Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Ian Evatt's TANGERINE! : the Mighty vs Bolton Wanderers

For the first time since 2019 I went to a game of football this week and I didn't write about it. Why not? I didn't start this blog to slag people off and writing stuff like 'this lot are a bunch of uninspiring middle aged journeymen managed by a bloke who seems like he's the tutor of an adult college accountancy course abetted by a dim but well meaning youth club worker and a tubby coke smuggler in a puffer jacket' felt unappealing to me. 

I'm done with Critchball. Tell anyone. The guy is a fraud with a capital F. All the other letters can be capitals too. That makes it shouty and shouty is certain and telling it as it is heart on the sleeve stuff like they do on talksport and that. I will shout it out loud. Take me to the top of the tower and let me loose from there with a very big megaphone and some neon lights. I'm done with it. It's boring and it's predictable and it's not good enough. Call me Mr Certain and let my opinion be known. Fuck your process polo shirt boy.

Weirdly though and (I almost wish I didn't...) I fancy us today.

I don't know why. Actually, I do know why. It's because I've said the above. It's because, above everything else, the thing that most annoys me about Critchley is that we're stuck with him.


It might feel like we're reaching the end of the line, but it's almost certain that we're not. It's never going to be this easy to get rid of the man. Every time I decide he's a broken robot, he goes into 4d chess tactical genius masterclass mode and makes me look a proper knobhead.

Oh, fucking hell. Critch. Why have you dropped Albie? Get in the bin and cover yourself with your body warmer then I don't have to look at you. Do you want to lose this game? Fuck's sake man. What are you thinking?

Evo is pointing at things like a very authoritative chap. Evo is lapping up the chanting. Evo is getting rapturous applause. I'm a bit jealous. I'm very jealous. Why can't we have Evo? Look at him. He's a big manly man doing manly man things and his football team are actually any good.



We actually start quite well. I'm musing to myself that I might have jumped the gun on deciding Critchley is worse than Neil Macdonald and Lee Clark spliced with Nigel Worthington and Colin Hendry but then Bolton score. It's one of those shitty scrappy not cleared properly, stupid surely someone could have got a foot in or put their foot through it goals that we specialise in conceding and I actually do a little jump of fury as it hits the net. I am literally hopping mad.

I look at the dugout. There's Evo, all brawn and presence. He's like the model for some kind of super masculine product. A chainshaw or a beard trimmer. That sort of thing. Critchley looks haggard. Arms folded in his tight tracksuit. What's going through his head? Evo is thinking of steak and fighting bears. Critch is probably hoping Janine hasn't put too much pepper in the spaghetti bolognese as it made him sneeze last time she did that.

Jimmy Husband is creaking. The man looks so tired he could lie down on the pitch and just die right there. I reckon he had to have his shoelaces tied by Ian Brunskill (perhaps we've found out what he does?!) before being pushed out to play.

'Please can I have a game off one day?'
'No Jimmy. We need you'
'But everyone else gets a rest. I've got three broken toes and no hamstrings left'
'Be quiet Jimmy'

I wisely observe 'you can see how the fight has just drained from us can't you?' The ground was a throbbing mass of drumming, back and forth chanting and passion for the first 8 minutes but now it's just Bolton noise and possession. I can feel the second coming of Critchley ending here, the fizz in the kaliber has gone. The bottle is warm. It's undrinkable piss. They're going to batter us now.

Kaddy. A little wriggle and turn. The crowd lifts. He's good at least. He slides it to Beesley. I mean, I like Beesley in a 'nice to see an honest lad trying hard' kind of way but c'mon, he's not going to do it from that range...


He fucking has! He's dropped his shoulder and bought space and then sculpted the ball into the net, swerving it past the keeper, inside the post and down into the back of the goal after kissing the inside of the netting in a beautiful cushioned collision. That was fucking magic. Yes!

Football eh? What the fuck do any of us actually know about it?

We're back on. The fire beneath the cauldron is stoked again. Critchley is prowling. Byers is like a compilation of Kenny Dougall's best bits, all slide tackles and sticking to his man like a stretchy glue you can't break free from. He's all neat touches and intelligent work. Gabriel is up and down. He's winning those ball we loft to the flank. Coulson is looking surprisingly good. He's just done a high speed Cruyff turn. Who knew?

