Well, while I was spending my birthday in southern Germany finding out that we were being gubbed 4-0 at Plainmoor, and off the back of the Crawley debacle, I was ready to put fingers to keyboard upon my return to SW19 Towers and let rip.
But then I found out last night about TB’s wife, and suddenly real life struck its ugly head again.
One has to wonder how long he will be away for, although looking after somebody who is about to have a cancer op and the subsequent recovery time doesn’t suggest he’ll be back next week. Couple this with the reasons why our manager left Shots in the first place and he’s got to have some serious strength of character to go through all this again.
I’ve no doubt the club will treat him well, as they should – there would be absolute murder to pay if he wasn’t, put it that way – and when Kieran D posted on Twatter about how much he’s already discovered the family nature of AFCW, you can bet that people will be checking on him and his wife’s progress almost as much as the next round of results.
Perhaps that explains why TB was reportedly a bit “distant” with his subs and general demeanour after we went 4-2 down to Crawley? At least, in part. To have that hanging over your mind is bad enough as it is, let alone in a high pressure job like football management. One could speculate what happens long term, whether he puts family before football again, but right now you wouldn’t want to be in his position.
This all said, we cannot have ready-made excuses for why we’re shipping as many goals as we are. It appears that the period where we finally seemed to sort out the defensive frailties was in fact a blip and we’ve gone back to our reliably brittle back line.
One football-related side effect of TB’s current compassionate leave is what happens with plans for the January transfer window – something which is going to be one of the most critical transfer periods of the AFCW era as it was anyway. It’s surely beyond any doubt now thatÂ our defence collectively is quite simply not League Two standard, and it needs some urgent strengthening to something resembling a middling L2 rear guard.
If our manager is otherwise occupied, who calls the shots? Of course, we might be back to normal come the end of November and we can plan as per required, but at the risk of sounding a little bit callous, the timing of this isn’t the best.
The fact that both SC and SB are part time and both have regular jobs cannot work on anything other than a short-term caretaker basis. We train full time because we are a full time side (well, duh) and such a disruption is bad enough normally, let alone when we have a chronic issue in an important area.
One would hope that the “family” of players will bond together over this and at least try to keep out goals. I’m not saying that they deliberately go out to concede every game, but they need to find something they simply haven’t shown all season.
Perhaps it may explain why, when people talk about individual players at the back, there’s little general concensus. At least, bar near universal agreement that Jamie Stuart puts his bollocks on the line and Seb has literally saved us on more than a couple of occasions. If people seem pretty split about particular players, where does the problem of us shipping so many goals lie?
Is it just simply all round lack of quality? At least in a semi-decent defence you can tell who’s not good enough, whereas at the moment we can’t even seem to agree on who’s good and who isn’t. Jamie Stuart is a lionhearted defender when he’s not being slow and quiet. Sam Hatton is one of our best players except when he’s out of his depth. C-Mac has steadied the ship despite his constant costly mistakes. Chris Bush is starting to show promise, even when he’s looking raw and unfit…
Christ, we can’t seem to agree on whether FF returning will be good or bad. Or what we do with MMK – at some point, we’re going to have to make a decision on him. Do we keep faith with him or do we send him to the glue factory? At a time when we need more strength at the back, it will take him another month just from being match fit to becoming match sharp. And that’s assuming he doesn’t injure something else in that period.
Still, many decisions to be made, and many more to be thought about. On the pitch and off it too. Older SW19 readers may remember in 1977 that we struggled initially then bought some players with League experience. The rest turned out to be history. Although this did also mean the departure of Allan Batsford as well, albeit in far different circumstances to what we have in the 2010/11 season…
Many people have already written off Shrewsbury this Saturday, and are turning their attention to Barnet a week later. A crunch game at this stage of the season may sound somewhat hyperbolic but it could set the tone for a few months ahead yet. Get back on track and it makes life easier at this turbulent time. But if we don’t, some serious thinking by the club will need to happen. And if there’s one thing the club has proven so well since 2002, it is to make some pretty bold decisions if it needs to.
Of course, we might finally stop playing silly arses and go and do something at New Meadow. And wouldn’t that be a tonic?