's into the car and it's the almighty noise of the Membranes as loud as the car will play them. It's the tower, shining in shimmering multi colour glory against a coal black backdrop. It's 1953 (and all that.) We're on fucking telly and we're in tbe cup still and we're going to win the fucking thing. Then we'll win whatever European shit we get entered into afterwards. Promotion? Who needs that mundane crap? Death or Glory awaits. No formbook shite, no crappy tables and fucking goal difference accountant wank.

Even Critch looked a bit excited in his pre match interview and didn't bang on about tough games and respecting the opposition. Kind of like I imagine he looks when he's changed the screen wash and has popped a new air freshener (restrained scent to avoid distracting odours when driving) in the Volvo and is looking forward to checking the oil. 

Literally, what's not to love about this? Team full of right wing backs. Super Sonny at the ready. Let's smash them dodgy green jumper wearing, Josh Bowler stealing, play off semi final losing impending Premier League charge victims into next week.


It's like an actual football match. Two proper sets of fans trading songs. Ice on the touchlines. A rock hard pitch and a Pool side snarling out of the traps. Ok, not so much snarling as doing a slightly cross face and going 'grrrrr' in a flat voice but we're definitely the better side initially, forcing them to kick it out of play and generally look a bit rubbish. Albie Morgan has a shot. All is good.

'They don't want this' I wisely pronounce and then they almost score, Grimmy sprawling flat to the ground to claw away a downward header.

Then they do score. A corner, a flick and someone in an absolutely outrageous amount of space taps it home. I'm not a defensive coach, but I'd imagine someone who was would say 'didn't quite get that one right chaps' 

Forest have grown into the game as a whole and generally keep us at arms length. Hubby and Connolly have not only got boots on the wrong feet but have possibly got each others boots on the wrong feet. The marauding centre back tactic looks a bit more like a strategy to release a couple of clowns up the pitch as they trade increasingly hilarious wild attempted passes. 

It's stodgy and frustrating. We're not rubbish, but we're nowhere near good. Carey isn't on fire by any means but briefly flickers into life, spraying a lovely pass wide, sprinting and missing the glancing header on the return. His flame is doused. CJ is peripheral and can't get the space to accelerate. Morgan has another shot but it's never ever going in. We're kind of chasing shadows. I can hear Critch saying 'good areas but lacking quality' as he always does when we can't make anything really happen. There's Marvin at the far post though somehow. Here we go... but there's the shot and it's whistled across the goal getting no touch.


Forest look better than us basically. 


I'm not really concentrating. It's cold and I'm thinking about my feet when I suddenly tune in to see that where there was seemingly nothing happening, Grimmy is now throwing himself at the feet of one of them and making a fine stop but the ball is breaking and it's a low, hard effort, Grimmy is totally bypassed and Marv on the line can only wave a leg at it, like a cricketer trying to defend a ball on the stumps with a thin garden came and the ball deflects off him and into the net. I've still not watched it back, but I'm assuming someone fucked up somewhere whilst I was dreaming of something else but hey, this is a blog about a dickhead going to a game, not a court of law so I'm fucked if I'm checking whose fault it all was.

Game. Over.

Except it really isn't. It's kind of just the beginning. Grimmy waves to the bench. He's been injured making that earlier save, his pain all in vain. Gary Goalie is coming on. I used to think Gary Goalie was just a reliable and amiable lad from Rochdale who we got cos he would sit on the bench without complaining. My view now is that Gary Goalie is some kind of hitherto unacknowledged creative spark cos basically, he enters, all reassuring height, stubble and sleeve tattoos, and it all goes mad. The man has short sleeves on like he's playing for Mexico and it's about the same temperature as Siberia. Love it. 

We chase, we huff, we puff. Then though, just as it seems almost inevitable Forest will score again , the ball ricochets around in the box and Albie Morgan whistles it home beautifully, a perfect connection, the ball rising into the net and lighting a fire inside Bloomfield that will burn for the rest of the game. Another fine goal from a young lad who is looking like an increasingly fine player. That's only the beginning of it. 

Critch is ignited too. He makes more subs. Attacking ones at that. Rhodes, Sonny and CJ hasn't been the most effective attacking triangle so it's Dembele, Joseph and Lavery to see what they can do. 

