Monday, 31 October 2011

Never Say Never!

A father and son attending a football match isn't a particularly rare sight.  Look around any ground and this familial partnership is the bedrock of football supporting.  A club is handed down from father to son, to son.  By the time the offspring has a chance to decide whether to support a football club it's too late, and they are well on their way to indoctrinating the next generation.  All perfectly normal.

Unless, of course, you are talking about me and my father.  We've done father and son things over the years, including playing cricket together for a few, cherished seasons.  But, before last Saturday's FA Cup tie with Southend Manor, the entirety of our shared footballing experiences was the 1979 Trophy final!  I am certain I have written of this before on this blog, but cannot for the life of me remember when.  And as I'm in no particular mood to wade through the near 500 posts which make up this blog, I'll quickly run through the particulars of this solitary, less-than-cherished father and son footballing memory.

"Take a bloody good look!"
Briefly, my father decided we should go to the final on the coach departing the Alex, so, at the age of 12 I was enclosed and surrounded by noisy, aggressive drunks and pathetic tobacco addicts.  A bit like visiting the sponsor's lounge.  As we took our seats at Wembley I mentioned that we didn't pick up a programme on the way in. My father announced that he would find one for me, and off he went.

Well, he missed almost the entire game, but couldn't track down a programme for me.  It always made me feel bad that he missed the match.  Almost 30 years later I tracked down a copy of the match programme from that day on Ebay.  When telling my father of this purchase we reminisced about the Stafford game, and I explained my guilt at him missing the match itself because of my desire for a programme.  He seemed surprised at this confession, as he recalls that he deliberately repaired to the bar shortly after kick-off, with no intention of finding a programme, or watching the game!  Thirty years of guilt, all for nothing!  Bastard!

After a gap of just 32 years we decided to attend the Poppies FA Cup game together, obviously sandwiched between having a few lunchtime drinks, followed by a post match bevy and meal.  It's always quite an education when you take a certified armchair football viewer through a real, live game.  Explaining which of our players to look out for.  Which ones to boo.  Who have had previous contracts cancelled due to criminal convictions.  Why we can't sit in the VP's area.  Why there are no action replays!  Why we can't score a hatful against a pub team?

What I couldn't get over however was the fact my bloody father knew more people at the game than I did!  "There's old so-and-so, we used to play football together."  "That's thingie, we used to open the batting together for E.N. Wrights".  "Him and me played skittles...." etc. etc.  Given the large number of years I have devoted to the Poppies without ever being on more than a nodding acquaintance with more than a handful of people, I found this f**king annoying!

I think he enjoyed the experience, albeit probably more the pre and post match bits.  Doubtful whether he enjoyed it enough to attend another game in the next 32 years, but you never know!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Will play... number 78

And so normal service has been resumed. After last season’s enforced sabbatical from the 1st Round Proper, it was good to watch today’s draw with more of an interest than hoping, out of sheer malice and petty spite, that Cobblers or Corby would get shafted.

I can’t remember when the early rounds of the Cup began to receive the televised treatment, but it’s not so long since the rattling of the balls was conducted on a Monday lunchtime, and in those years – all too infrequent – when our name was in the hat, the first news came via the stop press in the ET. What sad, unenlightened days before we could sit in our armchairs and enjoy the grimacing features of Jim Rosenthal, as he tees up the proceedings with the air of a creepy butler.

Nowadays they always dredge up a couple of ex players or celebrity guests to make the draw. Today the budget stretched as far as Keith Houchen and Matt Hanlon, whose phone will presumably keep ringing until another non leaguer knocks Sutton off their perch. Had things panned out differently in those last 4 minutes against Fulham, it could have been Westcarr standing there. As it was, our only mention was Hanlon declaring that Sutton would fancy their chances against us, which made me yell with indignation before I paused for a moment and realised he was right.

