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19th Feb - A football there's a rarity on here

I find some football fans flair for the overstatement to be immensely frustrating at times.

In the wake of Mick McCarthy’s sacking at Wolves this past Monday, a caller rang Alan Brazil on talkSPORT saying he was a season ticket holder for 20 years and that (I’m paraphrasing here) the home defeat to WBA was “the worst I’ve ever seen to be honest”.

Well…was he being honest, or just trotting out the usual kneejerk reaction to one poor performance that ultimately cost Mick his job? Have Wolves played better than that in all the games under Dave Jones in the Premier League season that saw them relegated? Have Wolves played better in those many years under Taylor, Lee & Hoddle when the top flight seemed tantalisingly close, but in reality was miles off? Come on…

The thing is, it may well be best for all parties that Mick moves on after 6 years at Molineux – he got them up & kept them up (only by one goal last year, but he still managed it) and beat Chelsea & both Manchester clubs at home last season in wonderfully white-hot atmospheres. But once he criticised a small section of supporters after his substitutions were booed in the 2-2 home draw with Swansea back in October, he’d effectively started a war he could never win. You never ultimately win as a football manager when fans hear themselves referred to as ‘mindless idiots’ – lines in the sand were drawn at that point.

I actually think Mick had a point that day – he got a point from 2-0 down and he could barely contain his anger at the stick he’d received from the North Bank. Unfortunately, his honesty and blunt nature cost him in the end, both in terms of relations with supporters, and over his team selection which he doggedly defended under accusations of picking favourites over better squad players. Stats are there, though…4 points from 22 games or whatever it was is a very low return-continue in that vein & Wolves would’ve been down. So you can make a case for Messrs Morgan & Moxey to freshen things up.

Personally I shall miss Mick’s enlightening and honest press conferences, both pre & post match – to my mind he never once defended the indefensible and gave straight answers to straight questions. History will eventually show what a good Wolves manager Mick McCarthy was.

Down the road at Aston Villa, the clamour for the head of Alex McLeish on a silver platter continues unabated amongst a very vocal section of their support. These fans point to an almost identical Win/Lose/Draw record that Big Eck has this time last year with Blues in our relegation season. That stat alone is enough to send most into apoplectic fits of rage and ire. “But it’s not just because he’s come from that lot down the road” they opine to me, Adrian Durham and many other radio phone-in hosts. Whilst that assertion may be true of a very small band of Villa supporters, it’s my view that many Villains just can’t let that idea go, and that McLeish is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t regardless of what he may or may not achieve as their manager.

Again, my mind drifts back – is the (admittedly dour) style of play McLeish has adopted for Villa any worse than the teams who Gerard Houllier, David O’ Leary & Brian Little steered dangerously close to the choppy waters of the bottom 3 in the Prem in recent seasons? Sorry, but I remember the clamour for change being just as prevalent around them – only not as nasty and as personal as we’ve seen this season.

Of course, we are in the social network age, and Twitter/Facebook has given the faceless/nameless a platform to engage directly with players, owners & coaching staff to make their feelings clear in 140 characters or less. The liberties taken by some in this privileged position of having the ear of one of their heroes is utterly staggering (witness the filth sent to Billy Sharp following his departure from Doncaster as merely one crushingly depressing example).

The more level-headed try and use Facebook, Twitter etc as a means of mobilising protests nowadays – this does not always guarantee a winning turnout – those who protested against the Villa management outside the ground before the Man City game 10 days ago numbered roughly 100. That doesn’t mean their protest is any less valid-it just means its impact is negligible.

Blackburn fans have tried all manner of protests to try and force Steve Kean out of a job – inside the ground, outside the ground, marching to the ground, marching from the ground, marching up to the top of the hill and down again…and Kean remains in charge, and has never once to my knowledge spoken of Rovers fans in anything other than glowing terms. Smart bloke.

The point is that the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ is becoming more apt than ever. It probably started with Charlton fans showing a bit of disinterest in getting to 42 points well ahead of schedule every year under Alan Curbishley and desired – well – something more. Cue Ian Dowie, Les Reed et al, and look where the Addicks are now…only just showing signs of a return to the 2nd tier of English football, never mind the first.

So when fans protest, just how far ahead are they looking? Is the ideal replacement ready and waiting to ride to the rescue, or is it more a case of ‘we’ll worry about that later – just get him out’. Most times, it’s short-sightedly the former.

The way my club is being run is cloaked in the kind of mystery that Poirot, Cagney & Lacey and Scooby Doo combined couldn’t solve–the board have managed to alienate almost the whole supporter base within 2 years, which is no mean feat. So why haven’t there been mass protests and such like at St Andrew’s to the extent that we’ve seen elsewhere? Maybe because the one thing they have done right has brought everyone together-namely the appointment of Chris Hughton as manager. Thus a stay of execution for Yeung, Pannu et al – however, when the financial results finally do appear sometime in the Spring, it’ll be interesting to see just how bad they are, and whether it does tip some over the edge, regardless of whether the team is still up there in the Top 6.

The team continue to perform superbly well after such a packed season, typified by the draw at Chelsea in the FA Cup, another club incidentally with supporters desperate for a change of manager – Andre Villas Boas is showing supreme confidence, perhaps arrogance, in his belief that Roman Abramovic is fully behind his ‘project’ but the arrogance of some of his players would give me greater cause for concern if I were a Chelsea fan. Seems to me that the silence is so deafening from players wishing to defend AVB, some of the squad are actually enjoying the managers’ torment, deflecting things away from their shortcomings as it does.

They were as hopeless in the first half as Blues were organised and disciplined. Curtis Davies patrolled Torres like the ‘future England centre half’ he was touted as many years ago, before injury and manager apathy stunted his development. This near full season of Championship & European football has benefited Curtis hugely – a little like the season beneath the Prem that I believe Collocini at Newcastle needed to develop his aptitude for the pace of the game. Curtis has spent so long out of the firing line prior to his move here that he needed reminding what a talent he possesses…that’s what Hughton’s smart, focused coaching and weekly football has done for him. Brilliant to see.

And the players don’t look to be out on their feet quite yet, despite 357 games already this campaign. Light training sessions are the order of the day and that’s the only way such a small squad is going to be able to cope with a schedule that I think only now has one week without 2 games in it up until May. Of course, there’s the emergency loan market but nothing’s coming in for us yet. But as CH told me on Saturday, one frustrating day on the phone can be followed by a highly productive one the next. Such is the nature of finding the ‘right’ players.

Whatever happens, this has been the craziest, maddest season I can ever remember as a Bluenose.

Hang on - that sounds like overstatement there – hypocrite * slaps wrist *

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