As the Poppies did their best to help Stockport County avoid a third consecutive relegation by gifting them 6-points this season, I thought I'd take a quick look at the two teams we put out against them. The first game against County was played many months ago after the euphoria of our last gasp win in the opening fixture against Newport, whilst yesterday's game had all the hallmarks of an end of season fixture obligation, where we weren't even playing for pride, contracts, or fun. Let alone points.
So, how did the Poppies of August 2011 compare to the Poppies of March 2012? Well, let's start with the off field team.
August 2011 saw the winning partnership of Ladak and Maison, who could effectively sell sand to the Arabs, snow to Eskimos, or even Non Park to Kettering fans. Unfortunately, once you got past their oily sales patter, neither of them could run a bath let alone a football club.
Now our leadership is in the hands of Rolls and Westwood. George is intent on getting the "Venue" to generate income to sustain the club (good luck with that, because everyone is looking for a few dowdy rooms, with no heating located just outside the middle of nowhere!) As for Westwood, he turned up at the ground one day and was put in charge because he's a nutter with scary eyes.
What about the teams?
We had Laurie Walker in goal for the first game. Laurie seems a game lad, and may actually become a good keeper when he learns to use his large frame to dominate his area rather than look shell-shocked all of the time (hardly surprising given the season we've just had). For the return game we welcomed back Kelvin Jack. Not sure what he's been up to since he was last here, other than have the local pizza parlour on speed dial, but pulling a muscle with his first kick of the day summed up his contribution.
Our back four for the first game was a couple of Ifils, Taft and Davis. George Taft reacted so badly to being booed for taking long throws that he opted to go on loan, and commute to Karlstad BK in Sweden rather than travel the 25 miles to turn out for us. Unfortunately for George we were used to the enormously successful throws of Exodus, with his one half assist from 487 throw-ins. Phil Ifil was still struggling with the summer weight that Maison's easygoing pre-season of ice cream and fairy cakes had mysteriously caused. Brother Jerel looked a class act, and yet we always seems to concede bucketfuls of goals during the few games he isn't suspended. Davis was busy eyeing up the ranks of defenders on our bench such as Sangare, Koo-Boothe, Navarro and even Kelly, who won the previous season's player of the year from left-back, and wondering if he'd get many more games.
Yesterday's back four featured Manager Westwood, who started the season attempting to guide the Cobblers into Non-League. Alongside him was Jerel Ifil, still watching goals fly past him as he sees out the season. A baffled Sangare, flitting between a mystery midfield role and filling in along the back four, wondered why the hell he left York City. Oh yes, now he remembers - the stack of cash promised by Ladak and Maison. D'oh! Making up the foursome was Davis, still looking to the bench, only now he's hoping there is someone who could come on and give him a break.
Our midfield at Stockport was the potentially title chasing Kelly, Challinor, Verma and Marna. Within weeks Challinor had disappeared into the black hole of York City's reserves. Marna had taken his lazy wandering and cracking right hook to join the thirty other ex-Poppies at Tamworth. Kelly and Verma both briefly escaped to Mansfield, only to be dragged back to Non Park in their Stags training tops, grasping their MTFC towels, screaming like kids being taken off a beach.
The midfield for the return game was the slightly less stellar grouping of Ralph, Kelly, Noubissie, and Van Engel. Kelly is still holding on to his rather threadbare Mansfield training top. Noubissie, the current "Mr Kettering", still hankers for little square passes to Andre. Ralph is playing through the loan spell from Posh to the Poppies that all their reserve and youth players are contractually required to undertake. If nothing else, Van Engel offers overwhelming proof that not all Dutch players are world beaters. Or in this case, even Stockport beaters. It also suggests that Dutch Non League football is probably as poor a standard of football anywhere where both teams own their own kits.
Our front two at Stockport were the mercurial Ashikodi and semi-crippled McKenzie. One of them is now lost to decent society in a Victorian built hell-hole full of criminals, thugs and other low-life characters, keeping his nose clean and serving his time, whilst McKenzie has been sent to prison.
Our attack yesterday was Wyke, wondering who the hell he had pissed off at Middlesbrough to be farmed out to us, and Gray, who appeared from nowhere, and, if lucky will be allowed to escape back there once we've finished grinding him down.
Ah well, if we can't get excited about potential trips to Vauxhall Motors and Solihull Moors, at least Stockport supporters may not have to dig out directions to yet another division next year. Unless, of course they bugger up the rest of their season, in which case, they'll be trying to work up the enthusiasm for derbies against Droylsden, Altrincham and Stalybridge, whilst wondering what tin-pot league they'll get relegated into the following season.