“If you have a plan, you have an idea it is better to stick with that.”
No. No it isn’t. Call me a moaner, a short termist, a reactionary, a bed wetter or whatever. I don’t care. I’m done with being diplomatic. This season we are absolutely clueless and it’s quite clear now that it’s our on field manager to blame. Look at that table. It doesn’t lie. Three wins all season, one against a team managed by a Non League coach and owned by a psychopath.
The debate on all sorts of Albion media this season has surrounded our league position. Was it a true reflection of our squad? Were we “too good to go down”? Had we had a particularly bad summer transfer window? The answer to the last question to my mind has been yes and you can find that opinion in other posts. However in fairness Tony Bloom came out fighting in the media but also provided some pretty good ammunition in the loan market. Elliot Bennett returned to a club that would love him even if he scored an own goal in front of the North Stand (he won’t, hopefully) while we also signed exactly what we were missing in a Premier League quality number nine in Darren Bent. Meanwhile CoG, Chicksen and CMS have at least partially come off the wage bill. The personnel is now too good to go down (not that this saved Wolves a couple of seasons ago) and what we are left with as an explanation for this latest defeat is tactics, managerial experience and a side with no belief or discipline.
It all started so well. Both trains to the ground were packed to the rafters and, on exiting at Falmer there was a sea of people rather than a smattering. There was a big crowd for a local game against a team we hadn’t played for eighteen years. The away end was full, the West Upper and North stands were noisy and so many friends and family had made the effort to come the drinks were divided in to mini rounds. The Boy was even more excited, particularly at seeing our new striker. We came out of the traps at full pace and forced four corners in quick succession. True, we’d forgotten to pick a midfield. True, we executed the worst free kick I have ever seen in thirty five years of following the Albion. True also, our new striker was an ankle’s width from giving us a lead with a header that hit their keeper rather than him saving it. True, we lost Lua Lua to injury early on. But we looked more complete with Bent in the side, winning headers and stretching the play.
Kit Symons’ half time team talk, however, must have been a fairly simple affair but it was brutally effective. “Close down the wide players and break in to the gaps” probably would have done it. Again. Or, weirdly, “wait for them to score” for we can hold on to a lead like a snowman clutching an eel. Where we had the better first half Fulham had the better second. And good old Simon Hooper the Bournemouth fan had a nightmare.
Yes, Fulham did indeed close us down out wide. We obligingly gave them the ball as terrible first touch followed terrible final ball. We obligingly took the lead, a lovely ball from Colunga finding Bent down the channel who slotted home on his debut and celebrated in front of the Fulham fans, waking them up as one so that they could get behind their side, a celebration that “Hoops” saw fit only to have a quiet word about. “They’ll equalise in a minute” I said when I’d finished celebrating. In actual fact it took ten. Ten minutes of retreating in to our shells. Ten minutes of an increasingly isolated and frustrated Bent coming deeper and wider for the ball. Ten minutes of bafflingly poor pass choices. Ten minutes of profane anger from the Fulham fans before poor defending allowed Rodallega to fire powerfully in the top corner to bring the game level. And that was us. One or two heads dropped. One or two others went in to overdrive, forgetting utterly their composure. It was only a matter of time before Fulham scored the winner and, fifteen minutes later, Christiansen obliged with a shot that took a massive deflection, leaving an otherwise excellent Stockdale enjoying the day against his old club, absolutely helplessly wrong footed.
There was still time for another bizarre free kick routine. Colunga, having been told to wait for the free kick took it quickly anyway. Hoops booked him. No, me neither. The retake went in to orbit and Colunga lost it totally. Just minutes later, chasing the ball in to the corner, he dived in needlessly and picked up a second yellow. And with us two-one down and in injury time he took forever to get himself off the pitch. This ridiculous behaviour is borderline asking for his contract to be cancelled and yet, what was Sami doing? Sitting on the bench. As usual.
That’s the point. That’s the reason for the attention grabbing post title. The squad has changed but nothing else have and you are left with the fact that Hyypia and Jones are simply too inexperienced to get us out of this trouble. The table doesn’t lie which is why I’ve posted it at the top of this. Our tactics are awful. We can’t hold a lead. The players are variously lazy, undisciplined, trying too hard, confused and frustrated. And we are unlucky and sometimes that’s enough to get rid of managers on its own. What’s Sami’s response? To stick to his guns. To sit on the bench offering less direction than a broken Tom Tom. “We are Brighton and we play only one way. Recklessly.” That’s why he needs to go and go now.
With every game I yearn to have Oscar back. How good were his achievements in hindsight?