This is Exactly what happened to Roberto Martinez – TFD 3/7

“No James, don’t laugh!” I yelp, “I respect you!”

I wake with a start, bolt upright, and incredibly aware that I said that last part out loud, and with gusto. It’s 5am and we play Doncaster in 10 hours. I feel quite sick.

pre donny

As I walk round to the driver-side door of my car, Chitty Chitty Frang Frang, which is parked in my reserved space outside Bloomfield Road, I hear A familiar voice from behind me: “Franjo!” I turn to face the source of the voice.

“Hello James” I say, very coolly. Like a Bond villain.

“Great game” continues James Coppinger. “I can’t believe that your Blackpool team were losing to my Donny Rovers side 9-0 with 5 minutes to go before you substituted yourself on and bagged 3 perfect hattricks and a panenka penalty. I respect you” he gushes.

I fake a small laugh, very coolly. Like a Bond villain. “All in a days work” I purr, in sunglasses.

“Don’t talk back to me Francis” snaps Mr Braithwaite, my high school headmaster. And he has a point. I’m belligerently undressing in front of a full school assembly and being extremely sassy about it. Everyone’s laughing. The students, the teachers… James Coppinger’s laughing hardest of all.

“No James, don’t laugh!” I yelp, “I respect you!”

I wake with a start, bolt upright, and incredibly aware that I said that last part out loud, and with gusto. It’s 5am and we play Doncaster in 10 hours. I feel quite sick.

I like Doncaster. Not as a place, God no, but as a football team. They have several admirable qualities. They’re a wholesome lot and have a reputation for playing good football, or they did when they were on the up a few years ago. Recently they’ve been spiralling downwards but they’re still comfortable favourites for promotion.

Captain James Coppinger, who I think was in my dream last night, is a definite one to watch. He’s a Ryan Giggs style winger-turned-central-playmaker, and he’ll be pulling the strings for them.

coppinger

The league favours us, but only just. We’re top with 26 points from 13 games, goal difference of 10. Donny also have 26 points but a goal difference of 9, so it couldn’t be much closer. Whoever wins will sit on top of the league. Of course there’s always the chance that we draw and Luton, 3rd place on 26 points, goal difference of 6, go above us both. Silver lining.

It’s well known that Rovers play a back 3, with wing backs that bomb on and a good mix of toughness and skill in midfield. I plan to combat their formation with a narrow 4-4-1-1. We’ll make the middle of the pitch horribly congested and have our own wing backs bombing on. And our wing backs are better. Pugh and McAllister play on the sides of midfield. As central midfielders they’ll have no problem staying put and staying narrow, keeping the shape and minimising space. Potts and Vassell are injured, and Robertson’s suspended, so will.i.am’s Son starts in defence. Yeates is fit enough for a spot on the bench.

pugh

will.i.ams son

After the main team talk I turn to Josh Tymon. “Know who you’re up against today son?”

“Mitchell Lund boss.”

“That’s right. And Shitchell Lund is their weak spot. You’re our main outlet today so go and terrify him.” He nods nervously.

donny formations

The first half is a tense, cagey affair. Donny have the best chance after half an hour when N’Goy cuts in from the left, only to fire tamely at Bobdrick. By half time Tymon’s flagging. He’s only a lad and he’s played pretty much every minute of our congested run so far, so I tell the team to abandon the plan to focus the left wing and Shitchell Lund.

Midway through the second half I decide enough is enough, Tymon comes off, replaced by the versatile but limited Eddie Nolan.

With 13 minutes to go my head is in my hands as Nolan pisses about with the ball just inside the Doncaster half, then out of nowhere he plays a beautiful cross-field ball into the centre, evading pretty much the entire Rovers team and finding Michael Cain in acres of space. Cain takes a touch 25 yards out, Bloomfield Road is silent for a split second, and then he smacks it like Ross Barkley in a night club. The top corner of the net bulges and it’s fist pumps all round. My dream suddenly comes back to me. Take that Doncaster. Take that Darren Ferguson. Take that Coppinger. You twat.

