Sunday, 1 March 2015

Most Definitely Not Peaking Too Soon

There are world cups and there are world cups. The football version is obviously tops, and should speak for itself, though we are asked these days to call it the FIFA World Cup in case anyone should confuse it with the Subbuteo version.

Rugby union’s seems to be taking off, and I hear there’s another one this year, though this is ‘world’ as in ‘the usual few countries in which rugby is played’ plus a handful of dots in the Pacific Ocean and some far-flung amateurs with thick necks, who will lose 87-0 and earn gushing praise for showing how rugby is spreading across the globe. Ditto rugby league, except this time it’s world as in M62 corridor vs a small bit of Australia. Almost as international an event as the World Series.  
Then there’s the cricket world cup, the one currently unfolding behind the splayed fingers of everyone even casually interested in the England team. And we thought that Brazil 2014 was bad – at least our footballers managed to keep the margins respectable. The cricketers should be grateful that the sport is no longer on terrestrial TV - some of them may be able to slip back into the country unrecognised, when we are finally eliminated after a further mauling or three.  
Who knew we would be this bad? After all, we had only lost the previous 17 ODI series, sacked the one player who would probably get into any other team (until he fell out with them too), dumped the captain because he couldn’t buy a run, and rejected all that modern nonsense about picking one day specialists. Who needs an ironman hulk who can smash 70 in six overs when we’ve got chaps who have shown they’ve got what it takes to see off the new ball and get through safely to lunch.    
The bizarre structure of the tournament means that despite three huge defeats, we’re still in it – thanks to the one win, when England, led by an Irishman with a Welsh sounding name, beat Scotland - though it’s just as well that the Scots got their minority sports confused and sent the curling team instead. Beat Bangladesh and it will all come down to the last group match against Afghanistan.

Because cricket wasn’t that big under the Taliban (lawn tennis was more their thing), the Afghans are very new to the game, and have no players with big match experience. However, some optimists are still predicting England could be competitive against them.     
After all, apart from when it's England against anyone who hasn’t had to get time off work to take part, there are no easy games in international cricket any more.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

"The Dirty Dozen"

12 Games to go.  5 Points clear.  One Game in hand.
If it was any other club, we'd say they had it made.....

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Hitting a Hundred?

Last night’s 4-0 win at North Greenford was still in progress when the stattos were salivating over the possibility that our treble of successful spot kicks, each by a different player, was unprecedented. Confirmation soon followed that it was a first for us a club, but what about the wider world of football. Maybe we’ll never know, but I’ll pose the question on a football trivia site I know and report back.

Meanwhile, here’s another question. With 12 games to go we’re up to 70 points and 69 goals. If we maintain that average to the end of the season, the final tally will be 98 points and 97 goals. At the risk of invoking an almighty collapse by even daring to think about it, could 100 be in reach on both fronts?

The last side to get close was, surprise surprise, the last one to win a league - Cooper’s champions of 07/08 who fell tantalisingly short on 97 and 96 respectively. I seem to recall that the points tally was a club record nonetheless, as was the number of wins (30). The last side to hit a century of league goals was back in 78/79, the great days of Kellock, Clayton & Phipps (pause to reflect on that distant world of small shorts and big moustaches) so to match that would put the present strike force in fine company.
It’s something to keep an eye on as the games count down. If we can recapture our early season scoring form more often, maybe when the pitch at Latimer Park turns from treacle to something a little firmer, the big three figures might be on. As a precaution, I have already made a provisional booking of the bloke from Bullseye, to cry “WUNNNNNHUNDRED!” if we do it. Happily, despite the show’s popularity only three decades ago, he is both cheap and available.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

One small step for a local tyre outlet, one giant leap for big business...

So there is to be some kind of event next January to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the day when we were the first British club to wear a sponsor’s name on their shirts. Or, if you prefer, Bath City were the first club to play against a British team wearing sponsored shirts.
A cause for celebration? Well it is certainly one of the most quoted parts of our history, probably just behind the 39 days of Gazza in terms of what we are best known for. And I don’t suppose the approaching 10th anniversary of that affair will pop too many corks (though Gazza might have a go). And it is a good opportunity to get our name out there again.
But to tell the truth I’m a bit lukewarm about the shirt sponsorship trailblazers thing. True, it did change football in this country, but for the better?