Before we got to that point there was the delicious agony of the draw, prolonged even further by there being 80 balls bobbling in that drum – 79 of them loaded with the full spectrum of human emotion from Gateshead away to Charlton or the smallest tiddler at home.

One of the iron rules of these occasions is that we are always among the last clubs to be drawn, to wring the maximum torture out of the situation. This time it again seemed to be heading that way, as the possibilities narrowed to best case, home to Plymouth, worst case, away to Plymouth. In the end we have something of a curate’s egg. Not a glamour tie or a money maker, but winnable if we can put out our best team (whatever that may be in two weeks time) and get a step closer to hitting the jackpot.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Johnson teeters on the brink

With the Cobblers making another determined effort to join the ranks of the non league game one wonders for how much longer Gary Johnson has security of tenure in the home dug out at Sixfields.  Given that his Chairman, David Cardoza's two main hobbies are known to be (a) dreaming of being in League One, and (b) handing out P45's to failing managers, it is surely only a matter of time until Radio Northampton's usual playlist is replaced by a stately selection of funereal tunes.

"And now, the end is near...."
Considering how successful Johnson has been at other clubs it is interesting to note how dismal his stints within our county have been.  Even his time at other clubs close to Northamptonshire haven't been as successful as those with clubs further away.

My theory is that his time at Kettering was SO monstrously unsuccessful that it punched a hole in the space / time continuum and formed a fractured epicentre of failure around which the rest of his career has helplessly circled.  When he is physically close to "Ground Zero" of his footballing nightmare (otherwise known as the Poppies) his career nosedives - Cobblers, Posh and Cambridge.  The further away he is from the gates of the Holy City he suddenly becomes a footballing guru (Yeovil, Bristol City).

At least, I believe this is a reasonable summary of his managerial career to date. Checking his statistics with Wikipedia wasn't much use - it suggested he only presided over FIVE defeats at the Poppies!  WTF!  FIVE!  He lost that many games PER WEEK! 

The moral of the story is, that at soon as he gets the bullet at Northampton he should waste no time in forwarding his CV to Carlisle United, Berwick Rangers and Lands End Athletic.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Homeaway on the buses!

'Er indoors coined the above word as a way of rationalising to herself playing "home" games in another town.  She would be asked, "Ar, yoo 'um this Saturday?", and her reply would be, "Yes, we are homeaway", or "No, we are away", or even sometimes, "What's it to you?"

Consequently the words "home game" are rapidly falling into disuse, alongside, "Finishing with 11 men", "Thumping win" and "Full away end".

For last Saturday's homeaway game to Ebbsfleet me and the missus chose, by way of change, to travel over to Non Park via the Trust run bus from Rocky Road.  We picked a good day, as this coincided with a Real Ale Festival, and the Tin Hat was quite lively before and after the game.  At least it was for other people. Being a confirmed lager drinker I sense my attendance was barely tolerated.  Is it my fault I don't want to sup  raw sewerage from a half pint glass, with a look of superiority on my heavily bearded face?

If alcohol was meant to be opaque it wouldn't be served in clear glasses, would it?

Anyway, the atmosphere in the bar and on the double decker bus was boisterous and positive, as are all gatherings where Dave Singh is present!  Before we set off I had a conversation with a guy called Stuart and we joked about who would be sent off today.  No word of a lie, we both laughed that by process of elimination it must be Koo Boothe's turn!  Absolutely true!

"Next stop, Legoland!"
The bus trip was a bit wobbly and bouncy.  I'd quite forgotten how uncomfortable these big old double deckers could be.  By way of compensation, from the top deck, you got to look into people's gardens and bedroom windows! Wa-hey!  The good thing about going on the Trust Bus is that you are directed straight into the first car park, and not have to queue for the rear car park with the rest of the proles! (So far I've managed to insult all beer drinkers AND all Poppies fan!  Impressive, eh?)  After the game, at the appointed time the bus simply pulls out into the traffic, and we're on our way back.  No-one messes with a double decker!

