Because you really love reading these…
We’ve had better weeks, to be honest, and not for the first time this season already – we’re going into a game with a much less positive frame of mind.
Suddenly, everything gets thrown into doubt again. Questions of tactics, fitness and indeed motivation have continued well beyond us leaving Bloomfield Road, and one wonders what the mood will be if Pompey do a number on us tomorrow.
And I haven’t begun on the Gills game on Tuesday.
All this you know already, but the reason for this update is NA’s pre-game comments on the OS. It marks a pretty large shift in tone, it has to be said.
No longer is training going well, which has been the usual soundbite. Instead, we’ve got phrases like “positions are up for grabs”, “people need to be on their toes”, “everyone needs to take responsibility” and “we need to buck our ideas up and do it quickly”.
If he’s saying that on an official club channel, then you can only guess what he’s said in private.
After Blackpool, however, I don’t think he’s had much choice. Even now, the way we reacted even before Abdou got sent off scares me – losing is bad enough, but the lack of character shown in chasing just a single goal down must have finally set the alarm bells ringing.
It was similar at Fleetwood, and I’m reliably informed Shrewsbury was even worse. And that’s a month of competitive games where for too often we’ve failed to be, well, competitive.
Did tempers finally boil over? Perhaps. This has felt beyond simply (failing to) adapt to a new style of play, especially as last season’s hangover over the goalscoring (lack thereof) still hasn’t gone away.
Will it work? It has to. I’m at Reading v Brizzle City tomorrow, so I want to get back afterwards and read that we’ve put on the best performance in a long while. All we want is a positive reaction – if we do that, the rest will follow.
It’s too early in the season to suggest it’s a must-win game, result wise, but it’s hard not to feel a lot of things rely on tomorrow.
Let’s take the worst case scenario for just over 24 hours time – another poor performance, and losing by the odd goal or more. Leave aside that we’ll have Gills in Tuesday to get that out of our system, it will start putting pressure on elsewhere.
It would suggest that NA isn’t getting through to the players, and he will be slowly starting to run out of options and ideas. You can bawl out your squad every once in a while, but do it too often and it just becomes background noise.
Once that happens, then our management team could start getting in trouble – as Terry Brown found out, not even an AFCW manager is immune from consistently bad results and performances.
Mind you, our squad is possibly taking matters into its own hands. Rumours abound that they had a session at a racecourse earlier this week, which I assume is a team building exercise.
There were plenty of comments after Saturday about the seeming lack of team spirit, so if there was an afternoon/day out then there was obviously some fire to go with the smoke.
You could ask why it got so bad this early in the campaign, or whether it was something we should have done more of during the pre-season. The “wheel of misfortune” thing we apparently have in training, where jokey punishments for misdemeanors are handed out, clearly fell as flat as Tyrone Barnett’s goalscoring exploits.
If it does work tomorrow, and again Tuesday – and it better bloody work on the 22nd – then we have learnt a valuable lesson for this season already. Yes, tactics matter, and an alehouse approach won’t work these days, but that’s only ever half of the ingredients for a successful team.
Our two most recent promotion sides had the team spirit and will to win that we don’t see at the moment. And in the case of the side that got us from L2 to L1, that only happened after THAT St. Evenage game.
Back then, it was a poor performance too far. Today may be different, but one feels a gauntlet has been thrown down…