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The Bard of ECFC

About Rob Casey

Rob Casey is the Bard of ECFC, the club’s poet in residence. As a stand-up poet, writer and performer he can often be seen and heard delivering verse across the city and throughout the South West, including as host of Apples and Snakes’ spoken word shows at The Bike Shed Theatre.

As the publicly appointed ‘Bard of Exeter’ in 2016/17 he was commissioned by the BBC to produce a poem for Devon on National Poetry Day. He has also featured on a football podcast, as part of the band ‘The Least Worst Candidates’, and currently writes for the political website He drinks tea and lectures in Creative and Professional Writing at Exeter College.

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2017/18 Poems

Step one: Select your foe.
No giant relishes perishing,
though some will put up more fight than others.
The biggest barely try,
which is why a giant already bruised
by its larger compadres may give way
more readily.

Step two: Lure them to you.
Giants prefer their giant world,
with room to s-p-r-e-a-d out.
Don’t let them. Get them to come
to where you’ll be well suited
but giants might get frightened
and may soon turn to the tissues
when forced to confront
their own intimacy issues.

Step three: Identify their weak points.
A giant lacking confidence may retract
when attacked with a low blow early on.
Faced with the threat of a pride scything defeat,
they’re likely to retreat when weakness is spotted
and exploited.

Step four: Initiate mind games.
Remind the giant of its size.
Then remind them of yours.
It shouldn’t even be a contest, yet
every step when they get pressed
is a niggling sign things aren’t going fine.
Oh dear. How awkward.

Step five: Enjoy the moment.
If steps one to four haven’t proven effective,
it’s probably worth just savouring the occasion.
There’s a reason giant killings
aren’t attempted too often.


They say it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
But the season’s more a series
of fifty plus half marathons,
with mini-sprints, shuffles,
jogs, runs and scuffles.
And that’s just to queue at the bar.

Post-Christmas comes the litmus test.
The second half has started
yet without the chance to rest.
Who’s saved their best?
Who’s peaked too soon?
Who’s out of luck?
Who’s opportune?
Who’s just absolutely knackered
and needs a speedy substitute
(and chocolate)?

It’s a game of two halves,
but a year in two parts
with no break.
Is there depth to the squad
or just faith in a god?
For our sake
I’ll take either. Whatever works.

The second half has started,
for better or for worse.
So who will find another gear
and who’ll steer in reverse,
or simply stall?

There’s nothing left in these old knees,
so I’ll just take a rub down, please.
That’s all.

'Twas the day after Christmas 

'Twas the day after Christmas and all through the land,
supporters were gathering, filling the stands.
The Boxing Day fixture, a much-loved tradition;
at holiday time, a most welcome addition.

A chance for supporters to get out the house,
to burn off the Turkey and gas out the sprouts.
Escape from the family, needed for some.
For others the chance to let everyone come.

A time to show off all the new winter wear
and see if those undies kept warmth in down there.
For fans an occasion for festive delight,
enjoying the merriment football provides.

But more than all that, as we looked to the skies,
St Nicholas flew. It was quite a suprise.
And we heard him exlaim, as he turned with a spin,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to Grecians a win!"

Merry Christmas, Grecian Ones.

Goals are flowing all around us,

children watching, having fun.
‘Tis, our leader. We’ve had quite a year, eh?
Merry Christmas, Grecian ones.

Time for chanting and celebrations;
fans are cheering all match long.
Time for scoring, climbing up the table;
time for singing Big Bank songs.

We're gonna have a party next summer.
If we don’t get top three,
we’ll skip along the Wembley Way.
We're heading for League One.

Flags are soaring, Grecian’s roaring,
at St James Park. We love it here.
All I wish that every day was match day.
What a nice way to spend the year.

We're gonna have a party next summer.
If we don’t get top three,
we’ll skip along the Wembley Way.
We're heading for League One.

Goals are flowing, all around us,
children watching, having fun.
‘Tis, our leader. We’ve had quite a year, eh?
Merry Christmas, Grecian ones.
Merry Christmas, Grecian ones.
Merry Christmas, Grecian ones.



