So, NA takes proper charge of his first game up in the wilds north of Blackpool tomorrow. And one could be forgiven for feeling a little bit, well, cautious…
If we’re being honest, I can think of better fixtures to have to get our season kick-started, although now wouldn’t be a bad time to start. Just imagine what a 0-0 full time result would do to our somewhat fragile confidence?
At least it would be a point, and that we can keep a clean sheet. To do it at a place where you expect we’ll be beaten most times anyway (this is not the Fleetwood we stuffed in the Conference playoffs) would give us just that little bit of momentum and self-belief coming into Brizzle Rovers on Tuesday.
And even if we do lose at Highbury, what I want to hear from people who go is how much more solid we looked, and how getting on a run will be a case of when, not if…
We undeniably have problems, the league table doesn’t lie after all. But the biggest problem is this : if one was to look at the W-L-D record, there’s a pretty grim pattern. We win a game, we lose the next two or three. Or more. Worse, we expect it to happen.
The last time we had a run of two games without defeat? 21st April, when we beat Torquay. And we were practically demob happy by that stage anyway. The time before that where we had a similar run? 13th March, when we beat Bradford City in the little run we had after THAT Plymouth game.
You can work out how many we lost from last season and this campaign yourself, but no matter how you spin it, one thing is clear – that is a long, long, long time to have such a run of results.
This is why the next three games may end up being a watershed moment in our season. This week, NA basically threw the proverbial gauntlet down to the players – they have a clean slate, but they have to break that cycle of losing and quick. Otherwise, they’re gone.
Whether that means they’ll be making the dreaded loan out to Sutton United remains to be seen, but they now have to put up or shut up. Some will rise to the challenge, and some will fail. As is usual with life under new regimes, some previous underachievers will step up to the plate, and others who you thought were indispensable suddenly become passengers. Maybe one or two who were close to the previous regime should be worried about their futures?
And for those who do fall down, I have zero sympathy for them.
You can’t say that our new management team aren’t putting in the effort on the training ground. Double training sessions, especially when it comes to fitness, are the sort of things you want to hear us doing, and with luck will pay off with results.
Reading that link, it does sound like we’re undertaking a second, more intense pre-season campaign. We shouldn’t have ballsed up the proper close season, of course, and I think I’m still going to be bitter over the damage caused by it throughout this season. But it’s better late than never, and thankfully we didn’t wait until Xmas to change things.
Certainly Seb is making the right noises, and you get the real sense he wants to improve and push on. He has been one of the most disappointing players this season, and for him at least it’s a great chance of redemption.
His comment about the Gamesbreaker software is interesting – we have it installed at games, apparently, and while it’s reportedly quite a dated bit of software we’re going to need every little boost we can get right now. Although one senses that because our management team are from the modern era, they won’t be scared of turning on a laptop…
Whether the other players will follow suit in knuckling down, we don’t yet know. It is their Football League careers on the line, after all, and if they don’t take it they only have themselves to blame.
What will be tested most in the next few weeks is our collective attitude. Do you want to stay up and progress? Do you just want to hide and sulk, because you can’t hack it as a Football League player? Do you have the character to get yourselves out of our hole? These are questions that will be asked in one way, shape or form, and our squad had better answer them.
As somebody at the Dagenham game said, we need men in our team and all we have are little boys.
That isn’t necessarily referring to age, either. Look at George Framcomb – he’s 21 and he’s putting in the effort so that his parent club sees him as a future star. That’s a good attitude, and that’s part of the reason why he’s signed to a big club.
Actually, think about our loanees for a minute : what do you think they’ve made of the last six weeks? They’ve had three different bosses to deal with, which must put their parent clubs on edge, yet they’ve knuckled down and become our best players in this shit time. I’ve no idea what that tells you, except that some of our proper squad members should be feeling ashamed.
Still, we can happily overlook that if we start pulling away from the bottom and start to finally look like we belong in the Football League. Even if our record ends up being an average of W1 L1 D1 over the course of the season, that will do me. We won’t go up, but we won’t go down either.
While I don’t think we’ll get through the next three games unbeaten, it would be nice to think we can. The best thing NA may get us to do is for us to have a boring campaign, and if we can develop that mentality, we’ll be all right. Not to mention everyone being a lot more relaxed during the season.
Besides, we can start looking forward to things like cup runs. The FAC first round gets drawn on Sunday, so no doubt we’ll get Franchise or Stevenage. After all, we never get one of the genuine glamour ones, do we………….?