I guess that depends on whether you are one of the many millionaire footballers or club owners who have been enriched by the vast sponsorship sums now floating around. Or if you like seeing classic kits disfigured by nasty looking logos for payday loan companies or airlines owned by Gulf states with dubious human rights records. 

Not forgetting that having opened the floodgates, we have spent most of the past 40 years scratching around trying to find a local firm willing to fork out a few grand on filling prime shirtfront advertising space – and never, funnily enough, the one local business who could afford a really good sponsorship wedge – a well known manufacturer of cereal biscuits made of wheat, except for that one occasion when we were live on Sky at Rockingham Road, and they couldn’t get a big advertising board up quick enough.    

I’m not sure how proud this all makes me feel about the KTFC association with shirt sponsorship – though my opinion would certainly warm if news of the anniversary reached the ears of the top Premiership clubs, maybe on the same day their latest £50 squillion five year deal is signed with Pyongyang Airways, and they are moved to recognise their debt to Kettering Town for making all this possible by each sending an enormous donation to Latimer Park.

Meanwhile we’d better get Bath lined up for a friendly just in case. 

It all started here, folks...

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

What chance of peace breaking out in Poppydom?

At times it seems as though ISIS and the West have more chance of kissing and making-up than a few hundred Poppies supporters getting on with each other.  However, it is to be hoped that after the complete forum-fracas of the past seven days something approaching peace may have broken out.

One or two malcontents went so far over the top after the team dared to win ugly against AFC Hayes that the collective fury of all those who want the fatter of our two managers sacked with immediate, if not retrospective effect, seems to have calmed a bit.

Those who are demanding the sacking of the bosses are so blinded by their rage they seemingly can't grasp two obvious facts that are perfectly clear to the rest of us.

(1)  The rest of us CAN see that the football being played isn't especially sparkling.  But is this enough to sack people who have got us to the top of the table?  Little things like our current level, and playing on a ploughed field surely contribute too?  They seem to believe that anyone who doesn't share their point of view MUST be an avid fan of the Dynamic Duo.  Not true.  But again, if a club starts sacking people who are being by all measurable achievements, successful, where does this end?  Managers being sacked after a handful of poor games?  One poor game?  A poor half?  A poor pass?  (Boy, we'd really be in trouble!)

The Naysayers will more than likely have the last laugh.  99.9% of managers end up being sacked.  That's football.  Chances are Baillie and Machin will suffer the same fate.  It won't mean they were necessarily correct in their decision making, just statistically more astute. If they get us promoted every year for the next decade they'll eventually get the push in favour of a European coach to ensure our Champions League progress is as smooth as possible.

(2)  The Malcontent elements on the Poppies forums seem to believe they are being attacked or banned because of their views.  Again, it's not really true.  It's more a case that everyone else has become bored of the same posters posting the exact same posts over and over again.  You don't like the Management Duo  We get it.  Really, we do.  Well half of the duo anyway.  Curiously, not the aggressive looking half.... 

We lose - managers out.  We win narrowly - managers out.  We win well.  It's only because the opposition lost a player - managers out.  Game called off - managers out.  If an individual player makes a mistake - managers out.  No chips - managers out.  C'mon guys, there's making a point and there's labouring a point.

The constant repetition is so boring for those of us who haven't made it job in life to hound Baillie, that one almost looks forward to seeing the pointless "Word Association" thread on Poppynet stretch on and on and on.

Thankfully, the prospect of coming up against Aylesbury on Saturday, a team who are a threat to all of our hopes, seems to have got everyone pulling in the same direction.  I hope it can remain so for the rest of the season, and I hope those who thus far aren't enjoying seeing the green shoots of their club start the long climb back can glean something positive.  You don't have to end up cuddling Baillie, but you also don't have to spend your entire life slagging him off either.