First off, if you’re out there Frankie I hope it proves to be just a hiatus for your blog. Everyone needs a break sometimes, especially if you’re crazy enough to try something every day (I should know, I created a company that produced analysis every day to an evening deadline; it wears you down). And sometimes other things are more important. But I can’t agree with what you put on your blog about your contributions. There are only two reasons in life to communicate: to inform and to entertain. You may not major on the former (you never attempted to), but you excel at the latter. Hope it resumes soon.
Most have had their say about Reid going and there’s bound to be different opinions. Fact is we are weaker overall now than a day ago as a very influential player has left. But if it was a choice between not getting Gray or anybody else (Halford and maybe another on loan it seems) nobody can say outright it’s bad business, whether or not finances demanded a sale (maybe the board thought that most of the Gray money could be recouped by selling McLeod). With Wyn Grant indicating that Dickson is out for the rest of the season, without Gray we would have been back to Iwelumo, Varney and McLeod as the striking options. I’m more confident in our position with Gray added to that list – and for the feeling that we have adjusted already to life without Reid.
It has been pointed out elsewhere that our record since Reid was injured is not good (two wins out of nine). But before Dickson came back and Gray came in our striking options were very limited. We resorted to long balls up to Iwelumo on his own. The first change came with Pardew’s decision to go with Varney and McLeod, at least offering pace and movement. Gray gives us another option and forward combinations that look good to deliver the goals.
Of course we don’t actually want Reid to go. He has always looked committed when available and is undoubtedly a very talented footballer. But some things just don’t work. The negative interpretation is that he was too slow to play out wide left and a liability in the centre in a four-man midfield. That left playing him in the hole (a role performed better by Ambrose against Ipswich and capable of being done by Zhi) or accepting his limitations out wide. Playing Reid and Ambrose together left us short of pace. We are now playing with much more verve - and it's very enjoyable to watch. There will of course be times/matches where we really miss Reid. But the time when we built the team around him may already have gone.
Anyway, if he’s gone so be it, he takes our best wishes. Whether or not it’s the right move will only be known at the end of the season. In the interim we have to make the best of it. With Gray and (presumably) Halford in and Reid out, I’m assuming that the final suggested loan signing will be a central midfielder. We are now a little thin there, with Semedo capable of coming in for Holland but with Zhi suddenly looking indispensable. If Racon was set for a loan move, the only option would be to bring Ambrose back inside in a four-man midfield. If Song from Arsenal or someone else is available that might be the final piece.
So, to Saturday. The season demanded a daft gesture. And having finally looked at the map I realise it doesn’t come any dafter than Scunthorpe away. I’m trying not to think about what godawful time it means surfacing on a Saturday morning, never mind the return. What I am thinking about is how one of our number managed to stitch us up like a kipper. ‘We need to do an away trip’, he says, ‘it’s been a while since we had a serious roadtrip … come on, let’s get everyone together … Scunthorpe’. Doesn’t need saying really, does it? We all get enthusiastic, get the tickets, then the originator turns around and says after all he can’t make it. Did he look at the map and had a reality check? (I know in truth there was a very reasonable excuse, but as usual the truth sounds better with a little teaking.)
Suffice to say it all goes much better if we win. So, Pards and the players, I realise there must be a temptation after the glories of Tuesday night and ahead of the little local clash coming up there might be a temptation to take the foot off the gas against supposed minnows. I’m sure it won’t happen, but if the energy and commitment levels aren’t what they might be please remind the players that it’s a bloody long way to Scunthorpe and back. I wish I could have met Luke Young and a few others to drive home the point last season after Brammall Lane.