Cheer up, Mark McGhee!
By Matt Rowson
Not since England's defeat of Holland in 1996 have the nation's football fans been so united in joy and celebration. The young and the old hit the streets, singing and revelling in wild abandon. At such times, football is truly a special, magical thing, the worries of the world being completely, if temporarily, dispelled. Above all, the UNITY is wonderful... the extension of the football stadium common thrust to the whole country (No wonder Tony Blair wants the World Cup in 2006). Yes, indeed, moments such as this are to be treasured.
This preview is dedicated to the memory of Mark McGhee's managerial career. Ha ha ha. Party on dudes.
When GT left Molineux and McGhee blustered in from Leicester making sweepingly disparaging comments about the situation he inherited, two things were immediately obvious. Firstly, a man making excuses for himself before his feet are under the table is never going to lead from the front. Secondly, particularly evident to those of us with any knowledge of how GT runs things... McGhee was talking nonsense. Bunkum. Poppycock. The man was a fraud.
Football's history is littered with frauds. Add to McGhee the names of Michael Knighton, Christian Gross, Trevor Senior, and the shady Ali Dia, who got a game for Southampton by convincing Graeme Souness that he was George Weah's cousin (hilarious - why didn't I think of that ?).
Worst of all, the duff copycat sticker albums that pathetically aped the magic of Panini in the early eighties. I mean, really !. Rubbish little stickers that didn't even have the player's name on with useless glue on the back that lasted about a month. Half the players hadn't even been caught at the club photo shoot and were caught in "action shots"... I remember Martin O'Neill at Forest being captured in one particularly unflattering grimace.
One of the features of Soccer 81 was that clubs in divisions below the top flight were awarded one solitary sticker. No team photo. No shiny club crest. Just one individual player, arbitrarily selected to represent the hopes and emotions of thousands. So it was that for several years Mervyn Day might as well have been the only player Orient ever had... and Derek Hales was noticeably prominent in back-garden simulations featuring Charlton Athletic.
Stockport County (that took a while) would in the present day be represented, undoubtedly, by Brett Angell. Now in his second spell at Edgeley Park following varying degrees of success at Southend, Everton and Sunderland, Angell would undoubtedly top the responses in any "name a Stockport County player" poll (with the runner up, "Errrr", a distant second). A large, blunt striker, Angell hit form to spectacular effect at home to Port Vale on Sunday, his hat-trick securing a 4-2 win.
Angell's strike partner in recent games has been Ian Moore, one time next-big-thing salvaged by Gary Megson from that graveyard of promising careers, Nottingham Forest. Moore is sharp, quick, and sadly suspended for Saturday having been sent off recently in a clash with another old club, Tranmere Rovers. His place will either be taken by Graham Branch, another ex-Tranmere man, or Stephen Grant, who came off the bench to score a fine goal on Sunday.
Before Sunday, County's home record had been particularly poor, their only previous league win at home being against Grimsby at the start of September. Principal criticism seems to be a lack of imagination in the forward play, with little creativity to fall back on when the dependable high balls in to Angell fail to deliver results... this may or may not bring back unwanted memories of Goodison Park to the big striker.
Paul Cook would appear to be the chief source of inspiration. The former Wolves and Coventry midfielder was balding in his early twenties, which is perhaps why it's surprising to find him still only 31.
Also available in midfield are former trainee Aaron Wilbraham, and on-loan Rangers midfielder Derek McInnes, signed as cover for the injured ex-Wrexham man Wayne Phillips. The defensive unit is tight, with skipper Mike Flynn alongside Tony Dinning and Jim Gannon... these three have clocked up well over 600 league appearances for County between them. Another option in central defence is Martin McIntosh, but his recent sending-off took him over the points limit also, which by my calculations is a three match ban, excluding him from Saturday.
Wing-backs are Sean Connolly, recently a target of Birmingham, and Colin Woodthorpe, once a charge of Megson's at Norwich City, whilst goalkeeper is Carlo Nash, the man whose emergence spelled the end of Chris Day's Palace career.
County are also in the market for new players, with all sorts of rumours flying around including recently (and abortively) that of local lad Paul Warhurst. Gary Megson has recently taken five Swedes on trial... so it looks like he's trying to establish County some promotion credentials !
Stockport are no mugs... they finished above McGhee's Wolves last season (hurray !) and will be difficult to break down. But win or no win last weekend, they're not too hot at home... once again the fixture computer could have been a lot less kind as we emerge from our injury crisis.