Saturday, 18 November 2017

Why I hate Paul Cooke!

I've always had a hate/hate relationship with the humble football programme.  Sounds strange, I know.  Most people either enjoy them or have no strong feelings either way, but they continue to be the bane of my life.

At one of our most recent home games (roughly 30-years ago!), I had the misfortune to be sitting close to that great vacuum cleaner of spare cash, Martin Bellamy, and I was soon shelling out for tickets for this, air-fresheners for that, key fobs for the other etc. etc.  I foolishly let my mad spending-spree get the better of me and purchased 3 x Klondikes and a programme with the last £5.50 cash I had.  I invariably don't buy a programme, but was caught up with the fervour of feeling I was single-handedly funding the Poppies.

The programme was a good, thorough read.  No doubt.  And if the winning Klondike number drawn that day wasn't the next number after the ones I'd bought, I'd have left it at that.  But it was.  So I won't.

Is Paul actually to blame for my not winning the Klondike?  In reality, I accept, probably not.  But, someone has to be blamed, and rather than blame myself for not buying that fourth ticket, I'd rather blame him.  Far more therapeutic.

I can trace my antipathy to the humble football programme to one of the defining periods of my younger days - standing at the various entrances to Rockingham Road, back in the 1990's trying to sell copies of PATGOD.  Although, these days, the original run of PATGOD issues are generally considered to be in the Top Ten ever uses of the printing press, back then, trying to sell them was a thankless task. 

Some people who helped us with this job were natural salesmen.  Dave Tailby, for example used personal knowledge of everyone who attended games (always impressive with gates of over 1500!) and cuffs to the side of the head to rack up the sales.  The rest of us, unfortunately had to rely on shifting uneasily from foot to foot, mumbling, "...fanzine..." whenever someone walked past.

And then.  The great kick in the teeth came.  You are about to make a sale and the punter shrinks back in complete horror,

"You mean it's not the programme?"

"No", you patiently explain for the thousandth time, "No, it's a fanzine.  Funny articles.  Hilarious match reports about nil-nil draws.  Childish cartoons.  Poorly photocopied photographs."

"What?  No Teamsheet?  Or League Table?  Or Results?", asks the rapidly retreating former would-be customer.

"No. No teamsheets, league table, or results"  You admit.  And your souls shrivels a fraction more.

Fast forward almost thirty years and I'm buying a programme from a pretty young thing away at Biggleswade.  I didn't mean to.  I originally wanted to buy a pint, but they only had one person serving, and I didn't fancy a hour's wait for a drink.  I then wanted to buy raffle tickets, but they hadn't been brought out into the ground at that point. 

So, looking for any way to spend the fiver in my hand, I purchased a matchday programme.  And then read it from cover to cover in 10 seconds flat.  And the bloody thing didn't have a Teamsheet (just a long list of players).  Or a League Table.  Or Results.  Mmmm.

It made we wonder, if this was an acceptable publication at this level, why on earth Paul Cooke wastes his time assembling his hefty Poppies programme.  If he didn't, I wouldn't very occasionally buy it.  Then I wouldn't have missed out on two hundred quid.  Unlike Gary Bloody Graham who won it.

How much did you pay for this programme?
I bet I paid more!

Sunday, 12 November 2017


Earlier this season we noted the incredible fact that Paul Bastock, who guarded our net on many occasions in the early 1990s, was still playing at the age of 47.  It’s still kind of difficult to get your head around that. A career so long, it began before the break up of the Soviet Union, the invention of the internet and pub food being edible.  Yes those really were different times.

Yesterday Paul reached the summit by playing his 1,250th match in competitive club football, passing Peter Shilton and setting a new world record.  What an honour, and nice to think that among his many, many clubs (probably also a world record) is Kettering Town, where he featured strongly in our 1991/92 Cup run to Ewood Park whilst always looking lovably gormless.  

Shilts was naturally gracious, tweeting not sure who Paul Bastock is or what bloody record he thinks he’s broken but mine was LEAGUE GAMES.  Ah the goalkeepers brotherhood!

Those among you who have reached (or passed) the age of 47 might be reflecting now on how Paul Bastock still manages to fling himself to the ground and pull off reflex saves at an age when the rest of us, on dropping a fork to the floor, go down in instalments.  What is his secret?   Warm baths?  Ice baths?  Cod liver oil?  WD40?

As he seems determined to play on for ever, there is plenty of time for medical science to investigate whilst Bastock keeps on racking up the apps and Shilton grumbles away to himself. 

Meanwhile we raise a glass to an old Poppy who has done something quite remarkable.      


Thursday, 9 November 2017

Can't Ignore It, I Suppose

As unpalatable as this photograph is, and the fact we all lament the destruction
Rockingham Road, there is an undeniable, painful beauty in this image.

