September 2, 2014 by bluenosebible
By Nat Peters
Our non-performance at Wigan was an absolute joke. It was spineless, it was lifeless and from start to finish it smacked of ineptitude. Before Saturday’s game we had looked promising, promising in the sense that we didn’t look like a team who would be swimming in the shark infested waters that we were last season. However, during our mauling at the DW Stadium we looked like a team who will be doing exactly that – just totally outfought, outthought and outplayed.
Some people are blaming the defeat on the manager for another of his dodgy team selections. I disagree. He picked a team that was balanced, and on paper looked positive. The only queries I’d have with it is whether Robbo still has the legs to play at full-back on what is a very large pitch, and whether Novak has what it takes to play right up top as a striker in the Championship, but neither are what you would call totally bonkers decisions – both were playing in what many people would colloquially refer to as their ‘natural’ positions. People say wonder why Caddis is on the right hand side of midfield, but I honestly prefer Caddis out of defence.
No, I just put our no show in Lancashire down to a horrendous day at the office, to use football cliché. We just didn’t battle. We didn’t do the basics right; tracking our men, keeping the ball for any length of time, maintaining our shape. From back to front we weren’t at the races. I don’t blame Clark for that, well no more than I do any of the players anyway. I just hope it’s an isolated off day on the part of the team.
But the fact that the Wigan game followed a defeat at home to Sunderland in the cup and a disappointing draw at Brentford has got people agitated. The fact that Clark is seen to be at fault for the fact that we could only draw against ten man Brentford just over a week ago had already meant that guns were trained on him, but to be honest the bonkers substitutions he made at Griffin Park meant that for me he deserved the flak that came his way – he got it totally wrong that day. The Sunderland game was a game where I actually though we acquitted ourselves very well, before bad refereeing/the superior quality of our opponents picked us off, but our late collapse in that game may well have sapped morale.
Even after the Brentford and Sunderland games, our start to the season had been more than acceptable. Before a ball was kicked I saw who we had in our first month and felt more than a slither of trepidation; two teams who were losing play-off semi-finalists, two more teams who finished in the top half of the table last season who are seen as play-off contenders this time around and a tricky looking trip to London to face a team who would be buoyant from promotion to League One. But five points from our first four games, including the defeat of Brighton which saw the cessation of our dismal run of home games without a win that went back to last year, was a decent return. In particular the way we played at home to Brighton and Ipswich meant that many people gained heart, and even at home to Brentford, despite a poor second half and poor tactical decisions costing us all three points, there were positives to take from it (mainly from our first-half performance admittedly). But the Wigan game has blown any positivity away – everyone feels crap about Blues again.
I think most people realise the difficult circumstances that the club is in. I think most realise that Lee Clark is constantly swimming against the tide, and before Saturday I think many people were pleasantly surprised at how we’d managed to become a team that looked able to be competitive in this division, despite being a team of cast offs, freebies and God knows what else. At the start of the season we were nailed on by many people (Blues fans and non-Blues fans) to struggle, but we looked like we may avoid that dogfight. Who says we still can’t do that? Ultimately we have only been at the wrong end of one really dismal result, but we can ill afford to repeat it too often.
I can appreciate that people don’t want us to be sucked into the mire the way we were last season. I can appreciate that people get very edgy when Lee Clark makes the sort of decisions he did at Brentford which seemingly cost us points. I can appreciate that people are hacked off when we get battered from start to finish at Wigan, or get turned over at ‘Boro. But I also think people need to be realistic, in that we sometimes will get turned over, we will get beat, because many other teams in this division have better players than us and that is because they can afford better players than us. I honestly think our only goal for this season can be surviving relegation again; at the moment we are four points clear of the relegation zone. I know it’s very early days, but if we maintain that gap from now right through ‘til May then it’s a job well done.
Clark will always come in for stick when we suffer bad results because he is the manager and that is the nature of football. My view of him has been revised somewhat from last season; the trauma of how close we came to dropping into League One, and the fact that he seemed to crack when under admittedly intense pressure at the backend of the campaign and started making some very odd decisions. Tactically I think he could do a lot better, and if/when we ever get rid of BIHL and bring in some owners with the wherewithal and the willingness to take the club forward rather than just keep it going then I’m not sure if he would be the man to manage us in the long run. But that’s the whole point isn’t it; I’ve seen many people say that Clark “won’t take us forward” – probably not, not now and possibly not in the future, but to be honest can anyone see us going forward under the current ownership? I honestly don’t think we can go forward, and when I say that I mean become a go forward and again have a team that can challenge at the top end of this division.
Whilst we look safe in this division Clark will not be sacked, because I think those in charge at the club realise that they can’t expect much more. And to be honest, until it becomes obvious that there are people who would come and do a better job in his place (and I mean someone who would actually come to the club, not the Walt Disney talk of someone like Chris Hughton or Roberto di Matteo coming here), then that is the sensible thing to do.
Before the Brentford game I was buzzing at how we were looking so much better than we did for a lot of last season. After that, I was still positive but a bit perturbed at how such poor tactical decisions had hindered that day. After Saturday, I felt that feeling of dread that we were heading for a return to getting panned every few weeks or so like last season – I know it was only one poor defeat, but it was so similar in its manner to the heavy defeats we suffered against Leeds, Bournemouth, Blackburn etcetera.
Leeds at home is now a big game, because they look to be a club/team in total turmoil. I think they could well be right down at the bottom of the league all season, so therefore we need to be picking up wins against this sort of team. In a way I’m half glad our result and performance at Wigan came against someone like Wigan; a better team than us on paper, and not a place where I expected us to get a result anyway, so at least we weren’t battered and had points taken off us by a team who are a direct competitor. Hopefully the international break will allow us to refresh ourselves, and a win against Leeds makes people happy again after a dismal end to what was initially a promising August.
You can read more of Nat’s thoughts on his blog: http://nattubes.wordpress.com/