Now we're in business. Where we looked hopeful and a bit leggy, we now look precision engineered for a specific purpose, breaking with pace, chasing with intent, dangerously charging at Forest with the ball and snapping at them without it. Lavery is a wasp. With Joseph beside him, the pair of them become a swarm, Lavery all hustle and acceleration and Joseph flitting across the front line, a combination of rangy physical presence with touch, pace, skill and desire. Their relentless pace is greater than the sum of their parts. 

The crowd is here too. It might be half empty but the noise is worthy of ten of this season's league games put together. Gabriel is battling. Hey! Heeeeeeey Babeeeeeey! One tackle from behind is man is worthy of a place in our hall of fame, such is the timing and determination.

It would be impossible to sum it up chance by chance. I'd be here for hours. We just keep going at them. The noise rises. Forest are shaking. The momentum is with us.

Nice interplay on the left. Lyon, surging, has he gone to far? He lifts the cross, it's hanging and there is Kyle Joseph bundling the ball in. We erupt. There's a sideways surge into the empty seats on my row and I'm ten seats away. Yes... ! Scream in delight. Take a moment to soak it in as the occupants of the stand opposite go wild, our collective delight embodied, framed by the extremities of the stand as a picture of joy. Go again. Scream again. YESSSSS!

By now, too much has happened for me to keep listing it. An impression will have to do. It's end to end. There's runs down the left. Jimmy finally warming up and starting to flow. There's Dembele not quite pulling of some moments of magic, There's Lavery spinning his man and haring away. There's tussles and clashes and bookings and chanting. Glorious noise. Allez, Allez. For the first time in ages, the game has me hoarse, drained and happy. SEASIDE! (Barmy Army!) 

There's 10 minutes of added time. There's so much Pool pressure. We can win this. We nearly do. There's head in hands from what I can't remember because it's all a blur of racing tangerine. There a save or two from Gary Goalkeeper, one a particular good close one on an angle and there's Dembele... 

Oh, Kaddy. I don't think I can relive it. He's breaking... He's done his man, he's in... The keeper is coming and it's all set for him to slide it, or maybe lift it, or maybe shimmy and put him on his arse and then juggle the ball over him because this is Karamoko Dembele and he's so fucking good that he's not going to fuck this up and we're in the next round and... he's taken it wide. Why's he done that? Kaddy? Oh no. The chance has gone. 

I need to lie down. Oh, fuck. There's more. 


Take a breath. Wow. Right. More please. 


We get more. Some of the below could have happened earlier. Or later. It doesn't matter. This isn't about cataloguing the game in a spreadsheet. It's a night for the raw feeling of football. The loosening of normality as you turn into a bating and swaying animal, howling in desperation as Gabriel tumbles in the box, screaming for a hand ball moments after. Roaring on Joseph as he twists and bursts forward, a hurly burly mixture of brawn and skill. For the first time in forever, I'm not yearning for Jerry Yates. 

Morgan hitting it first time. OLLIE NORBURN STOP APPEALING FOR SHIT YOU HAVEN'T GOT AND PLAY ON FOR FUCKS SAKE MAN!. Marvin is playing beautifully. I know he's a chaos engine but he's by about a million miles our best pure defender. Jimmy stops one by basically lying down in the way of the ball. Jimmy has a fight with one of them. I don't care if he's not had his best game ever, Jimmy transcends mere football competence. Jimmy tries to trip one of them and it's fucking brilliant the way their lad rides the contact. You see quality in little things like that at games that you can't see on TV.


It's a dream. I love football. All of it. The fuck ups and misplaced passes and the way tired players on a cold night are all out of position and it's unravelling into a playground battle that is 30000% more engaging than all the precision tactics of a 'perfect' game because you can see yourself in it. You can see the football you used to play, wild and ragged and desperate. 


They're a rule breakingly expensive squad that can piss Josh Bowler up the wall and we're really not. We're just a bit leggy now and Forest work it down the right. The bleach blonde haired lad gets it in the box. His feet are quick. Ours are heavy. He squares it. Chris Wood. Gary Goalie can't get near it. 

Oh. Blackpool. My heart breaks. We don't deserve that. So much given and that underwhelming tun of the mill goal is the reward? Football eh? 

There's more. We're so tired it's painful to watch. Even Morgan can't pass it now. Everything is under or over hit. We're dead on our feet, but we're still alive somehow. 


