Thursday, 17 January 2019

Class is permanent. Just like Dan's smile......

We all know Dan Holman is class.  We know that being of National League quality means he has a great first touch, good vision, and a predatory eye for goal.

What we didn't realise is that training at National League level these days extended as far as professional media deportment.  But it seems, looking at various of Dan's photographs, that he has received a fair amount of posing-training to get his best side and smile, front and centre whenever someone says......"watch the birdie!"

Dan, cheering up the kiddies in hospital

Dan, cheering up the match sponsors part 1

Dan, cheering up the match sponsors part 2

Dan, cheering up the match sponsors part 3

Dan, cheering up Rhys, by letting him
ride him like a donkey on Skeggy beach!

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A half season of two halves

As the Poppies stumble and thrash away a great position at the top of the league we are all looking for answers.  Why does the team that looked unbeatable a few months ago suddenly struggle to overcome the most modest of opponents.

From the outside, and with no great pretensions to football knowledge or management skills even the most cursory look over our season so far tells you all you want to know.  Or not want to know.

Leaving aside the noddy cups for the sake of clarity during the first 16 games of the season, we played Rhys up top, on his own 12 times.  And three times with Borg alongside him, and once with Aaron.  Our record for this period reads Won 13, Drawn 1, Lost 2.  Top of the table - Confererence North thumpings, here we come!

However, our record over the next 15 fixtures makes far less pleasant reading.  Won 8, Drawn 2, Lost 5.  Play-off thumping, here we come!  But the bare statistics don't tell the whole story.  The last 15 games we have played three up top on no less than 11 times, with 4 defeats coming under this formation.  This is bad enough, but, in many ways the story behind the results is worse.

Other than the big recent win against Hitchin, when was the last time we looked better than the opposition, or even worked as hard?  Even our wins are increasingly hard fought and touch-and-go.  Compare this to some of the flowing wins full of footballing pomp we initially enjoyed this season.

What's the difference?  Pretty obvious we think.  Even with our lack of football knowledge or management skills.





Saturday, 12 January 2019

Twittergate shakes loose the "Snowflakes"

This week's storm in a teacup about an errant tweet from the KTFC account aimed at AFC Scum-lite truly shows how far as a species we have descended into cotton-wool-wrapped-safe-space b*ll*cks.

No more stiff upper-lips.  No more taking it on the chin.  Barely three generations on from fighting them on the beaches we collapse into a state of panic, adopt foetal-position, and experience stupefying shock about....... reading words we don't like!

Someone wrote something insulting about the junior Scummers without checking what Twitter account they were using.  Realises it is through the official club one rather than his own and deletes it.  That's it.  Dumb thing to do.  But no-one died.  Or was physically harmed.  Or psychologically scarred.  Should it have happened - no.  Did it happen  - yes.  Was it removed - yes.  Should that have been the end of it - sure, why not.

A few Inbreds might have been nonplussed by the message.  They would have moaned.  The A6 bridge troll might have shook his fist in our general direction.  That should have been it.

But no, not only do the Direones act as though we'd tempted their sisters away from the communal straw bed, Poppies fans then back them up with cries of horror, regret, empathy, and apologies.

Apologise?  Hell no, not in PATGOD's name!!!

One more time, for anyone not keeping up with the relationship between us and them....

Rushden & Diamonds FC was a plague on non-league football, and did more to destroy the part-time game and the Poppies in particular than any other organisation.  They died.  Football cheered.

AFC Rushden & Diamonds FC was set up by people wising to honour the legacy of the original club (without making an effort to save it of course).  They could have called themselves anything.  Rushden FC.  Ithlingborough FC.  Webbed-Fingers Athletic FC.  Anything. 

But no, they wanted to ally themselves to Grigg's monstrous hobby, and be seen in the same light.  Well, congratulations - you are.  If you want to be seen as the footballing equivalent of the Galactic Empire you can't complain if everyone cheers when Luke Skywalker slams a missile into your Death Star, can you?

