‘Cheer up, cheer up the sun is red ....’ It might feel that way for Spain at the moment, but it just doesn’t feel appropriate for us. As was to be expected, the players’ exit door hasn’t stopped swinging since the final penalty kick, there’s the news that Richard Murray has had a heart operation (here’s truly hoping for a complete and speedy recovery), and the insult of the BBC at first putting a Gillingham shirt on the news about KRBS’ white knight/vulture capitalist. At least, unlike some others not far away, we only depend on them for sponsorship.
Nevertheless, now the nonsense of the past month or so is behind us and it’s back to the serious stuff (having been in Amsterdam recently at least I can lay claim to having been involved in celebrating a World Cup semi-final win, having been a little too young to fully participate in London in 1966). This means hopping on the bus for the annual dose of incredulity that is the Welling friendly. As others have noted, there’s next to nothing usually to be gleaned from these occasions, given the level of fitness and the trotting out of trialists. But this time around I can’t help thinking it’s a little more important than usual, not for the result but for the attitude. With no home pre-season friendly this will be the only chance for a number of us to get any sort of a glimpse at the players until late August (I guess Watford at end-July is a possibility but for me with the hols approaching it will be Oldham at home to kick off the season). Heaven knows we could use a lift, even in this game.
We must all be well aware that this season is about survival, as a club, and relative stability. Given the further comings and goings before end-August, we can’t have a clue about prospects on the pitch (quite frankly if offered now mid-table and financial stability I’d take it). But I doubt whether any other team in this division will be starting the campaign with such a change of personnel. Getting a new team to gel is bound to be difficult and a poor start to the season could encourage a mood of terminal decline among the fans. In such a situation, shortcomings in style and skill may have to be accepted, but that means developing other strengths. Fitness and determination come to the fore. I’ll forgive a lot if we show on the pitch that we’re the fittest team in the league and have best team work ethic. That’s asking a lot for a squad being cobbled together, but without those two basics we’re asking for trouble.
As for the departures, we got a decent price for Bailey and I hope he goes on to improve as a player. Richardson just showed that any decent price will be accepted and there’s no hard feelings there (looking at Sam’s comments about him saying he never wanted to leave Leeds may hint at him having gone through the motions, but he was a cut above the average in this division and Southampton’s chances of promotion are only strengthened). We all knew Sam was going to walk and he goes with my best wishes, not least as it means I won’t have to listen to the screams of some around me at his every error (‘ee ‘asn’t got a brain’ was the best example of pots and kettles). Randolph was a slight surprise, but this is at least one to focus on the positives. Two young keepers vying for the jersey can be good, but I feel happier with an established first choice that the defence can settle around and that always looked more likely to be Elliot. Presumably we need to sign an old lag content to warm the bench; there should be plenty to choose from (I don’t suppose Deano fancies coming back, but I suppose he’d be out of our price range and warming the bench was never his preferred option). And apparently getting some money for Fleetwood has to be a bonus; no slur intended but he didn’t show anything for us. Dickson, Spring and others are now all in the past.
As for the incomings, I was surprised by Doherty. Not that he can’t do a job for us – and it’s genuinely heartening to read his comments on the club site about his attitude to the move - but with Llera, Sodje and Dailly (with Semedo possible cover and hopefully Mambo developing) this didn’t look to me our weakest area. Perhaps one of them is on his way (I see there are still talks with Dailly). I can’t honestly see Doherty and Llera being an effective partnership (I’m of the old school that favours one big lump and the more mobile partner). Jackson’s return is welcome, although whether Basey sees it that way remains to be seen. And I’m sorry to say I know nothing about McCormack. May his stay with us be long and successful. And if Akpo Sodje can develop what looks still a pretty raw talent he could be the best of the signings.
This still leaves a bucketload of players whose future with us I have no idea about. Are Semedo and Racon content to stay? Are Youga and McLeod going to come into the equation, and is Burton set to walk? Have I missed things? I confess to having not followed news during the past month or so (and just never got around to player ratings for the season); I think we all needed to put some distance from the past season (and the previous three). It may have been successful in some respects but it ended in failure, the consequences of which are all too obvious. I think it’s clear from the above that at least my mood of despondency hasn’t lifted yet; I want it to ... even as early as tomorrow evening.