The Trust must be congratulated for laying on this service, which the club officials (assuming we have any) do not consider important enough to waste their time doing.....I'll certainly be using the Trust bus again, and if you can somehow close your eyes for the journey you can almost convince yourself that you've had a couple of pints in the social, entered our new, well appointed ground for 90 minutes of anger and disappointment, and then stepped back into the Tin Hat for a few more jars after the game!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Never A Dull Moment

The spirit of Morell lives on in at least one respect – watching Kettering remains car crash TV. Take your eyes off the action for a moment and you risk missing another red card, kamikaze cock up or (on at least one occasion) a boy wonder crashing in a 25 yarder on his debut. Particularly good value for those who hold Nene Park season tickets, who have already seen more action than Rockingham Road witnessed in entire Peter Morris campaigns.

Take yesterday for example. A 2-2 draw that was a minor classic, as the latest ‘anyone who’s not suspended, crocked or excused games’ Poppy Select defied all that Ebbsfleet and Mr Merchant of Gravesend & Northfleet could throw at them to earn a moral victory.

But such is our catalogue of misfortune since moving to this accursed bit of reclaimed swamp/Indian burial ground, it just seemed that something bad was bound to happen after we’d used all our subs, possibly involving a double concussion that would reduce us to 8 men followed by Navarro impaling himself on a corner flag. Yet wait! Here was the player formerly known as Get Im Orf, transformed into a sleek (well, two short sizes smaller) marauding right back, who put in an impressive shift without once hopping over the wall for a quick visit to the snack bar. And young Dawkin from Norwich took the straw out of his mouth for long enough to dazzle us with his ability to run with the ball at speed and shoot on sight. It promises to be a great loan spell, apart from the cup tie he’s not allowed to play, the inevitable sending off and/or injury. In fact, that was it. Thanks for the memories!

But sooner or later we really must find a way to complete a match with the same number of players that started it. It’s a strange feeling to be following, statistically, the dirtiest team in senior football, especially when many of them have found ways to be dismissed that have left opponents both unscathed and bemused. Our new total of 9 reds puts us on course for a couple of dozen before the season is out – and that’s before we start racking them up in cup ties. There are teams in South America who would kill for a record like that, and I mean literally.

Even allowing for the modern tendency to flash red for offences that would once have earned a quiet word, this is something quite unusual. Until a few weeks ago I can’t recall us ever losing two players in a game, now it feels boringly familiar. You can’t help but wonder what fresh calamity is heading our way, what new rules we will infringe. Refusing to give up our seat to a pensioner? You’re off. Lapsed TV licence? Early bath. Taking a trolley into the handbasket queue? Three match ban. Quietly efficient, settled team? Don’t hold your breath.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Seeing Red

As our EIGHTH player saw red this season, and trooped off the pitch not trying to make eye contact with the gaffer and contemplating a nice warm shower, we have to ask ourselves, "What's going on?" 

  • Do we possess the dirtiest bunch of players ever to lace up gay-coloured football boots?
  • Is it always wrong for players to fight their teammates during the game?
  • How would the Leeds team of the early 70's or even Alty of the early 80's measure up if they were playing now (Clue - neither team would ever finish a game with a double-figure number of players on the pitch!)

It may seem obvious to say, but giving the opposition an extra man every game is not entirely conducive to winning football matches.  In the six games so far where we've shot ourselves in the foot this season we have picked up just 2 points (averaging 0.33 point per game - stats fans!)  Compare this to the whopping 1.18 points per game we have racked-up with a full compliment of Poppies stars on the turf, and the value of not seeing red becomes apparent.

But is the fault entirely that of the group of lazy / unfit /undisciplined (delete as appropriate) thugs we have in our employ?  Probably yes, but anyone trawling over the officiating statistics found here -

will spot that refs seem to like reaching for the red these days.  We should invite Mr Amey to stand in the middle for all our games up to Christmas just to see if he will give us an easier ride, or see if we make a dent in his statistics.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Brave New Lawn?

