The First Quarter
An International Break Stock-Take

Not so long ago I wrote a piece for the fanzine titled Groundhog Day which was bemoaning the fact that last season’s home games were just like that – so very predictable. And it appears our starts to the season are so very similar – by the October international break with 10-12 games under our belt we’ll be mid-table, and so it is in 2017/18. So, at 11 games in that feels like a good point to take stock of the season so far. But let’s start with the game against Dirty L**ds. We were a bit nervous for the first 15/12 minutes and they were probably the better side but we settled down and once we got the first goal the confidence flowed through every single player and the whole team was excellent after that, so much so that had we been 4 up at half-time (as we should have been) no one could have complained. That level of performance, or something approximating it, is the one we need to be at far more regularly – we showed last season that we can do it but we didn’t do it very often – and that has been the case this season so far.

At Preston we were awful, full stop. At home to Chezzie we were more like it but the level of the opposition had to be taken into account. QPR was another one of those Groundhog performances which saw a 2nd half improvement after a poor first. Sunderland was another poor first half, an excellent 15 minute spell in the second half and another draw. At Fulham we were disciplined and well organised for a very good win. Bolton away in the League Cup was dire for 75 minutes and very good for 15. Burton was another game that should have been put to bed but wasn’t. Against Forest we started very well, could and should have been 3 or 4 up before half time but we took chances in the 2nd for a good win. Brentford outplayed us for 45 minutes and had they had a striker they would have beaten us, but a 2nd half rally won us the points. At Cardiff we dominated the ball for 45 minutes but didn’t kill the game off when we should have and so drew. The derby was as per Preston, apart from 15 minutes when we were good – one to forget. We didn’t get the promised response at Birmingham and we lost and failed to score against a side who were there for the taking. And then it was Dirty L**ds where we did get the response. So, that was a very inconsistent first quarter of the campaign. Had we got the points we should have secured in a number of those games we would be in the top three.

The serial critiques’ like me have had Carlos under the spotlight for some time but the inconsistent start to the season, the derby game and the failure to deliver at Birmingham, meant that Carlos felt more under pressure from a wider group of fans than he has previously done in the run up to the L**ds game. Credit to him and the players in that they responded with an excellent win. DC displayed his support for CC by sitting on the bench before the game and I think he is still enormously in credit with the majority of fans, particularly after that win which has lifted the gloom that was starting to descend. If there is an active “Carlos Out” club I am not a fully paid up member of it at the moment, I remain a sceptic which is due to the inconsistency of performances over last season and this, and also the inability to find a make do and mend plan out the players available rather than the ones that fit perfectly into his preferred system. We have no other players who can do the jobs that Lee, Wallace, Hooper and Fletcher do – the worry for me is that injuries would deprive us of players for whom we have no cover, and with FF injured at the moment (and there remain questions about his commitment/attitude) the wild card player isn’t there. In that context could CC utilise Butterfield, Joao, Rhodes and Hutch effectively to do a job for the team? At least Loovens is on his way back and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets more game time whilst Joost continues his induction into the tricky new workplace posed by the Championship.

Whilst CC is trying to sort out matters on the field DC has to get a grip of matters off the field, particularly in the commercial department. Still no shirts for sale, a tired looking Megastore and the cock-up with the anniversary watches is all adding up to make the whole business look a shambles. I don’t know whether this is interference from above or those in the department not doing their jobs but it has to be sorted. Many fans have money in their bank accounts that they are itching to spend at the club but we seem incapable of enabling them to do it, at the same time as we need the money. Some communication wouldn’t go amiss either.

Anyway, next Saturday takes us for a return trip to Bolton to start off the second quarter of the season – we hope that the performance will be much better than the cup game and that CC manages to avoid the over-officious steward who caused him much discomfort last time. We have 5 games before the next international break – we need to start to kick on now and show how good we really can be more often.

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