Saturday, 28 November 2015

Salford City Saturation and one from the Class of '09

Is it ok to admit to already being a little bit fed up of hearing about Salford City? A couple of years ago, they were barely known even in non league circles, now they’re about to have their second televised live game in a month, hot on the heels of a fly on the wall documentary series.  I have to remind myself it’s just a stirring tale of a little part-time club that just happen to have five multimillionaire owners. Us, we’d settle for just three.  Ok, two.

Joking aside, this clearly isn’t a vanity project for the famous five.  The setting could hardly be less glam, and watching from the kind of unmade spectator banking we know all too well, there’s no sign of playing to the camera as the Nevilles, Giggs, Butt & Scholes watch their semi pro heirs. Scholes in particular looks so down to earth, you expect him to pull out a flask of tea.    

Salford won promotion last season but it wasn’t an easy journey. A new management duo was installed as the challenge faltered – a novel ‘bad cop, even badder cop’ combination that is 10% motivation, 90% swearing. Hilariously, two nights before a “big game” against Lancaster City, the team were allowed a night out, but with a 2 drink limit.  The management duo soon realised this wasn’t being strictly adhered to. Imagine!

Inevitably, having had maybe 3 small glasses of wine or an extra Peroni the lads were off the pace on the Saturday and the dugout Kray twins delivered a blast that was straight out of Mike Bassett in bleep count.  “That was an absolute f***ing disgrace – and that’s constructive by the way”.

But good to see old boy Gareth Seddon in the home dressing room and sneaking the odd important goal.  We even got to see inside his personal museum, a little less grand than the Rooney version, with a Poppies shirt hanging next to the door.  Who says our TV days are over?  In many ways Seddon was the star of the show – chirpy, cheeky and the one player who dared to argue back when Ronnie and Reggie were in full flow. He’s now also a model, apparently, and seems to have gained a lot more ink since leaving Rockingham Road, including what looked like The Lord’s Prayer across his chest. That or the lyrics to American Pie.

And so the Salford story rolls on to Hartlepool and another Friday night in which the casual viewer can play FA Cup cliché bingo. God help us if they get through and draw Man Utd.  The BBC will probably give them a Christmas Day special.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Marcus Mark 2

Let's hope our early mid-season blip and Marcus's recent wobble are behind us.  A couple of shoddy performances and the inevitable online hysteria (at one point fully half a dozen fans were baying for blood......) are in the past. 

Marcus has coaxed a few more shekels out of Ritchie's pocket to refresh the squad, including the eye-opening re-signing of Rene Howe, who went from lanky Poppies goal sensation to chubby scummer a few years, and a few divisions ago.  In fact, we once included a photograph on these hallowed electronic pages of a hefty Rene and even chunkier Lee Tomlin together from their Direones days, looking for all the world like early leavers from a Weight Watchers weighing session on the look out for the nearest kebab shop.  I'd repeat it here, but I'm buggered if I'm going to trawl back through nigh on a thousand articles just to see Tomlin's piggy eyes hungrily staring out at me as though I was a cake.

It looks as though Jevani Brown and Saul Williams have moved on to make room on the bench, and at right back, for the incoming players.  Shame in a way as Williams, despite being microscopic had put in some shifts, and Brown looked the part.  However, he and Dubi are very similar players, and one of them is on a contract, so was always likely to remain here.

Marcus's back-room squad has seen a similar make over with his replacement, his new assistant Brian Page making everyone budge-up a bit on the team bench.

What this has done though is give Marcus a chance to freshen up the on and off-field squad, which, anyone who saw the footballing lesson handed out by Burscough last week will attest, it bloody well needed!

We have spent most of this season either a couple of wins from the play-offs, or a couple of defeats from the relegation zone.  It is doubtful the team, the ground or club are ready for promotion into the Conference North, but Kettering must always be at least looking to mount a challenge.  We've seen a tail-off in support that needs to be coaxed back.  The facilities and plunging temperature aren't going to help with this, but a few wins might.

