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Perfect harmony 29/11/2006

Posted by Ian Grant in Thoughts about things.

You know, this is a moment worth remembering. Not worth savouring, clearly, but worth storing away for a rainy day. And that rainy day, for it will come soon enough, will involve somebody coming over all conspiratorial and hatching a plot to get promoted to the Premiership, spend barely a penny, get relegated by Christmas and stuff the cash into a huge sack in the cupboard under the stairs to spend on crisps, beer, DVDs and the East Stand everyone seems to think we need. And Freddy Eastwood, or whoever happens to be in vogue at that particular time. It’s a rubbish plan, of course…but to prove it so, you need to remember.

Specifically, you need to remember just how unutterably miserable last night was. Just how it gradually sapped the spirits and dispelled the initial bluster, first with the sheer poverty of the football on display – a better argument for an eighteen team Premiership has surely never been put – and then with the gradual and inevitable realisation that we weren’t even going to draw a veil over the ugly spectacle by snatching a scrappy winner. Worse, we were going to allow our opponents that pleasure. Worse still, our best attempt at changing the inevitable involved sticking a great lump of a central defender in the general vicinity of the opposition penalty area and hoping for the best; that, with a substitution and a supposed striker still in hand. Good grief.

It’s not fun. It might well be that it’s unavoidable, given that we were promoted with a squad that was thin even for the Second Division and given that we had less time than most to strengthen; hard to believe that better forwards than Danny Shittu weren’t within our price range, mind you. It might well be all sorts of things…but it’s not fun. In truth, Adrian Boothroyd’s miracle has been to keep morale high for so long, to preserve the spirit and the standards; anyone starting to doubt his motivational abilities really needs to look at the knocks this team has taken thus far and the displays they’ve produced in direct response.

But performances and results don’t stay out of sync for ever. For me, Portsmouth felt like one last bloody-minded, furious and not a little heroic attempt at wrestling that equation in our favour. Against a side that was patently superior in every department, not to say vastly more elegant in its football, we played with such heart and soul that we managed to bring a stunning result within view, almost within reach. A result that would’ve been roared from that away end like a famous victory, that might – just might – have kick-started something. And then we had those efforts sneered at by the sad, depressing cynicism of modern football. It felt like one final kick in the teeth, too much to take.

So, really, we were overdue something ghastly, something memorably atrocious. It had to happen, in the end. Lo and behold, performances and results were in perfect harmony last night. One fears that the equilibrium might last; for all Aidy’s boisterous (and occasionally inspirational and occasionally tiresome) cheerleading, he has left himself and his players desperately short of options. Anyone fancy trying to motivate Doris for another ninety minutes of chasing the ball as it appears from somewhere over the horizon and then disappears back again? No, thought not. Poor sod.

To return to the age-old get-promoted-and-take-the-cash plan, it completely fails to take into account the damage to the morale of the entire club, players upward. Losing hurts, full stop. It seeds doubts, arguments, idiocy, temptation; it breaks up teams and it ends careers. It brings nothing that’ll be of any value back down there and it destroys a fair amount that money can’t buy. It is not something to build upon.

And it’s just not any fun.


1. Mr Phase - 29/11/2006

Well said ig.

*sobs into half-empty vicarage road mug*

2. matthew prout - 29/11/2006

i can’t and won’t give aidy anything other than my support given his tremendous achievement getting us to the Prem but last night was desperate – the most morale sapping display i can remember for it’s sheer paucity of football – lose but do it playing football for f#$ks sake…poor old Priskins confidence can’t have been boosted by being overlooked for Shittu…
..he should at least encourage the passing of a football instead of the hoof and hope we saw last night – 2nd division football at best. groan – our last season in the prem was one of my least enjoyable and this is turning out the same.

3. Matthew - 29/11/2006

Sage words as ever, ig. Doris has had some unfair stick, no? Hardly his fault the dearth of attacking options has left him doing the work of two (three?) men.

