Middlesboro At Home 2014/15 – Another Omnishambles

In the bar at the end of the game my friend Tim asked me what I was going to write about the game. I replied that I would have to give it an evening’s thought. Another friend had brought his wife for her first game. She looked shell shocked. What had she thought? Nice pies. And that’s it.

I spent my evening “thinking about it” posting negative messages on NSC. Frankly it’s a really good job we don’t have a cat. Having slept on it I feel the same. We have made some awful blunders this summer. We are not going to win very many games. We are in a relegation battle. We are in deep, deep do-do.

The first seven minutes was a microcosm of our season under Sami. We knocked it around nicely. We created (and missed) an excellent chance. We were the victim of some disputed refereeing from a certain Mr D’Urso (though, for what it’s worth I think he brought the free kick to us back when Baldock was clean through because Teixeira had a head injury). We were kicked and bullied off the ball. Then we conceded a massively silly goal that started with a quick break that moved wide in to a gap and ended with the increasingly unconfident Stockdale looking hesitant.

And therein lay our game. Lots of ball, no effective ball at all. ‘Boro kicked Teixeira out of the game and marked Lua Lua out of the game. Shots but not the right shots. The overwhelming feeling that they could break against covering midfielders and a panicking keeper at any time and score again. The most bizarre set of substitutions yet, as if to say the only answer was to have more strikers on the pitch than Gus and Oscar combined. As JFC trudged off the pitch my seven year old remarked “there’s no midfield dad”. The bloke in the row in front gave him a nod of agreement.

I thought about being positive. I thought about Paul Barber’s messages this week and our financial challenges. I thought about how hard it is to criticise someone who puts in a million a month, about how yesterday the “match day experience” was actually pretty good, apart from the football, which is the only bit that matters. And then I thought sod it.

Sami is out of his depth. These tactics are never going to work with the players we have. We’ve signed some turkeys. We miss Ulloa. We have no leadership, astonishing given our Captain had Germany in his back pocket in the week and scored a goal of stunning quality and movement. There’s no point our strikers watching videos of it though. They are too small and weak to repeat it.

I still maintain Stockdale was a good signing but his confidence is shot and the trolls don’t help. A couple of DS games would do him a real favour. COG will never be good enough at this level and why he was signed I don’t know. Baldock couldn’t finish a Mars Bar. Everywhere we are too weak, everywhere we do not understand our own system.

We need wins but we have wedded ourselves to a system that’s not going to produce them. I feel depressed. Sorry, Tim.

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Season 2014/15 – Sheffield Wednesday At Home

Here we go again then. The start of a new season. This will be different to last season from a personal point of view as The Boy has his own season ticket with me this season. Mark’s boys are with him too and the six of us have relocated back a couple of rows and across a bit in the WSU. He had been looking forward to the game for days, counting down the sleeps and almost bounced out of the door when it was time to go.

Everything Boy related went swimmingly. We seem to have a train routine established that will allow us to get to the Sports Bar where I can have a quick beer and he can play with his teammates from his football team. In the ground he and Mark’s boys talked among themselves instead of firing off the usual fifty questions (though we later overheard them plotting to “get” the referee after Crofts was sent off, not good for my parent of the year application).

Everything else didn’t. Firstly congratulations to Wednesday. After some extended banter with their fans they were excellent. Big in numbers and voice they backed their team loudly. Their team responded  by winning. Frustrating time wasting and feigned injuries aside they deserved it. We were wretched. Everywhere.

The North Stand still seems split in two. On the few occasions everyone joined in together then the West joined in as well and the noise was tremendous. Sadly this only happened about three times. The rest of the time there seemed to be a competition between the East side and West side. Or just total silence. The fare on the pitch didn’t help.

I wrote this frustration up on NSC last night but it is worth repeating here. Squads should evolve. Ours is regressing. Let’s hope Creationists don’t get a look at a time lapse of our squad over the last three years as it would surely prove their point, setting back over a hundred years of Darwinism.

This is what i put on NSC. It now has 42 thumbs up, my personal record.

When you start with Shamir Fenelon and O’Grady in the Championship where once it was Barnes and Ulloa you are going backwards. When you have to play your reserve right back as a left wing back you are going backwards. When you play another ex-devteam squad player as one of two holding midfielders when his major weakness is tackling you are going backwards. When you no longer have Mathew Upson reading the game and controlling the spine you are going backwards. When your answer to this is to put on an overweight, out of favour player with the pace of a snail on mogadon and who cannot accurately pass a bottle of port you are going backwards.

Harsh maybe but my summary of our weaknesses yesterday. And while some may rage at Crofts’ sending off it needs to be compared to the leniency shown to JFC. For me his first tackle was a straight red whereas Crofts’ was a yellow. Certainly JFC should have seen yellow a second time, taking us to nine men.

How did the new men perform? Stockdale looks a little rusty, missing three kicks to the wingbacks and once being lucky to be fouled as he struggled to reach a cross but otherwise he was fairly untroubled and could do nothing about Coke’s brilliant 42nd minute strike. He will come good after some game time and I will stick my neck out and say he’ll be better than TK’s last season.

Hughes is solid. I will be typing that a lot this season.

O’Grady? Pleasantly surprised. Held it up excellently, made a nuisance of himself and nearly scored. Assuming he is the Barnes replacement then we have done well. But he’s no Ulloa.

To be fair it is not the new additions that worry me. It’s who’s left. A squad of players where the seniors are three years older, three years more tired and cynical and who have gone through three completely different footballing philosophies in as many seasons, bulked out by Dev Squad promotions who, by the nature of these things will be a little green and inconsistent.

Things may gel (but not if we use Calde as a left wing back and Agustien as an impact player). We may make signings before the end of August that stun us (and that fit better in to Hyppia’s sort of 4-2-3-1 with wingbacks). I may be jumping the gun, wetting the bed, whatever. But for me this squad doesn’t just need a few additions. It needs major surgery.