Even Gary Goalie with all his game changing presence can't turn the magic of tonight into a full blown miracle though and whilst he gets to hack at it, it's quickly robbed, they break and have a shot from the halfway line but it sails wide... Their miss is greeted like a goal. Exactly as it should be. 

A free kick. Last ditch. I'm actually praying I think. I'm not doing it deliberately. If we score this, it will make a wonderful game last longer. It will add icing to an already fabulous cake. C'mon Pool... 

It's not to be. 


All I can sum up with is that football is often shit. It's often boring or frustrating or unsatisfying. Sometimes though, it's like nothing else in the world. That's the deal. Put up with when it's rubbish and sometimes it's the best thing ever. We lost, but I feel like we won. We didn't and I'm not being all 'football was the real winner' but there was noise and fight and blood and thunder and we took them to the line and we gave everything and more. Maybe football is just some stuff that we should enjoy and have a good time at? I don't just mean the fans. I mean everyone in the game. Fuck the league with all it's seriousness and tiered payments and empty, joyless treadmill inevitability and precarious financial implications for failure. It's football. Play to win and fuck it. Sometimes you don't. Go again. Sing. Let go. C'MON YOU POOOOOOL. 

Cup football is pure soul cleansing magic. I was wrong in the intro though. Tonight was both death AND glory. 

We love you Blackpool. We do. 

(Should bring Gary Goalie on more often.)

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

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Content machine

Part 45 in a series of pointless barely structured rants pissing into the bleak death rattle wind of modern football. There is no whimsical CJ Hamilton based slapstick capers in here. Clear? Ok. Lets go. Don't say I didn't give you fair warning. 

This season is conspiring against me. Home games are comfortable,slightly fuzzy ambles to straightforward victories. Every time I go away in search of the slightly more edgy, electricity charged buzz of a crowd on its toes, we're completely shite. 

The dwindling magic of the cup has offered itself up, a tempting drink of hedonistic football bliss sipped from the bowl of the trophy itself. 

Best Forest and get Wet Spam away. Lovely. A trip to savour. A trip to anticipate. A day in the metaphorical sunshine of a us against them, all together in the battle, forget everything else, pent up tension, death or glory, tangerine noise everywhere around me, under my skin and vibrating to the very core of my being. 

Fucking ITV. FUCKING TV. I cannot go. I cannot even watch it on telly. It is not an option. It is physically impossible. I hate this season. The Forest game now feels less exciting to me. I'm selfish. I know. But the prize is not mine any more. It belongs to others. Fuck you TV. Fuck you Winter Hill transmission tower. Fuck you Midsummer Murders and fuck you Lord Reith. 

The manner in which TV has stretched the times when you need to be aware that you might need to make space in your life to watch your football team to 'basically any time you aren't working and some times when you are' is shite. I'd hate to support a Premier League team. Having a season ticket is essentially akin to saying to your friends and family 'nah, I can't arrange anything ever more than about 4 weeks into the future' because I have to be free Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday. I've got Thursdays now, but we're in the Europa League qualifying positions so don't rely on that next year' 

That's not healthy. League 1 might be largely bobbins, but at least I can usually say 'yeah, lets do that on Monday' or 'Thursdays or Fridays are good for me' and 'Sunday? Definitely' and even 'Wednesday, more than likely' if I have the temerity to want to do something other than watch the Mighty Tangerine Wizards in action. 

No fan in their right mind can think it's good to have games kicking of on Friday, Saturday and Monday nights. Much has been said, fuck all has been done. We just moan a bit and move on. The money you see. It's all about the money. The content machine consumes football, the content machine churns up football culture and smashes habits, patterns and behaviours of fans and spits filthy cash out the other end like a giant king kong type thing with a TV in its belly, eating people and shitting out pound notes. 

Now. Let me get on to VAR. (That's a shift isn't it? No, not really. Let me explain...) The idea of moving cup games to Friday night is a clear example of how those that run the game don't really care in any way, shape or form about the experience  of legacy fans such as myself and, I presume you. The inconvenience to us is justifiable because a TV slot brings in income and that is that. It doesn't matter that I or anyone else now can't go - the draw of the TV money is more important than my ticket revenue. 