"Stay on target...."

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Five things we learned from the Diamonds game

1. So this is how it feels to beat them at home
We’ve been trying, on and off, for over 20 years, enduring defeat after defeat, the memory of some of them even now suppressed by daily medication. They even knocked us out of the Cup in the last ever tie at Rockingham Road. Clearly we must have done something very wrong in a previous life to suffer so horribly. But we've broken our cherry at last, and our record against them on New Year’s Day is now played 2, won 2!

2. Paul White does a mean Conor McGregor when he needs to
Check out the Facebook clip and enjoy the celebration of our winner that earned PW dog’s abuse from the turnips behind him, and a spot of bother at the final whistle.  We demand an encore at Hayden Road!

3. The Adam Cunnington thing still isn’t working
Introducing this towering square peg into our mobile front line has skewed the balance and apparently demands that we pump it long and hope for a knockdown, rather than the tactics that served us pretty well until his arrival. Up to a point he can’t be blamed for doing the job he’s asked to do, but there are already signs of frustration and it would help if he didn’t have the air of someone who is better than all this. Holman definitely is, but works his socks off.

4. Diamonds fans have no sense of irony
“What a waste of money” sang the turnips as Cunnington fluffed his overhead kick and Holman failed to score.  Between them probably earning about 2% of the wage bill that the previous bastard incarnation spunked out to buy their way into the League. Also amusing was “We’re going back where we belong”.  What, the UCL?

5. If we go up, we’d better get used to being locked in at the end
Segregation of a tiny ground with only one point of entry was never going to be easy, and allowing the away fans to disperse first was probably on police advice. It’s certainly not hard to imagine some of our vocal element having a go whilst heading out, regardless of the result. Next year could bring even larger visiting numbers if any one of several ex League clubs is having a good season. Whether, warmed by our most pleasurable late winner in years, we’ll always be as cheerfully patient is questionable.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

The Ghost of Christie Past

At a time of year when thoughts often turn to days gone by, the trip to Bedworth pulled a late present out of the stocking with the substitute appearance of Iyseden Christie, a full decade after the well upholstered, much travelled front man’s career arc first intersected with Kettering Town. 

Even then we assumed he was getting on a bit, probably based on a thinning top and a not so thinning middle.   

So what must he be now – 46? 44? Actually, it seems, 42. But a bit larger in the waist band, judging by a pair of shorts that could accommodate Rhys in each leg or, put another way, enough material to construct a small marquee.  

Once I’d overcome my shock that he was still playing, I had to admire the fact he was still playing, well into his third decade since a single appearance in the Prem for Coventry. Why would you keep going, at ever decreasing levels of the game, unless you have an overwhelming need for the competitive buzz it still gives you.  It certainly can't be for the money and fame.  During his evident mission to appear for every reasonably senior non-League club within a 40 mile radius of Coventry, we twice welcomed Iyseden to our colours and it’s fair to say he made his mark both times, first with the winner at Lincoln then gifting us almost our last positive moment at Nene Park. Including the season and a bit we actually played there.

Plus one of the more indisputable red cards, which he earned for bundling an Oxford player over the wall next to the Social Club at Rockingham Road, causing minor soft tissue injury and a small amount of structural damage.  The referee probably had no option, but in Christie’s defence, when a large sub planetary object attains critical mass, the other guy had better get out of the way.
Iyseden, we still can't spell your name without a couple of near misses, but we salute you, your dedication to the game, and for giving inspiration to middle aged fatties everywhere.  


Friday, 28 December 2018

The Hol(tz)man effect

Couple of points upfront: -

1. Dan Holman is not solely to blame for our dip in form - his name just fitted the title best.
2. Yes, I'm a bit of a SF nerd, which I've managed to hide pretty well for over 1100 posts!  If you don't recognise the reference, well, look it up.  I'm not doing all the work for you!

