Welcome back to the new season. Good, eh?
I guess that this puts to bed the notion that just using the pre-seasons to gain match fitness and little else is a good idea. We had eight of them and we still managed to look woefully unprepared for our first competitive fixture this season.
Cohesion? What’s that? Game plan? Meh. Signs of a likelyhood to improve? That’s an Olympic event, isn’t it? OK, the first game back after such a cull is always going to be a bit tricky, but I honestly can’t put my hand on my ticker and say I got any encouragement from tonight.
Even when we scored, there was no real sense that we were going to come back (the third goal from Stevenage a few minutes later saw to that), and the second half might as well have been a pre-season. At times we were passing the ball in defence like we were winning 3-1 and simply trying to kill the game off…
I was trying to think of a way of summing up what we saw – not only tonight, but in the more-important-than-you-think warm up games – and it came to me around the M25/M4 turnoff.
That might be an unfair thing to say, even when we haven’t kicked a ball in the League yet, but that’s what tonight felt like – the local Dog and Duck. Anyone who could run for 90 minutes without dying of a heart attack could play, and bugger the ability to play.
There was plenty of pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-panic-hoof stuff. Poor Jack Midson was so isolated that if he was an island, he would only be reached once a day if it wasn’t foggy. Nobody could find anyone else, and the less said about Seb’s mistake for their second…
You really do have to wonder what we did during pre-season training. It’s all very well for TB to blast individual mistakes tonight, but given how we all know he finds defence abhorrent to his ideology, that’s something he should have done triple time on during the summer.
We now have that unwritten rule of the ten-game marker for how we’re going to do and what we decide after that. Quite simply, if we play like that (and how we played in the PSFs, especially against Woking and Eastbourne), we might not need until Oxford away at the beginning of October. Or more accurately, we might not have any other option but to act.
See, I don’t mind a team that needs time to gel – it happens every single season in football. What I do mind is the very real sense we haven’t learnt the obvious mistakes. Yes, I know about the budget etc, but there’s still a minimum standard to adhere to. And we haven’t seen that once this pre-season, including tonight.
I didn’t read their programme tonight, but I glanced over somebody’s shoulder and saw one of their bods saying that no matter how well they did last season, they still feel the need to improve year upon year. That’s a fantastic attitude to have, and dare I say one we don’t have…
Something isn’t right with us right now, and we can’t pinpoint exactly where. I mentioned that we seem like a pub team earlier, and while we’re stronger on paper than last season, even at this very early stage it feels like we’ve regressed. And you don’t need to have ten games down the line to have the gut feeling many have at this very moment.
Is it too early to say that? Possibly, but I’m genuinely worried about this upcoming season – and it’s not just the usual SW19 love of humanity. Something really doesn’t feel right. It’s not the same as being excited as we were this time last year, and in many times since 2002, but lest we forget that we’ve lived through the WFC era too, and I don’t recall feeling quite so apprehensive during those times as I do right now.
At least, when it comes to on-field matters.
Fans aren’t stupid, most of the time. They have a sixth sense as much as any manager as how their team is shaping up, and there’s a lot of negativity and apprehension currently about. Games like tonight do absolutely nothing to change that, in fact I think it’s just entrenched some increasingly hard feelings.
I have to be honest here. I don’t know if I’m working for Chesterfield, and I actually hope I am. For the first game of the new season, that is not a good sign at all. A bit like the SW19 reader who said to me tonight that once you expect a performance like we had, that’s the time to worry.
The beginning of the new season should be one of optimism, even if it is misplaced. I just feel as though we’ve carried on from last season already. There were certainly signs of 2011/12 at Broadhall – a lot of shite, a few bright spots (after we scored), but ultimately deflating and a sense of underachievement.
Cue us winning on Saturday…