Pon De Replay

We're all just focusing on the next game,
taking each day as it comes hurtling
like a steam train with no brakes.
(Please stand back from the platform edge.)
Life has a way of moving come what may.
no tomorrow quite the same - 
no replays.

We'll never relive the highlights:
first bike, first dance, first kiss,
first... you know.
Gone. Done. Unbeatably unrepeatable.
Deliciously unspeakable, perhaps.
Alas, no more of that.

No chance to overturn the terrors
of youth's most unforgiving errors.
The awkward smorgasbord of blundering idiocy
will always be eternally unchanged.
(And just be grateful if your teens
pre-dated social media -
humiliation just a Google search away.)

Life stumbles on always anew,
with one exception
Among the peaks and troughs
the ons and offs,
are the neithers.
Some draws just draw out repetition.
Repitition for when competition
cannot endure more indecision.
There must be winners and losers,
life's victims and its abusers,

Our joys are not relived,
our failures unrepared.
But replays come when all is done
and judgement's undeclared.

And we all welcome another chance

You Can't Win Anything With Kids

You need experience, they say,
even experience of losing;
failing to find the winning way.
It’s not about the way you play.
It’s knowing what it’s like
to taste defeat. It’s getting beat
and staying resilient enough
to go and lose again.
Because you can’t win anything with kids.

OK, you might not win with adults either.
You might not be a great achiever,
but on the blend you can depend.
Yes, youth is fine when it’s combined
with plenty of experience.
That is the one criterion
for footballing success.

You’ll never be the best with youth,
and so good common sense forbids
that you should ever question truth:
you can’t win anything with kids.

Even if the kids are winners.
Even if they fit the bill.
They’re no more than mere beginners
who begin with greater skill.

You just can’t win with kids these days.
What do they know? What have they learned?
Well if the answer’s ‘how to win’,
then now, perhaps, could be their turn…

Football Is

Football is not about landing your helicopter on the pitch,

agents taking their ten per cent

to move you onto a better bench,

then refusing to play

for your six-figure weekly wage

because you didn’t get a birthday cake.
It’s not about naming an airport in your honour

accompanied by a statue that looks more like a melting Niall Quinn,

or keeping your millions in offshore tax havens

and retiring in your twenties just because you didn’t win.

Football is

about the love of it.

It’s about scoring the winner in a Wembley final

up against your mate’s dad’s garage,

or with a tennis ball in a hallway,

a scrunched-up piece of GCSE revision

just outside the exam room,

or (because it’s the only thing available

and sometimes you just have to play)

with your new Gideon’s bible.

(Definitely going to Hell for that one.)

Football is not a pastime.

It’s the place you pass time to get to.
It’s the reward

for everything else you have endured.
It’s your time.

And it’s everyone’s.

Football is setting your alarm

for stupid o’clock in the morning,

when everyone else is snoring,

to wash the kit, or cut the grass;

to clean the boots, to drive the car;

to make the food, check petty cash;

to find the whistle and your flags;

to paint the lines, to check the ground;

to tighten studs, to phone around;

to stand in when a friend is ill,

to love the game and be there still.

Football is grassroots.
It’s the real and it’s the truth.
It’s you and me. It’s old and young.

It’s boy and girl. It’s Dad and Mum.
It’s growing up and growing old.
It’s ‘Yes, I can,’ and won’t be told.
It’s on the pitch, behind the scenes,
and shaking hands and getting clean.
It’s more than age or class or skin.
It’s helping out and joining in.

It’s worldwide and it’s local.
It’s proud and very vocal.
It’s people with a passion.
A joy that can’t be rationed.
It’s a community that accepts you,
even if you’re Argyle.

Football is a way of life.
Football comes from what you do.
Football is the force inside.
Football is…because of you.

Bleaguered Fantasy

The board have now awarded me
the dreaded vote of confidence
They say I have their 'full support'
I'm stuffed. I'm screwed.
There seems little I can do
to stop them rudely pursuing
the 'mutual agreement' that means I jump
before I'm shoved.