2 minutes later Philliskirk hits the bar and it’s clear that Donny have thrown in the towel. If these are title favourites I’ll see you in League One. We drop to a defensive 4-1-4-1 and bring on Yeates to get him 10 minutes sharper.

With 5 minutes to go Donny sub John Marquis takes the ball down in the area from a Calder cross, but his shot has so little power that Bobdrick could do that piss-takey slow-motion “Wait until the ball trickles towards you and then do an overly dramatic dive onto it” thing. But he doesn’t. He’s a professional.

nolan

post donny

Next up is Gary Johnson’s Cheltenham. Curiously they’re going for a “Doncaster Lite” sort of vibe, playing the exact same formation that we’ve just faced. No problem then, same again please boys. The only change we make is that Robertson, back from suspension, comes back in for the shaky will.i.am’s Son, who shares none of his father’s confidence or self assuredness. There’s also no place on the bench for Mark Yeates, whose whole foot has presumably turned into one massive blister, because he’s out again for up to 11 days. Brad Potts nabs his spot on the bench now that he’s just about over his own injury.

cheltenham formations

Less than a quarter of an hour in and we’re looking good again, Dwight Tiendalli picks out Danny Philliskirk with a whipped cross and the latter places it under the keeper to put us 1-0 up. 10 minutes before half time though Waters gets the ball out of his feet 20 yards out and drives a Cheltenham equaliser into the bottom corner.

Half time comes and the game is deadlocked at 1-1. And maybe it’s arrogance, maybe it’s shame that I’ve already abandoned my dream of Swashbuckling Football in favour of a more practical, conservative approach, but I swap us back to the 4-2-3-1. We’ll try to hit Cheltenham on the break with pace on the flanks. The dynamic Jones and Potts replace the solid Pugh and McAllister. I’ve thrown the dice but I can’t yet see what I’ve rolled.

I get a hint 40 seconds after the restart, when Barthram waltzes down the right wing, swings in a cross that Bobdrick comes for and misses, and Wright somehow misses the open goal. It should be 2-1 Cheltenham. My stomach turns as I realise my naivety. 3 minutes later another good chance is squandered by Dickie as his shot is deflecting wide.

20 minutes from time we commit men forward for a throw in, which we promptly waste. What follows is woeful: Waters is allowed to move unchallenged through the centre of midfield, and then plays a pass out to Barthram, who may as well be in a different county to any of my players he’s in so much space. Our defence is wide open and Barthram carries the ball into the area before slipping it back to Waters, who makes it 2-1.

Jack Redshaw is my last hope, he replaces the ineffective Billy Clarke and will take Philliskirk’s place up front while Danny drops onto the left. We attack, commit men forward, go direct, but the game’s gone. I may as well have just taken Clarke off and played with 10 men because Redshaw’s only contribution is a wildly uncontrolled pot shot from 25 yards that soars high and wide.

post cheltenham2

There was no need for us to change from the safe, solid tactics we started with, but I opened us up and painted a big red glowing weak point in our defence to be exploited. This is exactly what happened to Roberto Martinez. Crucially though I intend not to let it happen again.

The good news is that Doncaster also lost. The bad news is that they lost to high flying Wycombe, who take our place at the top of the tree while we drop to 2nd. I feel sick. James Coppinger’s laughter rings in my ears. I’ll learn plenty from today.

post cheltenham

Original video version of this episode here:

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Back in Frangerine - TFD 2/7

“They say that you’ve got to hit rock bottom before you can start to climb back up to the top” he begins. My heart sinks. For fucks sake Billy.

