Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Time to get shirty again

The club are running an amusing Twitter competition where you can vote for old Poppies kits in a knock-out format, so we will end up being left with a definitive "favourite" shirt.

In just the second round, the biggest of big guns has entered the fray.  The 2017-18 away kit.

Best home shirt,
manfully filled by Rene
To my mind the these are the best home and away kits made readily available for the unwashed masses.  By all means, continue to vote in the competition.  Just know, that if you choose any other kits you are simply wrong.  And probably a closet Direones fan to boot....

This home kit has everything, good collar, great design, well proportioned and separate badge / logo sections.  And, most importantly it has a flattering hoop configuration rather than the tubby-inducing stripes.  As amply demonstrated by the equally ample Mr Howe.

But, the best away kit, and to my mind the best shirt we've produced is the drop dead gorgeous 2017-2018 kit, here modelled by spring-heeled dwarf, Dion Kelly-Evans.   The few times this shirt was combined with red shirts and socks was the closest I ever came to coming out of the closet!  Curiously I don't rate the home version of this kit at all.

For my money this is the most damnably sexy shirt in the history of football.  Not that it got any of my money. Along with 90% of our fans I'm far too lardy to successfully wear this most fabulous of tops.

....and the winner is

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Lucky Tigers!

As Matt Fisher's stonking volley crashed into their net in the FA Cup replay almost twenty years ago, Hull City fans must have thought things couldn't get any worse. 

Hull City were in middle of an 8-year spell in the basement division of the Football League.  A few seasons earlier only two teams separated them from dropping out of the Football League altogether.  The following season a "hefty" 5-points divided them from playing non-league nobodies like, well, us.

Various blurry Poppies stars celebrate
like it had recently been 1999
A 1st round draw away to Kettering in the 2000-01 season must have seemed if not a poisoned chalice, at least a bad tasting one.  Even though the Poppies weren't going well under Morris's stuttering leadership (and of course, we ended up the season getting relegated for the first time since decimalisation), a trip to Rockingham Road was probably the last thing the suffering Tigers fans wanted.

Coming away with a 0-0 draw must have been something of a relief.  A home game with a struggling non-league side who hadn't won away all season, with an away tie with Bristol City to follow?  Things were looking up for the Tigers, surely?

Well, after 90 minutes of nip and tuck, Hull had been dumped on their arses by The Poppies thanks to a thumping Fisher drive.

Pick that fooker out!!!

Hull picked themselves up for the remainder of the season, before losing in the Play-Off Semi-Final to Leyton Orient.  A couple of seasons later and Hull won back to back promotions and found themselves playing in an new 25,000 seater stadium in the Championship.  Since then they have been in the Premier League for 5-seasons and have never dipped lower than the second tier.

Not bad.  They've done ok for themselves since we knocked them out of the FA Cup.

Certainly better than every other Football League team we've beaten in the FA Cup during the past forty plus years.  Amazingly, Hull City are the ONLY Football League team we've knocked out of the Cup who haven't subsequently been forced to suckle at the flaccid teat of the Non-League game!

Think about it. 

Bristol Rovers
Halifax Town
Maidstone United
Lincoln City
Notts County
Hartlepool United

All slithered out of the Football League after being dumped out of the Cup by little old Kettering.  Maidstone suffering the double blow of going bust and being relegated!  Losing to the Poppies was such a momentous blow to their collective esteem that they didn't feel worthy to continue plying their trade at such an exalted level as the Football League.

Sh*t.  What does that say about us?

Saturday, 25 April 2020

We're all armchair supporters now!

Many thanks to all those who have been involved with hosting old Poppies games on Youtube over the past month.  It has been curiously reassuring to sit down at 3.00PM or 7.45 PM to watch a familiarly unfamiliar Kettering match.  Some we'd seen before, some we certainly hadn't, except live on the day, decades ago.  Whether the games had been commentated on by local bumpkins, or played out to a gloriously throaty accompaniment from hundreds of Poppies fans, such as the Cup replay at Lincoln, seeing these games has been great fun.

I found the older games particularly fascinating.  Pitches that would make Russell Slade blub like a 5-year old with a grazed knee.  Red card challenges that barely stirred the referee's attention - Tigger's two delightful two-footed, knee high lunges at Selhurst Park were a particular high point.  Glimpsing familiar faces in the crowd looking, if not exactly young, certainly younger-ish.

What I found especially refreshing about the older games was the freedom with which they were played.  Whether we were playing Blackburn in the Cup or Wycombe in the League the games were played at fantastic clip, and every team was determined to attack at every opportunity.

