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Heading South

November 2012 is starting to go the same way of November 2011, isn’t it?

This was horrible. The way we played well for 42 minutes then rolled over and died is deeply, deeply frightening. This was the sign of a side devoid of character, that when it went 1-0 down ran and hid, and is quite simply a squad that does not have the right tools to remain a Football League club.

January really can’t come quick enough.

How much we get to spend, or how many players we can get rid of, remains to be seen, but on this performance we may need to be even more brutal than we were this time last year. Back then, we got five players out and five in, and you have to believe similar has to be done.

We’ve got a new manager in, who has put in a more professional training regime, and has a new set of eyes and ears, and he still can’t do much with them. That it resembled the worst times of the ailing TB era is not co-incidental – it is after all still the same squad that our former manager scrambled together without much thought – but it has made our task of survival a lot harder.

Reality has hit us, and it really isn’t nice.

So, where do we go from here until January? The truth is, I don’t know. I will happily see us get over the 2nd December with the minimal of damage, because I really will be pissed off if our squad is throwing away games just to build itself up for THAT game. Our place in the Football League is far more important than just one poxy game against a poxy side, but sadly one suspects we’re fighting a losing battle on that score right now.

Post-Franchise, we have to travel to Barnet and Port Vale, and host Rotherham, Northampton and Oxford this calendar year. And what worries me is, we could very easily not get any wins from that. It’s starting to resemble twelve months ago again.

Then, as now, we didn’t have much mental spine in the side. I wonder what the hell NA was thinking as he drove into work today? We got a bit of a glimpse of that in his post match comments on the OS:

“I am not going to hide behind the injuries,” he added. “We have 10 on the treatment table and you look at the bench and there are young players who should not be thrown into a dogfight. But the performance was not good enough and too many players were worrying about themselves. We are working behind the scenes to see if we can do anything, but we already have six loan players so it is difficult to do too much at the moment.”

Bold bit mine, and you have to wonder if that’s what he’s saying in public what he is thinking and trying to do in private.

OK, we haven’t had much help from injuries (Byron was apparently only 70% fit last night). Though it sticks in the throat a bit when you hear about Pim being on the treatment table for yet another week, when many ITK were pointing out how much time he spends out stubbing his toe. And he’s supposedly on £1500 p/w with us.

We need all the fit players we can at the moment, but you just can’t rely on the likes of Pim to remain injury free for any length of time. OK, MMK has personal issues at the moment, but he’s another one who spends far too much time out for our wage bill to handle. And to be blunt here, injury or not you just can’t rely on Byron and Jack Midson right now…

And I haven’t even started on our lightweight midfield. The rumour mill is suggesting that we’ll go for Steven Gregory permanently in January. To be honest, I would rather we signed a hard bastard or two instead (or as well as). Maybe not so technically gifted but somebody who wouldn’t tolerate the shit we saw in the second half last night.

We may well have to do without Gregory until January anyway, if it’s true his loan period is coming to an end and we can’t extend it. Ditto Francomb, who one suspects will be back at Norwich. The loan deadline is tomorrow, although chances are we won’t be adding to the already far-too-long list.

And it is a list that is too full. But then, that just illustrates our woeful strength in depth right now, especially when you consider they’ve been amongst our better players so far. The more you analyse it, the more horrible this next 4/5 weeks starts to look.

Maybe the grind of the Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Monday-Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday run we’ve had hasn’t helped? It does seem like a permanent make-do-and-mend mentality right now, and because of it we’ve had to rotate and put paid to a consistent starting XI. OK, it doesn’t solve the issues as stated above, but it doesn’t help matters either.

I guess the rub of all this is that last night, we’ve gone back to square one. The goals we let in could have easily come at any point last season, which is as depressing to type as it is to read. What makes it even more painful to read is that for 42 minutes last night, we were doing it right.

OK, we were ineffective up front, although that’s another issue. But there was a genuine sense of injustice at half time that we were 1-0 down. People were saying we would get a draw, and they had every reason to believe it. If we had done that, we would be humming a different tune this morning.

But the way we folded just showed us all how mentally weak we are. And we all knew that anyway.

Anyway, we’ve got Morecambe on Saturday before THAT game, and to be honest I will be glad when the circus finally ends. There were loads of people buying tickets for the FrenzyDome, and reportedly we’ve sold close to 1500 of our allocation.

And that suggests an interesting dynamic for the whole AFCW supporting “thing”. Plenty of us aren’t going, indeed there are some like your editor who won’t even go and watch it on telly. But we now know there is a significant proportion of fans of ours who, when it gets offered, will put aside any reservations about “legitimising” them and go.

OK, I can’t find any AFCW fan who doesn’t want them to go bust. But a decade on, a significant percentage of our support have moved on enough to put supporting AFCW beyond any “principles” of not going. There seems to be an acceptance that they do exist, however reluctantly, and to not be there is just simply cutting off one’s nose.

Indeed, and this is one for anyone reading this who is going, is it a case of people simply wanting to move on? By 2.45pm on the 2nd December, we will have all collectively vaulted over the biggest psychological hurdle we will ever have to face, and I guess people are buying tickets so they can do it.

See, we’ve seen this club go from the CCL to the Football League, and we want to be defined by what we do rather than what they do. I honestly think many if not most of our fans just don’t want to be defined by how much they hate them any more. If they did to begin with.

Sure, the FAC game will be testy, and one hopes our squad of little boys turn up and perform. But I really do think that our fans just want to support the club without additional emotional baggage any longer. Christ, this is turning into a testing enough season as it is, without the additional pressures associated with this.

It took me ages to find a quote about moving on, but I found this one from Sarah Walters in “The Little Stranger”, which seems to sum the above up:

“And perhaps there is a limit to the grieving that the human heart can do. As when one adds salt to a tumbler of water, there comes a point where simply no more will be absorbed.”

We can’t be victims all our lives…