This is a battle. We're in it. Grimmy makes a fucking terrific stop at the near post. Marvin tidies things up. Pennington is all yeoman endeavour and shirehorse-like galloping forward with it. He's got a really good eye for what to do. If his feet were as good as his brain, he'd be incredible. Early on I bemoan Norburn getting caught on the ball, but he's threading it well and snarling into things.

Jimmy finds a burst of energy to overlap. A slide rule pass finds him. He digs out a perfect cross, Byers is on to it, he's headed it down, it must go in, but the keeper plunges and claws it out but there is Marvin and it's all a scramble and YESSSSSSSS!

The ball is over the line and it's manic. The players are running away, the Bolton defence have their hands on their hips. Their keeper, who looks oddly grizzled for a modern day player, like a new dad who loses his hair overnight with the shock of responsibility, is looking skyward. We're on fire in the stands. They've had their five minutes of glory. We're Blackpool FC and this is how it should feel to be us. Glorious.

We keep playing. Lavery makes some great diagonal runs and puts Santos under real pressure. He might be big, but Shane is the horsefly to his horse. The ball is up and down the pitch. The players are playing at their physical limits. It's tremendous to see.

Half time creeps up. Bolton lash a shot over. There's derision but it's not so far away. Bolton work it down the left. They fizz it over and it's met by a forward. Shit.. Somehow Grimmy comes out with the ball having kind of done the splits to try and throw any part of himself at it. He gets up, he's too far away to see for sure, but I imagine he's got that sleepy unfazed look on his face. I love Grimmy me.


A tremendous half. We've really more than matched them. We're playing extremely well. Committed, resourceful and dangerous. I couldn't pick out anyone to say they've struggled, I could pick out any number to praise. Coulson has particularly impressed me, decisive, direct and more skilful than I'd seen from him to date.


What? Two subs standing there. Waiflike Lyons and the King of The Seaside (Joseph) - has Critchley gone mad? I assume we've got injuries as Lavery and Coulson come off. Lyons hasn't had a great season and Beesley and Joseph looked like a confused pairing on Tuesday. I hope this isn't presaging a 2nd half collapse. Myself and my neighbour confide in each other. We admit to 'a bad feeling' about this upcoming half.

The bad feeling is almost immediately dispelled. We're on it again and far from tripping over Beesley, Joseph is haring about playing off him really well. Lyons is deceptively strong for a wee lad and he's soon up and down the left like a Jordan Gabriel tribute act. A ball in, Bolton scramble it away, Lyons nods it back in, a weighted touch that falls perfectly for Joseph who swivels and clips it, lifting it up and over the keeper who does brilliantly to get hands up and turn it on over the bar.

Everything that was happening in the first half is still happening. Bolton are moving the ball about, but they're not threatening as you'd imagine they might. They try the Holloway style switch and overload but we're equal to it. They do fizz one across the face of goal and it looks like it might catch us out, but Penno shephards the far post runner away. They slap a few more across the box but Marvin is sticking his leg out and blocking and it's not flying into the top corner.

We break. It's a lovely swift move, forward passes at 45 degree angles, the ball looking like a high speed move in a game of draughts until Kaddy (oh Kaddy, how I love thee) plays a simply gorgeous straight ball, weighted to perfection for Lyon to dissect the Bolton fullback and in turn, play a near post ball to Joseph for a tap in. The tap in doesn't happen. Joseph is sent flying up in the air and crashes down to the turf. The ref, who is an amenable looking slightly portly fellow trots calmly towards the spot and points at it. Delight! He then trundles across to the defender who made the challenge and shows a red. Double delight!

The place is absolutely shaking now. There's real belief. Score this and we're almost certainly home and dry. Jake Beesley stands. It seems to be an age before the Bolton lad drags himself off. The noise quitens in a way that symbolises the tension of the moment to come ramping up. Bees sets off. Smash! Straight down the middle. The keeper goes past it and dives at air. Beesley leaps and punches the air. The ground erupts

'I want another against these bastards' says someone around me. Why not I think? They keep trying but they're not making Grimmy work. We keep looking threatening. Jimmy spies a loose ball. So does a Bolton player. The formerly top-knotted somewhat jaded looking god does the knock needs pigeon toed painful looking hobble that passes for him running at the moment and crunches into the most solid tackle in the history of the world. The Bolton lad bounces off it like a piece of plastic in a spring loaded toddler toy. The ground roars its appreciation. It's not a song, but it'll do.

