Five days and two defeats into the new campaign, and the waft of pessimism that blighted our pre-season shows little sign of relenting.
We acquitted ourselves reasonably well against Leicester, but not enough to prevent rumblings of discontent – during and after the match – about the way we passed the ball with no real incision. Personally, I see valuing possession of the football as one of the most important aspects of football, so you won’t hear me screaming when a pass has to go backwards. I’ll take that over wasteful long balls any day. Of course we’re not Barcelona yet – we’re a team trying to shake 8 months of endless hoofing out of our system, so it’s not going to be entirely fluid right away. It’s the right approach, though.
Annoyingly, we threw away a great opportunity to win that game thanks to the lunacy of Carl Baker (balloon head), and watched as the match eventually petered out to a rather tame 1-0 defeat. The anticlimactic feeling of an opening day defeat is a foreign one to us City fans. We tend to mess up most things, but the first game of the season? That’s usually a banker.
First round League Cup defeats to lower league opposition – now, that’s more our territory. Last night we continued where we left off against Leicester, this time allowing Bury off the hook, having initially taken the lead through Roy O’Donovan’s first competitive Sky Blues goal. While we could claim bad luck and blame circumstances for throwing away the Leicester game, this result offered a much more clear-cut assessment; we was rubbish.
Andy Thorn said it after the game, and while that doesn’t make it much better for the fans who made the journey to watch, at least he made no mistake in acknowledging that it wasn’t good enough, rather than hide behind it being the league cup (á la Boothroyd).
So what happens next? How the bloody hell do we get this season up and running?
Well, I think we’re all pretty clear on where the main issue lies. The squad really isn’t strong enough, especially in attacking areas.
We need a spark.
It’s funny. I’m not entirely sure how this came about, but I ended up watching our 2008 league cup game against Newcastle after the Bury defeat last night. Christ, there was real life in that team. We had 1st season Gunnarsson skipping about the place, Jay Tabb chasing everything that moved, and up top Clinton Morrison being an absolute bastard… but to the opposition as well as his own teammates, which in hindsight, was useful.
What struck me the most however was the shear nippy-ness of Michael Mifsud. He buzzed around the place, making runs inside and out, and made any through-ball a problem for the Newcastle defence.
Compare this with the current side, and you begin to realise just how sluggish we are. We’ve a number of good technical footballers, and plenty who will try their absolute hardest, but we’re missing that feverish pace. The closest we’ve got at the moment is young Cyrus Christie, who is at least giving us a genuinely purposeful attacking option, albeit it from right back.
We know we’ve got no money, but there’s 20 days until the window closes and it’s imperative we get some fresh legs into the squad. This shouldn’t be wishful thinking – it’s a vital part of running a football club. Young loan players, free transfers, anyone to breathe fresh life into the team and make it feel like the beginning of the season, and not that horribly inevitable period we usually go through around March-time.
Now comes the really obvious bit. Thorn needs backing. By everyone. We saw at the end of last year what he can do, even with a group of demoralised and tainted players. But there’s only so much he can can get out of the current group. Board, SISU, Hoffman – whoever the eff is going to end up making this decision – you need to realise that we’re not asking for much, but we can’t hope and pray our way through an entire season. Just one or two loanees to provide some fresh options to work with in attacking areas, and we could start to see the same sort of performances we were treated to at the end of last year.
Give the man a fighting chance.