Another pre-season on the South Coast, another feeling of flatness.
It finished Beachy Head 0 Colliers Wood 0. Byron Harrison played and went off injured after 20 minutes. It was sunny and warm, though not as stifingly hot as previous warm spells recently. Oh, and we played a couple more youngsters.
And that’s really that’s worth mentioning.
Which causes a bit of a problem. See, I know that “it’s only pre-season”, that we will get some resemblance of the starting XI against Stevenage in just over two weeks time. That you can’t really judge this etc etc.
But this is the third such game in a week I’ve watched, and every time I’ve left the ground massively underwhelmed. Even with all the caveats, I’m sure I’m not being unreasonable to expect a bit more than the bare minimum. Even just something to come away with, like a player playing well and you thinking that he could be all right (Derek Duncan Syndrome™ notwithstanding).
We won at Bognor but we might as well have been asleep. Woking was as horrible as it sounds – one shot on target in that game. Today was marginally better, but nobody could even keep the ball for more than three seconds without giving it to an opposition player. And of course, the usual general sloppyness that plagued so much of last season…
The problem at the moment seems to be summed up thus : we have three PSF games remaining, yet it feels like we need another six. I can quite happily discount the West Ham XI game (and especially Bassey’s testimonial), which leaves us with two games to put the first team together and get them settled in. And that assumes Pompey won’t go belly-up before then.
Why is it so flat? We started pre-season training quite early, so we don’t have the excuse of catching up with ourselves. We should have more fitness, yet the finer points of our game don’t seem to have moved too far forward since Reading.
Maybe that 7-0 humiliation hit us more than we originally thought? It certainly didn’t do our confidence much good, and no doubt forced us to make changes in who we look at, perhaps un-necessarily. Even when it’s still gaining match practice, you do get a vibe of who’s doing well and who isn’t. Since that game at KM, we haven’t looked particularly inspiring, and I hope it’s just a very bad hangover.
I dunno, maybe we’ll start seeing the team finally look like it’s coming together on Tuesday. It needs to…
Plus points: We didn’t lose. Clean sheet. Nice sunny day.
Minus points: Those who stayed in the bar to watch the cycling may have got the better deal.
The referee’s a…: I think I might need to drop this section during pre-season as they seem to make less mistakes than usual at this time of year. Not quite sure what that implies, though.
Them: Nice to visit, though would have perhaps expected a few more of us down there. Arguably they came nearer to winning it than we did. It was also their open day, which included an archery range. Insert gag about shooting here.
Point to ponder: Whither Byron Harrison? He’s been heavily linked with a move to Cheltenham this week, and his absence has been pretty odd. It was symbolic that he started today, and even more poignant that he ended up going off after an ankle knock.
He’s still here, of course, and despite him being in very real danger of being a flop, I do want him to do well. If only because I don’t think Midson will be as effective next season. I really can’t see Kiernan impressing the AC Milan scouts enough, and Strutton won’t find it easy against L2 defences. Not to mention Prior.
It’s a bit of a shame that he did get crocked today, as this was the sort of game where a run-out could have got him a confidence boosting goal. More importantly, it would have given something for your editor to write about.
Oh, and where is Rashid Yussuf? Injured? AWOL? Or in true South American dictator style, “disappeared”…?
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Being not many miles away from Beachy Head. I won’t make the obvious joke, instead I’ll mention that at times we moved as well as somebody found at the bottom of it. (2) Spotted : one Gerry Francis. He of ex-QPR and Tottenham fame, not to mention being the only man in Western Europe to keep exactly the same hairstyle for the last 35 years. Walks with a limp, too. Oh, and his son was on trial for us. (3) “Sussex By The Sea”. I presume it’s mandatory if you’re a member of the Sussex FA to play this song if your club is within 6 miles of the coastline. Mind you, how many London clubs use London Calling?
Anything else? Not really, although there is a definite lack of pre-season optimism about. In fact, I was surprised how many people today believe we will be hovering around relegation (and not the hotheads, either), and not even predicting we’ll be mid-table.
It is hard to guess what will happen next campaign, which might be a reason for this. Of course, just as many think we should now sit back and rest a bit, let us grow organically if slowly. Can we really do that, though? Most of us know that we have to improve from last season, and for the first time since 2002, we may not have done enough to guarantee our progression.
Or, if you’re feeling a tad apocalyptic at the moment, survival.
The club is in a rebuilding stage, and stage one was started in the summer (culling of players). Stage two will be coaching and management, while stage three involves how the club is run and who runs it (day-to-day as much as anything). All of those stages may need to be done quite quickly. There’s a temptation to think that we can slow down the rate we’ve progressed at since 2002 – if anything, we may need to go faster…
So, was it worth it? I got to see the A27.
In a nutshell: Roll on Tuesday. Or not.