October 2, 2014 by bluenosebible
By Nat Peters
I have to admit, when Millwall got their first goal Tuesday night I was bricking it. It was very easy to see history repeating itself and, like we did against Brentford and Ipswich and Leeds and Norwich. Play well in the first-half, go a goal or two ahead and then get pegged back. This feeling of dread was further exacerbated when ‘Wall spurned several good chances in the second-half.
But we managed (eventually) to kill the game off. Lee Clark brought on a second striker in the form of Wes Thomas (a pretty positive move, seeing as the self-proclaimed experts often hail LC as an uber-defensive manager) and that is what ultimately got us a win, as the “Wes Pele” grabbed our third goal which killed the game off.
There were still things on show which need to be improved on. Our ball retention at times was abysmal, particularly in the second-half, we did fall into that all too familiar habit of sitting deep and inviting pressure onto ourselves when ahead and at times there was a glaring lack of understanding between Darren Randolph and his defenders (as shown by the first goal). But Clark made a couple of changes; he brought on Will Packwood to help deal with the obvious aerial threat ‘Wall possessed, and as mentioned added Thomas who enabled us to pressure Millwall higher up the pitch and ultimately have us the tools to kill off the game.
The optimist in me hopes that we may have started to turn a corner and that after a succession of collapses with the nadir coming in that woeful last half-hour at home to Fulham at the weekend, that we have gained some resilience needed to see out games. The pessimist in me fears that we may have got lucky, that for once the chances Millwall were able to create in the second-half like so many other teams have created before them didn’t go in our goal.
More generically, a part of me agrees with Lee Clark when he suggests there isn’t a fat lot wrong with Blues; we have been playing well for sizeable chunks of most games this season but individual errors and what he refers to as “mad spells” are what cost us points. But the pessimist says that if we are playing relatively well but not getting enough points, how many points will we get if we ever start playing copiously badly?
People are saying that winning last night has kept Lee Clark in a job; I don’t know if that is true, but there were rumours before Tuesday that he was about to be given the chop once Peter Pannu departed today. However by the looks of things there will be no sacking before the Charlton game at the very least – whether his current employment is down to the fact we did manage to get a win or whether the rumours going around were generally way off the mark I don’t know.
Lee Clark is a limited manager and some of his decisions seem downright baffling at times. But as I write this we are three points clear of the drop zone after ten games; if we are three points off the relegation zone after forty-six games then I will bite your hand off. Survival is all I am hoping for this season; whilst we stay above the bottom three then it’s a job well done. All those doom merchants spouting that we are doomed to relegation and the feeble minded people who say “it can’t get any worse than it is now”; trust me, it really could. We aren’t “doomed” (crumbs how can any team be doomed to relegation after two months of a season, particularly when said team is outside of the bottom three?) and it can get much worse; ask anyone who watched us in the late 80s. In fact, just think back to how bad the last few months or so of last season were, when injuries and recalls had decimated us.
As I have also stated, I don’t see the point in getting rid of Lee Clark if there is no-one who will obviously do a much better job WHO IS WILLING TO COME HERE. If such a candidate is obviously available, then by all means bring him in, but I have yet to see clear evidence that such a candidate exists so struggle to see why LC should be replaced by someone who is quite likely to fare little better and whilst we sit outside the relegation zone he is doing a decent enough job. If such a desire for proper and clear thinking planning rather than knee jerk decision making makes me what is referred to by the small minority of Blues fans who insist on playing divide and conquer as a “Clark apologist”, then so be it. I don’t see him as the man to take us forward when all the boardroom uncertainty above him is sorted out properly, but I honestly don’t think we could hope for much better than we are doing right now.
There will always be the beguiled people who insist that Blues would fare far better if only they were in charge. I think many know the sort; the sort of eager beaver bloke who thinks that the fact that he coaches children once or twice a week means that he gains a greater tactical insight than a manager (and anyone else for that matter). The sort that sees Louis van Gaal deploying 3-5-2 at the World Cup and automatically insists that anyone who doesn’t advocate said formation is some kind of tactical Neanderthal, despite not really having a clue themselves about the nuances of that system (or quite probably any other).
I must stress at this point that I have made no personal target with the description above. But there are people who may be not too dissimilar to those descriptors, who insist (and smother anyone else’s contrasting opinions) that we are ‘underperforming’. Are we? Blues, by all accounts, have the lowest wage outlay in the division bar Blackpool, and our squad (in terms of transfer fees) cost just over £100,000; should it be any surprise we are near the bottom of the league? In terms of teams that are underperforming in terms of their current league position compared to what their outlay is on players, Wigan are underperforming and so are Bolton, Fulham and Cardiff. Are Blues? No, I don’t think so.
There were some who were hoping for a defeat at Millwall; why? Because they wanted Lee Clark out. If they don’t think LC is the man for the job, then fair enough (as I said, in a more prosperous, longer term I don’t think he has what it takes to manage a club like Blues) but why would anyone want us to lose a game in the hope that we sack the manager? We are desperate for points. What are people going to do, keep their fingers crossed week in week out that we lose in the hope that Clark may then be sacked? The thinking seems perverse to me; if we do end up going down this season, it will be these sorts of people who deserve it in my opinion.
At the start of the season, I looked at our opening fixtures and I feared the worst. Two losing play-off semi-finalists, two relegated sides and two other teams fancied to make a promotion push, alongside the general mish mash of unpredictable sides you get in this league; I thought we could already be cut adrift at the bottom, in a Blackpool sort of position by now. We aren’t. In fact we now have some winnable looking fixtures in the next month or so – I am hopeful that by the end of October we can have at least five or six more points on the board.
Saturday will be a tough test; Charlton are the last undefeated team in the division, so I think taking a draw from the Valley will be a more than reasonable result. After the shambolic collapse vs. Fulham, the players could have rolled over at somewhere as terse as Millwall, but they didn’t. It wasn’t always pretty and not always comfortable, but they did get that much needed win. That suggests to me that people who say that they have stopped playing for the manager/the shirt/the fans/the club are wide of the mark. I just hope we can take those battling qualities back to South London for the second time in a week on Saturday.
You can read more of Nat’s thoughts on his blog: http://nattubes.wordpress.com/