VAR is, I am increasingly convinced, all part of the same thing. 

I don't need to write loads paragraphs about how it's crap if you're at the game because the moment of a goal (the very point of being at the game) is spoiled. We all know that. Anyone who in anyway understands what it is to be at a game as a fan knows that the tumbling chaos of spontaneous release is infinitely preferable to a cautious, polite applause and a wait to see if it is or isn't a goal. Everyone knows that already. It's so obvious it's painful. Pissing about with video replays fucks up the atmosphere and the atmosphere is the best thing about football. Loads of sports have skills. Almost no sports have the spectacle of a football crowd. 

It's not about crowds though. We're just background. We built the game, but we no longer own the game. It's owned by TV companies and they give a platform to nation states washing their hands of blood and laundering their reputations, global financiers, oligarchs and mentalist egotists. They own the game and we're just huddled in the stands, happy not to have been barred yet for a transgression of whatever the latest ground rule they've dreamt up to ensure the 'matchday consumer experience' is 'on brand' and 'consistent with the values of the club/league/football family' 

I'm getting carried away a bit, so the essential point I want to make is that VAR is perfect for the TV machine. The outrage from within it about VAR is faux or superficial. Why do I think this? 

Most people watching at home aren't like you or I. They haven't given up a day to go to the game. They haven't got cold. They haven't spent hundreds of pounds to tramp across the country. That's ok. I'm not critical of them. I watch football on telly too sometimes. It's allowed. It's an important distinction though. You and them. The fan who only consumes the game via TV in the cosy warm of their own home and you, the idiot, locked in to punishing schedule of trudging about watching your (often shit) team in the rain, wind and cold. 

Your TV fan can switch off much more easily. Ok, you can leave the game too, but as you've spent a bunch of money getting there and getting in, it's not such an easy thing to do and besides, if you've bought your ticket and had your pre match pie/pint, it's no skin off football's nose if you do fuck off early. You'll turn up again next week though. It's a routine, you see mates, you get to chant, shout, moan, barrack and from time to time, feel a kind of collective joy and belonging that you don't really find anywhere else. 

Football is often boring. I've been bored in quite a few games this season but I'm an idiot so I don't care. It is what it is. Shovel more boring gruel in my mouth. Next week/season/decade will be better. For the more casual TV supporter though, we need *incident* and *narrative* to keep them engaged and we need it now. Football itself is not enough. They have none of the incidental benefits of attending the game to keep them hooked. If they switch off though, it's one less viewer seeing the adverts and a blow to 'the global reach' of the game. 

Think about TV. 99% of football is broadcast on commercial channels. Eyes on the channel means eyes on adverts. Adverts means money. Adverts mean lucrative TV deals. Are we getting there yet? This is a conspiracy theory. It's all the rage. Call me Joey Trump and get me a tinfoil hat. 

Think about how football is presented these days. Hours of pre and post match coverage. Post mortems later in the week. Previews from several days before kick off. All of this is part of the media machine and all of this costs money. All of this requires content to churn through and the quality (i.e. the spiciness) of that content dictates whether people watch it. 

This is where VAR comes in. The poorest of games can become the hottest of talking points. The moments that define the season can be those which happen at Stockley Park and it is the TV viewer who is the prime position to witness them. Take any famous game of a pre VAR era and you'd say being at the ground gave you a privileged insight - in the post VAR era we could say that the TV viewer is actually, in some meaningful way, closer to at least one element of the game than the spectator on the terrace as their view of a VAR decision, the juddering, rewinding analysis and the frantic interpretation by pundits, is closer to what is happening in the VAR van (I know it's not a van but it sounds good) than squinting at a big screen or more likely, standing there in mute confusion and just waiting. 

Football is boring sometimes. There's not much you can do about that. Unless you inject some kind of system of officiating into it that heightens otherwise routine moments by subjecting them to the kind of ridiculous scrutiny that is almost guaranteed to create some kind of 'incident' where there wasn't previously one.  

Then, once we've had the moment of controversy, there's the fuel it brings to the endless round of post match debate, discussion and analysis. There's the decision itself, the role of the various officials, comparing it to previous decisions, decrying standards, consistency, rules, rules changes and so on. Then there's the potential for the heated debate about VAR itself which can be repeated and infinitum whenever we're lacking a bit of content. 

