Monday, 20 February 2017

The Red Rose Football Blog, Number 18. February 20th 2017

          Number 18                                                                                         February 20 2017

The best Blackpool XI I have had the privilege to watch.

Chosen by Christian Wolstenholme and Kane Roberts

          League appearances for club in brackets

Ian Hesford (202)

Colin Greenall (183)      Steve Hetzke (140)           Ian Evatt (230)

Stephen Crainey (284)                                                                                                        Trevor Sinclair (112)

                            David Vaughan (105)   Charlie Adam (91)   Johnny Deary (215)                                         
Dave Bamber (184)              Paul Stewart (201)

Captain Charlie Adam                                                                Manager Ian Holloway

Christian has been watching the Tangerines from the early 80s and Kane is assistant grounds man at the club. Except for in 2010, Blackpool have had a depressing time since 1981 with 4 trips down to the basement of the Football League, a lack of success underlined by the fact that the entire eleven above has only amassed 85 international caps between them throughout their careers.

                A young Trevor Sinclair; from Bloomfield Road to England and now BBC TV pundit

Is the FA Cup the Ultimate Fairy Tale in English Sport?

So where do you rank the magic of the FA Cup in English folk lore? “Possibly somewhere behind Snow White, Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk,” you may say. “Not a chance,” would be the response from the 130,000 good citizens of Lincoln, because the fairy godmother has just sprinkled stardust all over the city, sufficient to last for months to come. Once again the World’s oldest football competition has shown that with effort, endeavour and perhaps a touch of luck, it can light up the lives of people in the most unsuspecting parts of the country. Do the supporters of Burnley FC agree, having been dumped out by non-league opposition while in Tier 1 for the second time within living memory? Possibly yes, maybe no, but their manager is certainly a class act. The 1-0 defeat was a close encounter and possibly the Clarets were unlucky. It was a debatable winning goal (did it cross the line?) but there were no excuses from Sean Dyche. He expressed his disappointment, accepted the decision and gave full credit to Lincoln City’s resolve, wishing them the very best of luck in the next round.

Sean Dyche; outstanding in the dressing room and in front of the cameras

It is of course the first time a non-league side has made the last 8 since Queens Park Rangers achieved the feat in 1914, but many of us can remember other giant killing acts. The above mentioned win by non-league Wimbledon at high-flying Burnley in 1975 was a shocker, Ronnie Radford’s 30 yard screamer into the Newcastle net on Hereford’s mud bath of a pitch in 1972 is shown on TV each year and didn’t Sutton United upset FA Cup holders Coventry City in 1988? Lincoln and Sutton are the 8th and 9th teams to reach Round 5 since the war but sadly, not one has been from the Red Rose County. The FA Cup begins with the Extra Preliminary Round, this season on the 6th of August. 330 clubs competed on that date, the first of thirteen rounds prior to the final at Wembley. Bootle won 3-1 at Abbey Hey that day whilst Squires Gate won at Maltby Main near Rotherham in front of 68 spectators. In total 706 clubs have entered the competition and the last Red Rose County non-league club to fall was Barrow who lost to Rochdale in Round 3, having eliminated Division 1 side Bristol Rovers in the previous round. The magic of the FA Cup is that it produces giant killing acts throughout the 14 rounds, making heroes of the local post man or a £50million player who score the winning goals in front of anything from 35 to 90,000 spectators. There has been criticism of Premier League managers who have played much weakened sides, sometimes with embarrassing consequences. But try telling the 10,000 players, coaches and officials who set out on the journey that it is not an important competition. In particular tell it to Sean Raggett who headed home the winner at Turf Moor. In that split second, all of his lifelong wishes and ambitions came true. He will next walk out at the Emirates to face Alexis Sanchez, desperately hoping to keep the dream alive. Now that really is a magical fairy tale.

Performances of the last week

Chesterfield 1 Bury 2 (EFL Division 1)

Talk about making a flying start. Lee Clark left mid-table comfort in the Scottish Premier League at Kilmarnock to salvage Bury’s season and retain their place in the EFL Division 1. There are tougher debuts than away to a struggling Chesterfield side but in a game full of errors, the Shakers came from one down and survived a penalty miss by Ryan Lowe to win with late goals from Andrew Tutte and George Miller. To add icing to the cake, this victory has moved Bury out of the bottom four.

Milton Keynes Dons 0 Fleetwood Town 1 (EFL Division 1)

In 2005, Fleetwood Town were way down in Tier 9, playing in the North West Counties League. Can they possibly compete in the second Tier next season, perhaps meeting multiple champions from the past such as Aston Villa, Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and Sunderland? It is now 16 games unbeaten for Uwe Rosler’s side, this being one of his typically choreographed away wins; organised, defensively solid, pace on the break and a Cian Bolger winning header from a corner.