Stark.  Strewn.  Defeated.  But still noble,
with the defiant floodlight reaching for the wintry sky.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Classy Poppies, classy

The officialdom of the Poppies hasn't always been as careful and considerate as they might have been.  Sometimes, when a more thoughtful approach was required they'd be blinkered and brusque.  If not awkward, or outright criminal.

If we've lost our footballing way over the past decade or more at least we've started to regain our soul since escaping Non Park and the clutches of various Shysters who saw nothing in the Poppies other than a few quick pay-days.

Today the Club and Trust joined together to bid farewell to Rockingham Road, and the past and look ahead, whilst still honouring our shared past at our former home.  Even I, who kind of knew from the day we deserted our spiritual home that we'd never return, and kind of accepted this, was touched by the report on the official site of today's proceedings.

We will have tough days in the future, when results don't go our way, or the Council shaft us again, or the Tea Bar has no chips.  But we've still got our club.  And our memories.  And, God help me, we've got each other.  As with a family, you can't choose your kin.  Bumbling, whinging inbreds we might be, but a Poppies family we are and I wouldn't swap any of you for someone better...!

Click here - Farewell Rocky Road

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Goals, Goals, Goals (please)

Biggleswade 0-0 Poppies
Nantwich 1-1 Poppies
Poppies 0-1 Nantwich
Poppies 0-0 Slough
Redditch 0-0 Poppies

Presently, no-one would bet on us scoring here either

Monday, 16 October 2017

Well, that didn't take long.....

Making a big, big assumption that we'll get the better of Nantwich tomorrow, the tension barely had chance to build as we drew Stevenage away in the first tie of 40 drawn tonight.

More thoughts.  If we get through tomorrow!

Yes I know.
Westley is no longer Stevenage's Manager.
But he's still a horrible sh*t.

And, there you have it.  The ability of the FA Cup to kick you in the teeth.  Did we deserve to win?  Not really.  Did they?  Again, not really.  They pretty much managed one attempt from open play over two games, but, that's the way football goes sometimes.

Me, today - click here

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Spot the Difference

So, what has happened to turn the Poppies from last season's underachievers into this season's, well, overachievers?  Fourteen games all told this season.  Thirteen wins,  It's a record that should garner Marcus the Southern League "Manager of the Month" for August/September.  Unless, of course, the League find some way to hand it to the Hereford Manager because their crowds are so big.  Marcus is doing so well this season that his sacking is called for on KTFC Chat barely more than twice a week.  Praise indeed.

But why?  Why are we doing so much better this season?  Are Solkhon and Mulligan hitting a defensive peak, with an almost telepathic understanding?  Likewise have O'Connor and Howe actually opened a dialogue this season?  Possibly.

Surely the main reason for our resurgence this season is down to one simple fact?  This season we actually have a midfield.

Our midfield for 2015-6 was, er, OK (ish) I suppose.  Sometimes.  Carvalho had some good flashes, and a name that fitted well into a chant.  Kaid Mohammed probably always turned up for training, and looked professional on the bench.  One touch in ten from Liam Canavan was pure class.  Well, perhaps one touch in twenty.  Nathan Hicks was a solid 6 out of 10 every week.  Hornby?  Sulky, and with a fatally heavy touch on the ball, but always had clean boots.

But, compare the above with the 2016-7 vintage.  Michael Richens is a one-man footballing army.  Rhys Hoenes is a whirling dervish of attacking intent.  Ben Milnes a mixture of steel and danger.  Lindon Miekle is class in a glass.

Let's be honest, not only would none of last season's middle of the park displace any of the current shirt-holders, I'm not sure any of them would be allowed to carry their water bottles either.

Last season we let a lot of goals in due to individual errors at the back.  In fact we suffered a hideous rash of inexplicable f*ck-ups in the final third.  Some real jaw-dropping moments of awfulness.  But, the main reason the opposition managed to dip their soldiers into the runny egg of our defence so often was because they had easily strolled through our powder-puff midfield.  Not so this season.

Anyone wanting to try their luck against our mercurial Irish net-minder needs to run the gauntlet of tough Poppies defending from front-to-back.  If Rene Howe doesn't elbow you, Aaron will buzz around your ankles.  If you've still got the ball Hoenes will try to lift it off your toe, or Milnes will pick your pocket.  Failing that, Miekle will run off with ball when you think you're still kicking it.  If all else fails, Richens will kick you up in the air.

If, by some miracle, you've still not been dispossessed, Messrs Berry, Toseland, Solhkon, Mulligan and White still stand between you and trying to score your team's consolation goal.

Have we gone from decided also-rans to serious promotion contenders?  Perhaps it's still too early to say.  But, at the moment, no-one in our division will relish playing us.  And who knows, thirteen wins in the next fourteen games, perhaps a few more of our wavering fans will remember the Poppies are more than just Rockingham Road, and take a punt on the team doing so well at Latimer Park.

If you call yourself a Kettering Town fan, and can physically get yourself to the games you really have no excuse not to.

Feel the love at Latimer Park