While Bowyer and his people scratch their heads over what formation and combinations might deliver us the win we need on Wednesday, I think it’s worth reiterating now what an outstanding job he’s done this season, whatever the outcome. Just do a recap on the circumstances and what he's had to contend with.
Arguably we began this season weaker than we ended the previous one at Wembley, losing Bauer, Bielik and Aribo, followed by Dijksteel. Sure, Gallagher turned out to be a real find (for six months), Lockyer has been excellent, but in terms of preparing for a tougher challenge in a higher league it wasn’t exactly promising (and for a variety of reasons others who came in early on – Hemed, Field, Leko, Oztumer, Kayal – were to play only bit parts). Nevertheless, Bowyer had us hit the ground running and the first few months of the season were a success. In August we registered four wins and two draws; even at the end of October we’d won 6, drawn 4, lost 4.
In November and December the injuries took their toll on a small squad, but we went into the January transfer window with hopes raised by the takeover and the comments made by the new owners. In reality, we emerged from it weaker still, losing Gallagher. Although Green came in, he’s been unable to nail down a starting place, while McGeady, Smith and Davis on deadline day looked like desperation. Little did we know at the time that we were actually under a transfer embargo and all the promises made to Bowyer were so much hot air from a couple of chancers.
No matter, we struggled on. Into early March and after the Middlesbrough defeat the season is suspended. When we resume, perhaps not surprisingly given what has gone before ... we are materially weaker yet again, given Taylor’s decision (and to a much lesser extent those of Davis – who surely takes a place in history for declining to move back from Birmingham to London on the grounds it was too dangerous – and Solly). That we came out of the traps as at the start of the season seemingly better prepared than others (and won two and drew the other of the first three games after the restart) was again a testimony to the work done by Bowyer and his staff.
Add in the off-field farce, which is continuing, and uncertainty over EFL investigations and/or possible going into administration and the focus, restraint and commitment displayed by Bowyer and his team have been admirable. It deserves to be rewarded.
All this does, however, raise the issue if we do avoid relegation how on earth are we going to put together a squad to compete in this division next season? It’s going to be early August before the play-offs are done and dusted but the 2020/21 season could it is said begin before the end of August. That would be a challenge even if we knew what ownership structure would be in place and what resources made available.
That of course is an issue for another day. Unusually this time around we are playing our next game the day after most of the rest. Desired outcomes from Reading v Middlesbrough, Luton v QPR, and Sheff Wed v Huddersfield are pretty obvious, which leaves Wigan v Hull. That looks like one of those where all outcomes have positives and negatives for us, although if I had to choose I think I’d go with Wigan thumping Hull. That would leave Hull with only Luton at home and Cardiff away. The other games through the week fall into the obvious category: Bristol City v Stoke, us at Birmingham, Leeds v Barnsley, then Huddersfield v WBA.
There’s only just over a week left of the season for us, still so much to be crammed in and nothing yet decided. We stay up and I hope Lee packs up his fishing rods and takes a well-earned break back at Etang des Bows: https://carptalk.uk/interviews/lee-bowyer-interview/