More photo's like this one

....and less photo's like this one

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Things we learned from a very short Trophy run

1. Marcus's third stint with the Poppies began even worse than his second one finished.

2. The Northern League would appear to be appreciably stronger than the Southern League.

3. Gates are likely to tumble even further when your team doesn't produce a single effort on (or off) goal for fully 70 minutes.

4. A team that passes to feet, can dribble, anticipates the ball and play to a plan will invariably beat 11 blokes who standing around shrugging their shoulders.

5. Our chances of a third walk down Wembley Way have never looked slimmer.

Don't hold your breathe.....

Monday, 9 November 2015

The real "Impossible Job"

As rumours fly as to whether Marcus has gone or not continue to flash around the shrinking goldfish bowl that is the Poppy-sphere only one fact has been proved to be incontravertable: -

No Manager in his right mind would want to manage this club.

We all know that this division is tougher than the one we won last season.  Don't think so?  Just ask Bedworth, who came up with us last year.  Their plastic pitch hasn't helped them much so far, being 11 points from safety.  I think they'd trade places with us without too much argument.  If 2015-16 ends with a mid table finish, with an outside push for the play-offs, surely this would represent a reasonable season of consolidation?  As it stands, we are 10 points behind the leaders with 2 games in hand!

It is becoming tedious to see the usual malcontents shrieking like a bunch of squealing ingrates everytime a team dares to beat us.  When did we become such a ridiculous group of entitlement-junkies?  Were we witnessing this at any other club we'd rightly say, "WTF?"

The previous duo were hounded-out by a frenzied minority, and, seemingly by a Chairman taking far too much notice of internet would-be-managers.  Their crime?  Doing the job and pissing the league.

Now it seems that Marcus is being hounded out in much the same way.  His crime?  Not doing the job and pissing the league.  His other failings are equally reprehensible.  He does not play the game EXACTLY how each and every one of us wants.  All 450 of us, with different opinions....  Not playing wingers, who, lets be honest, tend to drift out of the game for roughly 85 minutes every Saturday.  Who was out last, consistent winger?  Have we ever had one?

Will Marcus stay or go?  No-one can say at the moment.  If he does jump ship I hope his replacement has the common decency to be the perfect manager, with millions of contacts, play majestic football week-in week-out, with 8 wingers on the pitch.  At least.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Fall of the Roman Empire

Even the most jaded football fan cannot fail to be stirred by the events we are seeing unravel at Stamford Bridge.  In a world that is short of good news stories, this truly gladdens the heart.  Watching Chelsea’s season implode is up there with the closing scenes of It’s A Wonderful Life, or Jeremy Clarkson being extradited by the Argentinians.  It’s even upstaging the Leeds soap opera, where Steve Evans is currently midway through his six match spell in charge.  

The first sense that something special and unusual was afoot was when Mourinho spat out his dummy over Physiogate, only to meet his match as the club doctor refused to go quietly.  Her withering look as she left the field is my vote for Pout of the Season.  Only a week into the campaign and Chelsea had already found a new way to be detestable, no mean feat.   Then they started losing matches and Mourinho tried his usual deflection strategy of blaming the officials, because of course they’re bound to be biased against little clubs who never win anything.  He saw nothing wrong in keeping Costa in a cage for a week then letting him loose to kick, gouge and generally be ungentlemanly against Arsenal, then stamped on Wenger's glasses afterwards and blamed the fourth official. 
All the while, the FA charges keep piling up, including one for persistently coming up with laughable post-match excuses.  Things are getting so bad, John Terry is coming across as a calming influence.  

Mourinho seems to be building up to some kind of dramatic exit but, hey, no rush, not while you are giving so many people so much pleasure.  
I'm the daughter of a what?


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Speaking up for the Poppies

It was a shame that this weekend's Race Night was so poorly attended.  Race Nights have formed the backbone of off-field fundraising at the Poppies for many years.  Attendances at these events have waxed and waned over that period.  Usually, when the club was in the mire it was standing room only in the Tin Hat, or Northern Lights Club.  When everything seems to be tickety-boo attendances tend to drop off to a hard core of people who enjoy shouting at videos of horse races that had finished twenty years earlier, and eating dodgy sausages.

