I’ve a whole load of thoughts going around my head at the minute. Let’s start with the obvious. We weren’t very good for the majority of Saturday’s match, but having miraculously levelled it at 2-2, we should have taken some points from the game.
Instead, we went against every footballing cliché in the book and passed up the opportunity to beat top of the league. You wouldn’t mind if they suddenly turned on the style and blasted us out of sight. At least then we’d have an excuse and could say that we did our best. We bloody well didn’t do our best though. Goals 3 and 4 were an absolute effing nightmare. Southampton are a very good team, but we didn’t make them earn the result. Unlike us, they don’t need a second invitation to win. Having pulled things back with a spirited display after half-time, we immediately fell back into our regular routine of throwing away any advantage we find ourselves with. We handed the three points to them on a giant penalty-area sized platter.
Okay, that’ll do. There’s my swift assessment of the match. Now for the more general musings that have occurred to me since all that..
Bread and butter
It’s becoming clearer with each passing game that we’re struggling because we have players who are unable to do the simple things. They may seem like insignificant margins, but we’re talking first touches that stray a couple more feet away than they should. Passes that instead of going into the path of a run, make players back-track, or take two more touches to get it under control. Taking a split-second slower than an opponent to react to a situation, leaving them with a couple of metres advantage.
These things are rife in our team, and we had it for another 90 minutes against Southampton.
Surprisingly, we found ourselves enjoying a few moments of luck going forward, following our own sloppiness. The most noticeable being when Juke’s horrible attempt to bring the ball down turned into a lucky bobble for Big Clive to slam home the equaliser. This couldn’t mask the fundamental issues though. Basic core skills that too many of our players are struggling with. I said it in my last post, but the things that should be natural at Championship level, aren’t coming quite so naturally to our players this year.
We’re sinking right now. It doesn’t have to be this way though.
SISU have invested a fair bit in the club, I can’t dispute that. However, they have also been responsible for making poor football decisions at important junctures, preferring to chase a quick profit at the detriment of the football team. I don’t subscribe to the view that they’re running the club how all clubs will be ran soon, so we should just accept our fate. Frankly, I’m tired of there always being a reason why we City fans have to accept the club failing.
To remedy our descent, Thorn has been told he’s allowed to make a single loan signing. An embarrassing gesture by all accounts, and one that gives a bit more clarity to a few things over the past six months or so.
One thing that is now abundantly clear is that the new contract offers to Westwood, King and Gunnarsson that the board were so keen to tell us about last spring, can’t have been much more than empty gestures that they’d never have to deliver on. If we’re struggling to afford a tiny percentage of a Premiership teenagers loan wages this season (at a point when we have reduced the squad size exponentially and the big three have left the pay roll), how exactly would we have afforded the contracts of each of those players? It doesn’t really add up.
I just can’t figure out SISU’s motivation right now. As things stand, we are going to be relegated to League One. That’s as clear as day. The squad lacks the depth to compete, meaning we have to rotate one out of form player for another in an attempt to freshen the team up after each bad performance. The pragmatists out there tell me that that’s just the way it is, SISU are saving all their money, and we should just accept it because we ain’t no good.
There will never come a point when I accept that relegation to League One is the best thing for our club though. No club needs a Russian Billionaire to stay in the Championship. No-one is asking for that. As I said after our woeful August, we just want to be given a fighting chance. It doesn’t feel like we’re even getting that right now.
I was on the way back from the match on Saturday, listening to the plonker brigade, when in called a particularly feisty woman who was livid, not by the result, but by the fact that the players were booed off at half-time.
“You should support your team!” she said. “Booing your players off at half-time is a disgrace”.
Well, I disagree. There was no victimisation of individuals here; it was a general sound of disapproval for the worst first-half of football of the season so far. Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea – their fans all boo their teams. Because they have standards. Are we not allowed those?
This idea that supporting your team is simply offering them relentless cheers and praise is one of the reasons why our club hasn’t achieved in so long (here he goes again…) The culture here is one of mediocrity and acceptance. We were like that in the Premiership, accepting that we were always going to struggle, and this mind set soon transcended down to each season in the Championship being dubbed a ‘building year’.
The worst thing we can do for the team this year is let them think that we’re happy to accept relegation. Achievement is all about maintaining standards and ensuring that no matter what happens behind the scenes, and what players are on the pitch, that there is a certain standard that we expect them to perform to. If they play like a bunch of wallies for a half, they need to know that we’re not going to sit there and applaud inanely – we’re the ones who’ve spent the money going to watch them. Watching football matches is a whole load of pantomime, so it’s not like you can offer them any cogent advice. There’s not much else you can do from the sides but push them on in the only way you can. A bit like a jockey’s whip, minus the physical pain.
And if you want to see the impact: Players booed at half-time against Southampton, come out in the second half and pull it back to 2-2.
Would they have had the same motivation if we’d applauded and congratulated them on their magnificent first-half, even though it was utter garbage?
Would they shite. They’d’ve come out and performed exactly the same.
There’s your twelfth man.