Will Head or Heart Rule?
A quick trip round an FA Cup dilemma and other goings on at our club

Jos Luhukay and Katrien Miere have inherited a bit of a mess at our club – in relative terms I think it’s worse than the one that Meggo inherited in 2010/11 – it took him 20 games and a pre-season to have a significant impact on it. There are the industrial scale injuries, the general level of player fitness, team confidence, patchy form, some players having been side-lined, a wall between the first team set up and that of the youth, the wage bill and contract lengths of ageing players, and being  up against FFP rules next season. Sorting this lot out will take time, energy and patience. But a start has been made in that the route from the Under 23’s to the first team is no longer road-blocked, fitness levels are starting to look better, previously side-lined players are making a contribution, the stand-off with George Hirst has ended and the medical department is being listened to. But team form still remains patchy and having looked to be better defensively we have slipped back to old habits in the games against Millwall and Villa, that said the Derby and Villa games offered up more going forward which was a big positive.

So, Jos is having an impact but our proximity to the relegation battle makes everyone very nervous and means that his honeymoon has been short lived in the eyes of some Wednesdayites. Personally I take the disquiet with his lack of animation in the dug out with a pinch of salt but I do have some sympathy with the concerns about team selection, but that has to be coupled with recognition that we don’t see what he sees. I was more concerned about the team selection for the Swansea game – I recognise it was a game we really didn’t want to lose due to the return of you know who but we didn’t need the replay either and a bit more adventure might not have gone amiss, even if it risked elimination from the Cup. At Millwall I understood the starting 11 selection; at half-time we had a lucky 3 points in one hand but we needed to do something different as the first half indicated we probably wouldn’t hold out and we didn’t, the changes came but the game had got away from us by that point. Poor defending at the New Den cost us as it did against Villa, allied with less than clinical finishing that was needed to top off the vibrancy of our attacking game, particularly in the first half. So, two half-time leads evaporated into the air and we remain in the relegation dog-fight when alternatively we could have been 13 points clear of it.

After the Millwall game Jos was challenged on two occasions by Rob Staton regarding team selection and player fitness and Jos showed his first signs of defensiveness and tetchiness. I accept that it’s difficult for him and he doesn’t want to wash all our dirty linen in public or trash the work done by his predecessor, but it’s also hard for fans to understand how well paid professional footballers have to be protected from playing 2 games in a week. Jos did indicate that he has identified some things that need to be addressed but didn’t specify what they are – I’m ok with not knowing the detail but I want to be confident that lessons are being learnt and past mistakes regarding fitness and conditioning won’t be repeated.

From what we can gather it would appear that Palmer and Abdi are now back, that Thorniley might be back on Saturday, that Hutch and Van Aken are training with the team but are not yet ready. We further understand that Lees had 2 games with the under 23’s but is now back with the medics, that Bannan and FF are training away from the team, Hooper, Westwood and Lee have no timescale for return and it looks like Wallace and Fletcher are out for the duration. Out of that lot it feels like we might see Hutch, Van Aken, Bannan, Lees and FF before the end of the season, if we are lucky, with anything else being a bonus! It's a tough job being Wednesday manager!

The loaded survey question produced the result it was designed to achieve re ticket prices, although whilst we were told the percentage split we were not told how many fans actually voted. Given the financial position I never expected a reduction in prices but I just wanted a more open conversation about the financial strategy at the club, sadly though that was not to be. The accounts for the 2016/17 year should be published soon and from that we might be able to get a sense of the financial challenges for 17/18 and 18/19 and which might no doubt confirm why we didn’t do much business in the January window despite the injury crisis. The freeze in season ticket prices is welcome as is the re-introduction of the multi-year season ticket option. The die-hards like me will be there anyway but there might be a few who will want to know what level of football they will be getting for their money in 18/19 and beyond and I wouldn’t be surprised if the relegation scrap leads to a few playing a waiting game, that might require an extension to that March deadline. The summer transfer deadline has been moved to the start of the season which means that what was going to be a difficult enough window for us will be a little bit more frantic given the clear out we need to try to achieve.

But before the summer window we have to try to secure out Championship future. I think we need 12 points to be sure of safety. We have 12 games left with 7 against teams currently in the bottom half of the league and 5 against top half opponents. Four wins or 3 wins and 3 draws will do it. If we can sustain the attacking threat we displayed against Derby and Villa and then just tighten up a bit at the back we can do this, the $64,000 question is will we? Nervous days to come I suspect! More immediately we have the trip to Swansea for an FA Cup game that poses a real dilemma – save players for tough league games ahead or go for it with a quarter-final tie in prospect? I suspect Jos will go for the former and our heads will agree with him whilst our hearts will not. Nonetheless it would be lovely to make it to the quarter-final and to beat our former manager on the way to it. Go to it boys!

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