Accrington Stanley 2 Colchester United 1 (EFL Division 2)

Stanley returned to winning ways, but it was a close run thing. They were cruising as half time approached, Billy Kee’s 12th goal of the campaign and a Matty Pearson header giving them a two goal cushion. Omar Beckles was then given a straight red card and it was a long 45 minutes as Colchester roared back. Fortunately they could only manage a converted penalty however as the hosts grabbed three vital points to pull away from the relegation places.

Crawley Town 1 Morecambe 3 (EFL Division 2)

The miracle that is Morecambe Football Club continues to burn bright following this excellent win close to Gatwick Airport. An early Rhys Turner goal followed by two more from tormentor in chief Paul Mullin put the Shrimps in an unassailable position by the break. Crawley pulled one back in the second half but these three points have virtually guaranteed Division 2 football for another year to a side whose on the field performances bear no comparison to the shenanigans at Board Room level.

In the Non-League scene, AFC Fylde pulled further clear at the top of the National League North by winning 3-1 at Brackley, a Danny Rowe double taking his total to 37 for the season. Both Chorley and Salford strengthened their hold on play-off places by defeating Kidderminster Harriers (2-1) and Stalybridge Celtic (1-0) respectively while Curzon Ashton clubbed Alfreton Town 5-0, Matt Warburton notching a hat-trick. Ashton United continued their good away form by winning 3-1 at Coalville in the Northern Premier League and in Division 1 North, Lancaster City stayed in front by beating Scarborough Athletic 2-0, Jordan Connerton scoring twice. Colne, 2-1 winners at home to promotion hopefuls  Ossett Town and Trafford, comfortable 3-0 winners at Droylsden are now in the top five. Atherton Collieries won another massive game, 1-0 at home to 1874 Northwich in the NWC Premier Division to remain unbeaten in the league since September and lowly Nelson pulled off a shock draw against title challengers Runcorn Town at Little Wembley. But the real updet of the non-league day was at AFC Blackpool where Ashton Town, completely isolated at the bottom of Division 1, won 5-0,

Games to look forward to this week

Manchester United v Southampton (League Cup Final) Sunday February 26, 16.30

Yet another Wembley visit for the Reds and a chance to clinch their 41st major trophy, hauling themselves level with Liverpool in the Pantheon of English football. It is a repeat of the 1976 FA Cup Final when Southampton famously upset the odds by beating Tommy Docherty’s side 1-0. The Saints are again cast in the role of the underdog and this United side has forgotten how to lose. Will it be Wayne Rooney’s final curtain call on Sunday?
                             Wayne Rooney; the last hurrah for an English footballing great?

Manchester City v Monaco (Champions League Last 16) Tuesday February 21, 19.45

With his sky blue side looking long odds against winning the league, a long run in the Champions League is de rigeur for Pep Guardiola. Monaco however is leading the French Ligue 1 (Paris St Germain et al) and scoring their goals is the re-born Radamel Falcao, the flop of all flops across the city at Old Trafford. City need to take a lead into the second leg at the tiny Stade Louis II without conceding a “home goal”. It is a big night at the Emirates.

Burton Albion v Blackburn Rovers (EFL Championship) Friday February 24, 19.45

The sands of time are trickling away for Owen Coyle’s men and defeat at relegation rivals Burton may be one of the final nails in the coffin. Nigel Clough is working wonders at this small club but Coyle, without any Board Room support from the Venkys, fights a losing battle. The Rovers were desperately unlucky at Sheffield Wednesday where poor refereeing and lack of goal line technology scuppered them, but points and not excuses save the day.

Sheffield United v Bolton Wanderers (EFL Division 1) Saturday February 25, 15.00

Bolton travel to the sleeping giants of English football but something is stirring this season amidst the furnaces of South Yorkshire as Chris Wilder’s boys lead the league. Bolton look certs to finish in the play-off places but to avoid that lottery, they need to finish in the top two. A victory on Saturday will certainly boost their hopes but Bramall Lane will be packed to the rafters. It is the biggest game of the season for Phil Parkinson’s Wanderers.

Quiz of the Week (Answers at the foot of the Blog)

All of the questions have Red Rose County connections

1                    Who captained Manchester United in the 1976 FA Cup Final, the last time they played Southampton in a final at Wembley?

2                    Which former Liverpool star played for Bayern Munich in their 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal in the Champions’ League last week?

3                    In the 2015-16 season, Burnley signed 2 players from which Championship club?

4                    Paul Rideout actually scored 22 goals in Italian football for Bari, quite a feat for an English striker, but for whom did he score the winner in the FA Cup Final?