Last night could turn out to be the anvil that breaks the camel’s back. But I’m more concerned that Aidy’s e-newsletter on the official site turned out to be remarkably close in message to the one posted earlier on Yellow Fever.

Although the stick he’s taken on WML today beggars belief.

4. Mike Smart - 29/11/2006

“It brings nothing that’ll be of any value back down there and it destroys a fair amount that money can’t buy.”

Quite. And it destroys it so quickly. In ’99 a bunch of cloggers were, briefly, unstoppable. Long before Christmas, they looked like they’d never played football before.

And here we are again.

Last night’s match programme took a cheeky (and somewhat unnecessary) swipe at the difference in fortunes between ourselves and Notts County. “Lucky we follow the right one,eh?” That’ll be Notts County with eight wins and thirty-one points, then. (Seven and twenty-two more than us, if you still think it matters.) I don’t give a toss what league we’re in. I just like it when we win.

5. billyo - 29/11/2006

A striker Priskin is, we might even go so far as to call him a footballer. But last night was no night for footballers. Shittu up front was the right decision and he put himself about as best he could.

Had we been passing the ball around and creating even half chances then Priskin would have been worth a punt. But we weren’t passing. We didn’t string two passes together for the whole game. I doubt massively if this was Aidy’s tactic for the evening, so I think the blame must land squarely on the shoulders of the players, but in particular the midfielders who didn’t want the ball and didn’t pass it when it was inconvieniently given to them.

As Ig rightly points out though it’s no fun and sitting back waiting for the inevitable, so we have to take a punt on a few cheap new faces in January, pick up 3 points with a goal off Shittu’s arse and we’ll be back in the chase.

6. thehornet35 - 29/11/2006

Things are desperate now, and winning feels good (i still remember cardiff vividly even after the mounting losses of this campaign), but as Aidy frequently says, its a learning curve, up until last night everyone was positive, saying that maybe the football aint ‘sexy’ but atleast we were competing, after one bad result (and bad tactical descisions) everyone is doom and gloom, yes we were s##te, but dont you reckon aidy knows that too? He got it wrong last night as did the players, and Chrissy Powells red was as a direct result of frustration.

It looks more and more likely that we wont stay up, but i feel we WILL be playing better football in the coming months. Whether that helps us in the long run will remain to be seen, we might have another 5 years in the wilderness..but at the end of the day we still have a championship squad, and the way we got out of the championship was not by zipping the ball around the floor, it was playing direct (i hate the term long ball). Yes we all want the ‘orns to win, but at the end of the day did you really expect us to suddenly be able to play o’la football, i didnt. We have to stick to what we can do, against the more physical teams that sometimes wont work, but we will win games this season by sheer grit and dogged tannacity, mixed in with the occasional moments of magic (Ashley Young against Fulham for example). Last night was also about who didnt make the team, without Marlon or Ash, we simple dont look like creating or scoring many, if Ash had played yesterday it would have been 4-4-2 and a much more competitive performance.

Anyway to sum up, last night hurt, i really didnt want to go into work today and face the jibes from my colleagues, but one result does not make this team suddenly useless and Aidy tactically inept, keep the faith…we are gonna do it OUR way…

7. Ian R - 29/11/2006

I know what you’re saying about colleagues, I keep getting the taunt Aidy ‘Hoof’royd aimed at me by someone at work.

I just want us to win a few games so he shuts his cakehole!

8. Simon in Oz - 30/11/2006

Geez, a lot of you have some pretty short memories, or at least rosy-tinted hindsight.
Playing without our two best players (Marlon & Ashley) was always going to be tough. There would have been no play-offs if those two had had long periods out last season.
Living in Sydney I don’t get to see many games (!). I listen to the 3 Counties commentary at 2am on Sunday mornings (my wife does object so to sharing a bed with me, a laptop & earphones) but yesterday’s game was live on Aussie TV at the relatively civilised hour of 7am. I saw the awful grimness over my morning cuppa and it did rather remind me of the last WFC games I saw in person on my holiday to UK last season: Crewe away (0:0) and Leicester home (1:2); both ghastly, shapeless, virtually chanceless games…..just like Tuesday. And yet only a few weeks later the juggernaut to play-off victory was in motion.
We CAN still make it to 17th. Believe!

