Friday, 29 May 2009

Where the f*ck is Garry Hughes?

There were many memorable moments of the 2001-2002 Southern League Championship win.

The one that comes most readily to mind was the absolutely stunning bird Lee Cowling turned up with at the end of season bash at the KLV. He almost earned a new contract based solely on her arrival in what can only be described as a severely plunging black dress, which (happily) left little to the imagination! Every hot-blooded male, and probably all the lukewarm ones too in the building cursed Lee’s good fortune.

Oh, and there was also the last day heroics at Tiverton which won us the league.

Other than Lee’s good lady, the most memorable moment of this season was when the team ended up at Rockingham Road after the open top bus parade. We all filed dutifully into the main stand to worship our heroes (and Darren Collins) for one last time before we stormed back into the Conference. The team were introduced to us one-by-one and took their bows. They posed for photographs and hung around to press the flesh and sign autographs. Of course, being a Peter Mallinger club back then everything was slickly organised to squeeze the most commercial juice from hordes of happy Poppies fans – the club shop was closed, there was no merchandise available and no food or drink bars were open. Nice one Peter!

I had suggested to my better half that it might be a good idea to get all the players to sign their pen pictures, which had appeared in the Tiverton programme. Between us we cornered most of the playing staff and they were good enough to scrawl their names in more-or-less the right area of the programme page. Peter Fear sounded like Mike Read, “Ahwight my Sahn!” and Shutty sounded like Compo from “Last of the Summer Wine”

Steve Wilkinson actually asked, “Who, me?” when I thrust the programme and pen under his nose, and we both spent an embarrassed minute trying to make small talk whilst he duly obliged. I managed not to blurt out something awkward like, “Did you enjoy carrying the water bottles this season?” Or “Has Shutty spoken to you about a new contract”, or even, “we need your signature purely for the sake of completion.”

The one player we didn’t manage to track down was Garry Hughes. Rumour had it that his Winners medal was stolen at the KLV the night before. This may well have been the case because he had vanished as soon as it was diplomatically acceptable to do so. As much as I was sorry he had lost his medal, it was me who was left with a Garry Hughes shaped omission in my programme. Never mind, I thought, we would see him next season and get him to sign it then.

Shutty, however, had other ideas, and Garry was on his way, along with Cowling – what was wrong with you Shutty, didn’t you see his missus?

OK then, I was sure we’d cross paths with Garry at some point in the near future. I had even rehearsed leaning across the perimeter wall to catch his attention whilst he was warming up with his new teammates. I could picture getting his signature while he explained, with an embarrassed air, what was going on to his chuckling colleagues. But, alas, no. Never happened. Never came across him again.

I’m not saying it ruined the season for me, but my anal nature demands that I track him down one day to compete the set of signatures, even if it is at an Eastbourne old-people’s home sometime in the early 2050’s!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Patgod Issue Four (New Year 1990) Part Two - The Magic of the Cup

This piece remains as true today as when it was heavily pounded out onto a second hand manual typewriter 20 years ago.

Worryingly Kevin Shoemake makes it into this article as well as most of the others we’d done at this time (including issue 4’s cover). Makes you wonder if Lorne, Peter and I had a little man-crush going on at the time?

Monday, 25 May 2009

Who Are Yer?

I don’t know whether every club has these kinds of characters, but we often seem to be “welcoming aboard” some new face who is going to reinvent the wheel and take us to the fabled, “next step”. Then they are history before we even have time to remember their names. Usually they arrive at Rockingham Road fully formed, as our new “Commercial Manager” or “Infrastructure Consultant Executive” or “Seedy Nonce in a Cheap Suit”, or some other such bollocks.

They are usually announced to the press as the final piece of some sort of commercial-team jigsaw, which will now, finally, put us on a comparable financial footing to Manchester United.

Also, equally usually, they are gone just before this (or anything else) happens. If we are lucky, they don’t cock us up too much, and if we’re unlucky they are cracking open the fruit machines with crowbars and nicking the pool table.

Towards the end of 2007-2008 season some chap suddenly started appearing at games towards the end of the season, I believe as Commercial Manager. Don’t know what his name was, or if he actually did any commercialing. I recall seeing him ponce around the ground with his bluetooth hearing aid on, because you never know, that important commercial call (which will put us on a comparable financial footing to Manchester United)
might just come in the middle of a game….

I also recall watching him argue the toss with any supporter he came across, and getting into almost every photo I took after the Conference North Trophy was handed over. In his defence, I do seem to remember him stopping short of actually lifting the trophy over his head, but am left with the feeling that it was a close run thing.

