Fleetwood Town – Return of the Skids

Only 17 days since QPR and now this. This! As if we’d bank roll them indefinitely – live off that mighty brew, that historic FA Cup 3rd Round day.

Home to Portsmouth – Fleetwood’s 13th league match at Highbury – proved to be not unlucky, but savage…awful, crippling, calamitous and somehow fatal.

Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night was a structurally unsound house parading itself as a show home. Nice enough on paper. The usual 4-2-3-1. But cracks everywhere – particularly on the bench, in those not-so-perennial hot seats.

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Do you sit it out, turn away, see your team degraded repeatedly for 45 minutes, or act? Decisively. Like a leader. Shuffle the personnel on the field. Make a couple of key substitutions. Or watch? Almost impassively. Let the opposition grow stronger. Concede a goal in the 43rd minute. Like a random neighbour revving up, ramming your garage door. And you sit tight, wondering if what you’re looking at is actually real. Manageable. Maybe too unwieldy.

No. No. No. This is no way to run a club. Watching in desperation behind the sofa as the horror show intensifies. Where’s the Scottish muscle? The know how. The finesse. The understanding. The adroitness and ingenuity.

When things go wrong, you invent – tap into that Einstein mind that we all have, figure it out, fly with da Vinci’s birds, see the patterns, see the holes and FIX IT.

Tuesday was, instead, like a bad IT helpline – geek on the other end of it, doughnut to his right, unable to escape his coded world, unable to express himself in plain, beautiful words.

What is Scott Brown, who is Scott Brown, if he cannot see 10 minutes of hell, 15 minutes of hell, 20 minutes of lava and Beelzebub? Oppression in all its ruthless manifestations. The opposition slick, unchallenged, gaining in confidence, because it was evident soooooooooo early on that FTFC were warped, misshapen, square players put in round holes, twins roaming the park and the “near, God-like boots of Gomes, Omochere and Hayes” sundered and reduced to one wheel of a Robin Reliant.

Rolls Royce no more! Where is Carlos Mendes Gomes? Our Spanish/Senegal 1998 silo. The man that brings it all together. Lunges at the opposition. Fires everyone up. Starts the Fleetwood engine.

Hamstring. Gotta be that hamstring. Damn. So long as lickety-split Luton haven’t taken him back. That town of hats and Vauxhall Motors. Block the airport. He’s ours! Stick to your videos of dancing David Pleat, circa 1983. Arms aloft. Fastening that bottom suit button after five or six leaps. That’s enough. Don’t get greedy.

But back to Highbury. Lewis Warrington carrying a mirror around the pitch on Tuesday night. Because that’s what full debutant Scott Robertson is – another Warrington. They’re too alike. They’re too alike, I tell you! That’s OK with love, but not football, not a team, not any team.

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I know what you were thinking, Broonie. This is how we outwit them. This is how we manhandle the sleeping giant, Portsmouth. We keep possession. We spray it around. We dazzle them with our League 1 silkiness. But did we? Or did we turn into Stan Laurel, scratching our barnets, eyes blinking, trying to suss the adversity before us?

We know what happened. It was brutal. The worst performance of your reign. Keith Ryves, driving from Glasgow to Overton – the bus driver who crashed into a bridge because he “forgot he was driving a double-decker”.

That’s what we are, Broonie – a big, red double-decker with FTFC on the side. F*cking Try, F*cking Chip…away. This has gone beyond ‘Prepare 2 Perform’ or the feeble mottos of yesteryear.

John Michael Lewis Mousinho – Portsmouth’s fake Mourinho – came to the Fylde coast and trampled all over us. This is his first managerial job. He was precisely four days into it. As PFA Chairman, he should be drowning in paperwork, listening to his favourite indie music and writing the next Liar’s Poker. Not ransacking an opposing head coach one year older than him and eight months into the job.

Football. Sometimes it’s a funeral march. Sometimes it’s a jazz band. Tuesday was a sad limp towards the disaster zone containing Forest Green Rovers, Burton Albion, Cambridge United and Morecambe. And after the grandeur of this Saturday’s FA Cup 4th Round tie at Hillsborough, Fleetwood may find themselves just two points off the drop.

It is sobering. And we need answers. The red flags are many. Fleetwood’s home form (W 2, D 5, L 6) nearly as laughable as Lincoln’s (W 2, D 10, L 0) in terms of sheer ridiculousness. What we’d give for those draws now! No Gomes, Cian Hayes and Shaun Rooney – no Fleetwood? Well, at least two thirds of that is remediable  from Saturday onwards. We take our two heavyweights off and we fold? Messrs Admiral Muskwe and Promise Omechere.

Theories. Theories. But better than inaction, inertia, idiocy. Letting the opposition continually ram your garage door. We could mention the goals (Colby Bishop 43’, Joe Pigott 83’), the sending off (Joe Morrell 68’) which should have been a big, gift-wrapped present, and the scoreline (2-0 to Portsmouth) but what’s the point?

A different Joe – ex-FTFC head coach, Joey Barton (2018-2021) – once said he had three options in life: “Play football. Go in the army. Or sell drugs.” I felt for the players against Pompey because they weren’t being used right. And if confidence is low and the head coach momentarily blinkered, then the team suffers – loses its bounce.

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The second half actually started well for Fleetwood. The introduction of Hayes (attack the best form of defence) had Portsmouth worried. But then Brown played his familiar three-card trick in the 62nd minute and we lost our momentum. Nothing against Danny Andrew (who replaced Phoenix Patterson), Ged Garner (Muskwe) or new boy Callum Dolan (Warrington) – gloves on, possible diamond job later that night ­– but three subs rarely has an impact.

Two strikers for two strikers was one of the things that Uwe Rösler (2016-2018) always got right – freshening up the front line. Three is excessive though. It invariably ends up in a 3-2-5 scrum with no supply line, like a city pimp with no women.

Brown should put his hands up after this. Not moan about a lack of strikers. Or berate the players expected to work in a soup kitchen instead of the promised olive grove. You see something wrong early on, you fix it. Slide Josh Earl back to centre half, his true position. Sacrifice Warrington or Robertson earlier. Get Hayes on the park. Good head coaches don’t deal in damage limitation. They deal in damage. Plenty of it. And that comes from players knowing who they are. Right now, Fleetwood are on the precipice wondering how close to the edge Brown will take them.

Seventeen days in football, aye. Gotta sort the home form. Gotta sort the home form.

The Author

Jeff Weston

Author of Wagenknecht (ALL MEN crack up at 40) and Pitchside, Ringside and Down in the Table Tennis Dens.

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