9. Paul Wiggins - 30/11/2006

Stay positive everyone and stop being so miserable. Times have changed it is no longer 1982. Clubs our size cannot survive for long in the top division – doesn’t matter how much we spend.. Those who complained when Boothroyd was appointed are now coming out of the woodwork to moan again. They are so wrong. His achievement at Watford is one that may even have been beyond the range of Graham Taylor. We will never finish second in the top division again but this isn’t because of shortcomings at the club it is because of what has happened to football. Yes we will probably go down, yes at some point Adie will move to better things and we will look on as we are led by the equivalent of Kirby, Keen, Bassett, Harrison, Lee, Perryman, Roeder, Jackett, Vialli and yes even Lewington and long for the good old days. We had our massively over achieved day in the sun at Cardiff- now we are paying as all little clubs do in the Abramovich age. If you dont like it go and buy that blue and white scarf. But remember, since 1979 Watford have overachieved on a regular basis. We are a division 3 size club temporarily mixing it with the big boys. It won’t last long but that comes from choosing to follow a small club. However, I dont think we have seen the last twist of this season yet. There is always hope

10. plbaxter - 30/11/2006

I started the season not so much hoping that we wouldn’t be relegated but that we wouldn’t be humiliated as we were last time. I am still haunted by Aston Villa away where the first half (even though it was 0-0 at half time) was just the worst football I have ever seen and Sheffield Wednesday away when the sheer headless chicken panic that ensued each time we were ahead (followed by what appeared to be relief from the players when Wednesday equalised) was so dispiriting.

Up until Tuesday night I felt we had at least competed so I shouldn’t let one result depress me, but it did. The players seemed to be trying hard but to have lost all remnants of control as if their legs had become 100% shin. Bringing on Shittu (and that stupid thing with drying the ball only for us) made me cringe- it’s like we now believe what the critics have been saying- but otherwise it’s hard to criticise Aidy for the positive way he just gets on with things rather than the irritating whines you here from the big clubs when they lose.

I live in the North West, so I’ll be at Manchester City but with trepidation as I feel a 4 or 5 nil coming. Good job it’s Aidy and not me who’s the manager…

11. Mike Smart - 30/11/2006

Simon in Oz

That’s just it – we can still make it to 17th. Woo-sodding-hoo. What a magnificent league this is.

12. Alan Ambler (thehornet35) - 30/11/2006

I agree totally Paul, we are a very small club. Boothroyd wants us to finish in the top ten, yes set your sights high (shoot for the moon if you miss youll land among the stars and all that…) but the fans all know that 17th would be a phenominal achievement, i would gladly take a season of misery for the sense of achievement and joy experienced at Cardiff, and atleast we know that (for a little while atleast) we wont be under the shadow of massive debt. Lets enjoy the ride however long it lasts…

13. Big Tone - 30/11/2006

Ig – you are a curmudgeonly old windbag and I claim my five pounds!

There’s plenty of points still to play for and we’re not out of touch yet (not quite anyhow…), so come on buck up, get over last night (even if it was a load of runny poo) and get back in the saddle.

The glass isn’t half empty just yet – it’s just that someone joggled the table on their way to the bar and we spilt a bit, that’s all; and it looks almost half full to me anyhow.

No one said this was going to be easy…

14. Billyo - 30/11/2006

“I would gladly take a season of misery for the sense of achievement and joy experienced at Cardiff”

As long as we keep in touch a relegation battle can be just as much fun as promotion. Survival on the last day of the season can bring an equal amount of joy as Cardiff. Oxford away on the last day of the season anyone?

Let’s keep things in perspective, as long as we stay in touch we are only a mini-good run at the end of the season away from staying up. Look at Pompey last year or West Brom the season before last. It’s not fun losing most weeks, but when you do the wins become quite special…

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