I think they've had enough
of my mid-table mediocrity.
I think they're out of love
with my now terminal velocity.
But this is not the real life.
the league I'm in is fantasy.
I'm caught in quite a landslide, yet 
it won't escape reality.

You see, my albatross hangs heavily.
Each time I bring a player in...
oops, suddenly an injury.
My every move, a voodoo hoodoo,
dooming who you'd never choose to do it to.
Except I always do.
Ruining youth for club and country,
my fantasy's beleaguered.

Yet I can't help it. I'm addicted.
I've an instinct for more tinkering
and my inklings are all twisted.
So mishaps still keep happening.
with fantasy team power comes
great irresponsibility.
The chairman's looming over me.
'Just do it' he says, knowlingly.

I could stop any time. I would,
if power didn't feel so good.

Farewell, Old Friend

We’ve all got that one friend.

The one on which we can depend
for two things, at least:
firstly, they’re always there.
Secondly, they help us feel much better
about our own appearance,
if only by comparison.

While some are best aesthetically,
which doesn’t help our self-esteem,
possessing personality is,
in a friend, the perfect dream.
That thing called ‘character’:
a form of protection
from years of rejection.
You might have felt it building.

‘Cos hey, it’s what’s on the inside
that counts, right?
Or am I just being polite?

They might be more, say, sewage waste silo
than a classical statue of Venus de Milo.
Perhaps, instead, more frothing and rabid
than Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.

And how they ever managed
to be greeted down the aisle
is more of an enigma
than the Mona Lisa smile.

We’ve all got one friend like them,
maybe more.
And to some, we are that friend.
More oily rag than oil painting.
More riled goblin than Ryan Gosling.
Not known, shall we say,
to be a head-turner.
No whiplash claims here, thanks.

Yet, though we’d never want to
see them ever in the nuddy,
(and NEVER while we’re eating),
they will always be our buddy.
Our oldest friend. Our strongest connection.
The mate who claims our greatest affection.

So we will miss them.
Having teased and tormented them
when they were present,
the thought of their absence
now not quite as pleasant.

And the same goes for stands.
For so long a home to families of fans.
Many generations of celebrations.
Though, no longer in the plans.

It’s time to say farewell.
And if we’re honest,
yes, it’s due.
But one thing won’t be lost
once we’ve made way for the new.

Old friends won’t live forever.
Their passing can’t be spared.
But what lives on, when they have gone
(apart from the aches):
the memories we’ve shared.

An Unconditional Love

“You look deep in thought,” she says.
And she’s absolutely right.
My mind is on the problem
that had kept me up last night -
whether two holding midfielders
instead of just one sitting deep
frees up the front four
or puts more pressure on the wingers to stay wide,
leaving the top two

“Yes, sorry,” I say.

“No, don’t be.
I’d love to know what’s going on
inside that fascinating brain.”

“Oh. I was just thinking…”
about whether a lack of midfield width
can be adequately compensated by
attacking full-backs,
or if two well-organised banks of four
is a universal rule never to be tampered with.

“About?” she asks.

“About how beautiful you look tonight.
The way your natural symmetry seems
like the craftsmanship of a divine force;
like the fundamental laws of physics
are epitomised in your perfection,”
I say, still thinking of 4-4-2
and the way the pupils in her eyes dilate
like little dark footballs.


England, Champions of the World

Okay, kids. Pull up a chair and come and sit with your grandfather

by this hologram of a roaring fire.
I went to tell you the story
of how England became Champions of the World…

It was 2018, before Brexit and the Civil War,

when Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg was nothing more

than a humble backbencher,

and the debut grime album of MC Jeremy Corbyn

was not only unreleased, it had yet to be recorded.

