Another draw. Another 1-1 draw.
Asked before the game for my prediction I said 1-1. It was supposed to be a running joke but it’s not funny any more. Asked after the game what I’d write I struggled. Just as I’m struggling now. Writers block. It happens to us all eventually. But how many ways are there to describe the same thing? Excuse this paragraph. It’s waffle. Maybe a coffee will help.
*pours enormous coffee*
Wait. I do that personal touch thing, don’t I? That account of my day. Well that too had a distinct draw-like feeling to it. Again the Amex was not exactly rammed. Again this made for an agreeably short pie queue and toilet queue and probably would have made the trains easier if Network Sodding Rail hadn’t sodding decided to do sodding engineering works meaning there were no sodding trains at all. The usual loveable lunatics behind us weren’t there and they appeared to have passed their tickets on to a group of young lads who spent the game colourfully discussing the uses of Viagra and other less legal drugs. Luckily The Boy and his friends were busy making up their own Lua Lua songs and giving the referee marks out of ten. I just hope he remembers that what is said at football stays at football. The Harvey’s was nice. We sang.
In fact, talking of the referee, he was excellent. Take a bow and have a gold star Mark Haywood. So often bloggers and writers (me especially) only mention the ref when he was terrible but yesterday the game was very well controlled and I couldn’t fault a single decision. It was reflected in a mark of five out of ten from The Boy. Normally he only gives them negative numbers. Andy D’Urso got minus twenty.
Also excellent were the Remembrance touches. From the poppies on the shirts and on the fences between the ground and station to the silence and the bugles, the observance was spot on and a credit to the club and both sets of fans.
But what can I say about the game? We looked good in patches. Tactically we were far better. I think Sami got the team selection bang on. We opened the scoring, once more from a set piece, against a big physical side. Credit to Gary Gardner who has had a hard time on these pages. That’s two in two games for him. Other individuals? Dunk was again excellent. Having gone in to the book early (which unfortunately means he’ll miss Norwich) he timed each subsequent challenge to perfection. Lua Lua worked supremely hard, drawing foul after foul and tracking back admirably. He’ll be shattered this morning. Also all over the place, and my man of the match, was Joe Bennett who caused Blackburn problems all day long. The sponsors, one of who is a good friend, chose Elliot Bennett as man of the match, and though I’d disagree with that I’d also say we have looked a better, and more balanced side since he’s joined on loan, and some of his runs and set pieces took me back to the Withdean days.
Then we conceded an equaliser early in the second half. Again. And we were unable to go back in front. Again. Thanks to some very sloppy first touches, very sloppy final balls and generally hitting the panic button. Again.
So, Sami in or Sami out? We go in to the international break in 20th but only one point above 23rd, having averaged exactly a point a game. As if I hadn’t laboured the point above. Aha! A point pun. That’ll keep them reading he grinned.
That’s not what I was expecting when the phrase Premier League Ready was coined and the giant Nike poster went up. That’s not what I was expecting when we were told what excellent managerial candidates we had in the summer, or when we were told to judge our summer deals at the end of the window. It has been what I was expecting ever since that abomination at home to Sheffield Wednesday. It has become normal, expected, inevitable. This is why, despite the adjustment to the tactics and the new personnel, I am still on the “out” side of the fence, but only just. We have put ourselves behind the eight ball and we are not overloaded with players who look good in a scrap. There needs to be a big change, and, yes, I am fully aware in writing that we have taken four points from the last two home games and that Blackburn are a decent side.
However, our league position is not just down to Sami. If ever you want an illustration of how far the squad has regressed look at the last minute substitutions yesterday. One time Albion target Gestede replaced by £8 million Rhodes for them (and Gestede was excellent, just the sort of player we are missing). Chris O’Grady on for us. Yes, Blackburn may be a financial basket case owned by crazy Indian chicken farmers but that is the sort of level of finance we are up against week in, week out. Failure to compete against it will result in relegation, and until the Academy is producing regular stars I’m not sure there is an answer that doesn’t involve those of us with very little asking Tony Bloom to write another cheque.
Meanwhile the much maligned (by idiots) Ashley Barnes scored Burnley’s winner in the Premier League. What we would give for a Barnes now?
Will the international break see a change in manager? The rumour mill has been at its peak this weekend. Andy Naylor says Sami is safe and that his information is from an “impeccable” source. Hopefully not the same impeccable source who told him Adam Clayton and Stephen Ward were signing. Another rumour – and it is only that – reached me via an ex pro that Sami’s departure was imminent. I have nothing to back it up other than to say the person who told me isn’t prone to nonsense and barely ever passes these things on. Then again these sorts of rumours almost always turn out to be false.
Then there is the question of whether he, himself, is happy. Asked about bringing in new players ahead of January he replied, after the game, “it’s not up to me.” Is that another manager deeply unhappy with our recruitment policy? Or a resigned excuse for a season that already feels like Groundhog Day?
Christ. I got to 1000 words.
*drinks more coffee*