So now it’s back to back wins for a Poppies side we may tentatively, clutching that rabbit’s foot, crossing ourselves three times, describe as “improving”.

It was certainly a massive improvement on my last KTFC experience – the now legendary night by the Nene which ended with JP landing more blows on his strike partner than Audley Harrison has mustered in his last three bouts.

Both pugilists (© Chris Eubank) defied most post Hayes predictions by not only reappearing in a red shirt, but also appear to have declined the modest Sky purse on offer for a rematch.

Well done JP and Moses! Make them cough up more if it’s going to be on pay per view.

Forest Green are no worse a side than Hayes yet we managed to contain their rampaging goal threat rather better, adopting innovative strategies like being awake and talking to each other.

Also in evidence was the equally novel concept of defending being a team game. At one point Verma popped up to clear a corner with a thumping near post header, whereas a few weeks ago that same cross would have pinged around our box for 10 seconds before nestling in our net.

As for the fitness thing, that was maybe always more a case of lazy minds not lazy bodies but we did get through the whole 90 minutes without someone complaining of a stitch, so progress there too perhaps.

So, getting more organised at the back, better communication, body language no longer totally apathetic, no red cards, Cunnington starting to look the part. Possibly a few things there that suggest that the sloppy anarchy of the Maison period is starting to fade.

Assuming of course that it wasn’t just all down to the fact that we always win at the New Lawn. Even MM managed to claim all the points last season – a statistical quirk so unlikely, there must be some supernatural forces at work.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Rugby World Cup? What's that when it's at home?

Apparently there has been a "Rugby World Cup" taking place in Mordor over the past several months.  Long-time readers will recall that we don't have much of a regard for this so-called sport, so an interminable international competition featuring the cream of the world's peanut-huggers, including such powers as Georgia, Romania and The Grand Duchy of Fenwick was never going to get us jumping out of bed on an early Saturday morning.

At least the media aren't pretending that rugby will overtake the popularity of football as they were when England won the WC back in 2003.  Back then the international football team was in one of its usual doldrums.  The team were shite, the players were all obscenely over-payed, under performing prima-donnas, interested only in getting angry-looking tattoos and videoing themselves raping under-age girls.

Against this we had a well-behaved rugby union team fronted by the saintly figure of Johnny Wilkinson, winning a World Cup in a very gentlemanly way against the old antipodean enemy.  The papers were quick to pronounce the death of football as our winter sport in favour of this egg-chasing, thigh-grabbing curiosity.

Rugby - all a bit queer!
Of course, it never actually happened.  Those people who liked rugby continued to drink all game long, lose their trousers at the drop of a hat, and sing rude songs.  And those who preferred a sport with a correctly shaped ball continued to pay through the nose to attend, were manhandled by stewards and police, and lied to by their club officials.  Nothing changed.  No one actually changed sports.  Why would they?

And now, eight years later and our heroic amateur rugger-buggers have come full circle.  Now they are the team playing dismally, and getting knocked out early.  It's their manager being likened to a root vegetable.  It's the beefy rugger-boys who are lazy, over-payed and spend their days getting tattooed from head to toe.  They are the ones getting caught out by the press behaving, well, like a pissed-up touring rugby team!  They are the ones being criticised by "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" for adding to the ongoing social malaise, and bringing down house prices. 