Within minutes of the season ending the Club made the painful decision to dispense with this services. Despite this enormous setback, the Poppies somehow managed to carry on. As for him? God knows, or cares.

Do you have a suggestion of who can be added to our newly created list of “Pointless Poppies Appointments?” Indispensable club servants that we, er, dispensed with.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Night at the Museum 2

Saturday the 16th May saw a kind of official opening of the Trust's Memorabilia Exhibition at the Museum. Club legends Trevor Peck, Roy Clayton and Roger Ashby were on hand to look over the exhibits and press the flesh and sign the exposed bodily parts of the enormous number of fans in attendance.

Trevor was reacquainted with his old shirt, and unsuccessfully tried to convince everyone that he could still fit into it!

Roy and Roger took great interest in looking over copies of the 1979 Trophy final programme. It hadn’t occurred that they may never have actually seen one on the day, or in the 30 years since.
Newly installed is a painting of Rockingham Road done by the famous local artist Ralph Hartley. Don’t try looking him up on Wikipedia as all you’ll find is some crusty old American namesake engineer who invented the Hartley Oscillator and the Hartley Transform. And enjoyed naming them too by the sounds of it.

The painting, dating probably from the 1960’s shows a familiar looking scene, showing how little parts of the ground have changed. In fact, if you threw in a white ball and a dozen boneheads in fluorescent jackets confiscating dangerous drinking bottles whilst ignoring harmless distress flares, it could have been painted this year.

If you haven’t made it down to the Museum yet, make it your first port of call when you are next visiting Marks and Spencers. Oops, I mean, Kettering town centre.

The Trust has done a brilliant job with the Exhibition, and should be congratulated for their efforts.

Money's Too Tight To Mention

As the break between the end of one football season, and the start of the next season continues to shrink, the average supporter barely has time to lap up, or start (if you are of a more hands-on persuasion), the multitude of summer rumours before it all kicks off again. Some individuals who are “in the know” can rise to almost legendary status amongst us mere mortals. They drop hushed rumours and half overheard gossip like crumbs upon us unworthy fellows below. The fact that most of their inside information proves to be bollocks is generally glossed over when they eventually get something more right than wrong. I’m still waiting for Peter Beardsley to arrive after he was spotted at the train station. I’m also rapidly losing patience waiting for Les Ferdinand to sign on the dotted line. As for the Gazza rumour….

Who’s leaving? Who’s staying? Who’s coming? Will the Manager still be here? Has the new ground been sorted? Will we employ stewards who can walk and talk at the same time? All these questions and more and hurriedly mulled and pontificated over.

A major topic of discussion is always how much the club are going to squeeze their loyal fans for in the coming season. It would appear that trying to tempt floating fans to Rockingham Road was abandoned a long time ago in favour of fleecing the faithful few for as much as possible as quickly as possible.

Club membership? “Premium Games?” Pick-a-figure-at-random-for-the-visit-of-the-Inbreds? No method of grabbing the extra buck whilst at the same time alienating the extra fans is missed. Yes, football clubs need income. Yes, most needs to come from the supporters. Yes, Imraan continues to do a sterling job of keeping a full-time club going on part-time gates.

OK, the Club Membership was a nice little earner, and presumably a one-off, unless our FA Cup heroics are repeated next season. I can’t see people queuing out of the Newlands in a couple of months time to renew their membership with the promise of 10% off any Locum hired in 2010.

The “Premium Games” plan is plainly a rip-off, and not a particularly well organised one. At best there was a flapping, photocopied sheet hastily pinned to the turnstile telling the paying customer that they would need to cough up more because we were playing a team that used to appear on the telly. At worst there were arguments when the gateman asked for a different amount to the price stated on the outside of the turnstile.

Who knows, the income next year might be augmented by actually having a main club sponsor, rather than leaving The ET’s advert on the shirts all season. We may even occasionally rent out the Rydon boxes when they are priced more realistically. The view may be good from up there, but I’m pretty sure the punters still look out over Rockingham Road and not Old Trafford.

In these more austere times the very least the club should do is announce a freeze on admission prices. In addition, if the club want more of our money up front from season ticket sales, actually make the tickets more attractive. Next season an adult Wigan Athletic fan can buy a seated season ticket to watch the world’s most popular league for less than an adult paid to stand at Rockingham Road last season. How insane is that? And then in the pre-Fulham ticketing frenzy the season ticket holder who had forked out in excess of £250.00 to the club was no better off than a passer-by at the club shop who had a tenner burning a hole in their pocket and fancied a black footie shirt.

If the club are a bit short of funds as the season trundles on perhaps we won’t be able to afford the wages of the next Jason Lee. I can think of no better argument for a price freeze than that!

