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End of Term Report 2022 – Part 1 02/06/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Right.  On the basis of the split vote between “End of Year Report” and “Season Preview”, “Both” is clearly the answer.  That’s the intention anyway.  Who wants a summer anyway (you bastards….).  Onwards…

1- Ben Foster

So here’s a nice easy one to start with.

This shouldn’t be complicated.  A very good goalkeeper who has done very good things for us over two spells by any sensible measure is nearing the end of his career and perhaps isn’t quite as sharp as he used to be.  Still had days where he almost kept us in games – we’ll take that in the circumstances – but perhaps fewer of them.  Also had days when he didn’t play quite so well – and perhaps more of them.

That’s it really.  Or should be.  The extra colour is provided by Foster’s off-field activities, particularly but not exclusively his YouTube and podcasting endeavours where we find that pretty much exactly the things that were gaining him plaudits during periods of lockdown when we were getting promoted are now a deemed by some a major problem given that we’re not in lockdown and getting conclusively relegated.

This was, in part, his choice of course.  You stick your head above the parapet, you do something different and you’re inviting stick sooner or later.  You’ve got to expect at least the possibility of criticism, justified or otherwise.  And certainly there have been incidents that have wandered beyond this – the “gobby Liverpool mate in the Watford end” episode was half-witted, for instance.

But a lot of the criticism comes from the perceived crime of not being sufficiently remorseful and deferential in the face of a relegation season.  Sanctimonious bollocks.  I’ve had times when I’ve been crap at my job but whilst I’m not in the public eye or in an entertainment industry, if someone had told me that I should stay home and quietly reflect on my inadequacies rather than going to the pub they’d have been told where to go.

Foster has been criticised for being a real person with a personality.  That he was never quite wedded to the idea of adhering to the stereotype of being a footballer was long evident, witness accounts of kinda falling out of love with the game at West Brom.  But after two promotions, a cup final and plenty of heroics besides in his Watford career and most recently a season by whose admittedly appalling standards he has done no worse than pretty well, Foster has surely earned the right to be human.

Next Season: Whatever he damn likes.  Quite right too.  Best of luck, Ben.

2- Jeremy Ngakia

I’m not very good at football.  I’ve never played regularly at any organised level, and to a certain extent this must affect my ability to interpret what’s going on in front of me whatever my extensive experience in watching rather than doing.

So if I’m missing subtleties that others more readily perceive then I rely more heavily on my other senses… the reading of body language for example.  On which basis, there’s little avoiding the suggestion that Ngakia’s teammates think he’s a bloody idiot quite a lot of the time.

Anyone who watched the Stoke League cup defeat will at least briefly have come to the same conclusion, but once the idea’s in your head it’s difficult to shake.  I’m trying very hard to avoid confirmation bias, trying to avoid turning theory into fact based on selective interpretation but the conclusion isn’t going away.

Jeremy Ngakia is far from unique in having had a poor season – indeed, he’s comfortably in the majority.  He has some attractive attributes – he digs in, he works hard, he’s got a lot of energy and a decent touch.  You’d like to think he’ll blossom at some point.  His trajectory has been pretty flat since a promising start, though.

Next Season:  If this is the summer that Kiko leaves, you’d question whether Jeremy is next cab on the rank – he’s not obviously a wing back.

3- Danny Rose

To be briefly contrary, I’m not entirely convinced that this was a bad idea.  A recurring theme in this review will be the number of gambles with our squad, gambles that didn’t come off.  This was clearly one of those.

But the propensity of gambles wasn’t a stylistic preference.  There would have been no pretentious desire to wilfully, gratuitously go in with a left field squad when safer, more solid options were available.  We had been relegated during a pandemic, promoted immediately to avert financial calamity but were clearly not wanting to mortgage the future of the club by overcommitting.  In that context, a former England left back with vast experience must have felt a much better shout then than now despite the end to his time at Spurs.

It didn’t work though, obviously.  Even Rose’s better performances, such as the win at Norwich where an extraordinary, searing through ball is still etched on my memory, were also punctuated by a startling lack of mobility.  It’s tempting to say “lack of fitness” but I’m not sure that’s true really… Rose started eight games and was only subbed once, despite Adam Masina’s ongoing availability.

Next Season: There’s clearly something “up” there then; having been confined to work with the kids at both Spurs and Watford it’s difficult to envisage an ongoing Premier League career when the outstanding year on his contract is (surely) settled.  In both cases however the suggestion is that he’s been supportive rather than disruptive subsequently. Good luck to him.

4- Peter Etebo

Not a lot to say about this really.  Peter Etebo looked pretty handy early in the season as part of our hastily bunged together midfield in the wake of the departures of Hughes, Chalobah and Zinckernagel but then got injured and clearly wasn’t deemed a safe enough bet for next season to risk wandering near the “obligation to buy” component of the loan deal if such existed.

Which is a bit of a shame, but no worse than that.  Others, most notably Juraj Kucka, also impressed more early on than their subsequent seasons reflected;  Etebo’s absence may have been pivotal or it may merely afford him the benefit of the law of other.  Not associated with the arse definitively falling out of our season.  Equally, given his track record since joining Stoke, a midfielder demonstrably plenty good enough for the Championship may see his level as being higher than that, so avoiding invoking his signing ensures that he remains Stoke’s job to loan out next season rather than our own.

Next Season:  My guess would be somewhere back in the Turkish Süper Lig, a current popular destination for “so that’s what happened to…” individuals (see also Steven Caulker, Gervinho, Nacer Chadli, Fabio Borini etc)

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Comments»

1. Tadcaster Hornets - 02/06/2022

Ben Foster. Top bloke, nothing else. Gave Flora his shirt after the Everton match, wished her happy birthday for the day after, wrote to her last week telling her to keep being awesome. As you say, he simply knows how to behave as a human and deserves all that’s ahead of him.

Matt Rowson - 02/06/2022

Quite. And, being human, he messes up occasionally. “Big Wow”, as my sister used to say when she was 14.

Gerard - 02/06/2022

I never really got the ‘let’s pile on Foster’ craze. I think it’s the result of looking for a scapegoat after such a poor season. Or just the twitter echo chamber. But whatever it was it was ridiculous

2. Ray Knight - 02/06/2022

Thanks Matt for the first part of your player summaries. Foster is still a legend in my eyes, despite some dropping off in form in an all-round disappointing season. Agree with your fair comments on Ngakia and Etebo. Where I differ is with regard to Rose, with whom you have been overly kind and diplomatic. On the day that Luther receives a richly deserved OBE, I cannot but contrast his unwavering work ethic/ positive attitude with Rose’s lack of fitness/ professional integrity. Just one of the disasters rather than gambles of the season taken in recruitment. It says it all when we had to go out and buy Kamara as a replacement, who ironically ends up our player of the season. The situation is just one symbol of all that is wrong with modern football, where some players effectively make themselves unavailable. Looking forward to your next post Matt.

3. Tim - 04/06/2022

Firstly thanks to Matt for going to the effort of doing both the review and preview a great service for all fans.
Re the first post Foster,one of the best keepers of the 50 years I’ve been watching one of the better players in a dreadful season so I give h my thanks wish him well rather than Ill. Ngakia not a good season but still young enough to come back and maybe make am impression .Rose very disappointing definitely something wrong. Etebo ,shame looked good in early games but injuries scuppered his time .but I look forward to us bringing in someone new who can help us move forward.


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