They still managed to raise just shy of a grand, which is bloody good going and hats off to Martin and the boys.

But why was the event so poorly attended?  Given the million and one media outlets open to the club these days surely they can get news of off-field events out to the faithful.  Was the Race Night mentioned on the website?  If so, I couldn't find it.

Twitter and Facebook are all well and good, assuming events are repeatedly mentioned, because the instant nature of these online services means that important messages are soon drowned in a welter of kitten images, updated status's and photographs of dinners.

Unofficial Forums are great for reaching the small, vociferous groups of Poppies fans who have lots of ideas and opinions, but tend not to actually do anything.....

Once upon a time club events would have been mentioned in the local rag.  They probably still are, but, like everyone else, I tend not to read it since it became a weekly!

However there is a way of reaching all of our fans and relaying important information.  A way of addressing a captive audience of all those who have the Poppies at heart.  And, if you listen carefully between the Scottish Highland Reserve League Half-time scores and abusing our opponents you might just hear Gary Graham mention something over the matchday tannoy.

Or not.  But if not, why not?  Why aren't the club using the pre / half-time / post match tannoy announcements to actually tell us important things?  Letting 600 Poppies fans know of a Race Night raising funds for the club obviously can't compete with reading out UCL half-time scores, or winding-up the ET reporter because Norwich are three down at the break.  But, still, as mad as it might sound, it might be a good idea to use this time to let everyone know of events the club is hosting.  Even if it means taking a two minute break in reading out pointless dross that no-one is interested in, or ruining "Match of the Day" for anyone deliberately trying to avoid the Premier League results.

Perhaps then we might actually know of club events before they've actually happened!

How many members of the Poppies Media Team,
Poppies TV and Match Day Announcers does it take to
keep us to date with the scores at Rothwell Corinthians?

Saturday, 17 October 2015

There are 9 goal thrillers and there are 9 goal thrillers

For a few of a certain age, today’s chaotic 5-4 result immediately conjured up memories of the last time that Poppies were involved in such an unusual scoreline – way back in 1981 against Altrincham in the old Alliance Premier League.

That game must have had a peculiar magic because I know I’m not the only one who still regards it as the most exciting game I’ve ever seen. The scoring followed almost exactly the same pattern as today, we coasted into a 4-1 lead early in the second half then were pegged back to 4-4 before a decisive strike, but the context was different.  Back then, we were up against undoubtedly the best team outside of the Football League. The previous season they had won the APL (with us a close second) but were yet again denied promotion via the re-election system, allegedly because a chairman who had promised them support was delayed in traffic and arrived too late to vote. They had played Liverpool at Anfield in the Cup and had the closest thing to star quality at our level.

We, on the other hand, were sliding fast from a side that had pushed Alty all the way for the title and were beginning to sniff the possibility of a relegation struggle. So Rockingham Road was buzzing as we built an unlikely 4-1 lead. I can still remember Stewart Atkins riding a very heavy challenge (a certain penalty), opting to stay on his feet to slot in the fourth. Then like a wounded animal Altrincham began to claw it back and we watched in growing dismay as the lead was wiped out. In goal we had the callow Kevin Fox, who modelled his curly perm on Peter Shilton but for us never really recovered from the moment when he rose to clasp a routine catch only to drop it for an unmissable equaliser.             

So with the scores level the tension was suddenly intense. When we recall this game as the most exciting, what we really mean is the last 10-15 minutes. With things on a knife edge, we were awarded a penalty. As Frankie Murphy prepared to take the kick, Altrincham’s notorious John King warned him of certain unpleasant, possibly season ending consequences if he was to score. The kick was saved but in the ensuing scramble Paul Haverson shot through a crowd of players and RR erupted.

I still recall the nervous shaking excitement of those last few minutes. Just a couple of league points at stake, but it felt like a big cup tie. I can’t say that today stirred up quite the same emotions. A lot of water has passed under the bridge, and the atmosphere was different. But it was strange how the sheer rarity of what was unfolding acted like a little time machine, and there I was back in 1981…