Do you agree or disagree with the above?
Should fans simply pay up and shut up?
Should there be more fiscal reality in football?
Is Jason Lee the biggest waste-of-space of God's green earth?

Let us know. If you agree with us we may even print your message.

Patgod Issue Four (New Year 1990) Part One - First Cartoon!

1990! That sounded terribly futuristic back in the 1980’s! In the ever-accurate world of science fiction we were witnessing the crashing of an alien slave ship in the Mojave desert, and mourning the sixth anniversary of the advent of Orwell’s Big Brother.

We were just seven years away from the island of Manhattan being turned into a prison, and nine years away from seeing a bunch of has-been Anglo-American character actors being blasted into space clinging to Moonbase Alpha.

Ahem, meanwhile, in the real world….

Ernie Moss – ah, where would a fledgling fanzine have been without him?

We marvelled at his heading ability and positional play. We swooned over his eye for goal and link-up play with Robbie Cooke. We admired his pace and stamina for a man of his incredibly advanced years (a full 4 years younger than I am now!) All that and he was kind enough to be easy to draw!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Museums CAN be fun shock!

Of great interest to any self-respecting Poppies fan is the exhibition set-up by the Poppies Trust currently running at the Manor House Museum in town. There are loads of great old photographs, shirts and programmes from our history, which are all worth a look.

I popped in on Saturday and found myself ear-wigging a couple of old-timers arguing the merits of players from long ago, reminded of the long-gone footballers staring back from faded sepia prints. All in their glorious, old-boy Kettering accents.

We all like to talk about the history of our club, and rub our longevity in the faces of the Inbreds, but listening to these old buffers going at it made me appreciate the living nature of our history. These old guys were at Rockingham Road telling our players to earn their money before a lot of us were born. They were lambasting linesmen while our fathers were in short trousers. They were sipping Bovril and wearing flat caps in a time when a single copper on his bike passing the ground at 4.45PM was all the crowd control needed to dissipate 6000 shoemakers.

Given that the museum display was made up of items supplied by Kettering supporters I was set wondering what other Poppies gold was stashed away in attics all over town. Surely someone somewhere has Paul Gascoigne’s throat plaster, or Mark English’s Tax receipt, or even Peter Morris’s sense of humour.

Worth digging out to add to the collection!

Cock Up or Conspiracy?

Football pundits the length and breadth of Sky Sports are screaming for the head of the Norwegian referee who single-handedly prevented that miserable-looking, lantern-jawed Russkie getting his filthy-rich mitts on the European Cup. In this atmosphere of rampant hostility and accusations of ineptitude, and cheating aimed at the our beloved football officials Pedro takes time to calm the waters (!)

"As many of you may know, I have connections of a very minor nature to Italy, home of Machiavelli and the Mafia amongst about 60 million others. With such a heritage, conspiracy theories abound – from suggesting that the last Pope was murdered because there were photos of him having sex with a cardinal (or was that Claudia Cardinale?) to one suggesting that Peter Mallinger is a closet Direone$ fan (of course nobody reading this would believe that!).

Anyway, in this spirit I want to take a look at the last world cup and Euro 2004. I want to try to stick to the facts, not idle speculation. At the end of it, you decide whether it was cock up or conspiracy!

Firstly, let’s look at the world cup in South Korea and Japan (you can guess what’s coming?!). You may remember there were several countries furious at the refereeing in their matches, mainly involving South Korea (I so like the Japanese who clearly think a back hander is a strange hand shake!). Let’s start with the first to cry foul – Italy (this isn’t whingeing – I’ve watched Italy crash out of tournaments many times, and hitherto had always blamed the sterile negative tactics, except in 1982 of course!). The first knock out stage pitched Italy against South Korea and we witnessed what anybody watching the game would have had to agree was some of the worst refereeing ever. The rather rotund (ok, pie eating freak son of two whales whose idea of keeping up with play was to stop it so he could waddle up to it) Byron Moreno of Ecuador took ineptitude to a hitherto unreachable plane. Baffling decision followed baffling decision (in his attempt to appear even-handed, he even gave decisions against South Korea… well, maybe one!).

But the facts: firstly, totally undeniable, is the fact that he was from Ecuador, a team Italy had put out of the tournament in the preceding group stages. (Might he have been bitter? Who knows? Does it make any sense for an organising committee to allow such a doubt to rise? Fortunately, organising committees have learnt this lesson…. or have they – read on dear reader to find out!). Secondly, Totti was sent off for diving – replays showed very clearly the South Korean must have thought Totti was a dog in danger of escaping from the dinner pot and had to be stopped at all costs. Finally, a perfectly good golden goal was disallowed for offside (even the snail-like Byron and his linesmen needed some imagination to give that).