And if these newly-minted rugger types are going to continue to ape their depraved footballing cousins and start leaking their lewd home-made sex videos onto the Internet can I put in an early vote for Mike Tindall to set-up the camcorder first...?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Verma - Midfielder of Steel
Good to see that Verma responded in the right way to our previous "encouragement".  Even then, he used his much fabled invisibility to ghost into the box and score the winner.  Super effort, and, now that we know that PATGOD has an undue influence on our management and playing staff we need to make the following statements: -
  •  We demand that Walker keeps clean sheets.
  • The defence must play as a unit.
  • The midfield must play box to box, supporting the attack and guarding the defence.
  • Cunnington must stop getting petty yellow cards.
  • JP and Ashikodi must kiss and make up.  On the pitch.  In front of everyone.
  • Stimson must wave when asked to do so.  He might as well do it now, because who knows when he'll stopped being asked?
Oh, and if possible, we'd like the bars to be open too!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Five Alive!

Magic number, my arse!

Fingers crossed that tomorrow's home fixture with Braintree sees us break our less than enviable home midweek fixture record for this season.

So far we have let in five goals against York, Hayes & Yeading, and even a Tottenham XI in the three times we have called upon the Non Park floodlights.  Curiously, each thumping reverse was presided over by a different Manager.

Surely even our leaky defence can't keep this bizarre record going.....?

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Moses - a parting of the ways?

Just in case Moses achieves his heart's desire and gets a move to one of the dozens and dozens of clubs who want to have problems with him in a month or two, here are the all-important Ashikodi stats -

  • Just shy of a hundred career appearances in eight years.
  • Strike rate, about one goal in every four games.
  • In just over thirty games for us he has had "issues" with Francis Green, Lee Harper, JP and Adam Cunnington.
  • Twitter messages posted, saying he wants to leave a club that paid him for doing nothing last season - 376.
  • Penalties missed for the Poppies - three.
  • Punches thrown in a Poppies shirt - none.
  • Punches received in a Poppies shirt - five.
However, I may not be the most dispassionate observer of Moses's career as he cost me a bundle by nodding in Dempster's goal bound effort in the Cup win at Hartlepool.  I had a bet on JD scoring the first goal at odds well over 40/1!  After that, nothing short of him winning the league for us single-handed would have placated me - sorry!

The Invisible Aman

"The Invisible Aman"  A pun we're so
pleased with, we've used it twice!
In many ways Aman Verma was the archetypal Morrell signing. 

  • Exotic of name and background. 
  • Looked very tricksy in pre-season. 
  • Praised in the press beyond all reason by the boss. 
  • Completely ineffective in competitive football. 
  • Soon out injured.
  • Makes the odd, limping appearance.

At Alfreton yesterday Verma was sacrificed at half time when we had been reduced to 10 men in favour of Taft (finally getting a go at Centre Back!) and we actually played better without him on the pitch.  All he offered in a first half where Alfreton could have run riot, was a bit of ineffective midfield tippy-tapping and half-hearted tracking back.  With him taking a barely earned or needed half-time shower, our 10 men coped far better with the home side.

It remains a mystery how he avoided the transfer list splurge, along with other of Morrell's wasters.  All we can think is that it was either because he was hidden away in the treatment room on the day that Stimson drew his list up, or he is so incredibly unremarkable that he truly has become invisible.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

AAAAH! Almost Forgot! Sense of Humour found at NP!

One for the Shaolin!
Whoops, in the excitement of only losing by a single goal at home, we almost forgot to mention the high point of our latest defeat at Fortress Non Park.  Some people might think the best things so far about our life in exile has been the Chinese / Italian cuisine (can't say - haven't tried them).  Or the new shirts, which to be honest look quite good, and we know from our players that they come in larger sizes (haven't bought one).  Or the 21st Century toilet facilities, where, curiously we went from 19th Century facilities at Rocky Road (the scary toilet at the corner of Britannia Road and Cowper Street could easily be older)  to 21st Century ones at Non Park, completely missing out the 20th Century completely!

For me the best experience of our new lives in a new Borough came 5 minutes before the kick-off against Kiddy last Saturday.  Given that our previous game had ended in a full-on bout of fisticuffs between our main strikers, I've got to say whoever thought of spinning "The Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky III on our new turntable has the kind of sense of humour much admired at PATGOD! 

