The Great Fleetwood Town Lunatic Asylum

There are to be no reports of Fleetwood Town’s miracle season. There are to be no suggestions that this team of German-guided missiles will go to Scunthorpe soon and blow the bloody doors off their former manager’s office.

Nor should there be implicit thoughts around the Cod Army’s new cult centre-half, Cian Bolger gaining revenge over The Trotters who failed to appreciate his nutting the clouds (and every ball that comes his way).

Fleetwood! We could say that you are joint third with those Boltonians and that the play-offs are no longer tantalising enough. But we won’t. For fear of jinxing the mission. For fear of letting the oxygen out of the players’ heads.

For fear of blinding the club coach driver’s window with graffitied words sprayed from a canister marked ‘HOPE’.

No. There is to be none of this. We must lie flat and quietly regain our true bearings. Mid table! Over the moon to finish mid table. That is what you should hear. You pumper-uppers. You bandwagon fakes. You worshippers of minnows that jettison their small back packs and circumvent normal aspirations.

We will not get promoted. There is no story here. So walk away. Leicester City is the yo-yo you need to follow. Or Brighton & Hove Albion – better sea air. The Fylde coast is particular about who it invites over.

The spine of our team does not matter. Goalkeeper, Alex Cairns probably could have joined the circus given his prodigious leaps and poetic, reaction saves. But he opted for the animals here; chief among them and ahead of him – no.12 Cian Bolger, no.34 Kyle Dempsey and no.10 David Ball.

You need not ask how the invisible piece of string keeps these artists together. Suffice to say, they are unhurried in their exploits. And they will be equally unhurried when you venture round with your grotesque suitcases of money.

Like I said – no story here. No great goals to speak of. Just the odd, flavoursome pot-shot.

We do not have one of the best training facilities in the country. Just imagine it as a shack or warehouse. Nothing to see here. No Andy Pilley balcony from which to study his troops. No pristine pitches. No spotless interior exemplifying the calmness that Uwe Rosler has instilled.

No. Nothing like that. Just an old seaside town that once had grand plans and the North Euston Hotel to put up posh, travelling guests.

You will see nothing now though. No ingenious formations (3.5-4.5-2). No ‘Never Say Die’. No rotation of strikers (the names Devante Cole, Ashley Hunter, David Ball and Wes Burns figments of your imagination).

And no wing-backs already in the clutches and minds of Championship clubs (Conor McLaughlin and Amari’i Bell mere cyphers or ghosts which you should ignore and get back to your winter walk).

So you see – there is nothing to strip. Except your wife if she is in the mood later.

Fleetwood is a barren wasteland with only 27,000 inhabitants and barely 3000 fans. The M6 will take you past us. We are not even here. Most days there is no one on reception when you ring that great bell.

If you compare us to those brave bastions of former years who rose out of nothing and climbed the heady heights (Yeovil, Scunthorpe and Colchester), then you are confusing nostalgia with the need for a Donald Trump-like headline.

All quiet here. No fuss. No parade. Thirteen games left. And we will lose every one. You will not talk then or romanticise. Instead, you will look on the horizon for a real miracle – something to chase, something to attach yourself to that makes you feel marvellous.

Heads down here. We cover our faces with the red and white strip that we do not play in. We eat junk food, not the pasta and corn that you foolishly assume.

We are hearty losers needing no attention. Those sixteen games that the papers say we won – ignore it. It is a misprint.

When our manager talks of Everest, what he’s really inferring is the deep valley that we are trapped within.

We have not lost just one game at home, but several. Again – a mistake at the printers.

Our fans do not encourage the team but instead offer up a mere whisper and rasp. They are discontented – unhappy with this rickety ride.

When League One fans point to our unusual recent signings – Ben Davies, Markus Schwabl, Cameron Brannagan and Joe Maguire – we nod in agreement. Yes. Such players will take us nowhere. They are Christmas trimmings that fell to the floor.

Forget their heritage, their strong links to Preston North End, Bayern Munch and Liverpool through family and youth – just push them off your radar because they will be no good for you. They will poison your viewing.

We are not a family, a unified team, players with the same ambition. We have not been on a long, unbeaten run. We are disjointed, a mess, dispirited, envious and weak.

When admirers say we have pace (Cole), guile (Ball), distribution (Dempsey), strength (Bell), leadership (Nathan Pond), professionalism (McLaughlin), promise (Jack Sowerby, George Glendon, Keano Deacon, Ashley Nadesan), shooting prowess (Bobby Grant) and steel (Ashley Eastham), slap them across the face, for they have made a catastrophic error in judging our talents.

We have no talents. If the table still insists that we are fourth, then it is a fluke. We smile and shake our heads at the ludicrousness of it. We are an old, industrial chimney waiting to fall. Waiting for the ghost of Fred Dibnah to come along and put our feet to the fire.

This cannot be. FTFC – what is that? What kind of club emblem has an anchor and rope? Does it suggest we are stuck and ready to hang ourselves?

Ignore the whoops and hollers. We are a tiny club, undeserving. We will fall back into place – our logical position in the pack.

Rest assured. We are not ambitious. We see this whole thing as a scam, a Ponzi scheme, with others temporarily holding us up – the early, gargantuan dividends not likely to last.

You know I am a reliable narrator. And I say: ‘Don’t worry when we visit you or when you come to ours. It will be easy for you. You only have to blow us over like the straw house and little pig in that tale.’

We are nothing. Just here to help you on your way. There are no masks or humble games or hustling. We really are a shoddy team. Don’t you know that? Just look around. Dysfunctional in every conceivable way.

League One. We love it. We are privileged to be amongst the might of Sheffield, Bolton, Bradford, Millwall and Charlton. But to go any higher?! Are you a fool or a stooge or a joker?!!

We were in the Northern Premier League ten years ago; the Conference National five years ago. We are scrappers – nothing more! We still wash our own strips. Believe me! Our players earn £100 a week and that is enough. We do it for fun! Fun, I say!

Have you not seen our £1 match day programme? Who in the top four flights has a £1 programme?! We barely make back the price of the ink. And the sponsors within – both official partners (Puma, Carling, Holland’s, Molson Coors etc) and seasonal sponsors (Choice Hotels, Evolution etc) – do you think they honestly exist?

Come on! Sit down for a moment. Understand that we run onto the pitch and expect to be slaughtered.

Yes, we have the most beautiful woman in England selling our 50/50 raffle tickets before each match, but can that honestly compensate for the miserable specimens that somehow fluke and amass these points?

The fall will come. Believe me. We cannot be the footballing equivalent of Alfie Boe.

Just swagger about and know that we really are in a lunatic asylum and soon our straightjackets will have to be put back on.

It’s true. See you back here in August. Or at the hospital.

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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