In other words VAR plays the role of some villainous character in a narrative. It is there to shock. To create moments of controversy. To outrage and provoke. Far from 'accidentally' ruining the ebb and flow of a game, it is an opportunity to fuel the ever more hungry fire of media attention. It is the talk in the talk show. It is the clip in the social media post. It is the opinion in the pundits mouth. It is the shot in the arm that brings something new to the ever increasing, attention colonising impact of football on our airwaves. 

Football itself has only so much space for ad breaks. The more the game gives the media outlets to dissect, the more ads they can show. The more ads they show, the more valuable the product is to them, the more they'll pay the authorities for the rights to show it. Who cares if it results in a shit experience for the actual fans. They don't pay for the clubs any more. TV does. Who cares if the game is reshaped and defenders have to run like penguins to try and accommodate rule changes every 6 months. It's just another talking point. It's just another 'debate' and debate means another show, another sponsor, another set of packaged clips banged out to provoke debate. Who cares if VAR hasn't actually sorted anything out and in fact, created a culture where everyone is now paranoid and talking of 'Stockley Park conspiracy' because actually, every fucker knows that anger equals eyes, clicks and replies and if football becomes another platform for one eyed rants and wild polarised takes, then great!

It's all so much better for the money people if we spend every fucking day of the week on this shit and if we're angry whilst we're doing it. Who wants to go back to the days when you could shrug along with 5 minutes of post game analysis that said 'these things even themselves out' and 'probably too close to call Clive, you could give it either way' and then get on with your life?

Where's the social media metrics in that? Where's the hype? Where's the fucking CONTROVERSY? 

The VAR genie is a malevolent one. It won't go back into the bottle because it fuels the machine. 

In other words. Fuck TV. Fuck football authorities and fuck VAR. Fuck the world where the actual quality and experience of anything is secondary to it's 'marketability' and nothing has any value beyond some distant balance sheet. 

Everything is synthetic. Nothing is real. Reality is far too chaotic. Synthesised controversy orchestrated for attention. Piles of filthy cash.

Lets talk about it. Lets have a debate. Lets have some callers. Lets spin up some clips and see both sides. On the radio, Robbie Savage and Chris Sutton actually kill each other. Their pretended matey passive aggression turns into a violent hate fuelled fight. You can hear the sound of their skulls caving in as they beat each other with their microphones, fuelled by the whole pointless emptiness of everything they are. It's better than the usual 606 to be fair. 

In the TV studio Gary Neville is making noises but it's just a kind of scratching and honking, like the sound of a dying seal. He's trying to vomit out some kind of pseudo moral statement but he just can't cough out anything that sounds like a word. Micah Richards can't stop laughing. He really can't stop. He's laughing himself to death on life TV. Roy Keane looks unsympathetic. That's his job. He says it over and over and over, like a robot stuck on a setting as Micah gasps hopelessly for air. He's drowning in his own hilarity.

Everything is on fire. It's all melting. Robbie and Chris and Micah and the Garys and Roy and everything. Your TV is heating up, it's shimmering there, a haze of heat and you're just rooted to the spot and there's a giant flash of light and now... 

There's nothing. Just silence. Everything is gone. 


Saturday, January 13, 2024

Magnificent Morgan - the Mighty vs Exeter City

I'm finding it hard to feel excited about today. This season is so formulaic. Win at home, fuck up away, repeat, stay eighth, move to 3 points of playffs, drift out to seven, repeat, atmosphere fitful and subdued.

I want to have that match day buzz. I want that metallic tang of anticipation, that stomach tweaking jab of nerves. That fizzing, fidgety nervousness that precedes a battle of blood, sweat, noise and fire. To be honest, I'd settle for seeing a Rob Apter cameo or something. It's not to be. Last time out, my car broke down before I set off. This time, the engine fires up fine and we're away into the grey.

The team. Quelle surprise, it's 5-3-2 and you'll never guess who the right wing back is. No, really, he's only gone and picked CJ there. Who could have guessed? I don't know if I'm being unfairly grumpy about it all or not. I decide not to think on it too much. Lets see what the game brings.


