Reasons for Optimism. Or Pessimism. Or Both.
There are lots of reasons why I shouldn’t be writing this. They’ll become more obvious as I go on, but in short what follows might just be a case of football fans’ blind optimism taking hold over reality. Nonetheless……
I think, despite the long-running chaotic decision making by those at the top of the club, we might (only might) have grounds for optimism IF we avoid the drop. It may well be that I’m getting carried away on the back of Tuesday night at Bolton and the previous two victories. Is Garry Monk the new Rowett only not as negative? Or has he just had a bit of luck that his predecessors didn’t get? Time will tell.
So why am I optimistic? Well, firstly, for the first time this season it is now more likely that we will stay up than go down. Secondly, the players who have been much maligned this season (to the point that some, myself included, were giving Steve Cotterill the benefit on the basis that the summer transfer kitty had been almost literally poured down the drain by others) have finally started to show that they might be, by and large, good value for money. On Tuesday night we controlled the game for 70 minutes until the sending off and then played out 25 minutes of defence versus attack relatively comfortably. An easy victory it was not (there’s no such thing) but the old cliche about good teams being able to go away, keep it tight, nick a goal and take the points definitely applied at the Macron.
But one (well 3) swallow does not a summer make. Our squad has been criticised for being unbalanced by both fans and previous managers alike. And it is. A bit. But when you look at the bigger picture and chuck in returning loan players, it looks like a decent mid-table-possibly-have-a-go-for-the-playoffs outfit.
Goalkeepers: Polish Tom & Stockdale. Hard to improve on. Sorted? Yes.
Full backs: Colin, Grounds, Harding. Good Championship players. Josh Cogley? Still not sure. Kieta back as reserve left back? Not sure he’s good enough, but the boy’s got ability. Sorted? Pretty much.
Centre backs: Morro and Dean are currently immense. Roberts decent back-up if, like the rest of them have under Monk, he recaptures form and confidence. 4th choice Dan Scarr. Harding can play there too. Sorted? Yes.
Centre mids: We need Digga signed up on a new deal. Dutch Mike. Ndoye. Gardner. This is where we struggle a bit with lack of quality. Three tenacious, aggressive ball winners who struggle to find a blue shirt from 10 yards (5 in Ndoye’s case) and Craig Gardner who’s the opposite – slow and lacking energy but with a range of passing. Monk’s 4-4-2 seems to be based on keeping it simple. So far Davis, NDoye and Kieftenbeld have done well, so maybe we’re OK here. Sorted? Probably (if we re-sign Digga).
Wide: Jota and Maghoma have been quality. Viv S.O. and Greg Stewart as back up. Sorted? Yes.
Up top: Juke, Adams and Vassell. And how about Fabrinni, as an option to play in the hole? Plan B and all that. Sorted? Yes.
People will pick fault in this. Fair enough. It’s all about opinions. Fans want to see new players; it sells season tickets and creates the buzz that we need in the ground. I get that. Monk might not fancy some of the above and if he wants to wheel and deal, great. Upgrade Kieta and Fabrinni and one or two of the CMs. My point is that on paper we’ve actually got a decent squad already. Better than any since Hughton’s play-off team perhaps. One which should achieve that upper mid-table nirvana we all crave.
However, the fact that we might achieve this in the apparent absence of any sound strategic judgement and good decision making by the Board must not be overlooked if we do manage a decent season in 18/19. Because all of my optimism becomes irrelevant when you stop and think about how very badly our owners and directors have performed in their roles over the last 18 months. Whatever happens on the pitch we must keep this front and centre. Especially when you factor in affordability and Financial Fair Play which are the elephants in the room I’ve conveniently ignored.
Sorry to end on a downer. Blues though innit?