Things are going alright, aren’t they.
I’m thrilled with what Andy Thorn has brought to the role, and frankly, he’s done enough in my eyes to warrant the job on a permanent basis. Thankfully this is a sentiment with which we’re all agreeing with, which is nice. Although I’ve no idea where this notion of an 18 month contract has come from. What a daft figure. “Here you go Andrew – we’ll commit to you until November 2012.”
What Thorn’s done since he took charge is remarkable, really. He’s taken a bunch of players who’d had the confidence and quality sapped (and no doubt, trained) out of them, and turned them into a genuine football team. All too often a new boss will come along, and that honeymoon period will be enough to see them through to a few decent results. Everyone has a spring in their step, but really the fundamentals won’t have changed, and as soon as things get a bit iffy, the team returns to its regular state of looking like a bunch of arses (we’re all familiar with the pattern).
You only have to look at how the team is playing at the moment to realise that it’s the result of something a bit more substantial than boundless optimism and new-manager syndrome.
I always liked Aidy Boothroyd’s ambition, and stand by the view that it’s one of the keys to success for our club (as opposed to this “we need 3 years to build before we should expect to compete” bollocks). It became clear near the end of his realm that he lacked the professional tools to implement his undeniable ambition, however. With Thorn, it looks like we have someone who shares a similar desire to Boothroyd’s, but who has also realised that you’re not going to bash your way to success, and work needs to be put in to cultivate the technical quality of our squad.
Just look at the top 6 at the moment – QPR, Cardiff, Norwich, Reading, Swansea, Leeds. Full of pace, fast passing, and they all value possession of the ball above anything. This wasn’t top of Boothroyd’s agenda – players would only have the ball at their feet for a split second before hoofing it, so it’s not surprising when they were required to do something more elaborate (like take on a man, heaven forbid), they looked poor.
Thorn is embedding a culture of high standards amongst the players, and a pride about the style with which they play the game. He seems to believe that this is the right approach for the club to take to get to where it wants to be, and I concur. If smashing the league to pieces proved to be the most likely method for success, I’d say go with it, but it’s clearly not any more. You get a reputation, and Marlon King just gets sent off all the time.
This new style of play might be disconcerting for some of our fans, and my observations so far show that some are struggling to know how best to support a team that likes to pass the ball about a bit.
Annoyingly, the attitude amongst many supporters is still tuned towards this direct, get-it-forward-right-away style of play, which isn’t helpful and must require a fair amount of strong-mindedness by our players to ignore it. Sure, not everyone is like this. But in a crowd of 16,000, if half are being all loud and rushing the players, and the other half are sat there shaking their heads at the loud ones – surprisingly, the players will only notice the squealers.
If you’re reading and wondering what in Mike Tyson I’m going on about, case in point being Saturday against Millwall. Throughout the game, whenever the ball landed at a City player’s feet, anywhere within 40 yards of the opposition goal, all you’d hear is the drone of thousands of City fans urging them to “Shooooot”. Now, bloody hell fire everyone, that’s just daft.
Now, I’m not saying players shouldn’t shoot from long-range. Of course it can sometimes be worth a go, and we’ve been guilty of simply passing the buck in the past. But my point is this: when the ball arrives on Richard Keogh’s left peg and he’s 35 yards out, please don’t bloody encourage him. You see how excited he gets. He’s so impressionable, he’s just going to have a smash at it, miss the target, and most importantly, give the ball away needlessly.
Good old Sammy ignored everyone in the stadium on Saturday and we were rewarded. The ball dropped to him on the edge of the box, and instead of trying a hugely speculative effort (as demanded by the reams of impatient so-n-so’s in the crowd), he looked wide and played in Richard Keogh. This opened things up, and provided a far improved chance of scoring a goal, which Marlon King was duly able to convert.
That’s just one example, but it happens countless times every match. Yes, it was funny with Richard Shaw and we all had a tremendous laugh at that. But if Andy Thorn does get the job, and continues to embed this footballing mentality amongst the players, we’ve an important part to play in buying into that mentality too.