Off side is a very good way for conspirators to deny goals, which brings me to Spain (anyone remember their ‘offside’ goal in Euro 2004, I forget against who! J). They were South Korea’s next victims, sorry, opponents. By this point I’d more or less given up on the tournament so I don’t remember the game very well. This time FIFA (surely we can introduce the word, “blatter”, into English meaning a bald headed Swiss twat who comes up with the most stupid ideas about football, plunders the game’s coffers, and gets away with it?) had learnt their lesson and the ref was from somewhere Spain hadn’t done the dirty on (ha – I did actually look it up, it was Gamal Ghandour from Egypt). Anyway, same old story: decisions from fantasy island, and two disallowed goals. One disallowed goal is acceptable to the average fan, two and the referee is at risk of a severe lynching (is there such a thing as a gentle lynching?!).

Sadly for South Korea, the pretence couldn’t be continued and they fell at the next hurdle!

Finally, for that world cup, I present Brazil v Belgium (I’m not one of those people who think the sun shines out of Brazilian football’s arse – as far as I’m concerned, although they have undeniable talent and on their day – rarely! - they can be wonderful to watch, most of the time they’re as cynical a team as you could dread to watch!) And is it a coincidence that much of their recent success has come at the same time as FIFA has had either a Brazilian president, or one who relied on them for his position (we Europeans stupidly tried to have a non-corrupt bald non-Swiss twat as head!).

I was working in Belgium at the time so watched the game in the office with fans of the “red devils” (the only time when the Phlegms – whoops, Flems and Walloons agree on anything). I watched in astonishment (actually, by now I was used to it!) as decisions went the Brazilians’ way, topped off by a wonderful header into the Brazilian goal by Marc Wilmots that was, to quote the BBC, “harshly disallowed”!

So, on to Euro 2004.

(To remind you, Italy went out when Sweden and Denmark were “fortunate” enough to have a 2-2 draw, a score guaranteed to put Italy out whatever Italy did.) I find it very funny that people thought this was not contrived! Admit it, who wouldn’t have tried to contrive it in their position? I know I would! We’re talking professional big money sport. The ridiculous thing is that UEFA allowed the possibility (I won’t even mention that the head of UEFA is a bald headed Swedish twat)! If you have a league of four, why the fuck don’t all the results have equal standing? It’s then much harder to have a situation where two teams can be in a position to assure themselves of qualification. So I put my money where my mouth was (on a 2-2 and 3-3 draw) and came out of the competition in the money!

Anyway, I’m sure you’re all fed up of Italy so let’s go on to…. England! Anybody remember how England went out? Wasn’t there a dodgy disallowed goal against Portugal? Yes, there was, I remember now! Of course by now tournament organisers were making sure that things really were whiter than white. Err… actually they weren’t! Yes, once again the referee was from a nation that one of the countries had put out in the previous round! No prizes for guessing which one – the referee was one Urs Meier (another fucking Swiss!), whose mutter land England had put out! Was he bitter about England putting the cow bell clanking Swiss out (surely a service to humanity?!), or just favouring the home nation?

But it didn’t end there! How did Greece slide into the final? How did Portugal plod there? Neither team had performed particularly well. Certainly everyone expected the Czechs to put the Greeks out. Well, here’s a curious fact – the pre-defined draw was such that the qualifiers of group A, if they got to the quarter-finals, would have two extra days to prepare for the semis over their opponents, not one! To be fair, one days difference is unavoidable but two? Remember how knackered the Czechs were in extra time? Who was in group A? The hosts, that’s who! How convenient! How fucking Heineken!

So? Cock up or conspiracy? Personally, I never believe in coincidences. But you, dear reader…?!"


Thursday, 7 May 2009

Better Red than Inbred

Miss Irthlingborough 2009 cheers her heros to mid table obscurity


Picture the scene. It was the last few moments of the 2007-2008 season when we had blown away the Conference North and stormed to a record- breaking promotion. It was a lovely sunny day and Rockingham Road basked like a contented seal. Cooper had just come on as a late substitute and won the game against Gainsborough with almost the final kick of the campaign.

At this moment one of our pop-side whingers, taking a break from bellyaching every time a Poppies attack didn’t end in a goal, turned to his equally moaning neighbour and said with utter sincerity and profound understatement, “Well, it ain’t been a bad season I s’ppose.” Not a bad season? What on earth was he comparing it to? Have we had other brilliant seasons recently which I have somehow forgotten? What would have constituted a “good” season for this sour-faced complainer? I fear nothing less than a couple of European Trophies and maybe a World Cup thrown in to the bargain. Even then I’m pretty certain these guys would have moaned throughout the entire victory-laden procession.