“Franjo?” inquires a young journalist. She’s wet behind the ears like me and visibly shaking with nerves, so I smile kindly back and invite her to continue. “How on Earth have you convinced Billy Clarke to come back?” She continues with a smirk. My smile fades. The other journalists lean in with anticipation, but when I open my mouth to respond, no words come. I glance to my right to see that Billy’s looking at me sympathetically. He leans forward towards his microphone:

“They say that you’ve got to hit rock bottom before you can start to climb back up to the top” he begins. My heart sinks. For fucks sake Billy. “I remember the feeling when me and the lads got this club promoted to the Prem. Then that bastard Ian Holloway got cocky and decided he didn’t need me. The rest is history isn’t it.” Don’t think I didn’t see that half-a-second-smile Billy. He’s taking the piss. I can feel myself sinking lower and lower into my chair. This is bloody tragic.

I signed Billy on Deadline Day from League One side Bradford where he was transfer listed, but I still had to shell out £300k, my record spend so far. He’s a versatile and talented attacker and I’m hoping that he’ll pay us back by giving us a creativity boost in the final third. And yes, he was here once before when Blackpool went up to the Premier League, but was dumped shortly after. He seems at peace with it. Who doesn’t like Ian Holloway?

clarke

We’re sat in 8th after a mixed start to the season, just 3 points outside the automatic promotion spots with 11 points from 6 games. We have a game in hand over most of the league too so I’m not too worried. Anyway my focus is on the next match: a trip to lovely Yeovil.

pre-yeovil

fixtures

There’s something nice and non-threatening about Yeovil. They’re sitting at 21st after a shoddy start to the season, so we should be able to gain a bit of momentum here. Having said that, 2 of my best performers so far in Michael Cain and Danny Philliskirk have gone and got themselves injured and won’t be back for the best part of a month. Potts comes in to cover for Cain and Young Jack Redshaw starts up top for us. He’s been described as “The Maradona of Lancashire”, but not very often.

redshaw

yeovilformations

We’re behind within 14 minutes when a decent Yeovil move sees Dawson release Whitfield with a cheeky through ball on the right, and his low cross gives Tahvon Campbell one of the easier chances he’ll get this season. Just after half an hour though a not too dissimilar move sees Brad Potts’ brilliant pass latched onto by Owain Jones, who crosses in low for Billy bloody Clarke to get his first goal back in Frangerine!

Half time, and a switch to counter attacking football to combat Yeovil’s irresponsibly high back line. Kyle Vassell replaces Mark Cullen in a tactical shuffle that inspires Dwight Tiendalli to give away a penalty within 5 minutes of the restart. Dixon makes no mistake and we’re 2-1 down. 5 minutes later Owain Jones levels again after a great pass from Redshaw, and 10 minutes after that Jones fizzes a cross in for Vassell who tucks it away!

We shut up shop after that, bringing on the calming yet minimal influence of Danny “You hurt my feelings by stripping me of the captaincy” Pugh, and soon after Billy Clarke fizzes in another cross for Vassell to tuck home. 4th goal of the season for him and the game is won.

vassell

postyeovil

Buoyed by our superb Vassell-fueled fightback, and full of candyfloss from my solo celebratory trip to the pleasure beach, I phone Charlie Adam’s agent to see if he’d been watching. He hadn’t. I inquire about the possibility of Charlie coming back to Blackpool, or I start to but he seems to accidentally hang up before I finish my sentence. I try him a few more times but then come to the conclusion that his phone died and go queue back up for the Pepsi Max.

chadam2

Saturday rolls around and it’s time to host Plymouth. I politely inform Mark Cullen that he’s dropped due to poor form, making sure to bring Brede Hangeland with me in case things get hairy, but Mark understands. He’s a good egg but he’s just not that good at football. The versatile Mr Potts takes his place on the left and Jim McAllister comes into the centre. A steadying influence I’ve called upon mainly to protect leads so far, McAllister is a player that I trust to do his job, nothing more and nothing less.

mcallister

plymouth formations

The game gets off to a less than spectacular start but a few minutes from half time Josh Tymon finds space on the left and swings in a peach of a cross, straight onto the head of Jack Redshaw who makes it 1-0.