Qualification had been easy but uninspiring.
The squad were young and expectations low.
None of us thought back then

Gareth Southgate would achieve such God-like status,

Joe Hart would find his greatest form,

our back four would prove harder to penetrate

than the end of a roll of Sellotape,

or we’d have a midfield more creative

than Picasso with some play dough.
We knew Harry Kane may beat Klose or Fontaine;

we just didn’t know he’d pass both in our first game.

It all came together like a dream.
And yet it really happened, kids.
You know I’d never lie to you.
It was the perfect afternoon.
The best I’ve ever been

playing FIFA 18.

So much better than watching the real England

crashing out in Russia.
We don’t talk about that.

The Last to be Picked

I bet I’m the last to be picked.
I’m always the last to be picked.
If only they passed, I might not be last,
but…wait for it…yep, there it is.
“And you can have him,” they inflict.
The words that we all could predict.
The dregs in the cup. Why bother turn up?
Again, I’m the last to be picked.

Will this time be different? We’ll see.
The last to be picked; is it me?
A new kid arrives. He’s blind in one eye
and only has one of his feet.
He’s also forgotten his kit,
but that doesn’t matter a bit.
The captain’s his friend, so I’m at the end.
Again, I’m the last to be picked.

Now surely, they won’t pick me last,
as finally somebody passed.
I scored on the volley. I bet they were sorry
to rule me out ever so fast.
I showed that I won’t be outclassed.
My goalscoring skills are so vast.
It’s time for the picking, for twisting or sticking.
They stick. And again, I’m picked last.

I’m not giving up quite so easy.
I may be too slow and too wheezy,
too useless, too clumsy - a sloth could outrun me -
and exercise makes me feel queasy.
But just once is all that I ask,
when being the worst is surpassed.
My moment of glory. A different story.
Get in! Yes! Picked SECOND from last.



Ladies and gentlemen,
The pitch is now our picturehouse;
the ground, the crowd -
our sight and sound.
The set has been dressed,
the red carpet laid.
So please take your seats.
Our show will be played.

A live-action drama -
no script has been written.
So who’ll be the hero
and who’ll be the villain?
And where will the twists
and the turns be revealed?
And when will our characters’
fates then be sealed?

Let’s turn on the spotlights
and draw back the curtains,
for now is the time
when there’s nothing that’s certain.
It’s time to get ready
for THE main attraction.
It’s showtime: the floodlights,
the cameras, the action.

If – Tis

If you can keep your job when all but Wenger
Are losing theirs, except for him and you;
If you can trust yourself despite fans’ tempers,
But make allowance for their tempers too;
If you can win some, lose some and draw many,
Go up, come down, but mostly stay each year;
If you can wait until the time is ready
For recognition to then reappear;

If you can watch—and not just do that only;
If you can sub—and not make subs your aim;
If you can meet with Perryman and Oakley
And nod at their opinions just the same;
If you can build a squad from home-grown youngsters,
As well as loanees and those gained for free;
If you can get them gelling, without blunders,
And playing proper football with their feet;

If you can buck the trend of boring clothing,
And ditch the trackies and the low-key suit;

If you can still look stylish when you’re coaching,
With matching shirt and socks, designer boots;
If you can wear cravats and mask your baldness
With hats and caps that make you look the shizz;
If you can effortlessly be the coolest,
And everybody knows you just as ‘Tis’;

If you can trust in values and an ethos
To work and play the way you know is right,
And never shun from looking like a peacock,
Albeit one who still looks great in white;
If you can fill the ninety-something minutes
Without the need to masticate on gum,
Yours is the league and a promotion with it,
But first – you’ll be Manager of the Month.

Top of the League

We’re top of the league, right where we should be.
Right there you will see, we’re top of the league!
We’re top of the league. It’s time to believe.
Just try to perceive, we’re top of the league!
We’re top of the league. That’s worth a repeat:
We’re top of the league! We’re top of the league!
I’m not gonna cease. The feeling’s unique.
Not gonna decrease. We’re top of the league!
The top of the league. We weren’t here last week.