                                 Paul Rideout in the Southampton strip; one of his 5 English clubs

      5                    In 2008, Bolton sold Nicholas Anelka for £15million to which English club?

6                    Which player with North West connections has played in the Manchester, Merseyside, Tyne/Wear and El Classico derbies?

7                    Nathan Pond has over 450 league appearances (and still counting) in 7 different tiers of football with which Red Rose County club?

                                               Nathan Pond; skipper and veteran defender

8                    Danny Graham was signed by Blackburn from which Premier League club?

9                    Who is the only player to have scored more than 1 goal (excluding penalty shoot outs) for Liverpool in their 7 European Cup/Champions’ League Finals?

10                Who, in the 1996-97 season, holds the record for most goals scored by a Wigan Athletic player in one season?

Post Weekend Musings

Two new managers bravely stepped into new posts in the North West last week. Andy Preece, who always knew where the net was in his long career which included stints at Blackpool and Bury, replaced Steve Burr at Southport. The Sandgrounders had briefly been managed by Liam Watson in a caretaker role, but Preece has been appointed permanently. He will have his work cut out to keep them in the National league. Likewise at Bury, Lee Clark takes over from David Flitcroft although Chris Brass has been holding the reins on a temporary basis. Clark, a Geordie from Wallsend, was a schoolboy prodigy and he played with distinction for Newcastle, Sunderland and Fulham. He has since managed Huddersfield, Birmingham City, Blackpool and Kilmarnock but he too will find his new position extremely challenging. The Gigg Lane side are in the bottom 4 of Division 1; a tough ask to save them.

The footballing world bristled with excitement when disgruntled Manchester United supporters, showing their distrust of American wealth, set up FC United of Manchester. There were 10 years of success as they cruised through the lower reaches of non-league football, a thrilling, new and possibly revolutionary concept. Suddenly in Tier 6, the wheels seem to be falling off the wagon as they sit uncomfortably close to the relegation places. They will probably survive this time but is a re-think required at Broadhurst Park?
It was Simon Grayson’s 4th anniversary as manager of Preston North End at Wigan on Saturday. Only Mick McCarthy at Ipswich has been in situ longer in the Championship.

From 1922 to 1969, Tranmere Rovers and Barrow played each other on a twice-yearly basis in the Football League. Rivalry resumed in 2015 and now they are competing to return, as well as coming head to head in the last 8 of the non-league world’s premier cup competition with Wembley just 2 wins away. In some sports, both clubs would have been consigned to the scrap heap but English football’s promotion and relegation all the way through the pyramid ensures that come backs are always on the cards. No franchises here…thankfully.

Watching Paul Pogba warming up at Ewood Park on Sunday prior to appearing as a second half substitute was a shock to the system. Physically he is a monster and he certainly used his physicality to great effect for the final half hour of the game. Without him and fellow sub Ibrahimovic, I would be watching an FA Cup replay at Old Trafford next Tuesday evening.

Red Rose County Player of the Week

There are aspects to Zlatan Ibrahimovic which I do not care for; his arrogance, desire to be stinking rich and his hair style being the principal three. He is however an outstanding footballer and a consummate goal scorer; a welcome addition to the Premier League. With an albeit less than difficult Europa League hat-trick against St Etienne but a sumptuous winner against Blackburn Rovers in the Cup, he fully deserves to be the Player of the Week.

Tier 10 Club of the Week

Atherton LR; FA Vase semi-finalists 1993-94

Atherton is a small town to the east of Wigan. It is very much a footballing area with three established clubs (Collieries, LR and Town) within its boundary. LR is an abbreviation of Laburnum Rovers, the original name of the Junior Club which was founded in 1956. When the club progressed and joined the Cheshire League in 1980, they had to add the prefix Atherton to indicate their geographical location. The next 15 seasons constituted their glory years as they moved ever upward to the Northern Premier League and in 1993-94, they reached the semi-final of the FA Vase. The Norfolk club Diss Town finally eliminated them after a replay but not before they had knocked out ex-Football League club Aldershot in a previous round, nearly 1900 fans flocking into Crilly Park to witness the game. It has been a gradual decline since then and they are now struggling to attract a crowd of over 70 spectators. Survival is paramount in the North West Counties Division 1 this season as they currently hang just above the drop zone; sad for a club with such a fine ground.

                                                      Crilly Park; home of Atherton LR

Quiz Answers 

1 Martin Buchan, 2 Xabi Alonso, 3 Brentford, 4 Everton, 5 Chelsea,

6 Michael Owen, 7 Fleetwood Town, 8 Sunderland, 9 Phil Neale, 10 Graeme Jones.

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