I think it's fair to say that our season splits into two distinct phases.  Before Dan Holman, and after Dan Holman.  Again, this is absolutely no reflection on Dan, as he has personally played well and hit the net a few times.

Rather, he is a handy dividing point between the two Poppies styles of play this season.  For the first dozen or so games the team played an incredibly fluid style that opposition teams simply couldn't live with.  This style was in many ways forced upon us by the lack of striking options.  With Rhys as a sole front man, our midfield of Kelly, Richens and Meikle, augmented by overlapping fullbacks Storer and Kelly-Evans completely flummoxed opposing defences.  They had no idea where the next attack was coming from, or who to try to pick up.  This middle five then formed a pretty unbreakable barrier the few times the opposition had the temerity to launch an attack themselves.  I think it's fair to say that this style of play was mostly forced upon us by the personnel available to our management team than any great masterstroke of training ground brilliance by them.  But boy.  It certainly worked.

Then we started to acquire strikers.  I fully appreciate it may sound incredibly ungrateful to bemoan the acquisition of players of the quality of Holman, Cunnington, and the returning O'Connor, but their shoe-horning into the team has heralded our stuttering over recent weeks.  Each of these gentlemen would stroll into any team in this division, and perhaps even the division above, and I won't blame just them for our dip in form.  They are strikers.  Selfish, greedy goal-hounds by nature.  That's their job.

I won't be so cruel to call it "a dip in form", more our "dip in invincibility" is the fault of Marcus and his management team.  They seem so blinded by having such an enviable attack, that all the good things we were doing a few weeks ago have been forgotten.

Instead of a together team of infinite attacking and defending permutations we have reverted to a staid, very obvious formation.  "These are our large number of strikers, please mark them.  This is our overrun midfield, please pass through them.  This is our suddenly exposed defence, please score past them."  There is no more over-lapping forward play.  Good players are looking exposed and tentative.

Worst of all, opposing teams have picked up on our staid formation, and sudden confusion in roles, and are seriously out-working us.  They know that giving us no room and closing us down is killing us as an attacking force.  This is how Stamford, Redditch, St Ives (FFS!), and Banbury have got the better of us in recent weeks.  And let's be honest, had games against Royston, Rushall and Bedworth gone against us too, we couldn't have many grounds for complaint.

Bedworth in particular should have been a wake-up call to the management team.  We were bossed for 85 minutes by a team without a single win this season.  And if it wasn't for the fact that Iyeseden Christie's arse had inadvertently wandered into an offside position in the last couple of minutes, we would've left Bedworth with a solitary point.

With games against a resurgent Kings Lynn and a bitter AFC Scum-lite coming up I really hope we don't withdraw further into siege mentality, with aiming for Cunnngton's head our only method of relieving the invited pressure.  Come on Marcus.  We have quality through the team, and not just the marquee forwards.  Time to let it shine again?

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Bouncing Back. Again.

  • We could all see it.
  • The Banbury supporters could all see it.
  • The Banbury management could see it.
  • The distressed Banbury lady who chose to walk her young children up and down in front of the Poppies fans until she could take umbrage at the, admittedly, over-the-top swearing.  She could see it.  As could her scarred-for-life offspring.
  • The Banbury troll who deliberately twisted abuse of a goalkeeper who happened to be black, to sound like abuse of a goalkeeper BECAUSE he was black.  He could see it.
  • The matchday officials could see it.
  • The stewards could see it.
  • Half awake passengers on the 2.35PM from Kings Cross could see it.
  • Shoppers at Banbury Christmas market could see it.

It seems that only Marcus can't see that playing three out and out strikers isn't working, and worse still, is exposing the defence - hence the hundreds of goals we've shipped in the past month.

It's telling that even though Dan Holman has been with us only a few weeks, the formation that allows him and all our other strikers to start together, means that other than the Leiston defeat, he's been around for every other defeat this season.  (I am cunningly including his time at Aldershot for the purposes of making a point....!)

Click here to see if you were at the same game -