Blackpool at Home Season 2014/15

Oh dear.

In my match preview for Stand or Fall 1901 I posited that this game was a no win situation for Sami Hyypia due to the likely situation that Blackpool would be absolutely dreadful. Dreadful they were. That we didn’t beat them sums up much of what’s gone wrong at the club in the last two years.

That may be a very negative statement but it’s not meant in the sense that nothing has gone right. There have been plenty of positives too; two play off places, a series of top names gracing The Amex, consistently high crowds, at least in terms of tickets purchased, and a chairman who is a fan rather than a barking Balkan billionaire, foolish foreign fief or crackers Cagliari criminal.

However losing two managers in two seasons has left us with a squad made up partly of Poyet men, partly Oscar and partly Sami. While David Burke is the constant there’s little doubt that it’s impossible to find a player who would fit neatly in to all three, very different ways of playing. This is a squad that does not gel. Some fans’ answer to this is to question if we should not be making a further managerial change. I had thought this was restricted to North Stand Chat’s lunatic fringe. Last night, after the game, I heard it muttered by some of our loyalist travelling fans, the sort of people who do go to Derby or Blackpool on a Tuesday night and drink their tea out of Albion mugs.

If you could sum up last season under Oscar Garcia it would have been “frustrating”. That’s not revisionist. That’s exactly how I described it to another team’s website for one of their previews in the middle of the season. Yesterday we were back to that again. Sixty percent possession. Twenty Five shots. Wouldn’t have scored if we were still all running round now.

It could have been so different of course. Adrian Colunga, put clean through about thirty seconds in to the game, should have put us 1-0 up. He had the option of placing it or putting his laces through it but instead miskicked it straight to a grateful Joe Lewis who was magnificent all day. Had we gone one up that early I’d have feared for Blackpool. Instead they were able to sit back, waste time and pick up a point, just like every sub-par side visiting The Amex seems to have been able to in recent times.

Twenty five shots and all that use of the ball would suggest to some that we dominated and were unlucky. Dominate we did, unlucky we were not. The simple fact is that when you have all that you should be making it count. The Albion were completely devoid of cutting edge. We badly missed Ulloa. We showed why using wing backs isn’t universally popular; because you leave great big gaps for your midfield to fill in, because full backs are never as dangerous going forwards in terms of pace and final delivery as actual wingers and because it makes your shape narrow and predictable.

It shows too that the “money ball” approach to signing players is flawed. There is genuinely no point in having two players for each position if each of them is fairly much a replica of the other, so that you do not know your best starting option and so that plan B becomes plan A by osmosis. Yes you can rotate the squad but did Burnley rotate last season? No, they most certainly did not. Constant rotation merely means lack of familiarity.

The frustrating thing is we have some quality in key areas. Yesterday Greer and Dunk shone in the centre back positions, Holla showed he’s a true box to box midfielder and Teixeira again caused problems when he was on the ball. Paddy McCourt’s cameo was sublime, playing an outstanding cross field through ball that was simply too good for anyone out there and very nearly chipping in to the far corner after footwork that was far too dainty for a man who looks like a street drinker. But that was it. In every other position we seem to have the average covering for the mediocre. At least in that system.

Sorry. This is a rant, it’s not a match report. I woke this morning wondering if the Harvey’s and the frustration of explaining for the thirty fifth time to my son how we didn’t score against a poor team had made me in to an unreasonable grouch. But this morning, after a coffee and a think, I feel the same way.




Nottingham Forest at home – frustration

In John King’s debut novel The Football Factory there is a chapter I relate to more than any other. Much of it is about serious fighting. Other bits a side story about the development of the Southall area by its immigrants. These bits I don’t relate to. But there is a chapter where Tommy Johnson (the Danny Dyer character in the film) describes watching Chelsea when you are sick with a heavy cold. About how it restricts you not just from fighting (which I wouldn’t know about) but from going to the pub, getting in to the game’s atmosphere or basically doing anything at all other than feeling like shit. Yesterday I had a cold that was starting to knock me out. I also had a 6 year old in tow with impressionable ears. Which is a shame because we endured a typical game of two halves and the second half of it was possibly the most frustrating passage of play in what is becoming a very frustrating experience. Ok, so Bolton at home last season was worse but I was feeling fine and had no small person in tow then. I was therefore able to vocalise my frustration. Yesterday I physically and morally couldn’t.

Other things change too when you bring your little ‘un. We get to the ground early to avoid the worst of the train crushes. Does he want to see the team coach arrive? No. Go to the club shop? No. Find Gully? No. He wants a burger. So despite being warned off them on twitter earlier that day, a burger he shall have. He knows the hot dogs are “disgraceful”. For me that’s a pretty apt description of the burger too (they have changed beyond all recognition from season 1) but he enjoys his. In fact he wolfs it down and then wants to go to our seat while I am still halfway down the only pint I have allowed myself. I manage to finish it but we are still in our seats 45 minutes before kick off, making us some of the only people to spend the equivalent of three halves in our seats.

He then starts on a list of at least 100 questions. Most I can answer. Some I struggle with. Such as ‘why do some of the players wear yellow vests when they warm up and others don’t’? No idea son. Answers on a postcode please. Or in the comments box. ‘What happens if a Seagulls fan sits with the Forest fans by accident’ was another good one. Maybe something a bit like something out of The Football Factory. By kick off I have no voice left. He has to sing Sussex by the Sea for me.

We have the better of the first half though. Forest give the ball away too much and don’t look to have the cutting edge up front I thought they would. Lua Lua torments them constantly and Buckley does occasionally. We carve out a couple of early chances. Even better we score when Crofts bravely gets on the end of some flair ping pong in the box. The Boy jumps up. “We scored Daddy”. WE. Then it’s back to the incessant questions.

Unfortunately none of the questions are these:

Who sent our centre backs out after half time with their brains switched off?

How can Nottingham Forest, with smaller home crowds than us, be complying with Financial Fair Play when they’ve spent all that money?

Why have we wasted our own budget on average midfielders leaving us with a strike force of Barnes and Barker?

Why is Craig Pawson such an annoying referee?

Why hasn’t Rohan Ince played at all since being man of the match v Bolton?

How does Lua Lua put up with being kicked SO much?

All of these answers could explain a car crash of a second half in which we watch Forest clinically taking their chances while we waste ours. We go 3-1 down from 1-0 up. Then a passage of play that basically saw our players getting fouled every time we got nearer than 40 years to the goal eventually ends with Chalobah getting a second yellow. Can we get two goals in half an hour against 10 men to save a point? No we can’t. Forest effectively stick players behind the ball and foul less often. By the end our attack is as penetrating as a knife made with jelly – that a toddler’s eaten half of

In the train queue the boy asks why we didn’t score when the fans were cheering so loud for them. I can’t answer. Yes, I have a sore throat but I also don’t know what to say.

*Brighton But Only At Home apologises for the lack of accurate and specific match information as it was being distracted by a small child. Chris Kamara never has to put up with this.