Exeter aren't very good. This is apparent from the off. I think they've got loads of injuries and like many teams that aren't us, their squad isn't so deep. For most of the first half they sit off us and do very little, save for one flurry of attacking that ends up with a save and a hack away after a ball across the box. This kind of football (i.e. a team that don't look very good) can cause us problems though and we're looking like a footballing machine lacking a bit of oil.

Everything is a bit stiff. Jordan Rhodes scores goals, but today, he mostly mis-controls the ball. He's not very fast, but that doesn't normally matter. Today, he seems stuck in the mud, mind willing, but body not responding. Morgan though is fizzing. We've got loads of possession and Exeter aren't really rushing us. We're fairly happy to play at a sluggish pace, but Morgan is determined to up the tempo, drilling first time passes into space, carving raking balls out for the wide players to hare after. He's doing in one pass what we're otherwise doing in 4 or 5.

It's all a bit frustrating though. We're a lot better than the opposition but we're not really creating a lot. I can only really remember Joseph with a low shot tipped wide, Dembele with a disappointing free kick and some nice direct moments from new boy Coulsen with his slicked back hair and beard, who to me, looks a bit like a fella who has decided to live in a ghost town in a shack and make a vlog of his lifestyle. Perhaps that says more about what I watch on youtube than him though.

Then, Joseph keeps a ball alive wide. He threads to Dembele. Rhodes now, and then the most blatantly earned penalty of all time, pushing it wide, knowing the keeper has to go through him and then falling on cue. It's a spot kick for sure, but it felt to me cynical in the way it was earned. A more naive player would have tried to shoot. Rhodes just calculated the options and the spreadsheet said 'penalty'

Here he comes... Oh, for fucks sake. He's really not got his boots on the right feet today. A tepid kick, almost like the kind of shot you'd hit if you wanted a mascot to save the ball in an inflatable goal on a family fun day. Still 0-0. I can't be arsed with a 0-0. I'd rather lose.

We settle into 15 minutes or so of mildly grumbling flatness. Exeter is miles and miles away and they've never really done owt ever, but their fans make a decent noise for a while. They've brought a few more than I imagined they would as well. It's an edgy period. We're just not very convincing. Callum Connolly keeps hacking it wildly. Dembele looks as he sometimes does, like he's not really big enough, which isn't really the case, but prevailing subconscious football truisms kick in whenever he's not quite at genius level... CJ tries a drag back, but as he's not going very quickly and he does it quite slowly, their defender just takes it off him, with an air of 'is that all you've got?' about his challenge.

We probe. We win some corners. Jimmy puts in a wonderful cross after doing one of those weird darting runs he does every now and again as if to say 'bet you didn't expect the centre half to do that did you?' We flirt with the idea of having a go at goal but don't really go in for the kiss, even though the Exeter goal seems fairly open to the idea of a bit of fling with us.

Then... a throw, Joseph, neat and precise, Dembele, a dart forward and a lay off and oh... my... Albie fucking Morgan ghosts in and absolutely leathers the life out of the ball, smashing it, but also caressing it at the same time, sending it up and down, swerving into the corner of the goal and as someone almost once sang, he hit it, but it felt like a kiss of pure fucking brilliance. It's an absolute pearl. That felt great.

CJ and Callum confer quickly. CJ runs away. Callum throws the ball really hard to him. CJ somehow manages to not only fail to control it, but to completely miss the ball entirely, giving the impression it's gone right through him. CJ is the least likely ghost I can think of. He's just got no malevolence about him at all. He's too cheerful to be a ghost. I think I might have enjoyed that moment as much as the goal.


It's been a very 'this season' half of football. We've not been very good to be honest. Actually, that's kind of unfair. We've dominated and we've had the ball in the right place a lot without doing much. We've lacked the nous or the urgency or the confidence or the whatever it is that is the difference between a team having possession but it all feeling a bit flat and a team having possession and it feeling like wave after wave of dangerous attacks. Then Morgan did that and everything felt a lot better.


A corner. Deep. Jimmy goes up and wins it. He wins a disproportionate amount of headers for someone who isn't actually that big. It's either in the timing or body strength or some sort of skullduggery or all of the above. I'm wondering how he does it when the ball drops deep on the edge of the box and it's Albie flippin Morgan again, trundling in looking, as he does, like a little dapper model for trendy but low market suit company, with his slightly 1960s hair and squareish build and he's rifling a low shot home, this one fired as if from a cross bow, sweet, straight and true, clean into the bottom corner. We sing his name again. A chant that about 8 minutes ago we didn't know we had, now ringing round the ground.

