Sunday, 31 October 2010

Strange behaviour in the Darlington dugout

What is the point of any away team's manager getting involved with heated banter and bickering with the home fans? The very idea that a manager would even bother seems ludicrous. What possible good is ever going to come of it in terms of the team's performance on the pitch?

Some context. Yesterday I was at AFC Wimbledon v Darlington. The first thing to say is that Darlington got their tactics right, worked their socks off and were probably deserved winners. But Darlington manager Mark Cooper's conduct in the dugout was really bizarre.

Stood in my usual spot on the terraces behind the dugouts, I get to hear a lot of what the managers say during the game. I pick this spot because I find Dons manager Terry Brown's continual encouragement of his troops to keep calm and play attractive football rather heart-warming.

Opposition managers - Crawley's Steve Evans aside, obviously - have generally conducted themselves in a good manner this season at Kingsmeadow. I had always been under the impression that Mark Cooper was an intelligent, forward-thinking young manager - but that was not the impression I left with yesterday.

Some fans behind me were giving Cooper a little bit - and I emphasise the words 'little bit' - of stick, largely about how things hadn't worked out for him as manager of Peterborough. Cooper was giving a bit back for some reason, but it was largely harmless at this point. Then one fan quipped "How much dodgy money are they paying you at Darlo?", or words to that effect. Cooper's response was quite surprising.

He paused for a moment, then turned around and snarled: "About one-hundred-and-fifty grand, tax-free, ah-reet?!"

It's one thing to banter with the away fans - as the likes of Dagenham keeper Tony Roberts regularly demonstrate, you'll quickly gain widespread respect if your banter is good - but to spitefully start boasting about your salary just because a couple of fans have harmlessly taken the mick... as you can imagine, the fans took a real shine to Cooper from this point on.

During the second half, the manager continued to argue with the home fans. There was a lengthy debate between Cooper and the fans over a free-kick in Darlington's favour. And at one point, responding to a throwaway comment from a Dons fan, Cooper crowned his afternoon with a really bad 'Your Mum' joke aimed at one particular fan. And not a funny one either. How much is a manager's mind on his team's performance if he's coming up with crap jokes about supporters' mothers?

One final point. While Cooper remained a distracted presence for large periods of the game, his assistant Richard Dryden acquitted himself well. For much of the game it appeared that Dryden was calling most of the shots. On a couple of occasions it even appeared that Dryden had overruled Cooper on a couple of decisions. I'm sure it wasn't quite as it seemed, but there's no question that Dryden was the only one of the two that was fully focused on the game. Indeed he was the only person in the stadium who realised what had happened when the referee gave Darlington a penalty for more-or-less nothing in the second half.

Apologies if any of this sounds like sour grapes. Darlington did play well, with some impressive performances from the likes of Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, Chris Senior and live-wire substitute Daniel Powell. But their manager's behaviour was just plain odd.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Great footballing names: Max Power

A few weeks ago, some of you may have seen me prattling away on Twitter at the fact that Tranmere Rovers have a player – a local lad and highly-rated scholar of their youth team – who goes by the glorious name of: Max Power.

“Max Power. The man whose name you’d love to touch,” goes the Homer Simpson ditty (in Simpsons Episode 216 from 11 years ago, where Homer decides to change his name to Max Power after noticing it on a hairdryer). Here’s the lyrics and a clip I found on Youtube, in case you’ve not seen the episode.

“Max Power — he's the man whose name you'd love to touch...
But, you mustn't touch!
His name sounds good in your ear
But when you say it, you mustn't fear
Because his name can be said by anyone!”

According to Soccerbase, Power is yet to make his first team debut. But he does have a squad number (22) and was on the bench against Southampton at the weekend. So it won't be long... brace yourselves.

If you are a Tranmere supporter then I urge you: learn the Max Power song, teach it to your mates, and the first time the lad first runs onto the Prenton Park pitch, sing it at the top of your voices. Hopefully it will end up being sung at him on a regular basis. 

But this isn't just a blog by a man amused about another man because he has a good name. There is more to enjoy about the Wirral's Max Power. Like the fact that three years ago - when just a scrawny Scouse scamp in his mid-teens - Power set up his own Youtube channel. Here he announced himself to the world thus: "My name is Max Power. Am 14. I play for Tranmere Rovers FC. I like meetin birds and love makin funny and mad videos." 

A budding Nick Broomfield he is not, but regardless here are my three favourites:

1) Max Power slaps his mate. For a laugh, like

2) Max Power pranks his sister during the night

3) Max Power and his school chums belting out "You'll Never Walk Alone" on a train

You can imagine that last one getting dredged up if he ever signs for Everton. That's some serious Red-loving passion in Power's face on 57 seconds. If only Youtube had been around in Jamie Carragher's Everton-supporting teenage years.

Anyway, like the Homer song, this blog doesn't really make sense. I just wanted to be the first person to write anything significant on the subject of Max Power the footballer. If he makes it big, you heard of him here first. 

Even without the Simpsons episode, the name conjures up memories of the laddish car magazine of the same name - the one you used to see sitting on the passenger seats of souped-up Vauxhall Novas with fancy hubcaps and Ford Fiestas with silly spoilers on the back. The merest mention of the name Max Power will always make us smile. Look, I'll prove it to you. Here are three random and otherwise fairly mundane mentions of the lad in what little press coverage he's had so far:

  • "In contrast to Southampton's resources, Tranmere manager Les Parry had to put 17-year-old academy player Max Power on the bench."
  • "It was a miss that was followed by a lull in the proceedings until Max Power drilled a shot straight at Bouzanis after a neat exchange with Ryan Fraughan on the half hour mark."
  • "The Rovers side also included keeper Andy Coughlin, who was on the bench during a few first team games last year, and captain Jay Gibbs, though hotly-tipped midfielder Max Power missed out."

See?  :)

I'll leave you with The Simpsons family's reaction to Homer's name change - because if this ridiculous idea for a blog post has achieved one thing, it's probably been to make you crave watching the whole episode, and I cannot bring you that. 

If you are reading this and you happen to know Max Power, or indeed if you are Max Power, please get in touch. I’d love to do an interview with the young man whose fledgling career we will all surely be keeping tabs on. Even if it's mostly because we'd really love to touch his name.


Lisa: "Max Power"?
Homer: Dynamic, isn't it?
Bart: I love it, Max.
Marge: You changed your name without consulting me?
Homer: That's the way Max Power is, Marge. Decisive. Uncompromising! And rude!
Marge: But I fell in love with Homer Simpson! I don't want to snuggle with "Max Power!"
Homer: Nobody snuggles with Max Power. You strap yourself in and feel the "G"s!
Marge: Oh, Lord.
Homer: And it doesn't stop in the bedroom. Oh, no. I'm taking charge! Kids, there's three ways to do things. The right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way!
Bart: Isn't that the wrong way?
Homer: Yeah, but faster!