Hearing these words set me to thinking at what would satisfy these grizzled sourpusses the following season back in the Blue Square Premier. Obviously winning the league by Christmas would only appease them for so long. At the very least we should reach the FA Cup Final. Anything less and I wouldn’t have liked to be in their vicinity the following May.

Most normal supporters looked upon the coming season with just a little dread. The last time we popped into this division we were slapped down again hard and had to spend a season in the Ryman league by way of penance.

Most people, this season, would have plumped for staying up and beating the Direones at least once. In which case finishing ABOVE the Direones and getting to the 4th round of the FA Cup would make this an excellent season to all but the most hardened of our misery-gutted nay Sayers.

The fact that we didn’t beat a very moderate Direones was a disappointment certainly. The game at Non Park will live long in infamy for the way we didn’t trouble their goalie for the full 90 minutes. But when you think back just a few short years ago, when they were in what is now League One and we were going nowhere in the second tier of non-league oblivion, such a day (looking back a month later) can be put into perspective.

From the moment Griggs pulled the plug on the worlds most expensive hobby the Inbreds have been in steady and well-received decline. Within a couple of seasons they had tumbled out of the Football League, with no one giving that ridiculous club a second glance. Their army of die-hard, life-long supporters went back to what they were doing before the bright lights of Ithlingborough bewitched them. Some hopped straight onto the next bandwagon leaving from Milton Keynes. Some no doubt slunk back into Sixfields or even, God forbid, Rockingham Road. Still more went back to licking cabbages for a living and fondling their sisters for amusement.

A succession of excellent managerial appointments have walked into Non Park, promising the earth and delivering nothing except failure and relegation. This has brought glee to the rest of the footballing world. Well, everyone else with a “NN” postcode anyway.

Step forward Ernie Tppex, Barry Munter, Paul Tart, Graham Beastley and Benny Hill – Poppies heroes all. And good luck to Bussed into Edinburgh, who is already shaping up to be a worthy addition to the “Men who bolloxed up the Direones” Hall of Fame.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

“See You Soon”

When PATGOD first started up the relegation of the Cobblers would have been greeted with a cheer loud enough to remove the Pop side roof (again). We would have rushed out a special “See You Soon” anti-Cobblers edition of the fanzine. We’d have lit celebratory bonfires the entire length of the A43 and danced the night away around the fires in an orgy of semi-pagan worship.

It's different these days. Their relegation yesterday back to League Two (Division Four in old money) has been greeted by Poppies fans with, at best, complete indifference, and at worse sympathetic noises.

Has our hatred for the Diamonds become so all-encompassing that we cannot spare even a tiny morsel of vitriol for another failing county cousin? Seems so, yes. Mind you, don’t look too hard on this site for any congratulations being handed out to Corby for their promotion….

Please release me, let me go.....

The release of Chris Beardsley came as no surprise. One tends to think that when a Manager has already tried to ship a striker out from a team that struggles to score, that your time may be up. A mixture of mystery injuries and an inability to hit the net this season, despite strenuous efforts was always going to count against him.

Getting rid of Craig Westcarr is more of an eyebrow raiser. Everyone knows he has quality. Everyone also knows he doesn’t apply it as often as he should. Cooper knew this when he brought him back after the “Stevenage Incident”. So what has changed?

More problematic for me is the release of Brett. Despite many people saying he isn’t Premier standard I have yet to see his qualities eclipsed by other Poppies midfielders. Last year’s title success was built upon goals from midfield, but this season they have been almost entirely absent. Will Andre or Darren burst into the box to become an additional attacker? Unlikely based on their efforts this season. Will the next half dozen midfield loanees we take on bust a gut to get in the last ditch tackle? Not based on what I’ve seen. I couldn’t see the likes of Warlow or Artus putting in a first ditch tackle let alone a last ditch one.

It seems Brett’s release was simply one of those things that was pre-ordained. He was being described as “too old”, “too slow” or “too ginger”. If we get in someone better then fine, but I sense his departure, and that of Chris and Craig owed as much to their relationship with the Manager than their efforts in a Poppies shirt. Box-to-box midfielders with an eye for goal may well be beating a path to our door. I hope so, particularly if rumours of the departures of Andre and Darren Wrack are true. The premature release of Brett may well come back to haunt us.

The players released are all in their prime. Good for a lot more football. Good luck to them all in the future.