Steady As She Goes Then!
A look back at the week in SWFC land

The last time I watched us win at Pride Park was in May 2006 in the last game of the 05/06 season when we stayed up in the Championship under Paul Sturrock, a lot of water has flowed down the River Derwent since then! I travelled down on Saturday with no great expectations of a win, but whatever hopes I had evaporated when our midfield and defence parted like the Red Sea to allow Vydra in, and then the most experienced CB we have decided to concede a stupid penalty and get rightly red carded to boot. To be fair to the players after that start they dug in and made a game of it showing hard work, spirit and organisation without offering much goal threat. Legs started to go in the last 15 minutes and not surprisingly they picked us off. Yes, we should have had a penalty but we never tested Scott Carson and whilst CC predictably blamed the referee again, we were a spirited but beaten team at the end.

Over the four quarters of 2016/17 we achieved 20, 21, 20 and 20 points from 12, 12, 11 and 11 games, respectively. We finished with 81 points averaging 1.76 points per game. The last play-off spot went to Fulham with 80 points, an average of 1.74 points per game. In the first quarter of 17/18 we have achieved 16 points from 12 games, an average of 1.33 points per game. The last play-off place in the last 3 seasons on average has needed 77 points to grab it – 1.68 points per game. To achieve 77 points (and therefore a decent chance of a play-off spot, but not guaranteed) we need to pick up 61 points from 33 games at an average of 1.85 points per game. In the last 33 games of last season we picked up 60 points at 1.82 points per game. All that tells me that the play-offs are still a possibility but to do it we need to slightly improve on the last 3 quarters of 16/17, considerably step up from where we have been so far in 17/18, and do it in a very tight Championship. Hence winning the next 2 home games against Barnsley and Millwall is an absolute must to try to develop some momentum. Contrary to CC’s assertion I haven’t seen any evidence that we are capable of achieving a top two spot, and a top 6 spot looks a challenge from where we are right now. You make up your own minds on that one.

There was a Fans Steering Group this week, odd title I always think – what’s it steering exactly? Anyone who wants a good breakdown of what was said should look at the timeline of @malcolmfox2 on Twitter or see Dom Howson’s piece in The Star. But it was clear that DC made clear there is no major change coming any time soon either on or off the field at S6 – strategy, ticket prices, marketing and team management are not on the agenda for change. A naming rights deal for the stadium is a possibility and he didn’t rule out a return to stripes next season, but kit process remains the same approach, but hopefully improved. What was also clear was that player recruitment isn’t CC’s fundamentally responsibility – he identifies player positions to improve and others go off and find candidates, and we already know that DC has the final say. There are some pieces about recruitment at S6 from Matt Brown on www. footballtyper.wordpress.com you should check them out as they are worth a read. So, unless lessons are learned we may well continue to:

  • Recruit players that the Head Coach can’t or won’t fit into his system
  • Waste money on misfits and the perennially injured
  • Build a squad with too many older players with little or no re-sale value
  • Ask the fans to help cover the costs via ticket prices etc

DC determines the business and financial strategy, he determines (quite rightly in my view) that we should stay within FFP, but he expects us to help fund a strategy that we have had no part in shaping. As I have said before this city is predominantly a low wage economy and it is not fair or sustainable to continue to do this. It appears to me that if we don’t achieve promotion this season, as is a distinct possibility, then the strategy and squad will need a major re-think to try to get to something that is more sustainable, effective and value for money than that which he have now. I remain of the view that we need a Director of Football or a Chief Executive who knows about running a football club in the Championship and can bring that experience and advice to bear on the running of our club. But it appears that DC is in hearing mode but isn’t really listening to what’s been said by anyone outside the club who has a different view on how our club should be run.

DC might be the legal owner of our football club but the real owners are the fans – without them it’s nothing. He appears willing to listen to comments about, and take action on, catering, size of text on the big screen or the brightness of perimeter advertising etc. These matters are not without merit but they don’t go to the core of what the club is about and whether it’s doing the right things in the right way. Success on the pitch can mask many difficulties but without it fundamental problems will be exposed;  another season in the Championship, with the current strategy remaining in place, might be a step too far for some fans. In my view club owners/chairmen are temporary custodians of institutions that existed before them and will be there after they have moved on. I think it would be a positive if fans were more engaged in that custodianship than it feels like we are just now.

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