That teams would seek to score goals may sound obvious - it should be self-evident that teams look to score goals.  How else do you win a football game?  But these games simply sprinted through the action.  Goalkeepers received the ball and didn't fanny around for thirty seconds of time wasting.  No, they either gave it straight to the full-back, or aimed to punt it into the stratosphere.  The job of midfielders was to feed the forwards.  Not indulge in protracted passages of square balls to their fellow midfielders, only broken by passing back to the defenders so they could do the same. 

As much as modern football frowns on direct play in favour of "possession" football, is the spectacle actually improved by watching defensive players basically wank with the ball in their own half until someone gets baffled by a bobble, and the ball is laid back to the keeper for them to finally clear it down the park? 

To my mind the greatest crime against football came about when Premier League supporters, keen to revel in their classy football credentials, started to applaud blindingly obvious, simple square balls.  I am reminded of a pre-season game with Leicester City some twenty-odd years ago, when bog-standard cross-field passes of a quality ever single person in the crowd could achieve were vigorously applauded by supporters of the Foxes. 

"Doug, Doug, Doug the thug."
In his entire career he never knowingly
passed the ball anywhere but forward.

How better to show the non-leaguers that they thoroughly understood how the modern, top-level game was now played?  Why pass the ball forward when a dozen of tippy-tappy square balls between lumpen Matt Elliott and static Steve Walsh PROVED that their team played sexy football rather than the basic fare served up in the lower leagues?

So, what did we end up with?  Goalkeepers who can dribble a ball, but can't catch one.  Moderately gifted defensive players passing to each other for mind-numbingly long periods, to a smattering of knowledgeable, polite applause.  And talented strikers touching the ball half a dozen times in the game.  And we get to pay more for it!  Doesn't sound like a great deal to me....!

Thursday, 23 April 2020

(Lock) Down Memory Lane #2

Another nostalgic nugget to savour, this time the celebrations (sorry, celebratations) after Bristol Rovers were sent packing. Once again the Evening Telegraph's finest was despatched into the home dressing room to capture the scene and add to our collection of PG rated Poppies images.

It all looks very jolly, though Ernie at the back is clearly wondering if now is a good time to add some Epsom salts. Meanwhile Shoey is wearing a silly hat, which no doubt even in this moment of triumph managed to bug the hell out of Peter Morris.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Playing It Safe

There’s no denying it, this is a tough time to be a sports fan. Even the dullest edition of Sunday Grandstand back in the old days had nothing on this, because no matter how thin the pickings, there was always something to watch. Even if it was showjumping. It was boring but we knew it would pass, because the next Test started on Thursday, and the new football season was only x weeks away.

Scanning what passes for the sports news each day (ooh look another quiz), you might find yourself drawn to stories about how we will emerge from the lockdown.  Even, maybe, whether sport can take place before then?

With rather too much time on our hands, Patgod has studied the options.  In the process we have, regrettably, ruled out any chance of football returning for a little while yet. But keep your spirits up – it will just make Gary’s opening quip on the next MOTD all the more hilarious. 

Barry Hearn thought he was on to something with his idea of showing top players competing from home, thumping in maximums in the spare bedroom. The flaky results suggested that not much winnings had been invested in a decent broadband connection. But more than most sports, darts needs atmosphere. Without all the theatrics it’s just two blokes chucking little arrows at a board – or two boards in this case.

Lockdown entertainment factor:  5/10

In theory it would work. The players are on opposite sides of the court.  They generally don’t spit, at least not at each other.  Even the umpire is adhering to the 2 metre rule, up on that high chair. But in the absence of any foreign players the standard would be terrible once you got below Britain’s no.2, and by live link and with hours to fill Cliff Richard would still be able to sing. ALL of his back catalogue.

Lockdown entertainment factor:  3/10   
Ruled out on this basis alone
What could be more socially distanced than two players taking turns to tee off at the 387 yard par 4? In fact make it even safer by insisting one of them is female, so she’s not allowed in the clubhouse afterwards.  They could even carry their own bags. The absence of sycophantic spectators purring over every shot, even a horrible slice that eventually plops into the lake, would be no loss. People would watch it.  I wouldn’t, because I still have some principles.  

Lockdown entertainment factor:  4/10   

Although an officially sanctioned way to get our daily hour’s exercise, that’s me or you on a wobbly bike pedalling down a quiet country lane with just the birds for company. The rules of professional cycling require that every competitor bunches up into a little fast moving knot until they all crash apart from one person who is declared the winner then fails a drugs test.  It wouldn’t work.

Lockdown entertainment factor:  2/10    

Motor racing
Hermetically sealed in their little cockpits, drivers could race at no risk of infection. That is, until they need a tyre change, or crash, and other people have to get involved.  The only way round this would be to dramatically shorten the races to say one lap.  Which actually would be an enormous improvement.  

Lockdown entertainment factor:  4/10 

With a few modest adjustments this has potential. Stick a bowling machine at one end, ask the fielders to spread out and adapt batting helmets to stuff in a mouth mask. Be prepared, though, for confusion as to whether ‘mmff’ means yes or no when risking a sharp single. Total absence of paying spectators will lend authenticity to county games.