At half time Kyle Vassell attempts to play the role of super sub again, coming on for Jack Payne, who is looking precarious on a yellow card, and straight from kick off we win a free kick just outside the Plymouth penalty area.

Gasps erupt from all corners of Bloomfield Road as the Blackpool FC goalkeeper, Bobdrick, starts to sprint from his goal and sets himself to take it. He’s already taken a couple this season and hit the bar with a particularly good effort during our draw with Morecambe. Could this be his moment? He counts the steps for his run-up, takes a deep breath, and… attempts a pitiful cross that is immediately cleared. “A CROSS?!” I scream, thrashing around as Brede very easily holds me back. “SHOOT, YOU DICK!”

As Bobdrick stops on the half way line to catch his breath after a whole 25 yards of sprinting back (Goalkeepers.) McKee picks the ball up for Plymouth on the left, prompting Bobdrick to set off once again towards his open goal. McKee fires one off from 45 yards, but it’s well wide. Close one though. Come on Bobdrick.

postplymouth

The final whistle calls an end to a poor match, but that’s 4 wins and a draw in our last 5 games now, and we sit in second, only a point behind Stevenage. We can still feel very good about our promotion chances. Probably less good about seeing Chadam back in a Blackpool kit any time soon though, he and his agent still haven’t got back to me.

endof2

Original video version of this episode here:

Swashbuckling Football – TFD 1/7

Sam Osayi-Brightual won’t be missed. There’s plenty more fish in the sea. And there’s even more in the pool. The Blackpool.

Blackpool. I’ve always liked Blackpool. If you ignore the weather, the tourists, the litter, the smell and the locals, it’s just your run of the mill, almost passable seaside town. The illuminated eye candy of that smudged area above Greater Manchester and Merseyside where all the towns seem to merge into one.

But beneath the deck chairs, the donkeys, the ice cream and the sun burnt beach-dwelling folk lies a beating heart. An organisation for the people, the jewell most coveted by these good, honest, working class folk.

Blackpool Football Club. Affectionately known as the Seasiders. I immediately feel upon arriving that I have returned home. I have found family.

Naturally within 12 hours of my appointment as Manager, my rebellious teenage “Son” Bright Osayi-Samuel (Who will henceforth be referred to as Sam Osayi-Brightual) tells me he’s running away from home. I set Danny Pugh, my inherited captain, on him with a strict brief to “Talk him down”, but he is frankly underwhelming in conversation with the youngster and accomplishes nothing. So after not very much deliberation and some fairly dishonest haggling, we agree that he’ll leave should his price tag be met by a “Bigger Team”.

The bigger team as it turns out are Aston Villa, a proud football club with a noble history, who I fleece horrendously by demanding £700k + 50% of the next sale. Sam Osayi-Brightual won’t be missed. There’s plenty more fish in the sea. And there’s even more in the pool. The Blackpool.

Our owners, the Oystons, have really shat the bed on this one. Unbeknownst to me the club are haemorrhaging money, and there is no plan to stop it. Unbeknownst to me, Blackpool FC are in crisis. I have however heard rumblings about the Oyston family so I make a point of refusing their offer of a glass of Brandy and a chat about my plans for the team, preferring to get to work sacking quite a few of the staff to make room for my own people.

I quickly bring in Brede Hangeland to be my assistant, to tower over and intimidate my enemies and to subtly spread the message that “If you want me you’ll have to get through Brede”. There’ll be no mutiny in this dressing room.

After also filling all of the less glamourous non-playing roles, I have some time to look over my squad. It quickly becomes apparent that serious surgery is required, and I leap into the transfer window with all the wild abandon of a man who does not yet realise the financial ruin that his new employers have inflicted upon his new club.

I can’t do my transfer dealings sat at home. Too many distractions. I wander down the seafront looking for a haven, a quiet place to do my deals. I stumble upon a cosy greasy spoon just off the pier that does bacon butties with crispy bacon and just enough grease. Weirdly they seem to have a classical guitar version of “Girl from Ipanema” on a perpetual loop, but it’s fine. It’ll become soothing theme music to my summer dealings.

