Setting in, Patience and Trust Required

John Kenkel, our USA Coordinator writes about his views on the new season:

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” –Anatole France

After what seemed like a decade-long off season, the boys re-emerged onto the hallowed grounds of Griffin Park to make another run for the promised land. Many thought that the instability of the preseason would melt away under the bright sunshine of opening day, unfortunately that sentiment couldn’t have been further from the truth.

With a new manager, a plethora of new players, more specialised coaches/staff, and lots of help upfront, supporters have been cautiously optimistic. However, within two weeks of opening kick-off we saw the departures of fan favourites Jonathan Douglas and Stuart Dallas. For me, all I could think of was Paulie in Goodfellas saying to Henry after handing him a wad of cash, “And now I have to turn my back on you. There is no other way.” I loved watching those guys give their all for us, but we must  move on with fond memories and appreciation and we go again.

While these losses smarted and marked a departure of some of the Old Guard, it was the loss of Moses Odubajo that tested the resolve of many supporters. Furthering the instability, was the double gut punch in the way that Hull handled the transfer (after very publicly bemoaning similar tactics employed against them in their loss of Robbie Brady) and their on again off again pursuit of Andre Gray. More than anything the tactics employed by Hull and the timing of the moves unsettled both fans and players alike. Our gaffer admitted it was an issue coming off the Norwich friendly and further confirmed it after Gray began our opening match on the bench and claiming he was unsettled. Surely Hull deserve a half of the Tractor Boys point from this weekend!

Personally, I was hoping that Hull was going to back off Gray after pulling out of a £6.5m offer late last week and their loan of Akpom. Sadly, it looks like it was pulled more because a deal wasn’t going to get done in time for Gray to join Hull for their opening match, and I am guessing as a way to unsettle a club that will surely be challenging Hull for a promotion spot. Well played Hull. Given the L’Equipe reports that we have tabled a €6m bid for French U-21 striker, Sebastien Haller, I would say the writing is on the wall. Not bad business for FC Utrecht who activated his €500k buyout clause in April of this year.

It is clear that opinion is divided on Andre Gray, but I believe it has more to do with our club’s love of history and the feeling that Gray is one of the new boys replacing our beloved League One boys. The reality is that Gray provided 18 goals last season, shot at 54% accuracy, the second highest ratio of the top 10 scorers last season in the Championship (take that naysayers!). And in case anyone missed it, he was clearly the spark that jumpstarted the last minute heroics. The best point I have heard about the valuation of Andre Gray is whether the £7-8m today is worth the loss of the £120m generated by a move from the Championship to the Prem id he can be the one to net us 20+ goals and lead this offense. Unfortunately, it sounds like Hull will have their way, but I hope that this is one deal that doesn’t get done.

I should have come clean at the start, I am in the US. I no longer have the ability to walk to GP and get my fix. My Saturday’s consist of watching text summaries, scouring Facebook and Twitter, all the while I frantically search to see if someone is streaming it live. That said, I have caught some highlights now and there seem to be a few concerns on the pitch that need to be resolved. The first is the pitch itself. The turf replacement has not taken and both the Ipswich and Stoke (which I was in attendance for) matches looked like my 8-year old spent a few hours out there with a 9-iron. For those interested, the club used the same team that installed the grass last season so beautifully. They did not do as good of a job this year. The club has apparently spoken to the contractor and may need to fix it. However, in order to do a proper job, it may take 7-10 days which means the club will need a big window to fix it.

From my dark corner of the socce…um…football world. I was able to surmise that our defence was perhaps a liability. Like last season, the dreaded counter attack bug caught us again. Also similar to last season I see lots of complaints about individual players, especially Harlee Dean. I personally think it is unfair to single him out. I think it has more to do with the pairing of centre backs. I am not convinced that Tarky and Dean should be playing side by side given their individual style of play, though that pairing this weekend probably had more to do with Bjellend’s fitness than anything. It also seems we will need an everyday right back who has some real pace. Don’t get me wrong, McCormack is one of my favourites, and I love watching that guy play, but we will need some options. The club has stated that they are in the market for a right back now, and if anything the club has been surprisingly straight forward and honest in a way that most teams are not.

At the end of the day, we supporters have more to be thankful for than at any time in living memory. We should all be behind the owner, players, and coaches without question. That said, no one minds some good banter, sharing passionate opinions, and Sunday morning armchair managing. No one would have dreamed of where the club is today only two years ago. Sure, expectations are much higher, but that is a good thing, or at least it should be! Those who were chanting Warburton on the terrace this week (whether it was 2 people or 10) should be ashamed and those that are writing the season off, or putting down new players need to stop. Yes the team and supporters are a bit unsettled at the moment, but let’s not forget we went through the same process last year with Charlton and still smarting from the Forshaw departure. We have a point from a team that will surely be near the top of the table at season end, we have more talent than we can shake a proverbial stick at, and we finally have a plan B, C, and D.

“Don’t worry, be happy.” – Bobby McFerrin

The BIAS blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don’t necessarily represent BIAS policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to BIAS.