Lockdown entertainment factor:  6/10 

A sport that really ought to be cashing in right now.  The players can keep a safe distance (if necessary using the spider bridge) – and the referee already wears gloves!  No need for medics on standby, diverting valuable resource, and without an audience we’d be spared the annoying coughing.  Quarantine off the Crucible and get it on!     

Lockdown entertainment factor:  8/10 

So there you have it – snooker wins by a long pot into the top right hand pocket. If ever a grateful nation needed a neatly dressed young man thoughtfully chalking his tip, it’s now!

On the Subject of.....

On the subject of Gambling.....

So, I didn't win the Trust's 300 Club draw.  Given my luck with Poppies-based lotteries, I'm not surprised at that.  What I am surprised at is the fantastic amount of money raised, considering all ticket sales were achieved online without the benefit of games to meet at.  £1167.50 to a winner that again wasn't me, and the same amount to the club.  Well done all.  At least I can comfort myself that I needn't blame Club President Ken Samuels for my not wining this draw, unlike his rigged Klondike draw.....

On the subject of Ken Samuels.....

Ken's "President's Appeal" has topped £12,500.  Well done to Ken for coming up with his appeal, and the supporters putting their hands in their pockets at such an uncertain time.  Ken eased off going "full-Geldof" on us while the Trust's draw entered it's final week, but expect him to come after us all again now - Read the President's latest appeal update here.  Remember, all funds raised will go towards the basic running costs of keeping the Poppies alive.....

On the subject of the Poppies.....

Chairman Dave Mahoney's recent update left us all in no doubt the issues the club faces in the short / medium term.  Read the Chairman's message here.  So, no extra money is coming from the FA.  Just the next scheduled payment several months early.  Can't say this comes as a big surprise. When the FA consider the Championship to be practically non-league, what chance do the rest of us have?

In his article Dave mentions looking to do something about unused season tickets and the recently launched 3-4-2 tickets issued.  PATGOD would never dream to speak for ALL season ticket /3-4-2 ticket holders......hell, why not.  Dave, on behalf of ALL season ticket /3-4-2 ticket holders, don't worry about the outstanding games.  If you want to do something for us perhaps a small discount on next season's season tickets?  Or, work out a Rota for us all to experience an afternoon of matchday hospitality?  I'm sure none of us will be worried about missing out on a few games this season if it helps us play more games in the future.

On the subject of games.....

While we don't yet know how the League will decide to tie-off this season, one of the options is to decide final league positions on a points won per game ratio.  When the season was halted we had amassed a modest 1.032 points per game.  Enough to drag us one further place up the table at Curzon's expense (1.030 points per game).  However, as we all know, the Nationwide League played one more round of games than every other league outside of mad, bad Belarus.  It seems fair, therefore to scrub the last games played from the record doesn't it?  Particularly as we lost.

Suddenly, without the Telford beating, Paul Cox's wonders are up to 1.077 points for game, putting us above Gloucester and Kiddy too!  Up to a heady 17th place in the final League table!  Safe mid-table!  If only Paul Cox was our manager from the start of the season.....

On the subject of Nicky Eaden......

As this season will be decided as much by statistics as performances, what if we conveniently expunge Eaden's stuttering tenure from the records?  Hell, why not!

Cox's points per game, even including the last game, is a heady 1.214.  Suddenly we are above Hereford and Leamington too in 15th place! 

I'm sure if I looked again at the points per game for everyone, minus the last round of games I can somehow squeeze us further up the table, but, frankly, all this maths is giving me a headache.

I'm sure with a bit more jiggery-pokery we could have been in shouting distance of a play-off place.....

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

(Lock) Down Memory Lane - part 1

Social isolation has its upsides.  I am constantly discovering new uses for chopped tomatoes, my CD collection is at last in alphabetical order, and one of these days I may even get around to talking to other members of my family.

I have also had a good clear out of accumulated junk and in the process found a long forgotten box of old Poppies cuttings and stuff.  Warning: if this lockdown continues, be prepared for endless examples drip fed to a desperate content-starved readership. Yes that’s you!

Here’s a little gem that certainly evokes some memories. Before all the Peter Morris near misses there was the forgotten one that got away. 

But that was after a possibly unique feat in our various sallies at League status – a Poppies side actually winning a big late season match against a promotion rival.  Not only that, it placed us just 2 points off the top with a game in hand. Statistically perhaps the closest we ever got.

See how calmly the players took it – no premature celebrations there. Steve Daley even kept his shirt on, whilst thankfully Paul Reece knew just where to hold his bottle.

All we had to do was take maximum points from our last three games, starting with an easy little tussle with Runcorn, also at home… oh crap.