I move first for free agent and former Seasider Stephen Crainey, setting aside the fact that he moves around the pitch with the same grace, elegance and speed of a Relient Robin with no tyres or engine, because of his footballing mind. He will be my inside man. The one who keeps order in the ranks, spreads wisdom, and treats us all to stories about what Charlie Adam and Gary Taylor-Fletcher were like in real life.

I smirk as I pull the captain’s armband from Danny Pugh’s grasp and hand it to Crainey. “First impressions matter Danny and you just seem soft.” I tell him coolly, purely to pour salt in the wound. He looks angry. I cower behind Brede.

Next up: A Goalkeeper. Both of the ones I have inherited seem much more suited to dodgeball than football so I stick them on the transfer list. Enter Bobby Olejnik, or Bobdrick to his friends. We snap him up for quite a hefty fee from Exeter but he’ll be worth it.

More new friends arrive in the form of:

Dwight Tiendalli: an experienced and versatile fullback snapped up on a free

Josh Tymon: a hungry and potentially brilliant young left back on a season long loan from Hull City

Owain Jones: a left footed, right sided inside forward on a season long loan from Swansea City

The inherited players that are in my thoughts for a starting place are:

Tom Aldred: a no-nonsense centre back and my newly appointed vice-captain

Clark Robertson: a some-nonsense centre back who may be able to help play the ball out of defence. Maybe.

Michael Cain: A dynamic box to box midfielder that my predecessor had signed on a season-long loan from Leicester City before I arrived

Jack Payne: a quality playmaker and another decent all rounder in the centre of midfield

Brad Potts: an enigmatic and versatile midfielder who I can’t really decide on. A ball winner, a shadow striker or an inside forward?

Mark Yeates: a quality and versatile attacking midfielder who I hold high hopes for despite the signs of age showing through. And the fact that we won’t see him for a while.

Mark Cullen: I believe my exact words upon seeing him were: “Sort of a weird Paul Scholes/ Tony Hibbert hybrid made in some lab in the North/West”. Harsh? Maybe. There are plenty of options to fill in for the injured Yeates, but Cullen’s my pick.

Danny Philliskirk: a modern, team-first striker, a hard worker and a good athlete

So at this point an image is burned into my mind: Blackpool can play beautiful attacking football in a fluid 4231 formation. We’ll have fast fullbacks bombing down the wings past a dynamic central midfield pair, and an exciting, creative, and clinical front 4.

And we burst onto the scene! In our first match, admittedly against an Exeter side who had not adequately replaced Bobdrick, Owain Jones makes an immediate impact, scoring in the 5th minute. He’s joined on the scoresheet by Tom Aldred, Brad Potts and Danny Philliskirk and we’re 4-0 up in just over 12 minutes. That’s how it stays for the remaining 78 minutes but that’s already plenty. Josh Tymon bags 2 assists, Dwight Tiendalli is both solid and threatening, Michael Cain runs the midfield, and the team I inherited is full of good options to try in the coming months.

A triumphant first game in management, with a pinch of new-signing-vindication. I reckon we’ve just laid down a marker for a massively successful first season in League Two. I reckon we’ve got a good quality squad and a great chance of Promotion. And I reckon we can do it playing Swashbuckling Football.

Original video version of this episode:

The Frangerine Dream

Welcome to the Frangerine Dream.

Alright guys,

Thanks for stumbling upon/ looking up/ being forced to read my first attempt at a blog.

I am known by many names… Franjo Kazooie… Franic at the Disco… Frangela Franaconda… but Franjo is fine. And this is my attempt at transferring my experience with Blackpool FC from the screen to the page.

There are 7 episodes coming. There’ll be joy, there’ll be tears, and to be honest there’ll be ghosts.

Welcome to the Frangerine Dream.