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The Old Man's Back Again

It was Andy’s birthday on Monday. His birthday usually falls on or near the FA Cup 1st round, so in previous years he’s been ‘treated’ to trips to Gateshead (which was at least a good weekend in Newcastle) and Mansfield, where their social club was advertising their Christmas do featuring ‘unofficial Peter Kay tribute Lee Lard’. I don’t know why I thought making him get up on Sunday morning and go to Wrexham would constitute any half decent kind of birthday present. I hope he at least liked the socks I got him.

As an additional treat, he was in the Granada Reports clip that got quite a bit of attention online, drinking lager in the North Stand car park when the takeover was announced. For what it’s worth, I didn’t think Frank Rothwell’s “I don’t know who the hell they are” comments were disrespectful, or embarrassing, or out of order, I thought it was funny, as was Ryan Reynolds’ response. There’s enough to be pissed off and angry about, enjoy a bit of light-hearted pisstaking (and a Hollywood actor tweeting a picture of one of Frank’s cabins) for what it is.

The match, predictably, was absolutely not worth getting out of bed on a Sunday morning for. We were sloppy at the back, barely existent in midfield and blunt up front, and I think we’ve established that Magnus Norman was not the problem in goal. We conceded soft-as-fuck goals yet again, and if it hadn’t been for Wrexham taking pity on us and easing off in the second half it could have ended up being a rugby score. And on top of everything else it took half an hour to get a pint. I’m sorry, Andy. I promise we’ll do something nice for your birthday next year. If you haven’t filed for divorce by then.

David Unsworth looked as exasperated and downbeat in his post-match interview as he usually is, bemoaning the team’s mentality – “we accept defeat, we accept goals going in at difficult moments”. Some people are concerned at his comments about being honest about where we are and preparing for next season, suggesting that means he’s written off this season and it’s too early to give up on promotion, but take a look at the league table. Writing off this season would mean preparing for next season in the sixth tier. There’s no doubt that we’re in a relegation battle now – certainly our recent form is relegation form – and while I’m still confident that we won’t go down, this terrible run we’re on needs to end soon. As was again reiterated in Suzanne Geldard's excellent interview with David Unsworth on Friday, it's a huge rebuilding job at every level of the club, and it'll take time. I'd rather we weren't doing it in the National League North, though. I don't think we will. I'd quite like a few wins soon to settle my nerves, though.

Another step was taken in (hopefully) the right direction this week with the appointment of Steve Thompson as Head of Recruitment. It’s been clear as day that our recruitment was shockingly bad in recent years and we’re still recovering from that, and Blackpool fans say he was crucial in their promotion to the Premiership, so here’s hoping.

So, how has this week gone, recruitment wise? Well, midfielder Sydie Peck signed on a youth loan from Sheffield United. He must be good with a name like that. Ex-Arsenal. Highly rated. Sheffield United fans say he's good. Happy days.

When we're both working from home, me and Andy go for a walk at lunch time to get out of the house. Sometimes around the Clayton, sometimes around Boundary Park. Yesterday, while walking around the back of the Rocky, we saw the gates were open and had a wander in. Saw a player having his photo taken on the pitch. "oh, that must be the new lad, Peck. Looks older than I thought. Seems strangely familiar......" Why, yes, he IS familiar. And he is NOT on a youth loan. Peter Clarke is forty years old, my friend. And how delighted we are to have him back. It was utter idiocy to release him when we did, and the manner in which we did it was classless. Maybe he won't be as good as he was for us last time; maybe his legs have finally gone. Or maybe he'll be exactly what we need, organise us at the back, provide the leadership we need and maybe get a few goals. Welcome home, Clarkey.

Finally, it would be remiss of me to not congratulate Matt Dean, Dave Bradley and Andy Halliwell, who on Monday picked up the Fan Media of the Season award for The Boundary Park Alert System! pod at the Northwest Football Awards. Matt dedicated the award to “a man of the people”, and you’ll have to listen to the pod on Monday to find out who that is, and got told off by Dion Dublin for being, and I quote, “arseholed”. Dave on the other hand got to dance with Calum Best. A proud night for everyone connected with the pod, and indeed the club. Seriously, they provided a vital platform for fans when it was desperately needed, Hercule Halliwell's investigative work has been exceptional, and they can be rightly proud of the role they've played within the Rebel Alliance. Congratulations lads, well deserved.

I may end up regretting saying this, but I'm feeling strangely optimistic ahead of today's game. Things are - slowly - going in the right direction off the pitch, and it's unfair to put too much expectation on one player, but bringing Peter Clarke back should be a huge step in the right direction on the pitch. At the very least, he won't be leaving without thanks or fanfare this time. Give him the welcome back he deserves. Keep the motherfucking faith.

Written by Arlene Finnigan. Image © Oldham Athletic.

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