There's a sense that that is probably that. It largely is. There's a nice bit of noise for a good while. It's a nice sunset. Allez, Allez, Allez. That Kyle Joseph chant that sounds great. Hey, Hey baby ooh... ah! The Shayne Lavery song...

Grimmy makes a decent save. Morgan has a free kick that goes high over the bar. Dembele starts to enjoy the space that comes from Exeter committing more forward and has one of those runs he does. Grimmy makes another save and then another, but they're not shots you'd expect to beat him. Morgan comes off. Virtue is on and Gabriel too. That's a ridiculously good pair of players to bring on when you're 2-0 up against a League 1 side who aren't playing very well.

Gabriel has a nice cameo. He has a decent headed chance. He puts a couple of serious tackles in. He waves his arms about in an intense way. He's better than this league. CJ on the left has a little flurry of action. We threaten for a few minutes to look pretty good but we can't really summon up the desire to smash this lot good and proper.

Exeter blow their best chance. A moment when everyone seemed to stand off and the ball fell to them in the box, but their lad scuffed the first time shot and Grimmy is down almost too early anticipating a better connection but manages to pounce on the ball as it bounces off him, like a cat scrambling onto a toy that it accidentally batted away.

We take off the strikers. Lavs and Dale go up front and it doesn't really work because we need a direct out ball and they need precision, but it doesn't really matter either cos we're never losing this from here, at least in part because Exeter aren't ever getting back into this game. It's just not their day. I spend the remainder of the game enjoying the face that one of Exeter's lads is decidedly big boned. He's got the build of someone whose won the chance to play in a preseason friendly in a club charity fundraiser. Another for the footballers that look like real people XI. Collecting more of them is the best thing about relegation to be honest.

The ref doesn't seem to want to blow the whistle. I'm cold. The game was over 35 minutes ago. We're still going. There it is. Thank fuck...


We did fine. It wasn't especially exciting, but it was fine. We normally do that at home. Full time is weird though. There's little more than a few seconds of applause before most people shuffle off. I think it's a bit sad really. Celebration isn't really about what happened, it's about the collective moment where the thing we all wanted came true and we appreciate that en masse. It's about being in the moment and all that. This moment is fleeting.

Morgan was really good today. I've written before about him seeming like he might be good, or being 'almost good' and he was the player he seemed to toy with being, but not quite believe he was. In what is increasingly likely to be a post Kenny world, we need a new dynamo to set some tempo and if Kenny Dougall isn't going to be around to do Kenny Dougall things, then someone needs to do things and Morgan definitely did things today.

The new lad looked sharp and hungry. I liked that he didn't make anything too complicated and one moment aside where his defending against a rare Exeter run into the box consisted of him running backwards looking worried and nothing else, I thought he had a really good game. I thought Casey was good and Jimbo, one horrible scuffed pass aside, had a good game. Those who decry his distribution have selective vision, ignoring some of the lovely work he does. No one can get every pass right and he prompts us as much as any central defender prompts any team. The attacking players didn't really catch fire. CJ fell over his feet a bit, though, to be fair, he worked back really well today. Dembele wasn't as viscerally thrilling as he can be, Norburn looked a bit laboured and Rhodes played as poorly as he ever has in tangerine. Joseph reminded me of Jerry in a goal drought - his general work was good, his running willing, but the boy needs a goal.

Another home win though. If we pretend there's no away games, this must be what supporting Man City is like. Teams come, we sweep them aside in a stadium that often seems a bit subdued as it's come to expect such things. Unfortunately, we do have to play away games and that's more than a bit of a problem... Today was fine. We're able to win quite comfortably without particularly seeming anywhere near our collective best. Away though... We have to find a way. We should be finding a way. A team that can basically yawn and swat most of the division aside at home, shouldn't be so fucking shite so often, just because there's no Terry's Carpets* sign at the ground they are playing at.

Perhaps we should take a Terry's Carpets sign on the road with us. Banksy can wave it when we're doing badly in between fiddling in his blue folder. It'll give them all a lift.


*Actually, when I think about it, I don't actually recall seeing the Terry's Carpets sign this season at home either...

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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 ...