But this week’s on fleek. We’re top of the league!
We’ve climbed to the peak – the top of the league.
A bit of a sneak to take a good peek.
The place that we seek is top of the league,

so now hear me speak: we’re top of the league!
Oh yes, it feels sweet, with four games complete.
The first month’s achieved. Who’s top of the league?
Oh yes, silly me! We’re top of the league!
We’re top of the league? Yes, top of the league.
The top of the league? As top as can be.
How top can top be? It’s top of the league!
OK now, let’s see. It feels good indeed.
No-one can exceed the top of the league.
We’re top of the league! A claim to make strong,

because, honestly, it might not last long.


We’re shifting from our fluid 4-4-2 cum 4-3-3
to see how a more liquid 5-3-2 cum 3-5-2
cum 3-3-2-2 will do.
Though, it might end up more 2-3-1-2-2

cum 2-3-1-2-1-1 cum 2-2-2-1-2-1
once we’ve begun.

And then, if we’re down to ten men,
it’s 4-3-2 cum 2-5-2
or back to 3-4-2 cum 3-3-3,
though really 3-3-2-1 cum 3-5-1,
or 5-3-1 cum 4-4-1,
depending on the score.

Ideally, our flat back four
will switch to three plus two,
making room for two more inside,
or one before the five,
each tested and well tried.
Unless, we decide to mix it up,
have three banks of three
plus one, to make it Dutch,
then concertina up the field.
Or will that be too much?

Perhaps let’s keep it simple
and try ‘the scattergun’,
so whichever way you look at it
we’re 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1.

Transfer Options

They say he’s got a dodgy knee
and knackered feet but, well, he’s free.

He’s English, old and kind of round.
The asking price: a million pounds.

He trained with Chelsea as a kid.
So that makes him two million quid.

He worked with Fergie for a day.
Five million pounds we’d have to pay.

His uncle’s been out to Brazil.
Ten million’s what they’re wanting still.

He once scored three games in a row.
His twenty million feels quite low.

It’s rumoured that his poo is gold.
For fifty million he’ll be sold.

His silverware? The Holy Grail.
One hundred million, he’s for sale.

He’s quite good looking, might sell kits.
Two hundred million surely fits.

And that’s the market. That’s the lot.
Or maybe stick with what we’ve got.

This Year

This year…is going to be our year.
This season’s the reason we’ve nothing to fear.
We’re gonna win the league, win all the cups,

win every game, lift trophies up.
We’re gonna do a Leicester 
but we’re gonna do it…bester,

‘cos this year…is going to be our year.

All we need’s a proper start,

a decent middle and better end.
And then, yes then,

we’ll have a side

to make the big boys run and hide.

If things come together

then we’re gonna be fine.

It might not click just straightaway,

but we’ll come good in time.

This year…is going to be our year.
This year…

or more likely next year, if we’re honest,

‘cos this’ll probably be more of a transitional year,

what with the ground and the squad and…
ut next year, for sure,

it’ll be our year,
as long as we don’t make a total pig’s ear

of this year.

Oh dear. What if we go down a tier?

This year…

well, who knows?
Let’s just see how it all goes.


When August Comes

Sod the sandcastles
and bringing half the beach back
in our cracks.
Catching crabs? No thanks.
Summer’s just a rest designed to prep us
for the real reason we pass our time.
It’s football season when August arrives.

Yes, when the weather’s fine, there’s still football;
we’ve got football on our minds.

The Test matches might tantalise,
while Wimbledon placates our cries,
but June is dull, and then July
just whets our growing appetite
for the beautiful game.
No, nothing else is quite the same
as when the gossip stops for play;
when August comes around again.
When Saturdays have a purpose;
there’s something to anticipate.
When August comes around again,
it’s finally been worth the wait.

We’re ready. So ready.
The football in our belly’s burning,
yearning for a run out with the sun out.
It’s more fun out when the league’s begun
than snorting pollen by the ton.
It’s all four seasons into one
and kicking off when August comes.
When joy returns to wipe the tears
and hope’s regained once it appears.

By far the most wonderful time of the year:
when August arrives and the football is here.


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