Phew, that’s a relief. With reports indicating that Owen Coyle is taking over at Wigan, the rumours about Sir Chris decamping have happily come to nothing. But of course nothing’s ever that simple. For a day or two his odds on going north shortened dramatically and the bottom line is that there were sufficient grounds, or at least suspicions, on our part to fear that he could have been off. These relate to what might be inferred about the budget for the coming season, given that ahead of actual news all the indications seem to be that funds are in very short supply.
This is still all in the realms of speculation, especially as the assumption is that there will be more departures to add to those already released. But reaction does say something about the still apparent doubts about our owners’ goals and expectations. That’s a bit harsh when they are funding the ongoing losses and in view of the uncertain impact of the ‘fair play’ rules. But there it is, an underlying trust deficit, encouraged by secrecy and lack of transparency, which inclines us to think the worse. When the owners say the ambition is a return to the Premiership it’s hardly surprising that we want that sooner rather than later. And sensible or not the goal is hard to square with financial restrictions to the point of expecting Powell and his team to perform miracles with depleted resources.
I don’t know who’s going to win the lunch with Sir Chris advertised on the club site (it isn’t going to be me as when I click to fill out the survey for a shot at the prize the SurveyPlanet site just tells me I will have a better experience if I upgrade my browser; I had a better experience by not taking the trouble). But whoever it is might have ‘are you happy?’ at the top of the subjects for discussion.
With less than a month to endure now before Welling, for news items we’re still feeding off scraps and rumours (or at least I am as I’m never going to be first with them). The chances of the bulk of the further activity to come being concluded by the time we take the field have to be slim in the extreme, so note to self: get to Welling in time to pick up a programme and to try to hear the team announcement, or face once more the prospect of having to try to work it all out through the first half (before the inevitable surprises from the subs bench).
The club’s ebay auctions are undoubtedly fun and a good opportunity to pick up some memorabilia, both to display and as an investment for the time when we’re dominating world football and collectors worldwide scramble for curios of an age gone by. I’ve picked up the occasional item myself. But I couldn’t help wondering, just who bought (if anyone did) the nicely signed and clearly unwashed shorts worn by Callum Harriott for the last game of the season? Did seem to me that that one was only just about in the best possible taste.
Just who occupies the shorts for next season remains a matter of speculation. The Mercury last week flagged that Obika is top of the target list (which will surprise nobody) and mentioned that having had to return to Spurs he scored in the Premier League U21s final against Man Utd (Spurs lost 2-3). The paper might have added that he bagged two in the semi-final against Everton, including an 89th-minute header to win the game (3-2). Just par for the course really, albeit a little early in the game for him. I just hope this doesn’t encourage Spurs to keep hold of him, or to put an extra nought on the price. As noted elsewhere, Kermorgant notched the winner for Brittany against Mali, but it’s reasonable to suppose that we will need more than one established forward for the next campaign.
The contract extension for Hughes and the permanent signing of Gower may not have set the pulses racing, but the news on both fronts was welcome. Hughes clearly gives us something on and off the pitch and I’m perhaps more upbeat than others about Gower. He was clearly rusty when he first appeared for us but improved with match practise, suggesting that we have yet to see the best of him. Of course, his arrival casts more doubt over Stephens and Hollands, so on that front too we sit and wait.
All we can do is keep a tally on the effective balance of changes as they stand. As Hughes and Gower were around at the end of last season they don’t feel like new signings, so essentially we are down Haynes, Fuller, Obika, Wagstaff, Kerkar, Taylor and presumably Wright-Phillips and Evina. At the same time we are informed of our possible opponents for the Capital One Cup: AFC Wimbledon, Bristol Rovers, Cheltenham Town, Colchester United, Coventry City, Dagenham & Redbridge, Exeter City, Gillingham, Newport County, Northampton Town, Oxford Utd, Plymouth Argyle, Portsmouth, Southend, Stevenage, Torquay, or Wycombe. That is a timely reminder of exactly where we don’t want to go back to.