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 - 

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Bouncing Back

The saying that runs along the lines of, "It's not about how many times you fall, it's how many times you get up", has been attributed to many people.  Whether you believe it was General George Custer, presumably some time before Little Big Horn, or, indeed Rhys Hoenes during the first 10 games of this season, then sentiment is true.

Despite our excellent start to this season, our last 4 home league games read a very poor lost 2, drawn 1, won 1.  So, suddenly, we face a home game against lowly opposition and everyone's calling it a "Must Win" fixture.  It's not exactly a relegation haunted mid-April 6-pointer, but there's truth in this statement too.  Anything but a convincing victory is going to make the rest of this division think we are there for the taking.  A month ago they had resigned themselves to competing for the play-off placings, and now they can see serious chinks in our armour.  I'm not sure if it's an actual saying, particularly as I've just made it up, but everyone knows - "No-one who gets spanked by St Ives deserves to get promoted"  We are now in the chasing pack's sights, but our fate is still in our hands.

Players used to look like men,
not skinny-latte drinking,
skinny-jeans wearing,
hipster beard-wearing,

(c) kappasports
A lot of us oldsters have been comparing this season's start with the 1990-91 season when we went the first 15 games unbeaten until Wycombe thumped us 5-1.  We ended that season a distant 4th behind Barnet, despite being 10 / 15 / 20 / 25 point clear top at Christmas.  The total number of points clear depends on who you ask, and how much they've had to drink....

In the Wycombe bar after the game (the lengthy queue to leave the ground's car park via a single track still haunts me) I made one of only a few ever approaches to a Poppies player and asked Dougie Keast what we were going to do in our next game (a home fixture with recent Football League expelees, Colchester United). 

Dougie gritted his jaw and growled, "We'll have to pull our socks up", which honestly sounded more threatening and definite from Dougie, then it reads here.  I had a sense that he had been quite vocal with his teammates about our abject display in the changing room just a few minutes earlier.  I also had the sense not to ask him anything else!

Well, the following game, Dougie was as good as his word.  Socks were indeed raised.  We beat Colchester in front of over 5000 at Rockingham Road.  Not only that, Dougie scored the only goal with the sort of thumping drive that only thighs of his girth can deliver.  He then spotted me in the crowd, and pointed me out, making sure everyone knew the goal was both dedicated to and inspired by me.

OK, that last sentence was a complete lie, but then again we were never 20 points clear at the top of the league either, so, ya-boo sucks to you!

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Diamonds get a place of their own

Great to hear that Inbreds 2.0 have acquired their own plot of land to build a new ground, just off the A6 near Higham.  Anything we can do, they can do… better?  We’ll see. Wonder which of us will be relocating first. 

Obviously there will be various obstacles along the way for both clubs. In addition to the usual planning and other matters, Diamonds will also have to address the fears of some of their support, who will be far from happy at the prospect of having to continue to cross the Nene.  Irthlingborough folk will require assurances that the troll who lives under the bridge has bought into the new proposal by agreeing not to eat them.

Plus there are concerns that the new site may not have been used for animal sacrifice and other pagan practices.

The quest for a new home apparently ends a long search and is the fulfilment of a dream.  That’s wonderful, even though it has to be said that there are things in my fridge that are older than AFCD.

It’s difficult to play the “years of hard work” card when you have a shorter history than Snapchat.

I’m guessing that when the plans for Cyclops Meadow are made public they’ll be keen to go down the sustainable route when it comes to building materials. Partly because it boosts their attempts to detoxify the Diamonds brand, and partly just aping that Forest Green hippy and his eco stadium made entirely of renewable trees and tofu.  So ok, in that case here's an idea. Recycled plastic.

Helps to save the planet and goes to the very heart of what the club is all about....  

If you build it they will come. So long as this guy plays ball.    

Cup Fever

And we’ll really shake them up
When we win the City Insurance Services Limited Challenge Cup!

This morning there is only one question on the lips of all Poppies fans – namely how many more rounds of this bloody thing can there be?  It only started with 22 clubs so we must at least be in the semis by now. Or the final.  Maybe we’ve already won it.

It’s kind of amusing that in a season when the management team made noises about not letting the FA Cup or Trophy be a distraction from the main business of winning the league, we can’t get ourselves knocked out of the Noddy Cup and look like going all the way!

Looking forward to that open top bus tour already.