All I want is to be a football fan and focus on talking about the game and everything else that happens on the pitch, because that’s all I believe a fan should have to care about. I’m old fashioned like that. And frankly, why should we be experts on business, politics, communications and everything else that’s needed in football club management nowadays?
The problem is, when you see such a direct relationship between the actions of those in charge and what you have to watch every game, it’s very difficult to ignore and pretend it’s not important.
You then end up throwing 14,000 thoughts into a single blog post and expect it to somehow render into some sort of coherent pattern. That’s very unlikely, but here goes…
I bought my season ticket before the end of last season as Andy Thorn was developing a neat and progressive football team. Fast-forward a few months and that entire machine has been dismantled beyond all recognition, and I feel conned. Now I’m not saying I wouldn’t have bought a season ticket anyway – of course I bloody would – but they weren’t to know that.
At the end of last year, I didn’t expect all or any of the big three contract rebels to stay, and we were well aware of the financial difficulties facing the club. But at the time of early bird prices, we were all lured in by top performances, new contract “offers” to King, Westwood and Gunnarsson, a contract for a popular manager, the transfer embargo being lifted and host of other positive messages, all designed to take advantage of our desperation for things to get better.
Nobody expected the strategy for the next season to be “accept and prepare for relegation”. The swines kept that quiet didn’t they.
The club we have now is the fruits of Sisu’s four years. It’s no surprise we’re in the position we are when you look at the approach to running things.
All key decisions over the last four years seem to have been driven by the fast buck – never football. Look where that’s got them: ticket revenue way down due to non-existent progress season after season, and thanks to an innumerable collection of short-sighted decisions, we’re now left having to sell even more assets to offset the wave of valuable players who we’ve spent money on but have left (and will soon leave) the club for absolutely nothing.
You don’t buy a good house, use it for three years and then give it away like some sort of millionaire madman. You also don’t buy a house that you know will appreciate in value and you’ll get great use of, only to sell it to the first person who offers you something for it. Not the best metaphor, but you get the idea.
There seems to have been no understanding of the fundamental importance a successful team on the pitch has to the success of the business off it. I’m loathed to reference what was said in the weeks following Ranson’s departure, as there were so many lies to navigate, but I don’t believe anyone denied that RR was against selling the majority of players when we did. His hand was forced by the investors – the faceless card-holders who entered into this venture in the hope that they could make lots back, nice and quickly.
Blew up in their face, didn’t it? Onye Igwe, is the genius leading the Sisu brigade. Only problem is, he’s not a football genius. I think it’s fair to say that Sisu saw other people were making money on football clubs, and were desperate to get involved, with Onye to advise them along the way.
That poor leadership from the top has left us where we are today. The argument we often hear is around the money that has been invested in the club. I don’t dispute that they have invested money. But how about the money they have then lost due to their inability to keep their own house in order or develop the product? They’re even so daft they think that by offering everyone in the squad a new contract now, this will show us that they’ve learned from their previous mistakes, and everyone will be jolly pleased about that. I say they – heaven only knows whose idea that actually was, but they’re obviously providing the funds for it.
Doesn’t matter that the squad we’ve been left with is rife with players who aren’t good enough, who haven’t earned a new deal and would be released if the decision was a footballing one. They’re not assets. Nobody is going to pay any money for Carl Baker.
But no, we can’t replace these players, ‘cos if we let them go now, we’d have to pay them off. Or if we kept them in the squad, we’d still need to pay their wages, which we can’t afford to do on top of others. So we have to bloody well keep them. Until the end of time itself.
Don’t forget the football..
The pragmatists tell us in suitably vague terms that this is “just the way it is” and “we can’t afford any new players” and that we should “face it, we’re a relegation team”. I’ve heard this for years though. Someone has to be accountable. If this team is a relegation team, what the bloody hell were the teams that included Dann, Westwood, Fox, Gunnarsson, King, Best, Ward and the countless other players who have gone on to better things? Oh yeah I forget, those were all “building years”. No improvement was required. We were never allowed to expect any better. I’ve spent the last three years asking the same question: why if they have invested so much in the club, were they not demanding any better?
Some of this lack of ambition came from the top, and some is an inherent losing-mentality across much of our fan base. There’s never been any attempt to quell this way of thinking though, which really gets me. It trumps all, filters through to the players, and year upon year we ended up with a disgraceful finishing position because of the lack of drive, vision or commitment to actually get anywhere.
So how is that Sisu’s fault, you may ask. Well for the length of their ownership it’s all been about short-term gain. They’ve not once shown a genuine commitment to the development of the football team. If you go to the fans forums, you’ll hear talk about extra curricula money-making schemes, development projects in the community, ‘innovative’ ideas for communication and getting local businessmen involved to shape the club. They’ve done this for four years, all whilst accepting the poor performance on the pitch and contributing to the club’s downfall with incompetent management of contracts, morale and investment.
Everything was short-term, except the expectations set for the team performance, which was always played down as “steady improvement” and judgement deferred until a later date, after yet another building year. Which is in fact, every year.. except this year – as the next one is on hold until after they’ve watched (and accepted) us being relegated. Ken Dulieu told us this the other week too.
This naive approach to football club management served only to increase the underlying layer of mediocrity that has crippled our club since the day we were relegated. It’s riddled to the core with apathy, acceptance of failure, and an overwhelming stench of incompetence from owners who have shown themselves to hold the power at the club, and very little else.
As fans, we’ve evolved into one of the most curious bunches you will see. There are so many conflicting messages, I find it hard to follow. We applaud the opposition players and boo individuals in our own team. Sometimes applauding every time they touch the ball, as we saw with Gunnarsson last night. We’re a nice crowd for opposing players to play in front of. We sit proudly and applaud attendances of 13,000, as we like to acknowledge the people who “have turned up”, rather than feel total shame and embarrassment about the thousands who can no longer be bothered. We give grief to the good players, the players who are all now playing or have played in the Premiership (Best, Bothroyd, John, Ward, Barnett), while adoring those who play out most accurately our own gallant loser mentality on the pitch. Andy Morrell, Robbie Simpson, Michael Doyle – all legends for the effort they put in. None of them made it anywhere near the Premiership, because they weren’t good enough. Too many of our fans made life very easy for this type of player, and an absolute nightmare for the ones who could have made a far greater contribution to the club. Just because they didn’t run around the pitch like a lunatic, or have the appearance of a “trier”.
We’ve had good enough players to achieve something during Sisu’s time at our club. But at the important junctures, they broke up the team, allowed poor performance to go unjustified, and eventually ended up with a club limping towards oblivion (also known as admin and League One). Now most of the fans aren’t in the slightest bit gripped by the club to pay to watch them anymore, and of those who do still turn up, there’s little solidarity between the people who thought we shouldn’t have been aiming for mid-table each season, and a majority who prefer inane encouragement and thinly-veiled loser-speak.
“Great! It’s another point closer to safety” is heard too often rather than “we’re good enough to take the lead in 8 games, we should be good enough to go on and win some of them too”.
Yes, whilst not the best squad in the league, many of our players should still be performing a lot better.
It’s a giant mess (as you can tell by the jumbled up nature of this post) and what’s most worrying is that it’s one that Sisu don’t seem to care about fixing anymore. We’re just having to sit and watch all of this happen.
And if things weren’t bad enough – if you protest against any of this, you get your bedsheet taken off you.