Of course, this was immediately ruined by the choice of former Direone song "Hey Ho Silver Lining" (Note to Club - remove instantly and burn) and whatever dirge it is we have to suffer through when the teams are about to kick off.  You know the one.  Part "Fanfare for the Common Man", part Funeral March and part Albanian National Anthem, and totally awful.  Another one for the fire.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Demonising Alfreton!

"Just another 30 laps", encourages Stimson
This Saturday's game away to Alfreton is shaping up to be painfully important for both teams, who are comfortably resting in the relegation zone.  We almost managed to get through two whole sentences without resorting to the phrase "6-pointer".  But the honest truth is, whoever loses this weekend will be deeply in the mire.

Although as a club we have nothing against Alfreton, it is important that our players, in those few spare minutes between intensive fitness sessions this week, get fired-up for the task ahead.  PATGOD are more than happy to help out with gee-ing up the lads, and the best way of doing this is to thoroughly unjustifiably persecute our neighbours from Derbyshire.

To that end, we need our players to know that their players spilled their pint, and eyed their missus up.  And called them a poof too, probably.

Now, go get them!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Not Fit (Enough) To Wear The Shirt

So now it’s official, there are only three problems with the current squad:

1. They aren’t fit enough
2. They aren’t good enough
3. They don’t care

Just fix those and we’ll be flying!

It’s generally agreed that the rot began in pre-season, described by David Bridges as like a “holiday camp” after being beasted up the Stevenage sand dunes twice a day by Westley.

Actually, having just rechecked the quote, he said it WAS a holiday camp. The boys spent the mornings lying by the pool or enjoying a gentle stroll, before Camp Leader Morell upped the tempo with a game of five a side bingo.

Players were recruited on the strength of a short video of ball juggling or possession of a sufficiently exotic name. Meanwhile, those with knowledge of the fitness levels required at this level must have been bound and gagged, judging by the results.

However some of these players now have 10 to 12 games under their belt so they ought to be catching up. Instead we’re still starting games like we’re half asleep and gifting opposition strikers time and space to pick their spot. So it’s not just physical fitness with a lot of this bunch. Our results won’t automatically improve if they eat more greens and knock out a few more laps of the training pitch.

Maybe Stimson has hit it on the head – some of them, maybe most, are mentally weak. Morell told them they were great and would take the league by storm. They weren’t expecting to be booed off the pitch several times in the first month. That wasn’t in the script at all and these fancy dans, used to looking good at a lower level, haven’t the appetite to scrap for every ball, deny space and generally make the other side at least break sweat before it’s game over.

The mind goes back to 1992, when at a similar stage of the season a new manager – Graham Carr – inherited a load of dross and wasted no time in bringing in players who maybe weren’t the prettiest but he knew he could rely upon. Oh for a Graham Reed now – in fact, anyone got his number?

Like then, we do at least have a bit of time (the one silver lining of ditching MM so soon) and in Stimson, like Carr, we have a manager with a decent CV at this level. Sort this mess out and it will be an even better one.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Sobering Thought of the Day Part Two

Our current run of "home" form has amassed us the grand total of 4 points in 7 games, whilst our last 7 games at Non Park as the away team garnered us 8 points.

Expect more of this sort of annoying trivia in the coming months as I no longer have Doctor Who to keep me occupied on a Saturday evening (and unlike certain other members of my houshold, I'm not sad enough to let Strictly or X Factor snag my attention.)

Sobering thought for the day

"Howay and shite!"
12 games into the season and we've already shipped 24 goals.

Over the course of the 1993-4 season we let in 24 GOALS IN THE ENTIRE SEASON!  We let just 10 goals in away from home - a record surely?  We can easily ship that many at Non Park these days in a week.

To match the efforts of Graham Carr's dour stoppers we need to keep 34 consecutive clean sheets.  A tall order, but who knows?  Keep out Kiddy today and we're on our way!