Let's hear it for the boys - part two

Cod Almighty | Article

by Tony Butcher

24 June 2022

They signed in hope of a better life and a better life we now have.

There's a mixed bag of sadness and shrugging shoulders as ten contracts are not renewed. Some were here ten minutes, one was here eleven years, but they all deserve a mentions in despatches, to be memorialised for posterity.

We now have time to stand and stare at those bit-part actors, extras, voice artists and special guest appearances who made up the numbers and contributed at leisure to our pleasure. Every little helps.

Here are the final five with various levels of emotional attachment and detachment.

Luke Spokes
Signed September 2020 (from Taunton)
Appearances 20 (8 as sub) 1 goal

The last of the Holloway Mohicans, the Brizzle boy arrived in secret amidst a blizzard of new boys, none of whom still exist in our world.

Kept on by Hurst, even played by Hurst in the forlorn scramble of late Fenty failure. Young Luke briefly glistened and glimmered, blasting a belter at Barrow:

"Matete with all the right angles tangled up in Blues. Hendrie threw, Lennie arm-bobbled pestily on the left angle and looked to his right side and saw Luke. A tip back, Spokes spanked a ripper straight into the top left corner without passing go or touching the sides."

Every dog has his day.

In 2021/22 he was loaned out to Boston and Spennymoor and now he is no more.

Luke Spokes, a willing worker, but just a bit too slow for the New Generation.

Erico Sousa
Signed 22 June 2021 (from Darlington)
Appearances 37 (6 sub) 2 goals

After arriving in an enticing video blizzard of hops, skips and jumps, The Irishman, Mr Sausages, the Portuguese man of straw, a bargain basement Raheem Sterling, turned out to be all flash in a very small pan.

He scampered and twirled, he slalomed and whirled, but…but…but the cross sailed on by, the pass was a parcel undelivered, his shots piffled into the ether. A season of promises that rarely delivered, for there's barely an assist and just two goals. A header at Maidenhead in September, a tap in at home to Aldershot in February, were the end of his product.

But his existence seemed to send invisible shivers running down the spine of the opposition, attracting moths to the light so the dark artists could ply their trade. OK, just McAtee.

Erico Sousa, he's so cute. He worked hard, he tried hard but it is hard to see how he would be consistently useful in the Football League. He did his job, which was to help Town get outta the League of Gentlemen by distracting the defectives.

So farewell Eric O'Sousa, thanks for the memory of a season of mellow fruitlessness.

Lenell John-Lewis
Signed 31 January 2013 (from Bury), left 29 May 2015 (for Newport),
Re-signed 1 February 2022 (from Hereford)
Overall appearances 149 and 36 goals, with 18 appearances (13 as sub) and two goals in 2021/22

Lenell John-Lewis his name is a…

Ah, Lennie, likeable, loveable Lennie with the super wide smile and genial demeanour. He came, he went, he came back, he's gone again.

How can we summarise our life with Lennie? With Lennie as the leader of the pack Town almost got promoted in the triple play-off woes of 2013-2015. And when he was gone Town got promoted. Our nearly man, don't worry take your time, don't hurry.

Lennie’s best season in stripes was 2014/15 when the accidental goal machine propelled Town into the play-off showdown with Brizzle Rovers. It all started so well with the quintessential Lennie goal: he misses but scores with a ricochet off his nose as he fell into the flightpath of the keeper's save.

If ever a goal epitomised a player then that was it.

Time to think is time to miss and Lennie's first stint was over as he was "snapped up" by Terry Butcher for Newport. Poor old Lennie, his body began to rebel and the rest of his career is a mate’s rescue as Paul Hurst signed him for Shrewsbury, then Josh Gowling signed him for Hereford. And then he was back to his spiritual home for one last hurrah.

Lennie tried, but Lennie hadn't lost that Midas touch, that spiders touch. He's still King Midas in reverse. He even scored goals. GOALS! Four of 'em in the doomed attempt to pull Town out from the Holloway hell hole.