Talking of songs, the ironic chanting of Evatt's name is a curious thing of wonder. We love Evo. We're delighted to smash Evo. Bolton fans slink out. We implore Evo to give us a wave. He simmers. Critchley is thinking of the drive back, a cruising speed of 58.9 to maximise fuel efficiency and maybe he'll pop in to M+S at Knutsford services and get a garlic bread to go with the bolognese. Evo is thinking of grimly chewing an unpleasantly tough, leathery steak and being mauled by the bear. Perhaps getting bitten by a snake for good measure. He's simmering. Critch is giving off an air of confidence that wasn't there earlier as he points, shouts, implores players to push up, get tight, stay awake.   

Morgan is on to freshen things up. CJ on to add further pace on the break. Bolton have no choice but to go at us even if it's a fairly lost cause now. It's a matter of time before we spring on them. Albie Morgan is marauding, Kaddy is haring ahead of him. Morgan threads it perfectly. Kaddy is in rare form today, he's aware of Gabriel flying forward from the back in acres of space, so, instead of going on himself as you might imagine a player of his ilk would, he slams on the brakes and slices a pass that looks simple enough, but is actually ridiculous in terms of the angle he manages to play from the position he's in and has Gabriel clean through. I always think Gabriel's one flaw is in front of goal, but maybe that's another thing I'm wrong about because he draws the keeper and slots it into the bottom corner with a beautifully satisfying precision, tucking it away neatly and giving us time to appreciate that the ball is going in before it does.


There's just time for Jimmy to finally collapse to the turf. The man has no more to give today. He needs a week in bed and another week by the pool. God love him. Casey comes on. That's 4 minutes rest for Jimmy. A rare luxury. 

There's the whistle. 

Fucking magic! 


The applause cascades down from the stands. They were all magnificent. Sometimes you just have to say it as it is, heart on the sleeve, honesty don't you? They were fucking brilliant. I look a knobhead. I don't give a fuck. We might not have quite played total football but we played brilliant league 1 football and mixed up fast and incisive passing with muscle and aerial fight. Beesley isn't an aesthetes choice but it makes such a difference having an outlet like him and his work rate is incredible. I doubted him at the beginning of the season but we generally look a stronger team for the option he gives.

Byers was also terrific, giving us a kind of skilful street fighting quality, making us tick in a way we sometimes don't. Gabriel looked at peak levels and that's some player for this league. I could go on. I could list the lot of them.

Critchley comes to the south. There's applause. He wanders up the pitch to the north. He lets the players take their moment. He approaches the fans massed behind the goal. They're singing and he claps them. He stands for a moment but there's no response. He turns and begins to walk away. As he does, it's like the stand can't do this to him. It's like we can't stay angry at him forever. We're stuck with him and maybe he's stuck with us. The noise rises, Critchley turns back, the pace at which he does betraying the fact that underneath the self proclaimed unshakeable belief in the process and behind the iPad screen and within all the data, he might just have been a bit worried before this match that *things had unravelled* and there's the 3 short explosive cheers and the drum banging away and we all walk out into the last dregs of late winter light and face the oncoming spring with just a bit more lightness of being and the Dembele chant going round in our heads.

We could still do this. Perhaps there's still a hint of the imp left in the man on the touchline after all. 

Fuck me. It's the hope that kills you isn't?

I'm walking down Bloomfield Road away from the ground. A couple of older fellas, maybe late 60s or early 70s are walking near to me. One of them tells the other... 

'I tell you what, it feels good when we win doesn't it?' 

...The way he says it to his mate, the sudden unaffected happiness in his voice, makes it seem as if the feeling has come upon him fresh. As if all the years and hundreds or thousands of games, all the ups and downs and highs and lows still haven't washed away the same sensations he had as a kid. I want to hug the man. His carefree observation makes me realise that I feel exactly the same as I did when I was 12, with my dad, walking back to the car after a big win. Lighter. As if the world is less sharp edged and a little more easy to cope with. It might be stupid or irrational or whatever it is, but it's undeniably how I feel. My team played well and we won. 

That, right there, is why we do it. Cos sometimes it's shit. Quite often it's neither here nor there. Sometimes though, it's fucking brilliant.

Whatever happens next and whatever went before, Critch 2.0 gave us today and today was tremendous. 

More please. 


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1 comment:

  1. Wonderful Matt a masterpiece in fact. I wish I could have written that it echoed everything I felt and thought before, during and after. Thank you for making me laugh in the dark times and cry in the good



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