Fish, Rice and Peas
Thoughts after Elland Rd and the International Break

Way back in the days of my youth I remember experiencing near frostbite on an uncovered Kop with little more than a denim jacket to protect me from the elements – parental advice to wear something more suitable having been waved away with teenage indifference. But at Dirty L**ds the other Saturday I had accepted the sage advice that comes from the passing of the years and wrapped up warm, but nonetheless I was as cold as I have been in recent times at a football match. It was bloody freezing, and the forces of nature flung all the elements at Elland Rd in 2 hours. The match itself saw 2 sides, who were both going through a rough patch, struggle a bit; we needed Joe Wildsmith to help us out a bit in the first half, but we only came under any sustained pressure in the period just before their late equaliser. All of us thought we had contrived to throw points away again from a winning position until Atdhe’s persistence and weak defending let us in for a joyously received late, late winner. The team group bonding on the edge of the penalty area at the final whistle told the tale about how much that win meant to them. I thought the victory was driven by the spine of the team, Wildsmith, Lees, Hutch and Atdhe who were all immense on the day with particular top marks going to Nuhiu who worked his socks off and was a constant thorn in the side of the L**ds defence to help secure the double over the enemy from up the M1.

The return of a fit Lees, Hutch, Bannan and FF will hopefully make a difference to our run-in but it looks like it will be just them plus Van Aken, Abdi, Matias and Thorniley who will be back in the fold before May, with Fletcher, Lees, Wallace, Lee, Clare and Hooper(?) looking like they are out for the duration, and who knows how much longer for some of them? It is not often that an international break is welcomed but this latest one most definitely was with us needing the time and space for rest, recuperation and recovery for the squad. The downtime has seen 3 returning players talk about the situation at the club with particular respect to injuries, where the team is now and what the future holds. I think the summation of what they said is that injuries, and the return from them, could have been managed differently in the past, the club has massively under-achieved, and the remainder of the season is about securing safety and re-instilling pride. Despite CC’s view that we had 2 players for every position the reality was that we had too much rice and peas and not enough fish, and the fish we did have was relied on too much for its own good. JL has had to make do with largely rice and peas and has struggled to find the right blend of herbs and spices to jazz it up a bit. The cautious approach to returning players is rightly being stuck too with Van Aken and others getting plenty of game time in the Under 23’s with Abdi, Matias and Thorniley joining them.

Now is usually the time of the season when you start to think about the one to come and what kind of squad we need to go into it. But right now that feels like an impossible thing to do, first because we haven’t secured our Championship future yet and secondly because we just don’t know what the strategy will be. In order to balance the FFP books you would think there will have to be a permutation of allowable additional money in, some transfer fees in and some players off the wages bill, all to be managed over the next 2 seasons. It is to be hoped that Katrien Miere is gearing the club up for a more successful approach to recruitment than that we have demonstrated since May 2016, and one that is in keeping with what we can afford to deliver. The key thing for me is that players coming in need to be younger, hungrier, with potential and a bit cheaper than some of those we have now.

On my way to Preston in August I had fears about the season to come given that I thought CC should have gone after the Huddersfield defeat and that we hadn’t freshened up the squad in the summer. I didn’t for one minute anticipate that on the first day of the season we would like we had only just finished the last. We were awful and there was not one redeeming feature from the game, with our ire irked even more when CC told us the misfiring was due to the players being over excited! That game put a marker down for what has been a very poor season full of trials and tribulations. Nearly seven months on from that debacle we have the chance to secure a bit of redemption against Preston at Hillsborough. It will be a tough game as they are a very well organised and fit side that has a successful game plan – I think I ready somewhere the other day that they haven’t lost away from home since early November, which is testament to that. Six more points should secure our safety and it would be lovely to get them over Easter so we could relax a bit for the run-in. Go to it boys!

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