This season he turned out 18 times and even scored goals. GOALS! Two of 'em in a glorious week of late-blooming Lennieness. How few can say they were there for the end of an era. Well, he can still take a penalty can our Lennie. The crowd were laughing with you Lennie, honestly, at Bromsgrove and then, a week later, his cool rolling against Yeovil kept Town top of the shop.

We all know Lennie and love Lennie for what he is: effervescent and enthusiastic, the shopping trolley clattering down the aisles on a mad dash for the tills with a big smile and a big heart but also some big misses. You have to be there to miss 'em and Lennie always was.

We'll miss him in his own way. But we'll always have John-Lewis.

Daniel Rose
Signed 31 August 2020 (from Swindon)
Appearances 26 (3 as sub) No goals and no point

They flutter behind you your possible pasts, some bright-eyed and crazy, some frightened and lost.

Broadway Danny Pose arrived in a hail of Hollow Man hailing about being a leader, a serial winner brought in as the enforcer, the rock around which the young guns would go for it.

And what a pedigree! Man Utd's reserve team captain and promotions at Newport, Fleetwood, Northampton, Portsmouth and Swindon. With Danny Rose satisfaction was guaranteed.

And then we saw him play.

He did do a good tackle once. Just the once. His legs moved but I can't see why he was playing for Town.

The return of Hurst saw sense returning to the madhouse and, well, we haven't seen your face around town awhile. Mad Dan was soon despatched like a disposable nappy, not even given a squad number for this season and he spent the dying days of his once pristine career stuck in internet conspiracy theories whilst quarantined in Darlington.

Well Danny Rose, tell me that you're happy now as we turn our backs with nothing to say.

James McKeown
Signed 2/7/11 from Peterborough via South Holland (Boston) and Real Holland (RSKV Leonidis)
Appearances 506 Some own goals

Eleven seasons. Eleven seasons as our keeper. That says it all, for longevity leads to legendary status and tells you all about the character of the man.

He lives in the town, he loves the town and we love him despite his flaws. But now it's the end of the affair, let's do it with dignity. He wasn't perfect but for most of his time in our lives he was perfectly fine.

Let's start at the very beginning, it's a very good place to start. Young James followed Shorty and Shouty from the Fenland funfair in Boston, signing as a back-up to Kenny Arthur and his glove puppet theatre. By the time the season started Jamie Mack was our number 1, our second to none and he never looked back, although sometimes it would have been a good idea with that striker lurking behind.

And there be the rub of the green for Mr Clean – you just knew that a calamity was around the corner.

Through thick, thin and thinner James McKeown proved himself to be an excellent non-League keeper, one of the better ones around during our previous sojourn in the swamplands of the Bananarama. Alas, the law of the lower leagues is that there's always a flaw: and with Jamie Mack that was an aversion to crosses with a hole in his bucket that was only ever covered with gaffer tape. It'll hold for a while but when it collapses your feet will get wet.

The clues to his eventual demise were there in 2016 when Town got back in the League last time – a replacement was found. He wobbled when Dean O'Henderson appeared and only a sudden recall averted a mid-season walkout. He survived the Bignotian turmoil, the Sladian sludge, the Jolley japery and the Hollow Man horrorshow. He was there throughout, the last man standing. Why?

Because he was integrated within the fabric of Town and the town. He became one of us. His demise, though logical, is sentimentally unsettling. Shame really, he would have been a perfectly adequate number two to Mad Max Crocombe and his extendable limbs.

Oh my what a blooper reel you could draw up from eleven seasons of flipping and flapping, slipping and slapping, but hey, who hasn't made mistakes at work? You and I are lucky that we're not televised. The Gateshead play off semi-final; Danny Collin's rollerthon at home to Forest Green; nutmegged by a daisy at Southend last season; and wouldn't we all like to forget his superb finish from a tight angle at home to Carlisle. The final straw and the start of the final countdown for his life in stripes was the Solihull defeat, the culmination of a run of concessions that were stoppable.

He made saves you know, loads of them, that's why he kept on being kept on. The errors were ridiculous, but he could be sublime, that's why he stayed such a long time.

James McKeown an adopted son of cod: a Town player, not just someone who played for Town.