With two chances in the first minute and four in the first four minutes – you’d be right in thinking – “how many?” Alas shortly afterwards Telford woke up a bit and started to close us down more. They still permitted us plenty of chances and half chances in the first half, one of which Robbie Willmott was good enough to take after a lovely turn by The Shadow.
Some points to make here. First of all – the Shadow has now been instrumental in our last three goals, so much for him not being able to cross. He is on fire at the moment (not in a Poku sense), and deserves some respect, not least from me.
However, let’s look at the recent scores. The drubbing of Hendon aside, we’ve scored either 1 or 0 goals in our last seven games. Not good enough. So for all of the chances we created today, it was amazing that we only scored one goal, yet again.
Another thing to ponder – it’s an old adage at Luton that you need to be at least two goals up as we will invariably ship one. Today was no different, and for all of the chances we made, and for all of the bright football we put together, we were never going to get a second.
Another common theme – what on earth does he say to them at half time? If we haven’t got enough goals to win the game in the first 45 it strikes me that we are stuffed, because for some reason – and I can’t think what it might be, Brabin’s half time team talks seem to demotivate the team. They switch off and to a degree stop playing, giving the opposition a sniff and allowing them back in. I’m struggling to think what words you could say to disempower (yes, it is a word) the players so many times in a season. Is it the non-rousing half time speeches – or perhaps the tactics. Does he say “keep going as you are lads – the opposition are bound not to change anything.” Is it naivety? Is it a lack of experience or a lack of football nous?
Whilst I’m having a go – I’ll keep on…what has Adam Bloody Watkins got to do to get a start? Lawless was like a puff of air today – shirking tackles and missing passes. Just what we need in the middle.
Another thing – if you have two shortish strikers up front towered over by centre halves who are paid to nod the ball away all day – get the ball down lads.
I thought Brunt looked good, a real prospect. It is what our rivals down the M1 do very well and what we do very badly: they tend to get good young prospects from better clubs to play for them for a season – the thinking is that it is better to have a young player who is going on to be very good, than an average player playing at the top of his game. We need players at this club who are going to ply their trade at the top end of the leagues, not non-league specialists who are going to be out of their depth a division above. This is the fundamental error in our club. Goalkeeping and experienced players aside. Just not enough class.
Therefore – I am thinking that perhaps Brunt should start. I am thinking that perhaps Kissock, Watkins should start – or be there or thereabouts. I am thinking that Howells and Keane and perhaps Amari (when he’s fit) should start. The rest of them we’ve got to think ‘is this a player who will grow as Luton Town grow and progress through the leagues – or is this guy going to be out of his depth in the divison(s) above?’ We’ve got to be honest. Crawley were – The Shadow was let go presumably, for this reason.
But of our squad – and let’s be honest here – which would you be confident that we would want to hang onto if we got promoted? Gleeson? Beckwith? Big Hips? Fleetwood even? Lawless? Blackett? Osano?
So what I am saying is that I would rather we have a squad with a combination of experienced decent pro’s and youngsters who are on their way up, whose coattails we can piggy back on for a couple of years, than a squad full of make-weights and journeymen.
We were good at that under Kinnear and Newell – how many of their squads went onto much better things with us as a staging post, getting the benefit of them as they improve and grow on their inexorable rise for a couple of years? I can name Curtis Davies, Kevin Foley, Carlos Edwards, Dave Edwards (I know he wasn’t Newell or Kinnear) Matt Taylor, Emmerson Boyce, John Hartson etc etc. We want a squad of players who we are afraid might be poached, not a squad of players who we have poached from non-league. And this is where our problem lays. Too many players who are going nowhere. They are relying on our reputation to get them up, rather than us employing them to get us up. Let’s be brutally honest. Would you rather have the benefit of a Craddock for a couple of seasons or a Barnes-Homer for life?
So therein lies the problem. If our youngsters are good enough they should be in. Otherwise why have them at the club? Would Dan Walker be banging them in for us in League One? If Chris Tavernier is on the books, give him some games. If there is a spark there, it will be obvious. If he looks out of place or needs experience, give him some games elsewhere. My argument is that if he can’t get into the squad when we are as low as we are ever going to go – then what hope might he have in the event we do get promoted? If you can’t get some games for us in non-league then you are not going to magically improve, just because the club has gone up a division or two.
If our management is good enough we’d be recruiting more Brunts and Kissocks and fewer quite-good-on-their-day-but-not-quite-consistent-enough Lawless-es, Beckwiths, Gleesons, Crows, and to be honest, Willmotts, O’Connors and Fleetwoods. I’m not saying that that I dislike Big Hips, Osano or O’Connor etc, I’m just saying that we have recruited from non-league for non-league.
Surely the three questions that should be asked before signing a player are:
“do we expect this player to be good enough to be still playing for us two divisions above?”
“Do I think this player will spend the majority of his career two or more divisions above? Are we lucky to have him until he moves on?”
Or finally “Will this experienced pro add quality to the squad and balance to all of the youngsters?”
If the answer to one or more of these points are a brutally honest ‘yes’ then they should be signed – if not then keep looking.
Some of you might argue – where’s the money to recruit this type of player Dave? Well youngsters tend to be cheap – it is the experienced pros who are the problem. But how much does our enormous squad cost anyway? Surely a squad of 20 players could cost the same as a squad of 30 or more. I’m not sure we have to recruit all and sundry in the ultimate quest to find the right balance at the club. Well it’s not an ultimate quest, it’s a bloody scatter gun approach of a manager who knows only non-league and can use the lure of our history and 6k crowds to get players to the club, occasionally turning up a gem. To badly paraphrase Mike Atherton in his autobiography “What do they know of football, they that only non-league know?”. Other managers have to work harder, try harder, to get decent players to their clubs.
Two years ago I was saying on these pages – get the youngsters in – and readers would argue, no David we need a team to get out of this Godforsaken league and then we can worry about the youngsters again. I fundamentally disagreed then and still do now. Where has that policy got us? 1-1 at home to bloody Telford. It was a flawed policy then and still is now.
When we picked up Aaron O’Connor in the summer (and Aaron has been the most improved player during this season, so hats off to him) the questions GB should have asked himself is not “can he do a job for us next season?” but
1) “Is Aaron so good that he is capable of playing at least in League One?” or
2) “Am I scared that he might be off in six months because he is so good”.
The answer to the “can he do a job for us” question was undoubtedly yes – but if the answer wasn’t yes to at least one of the others should he have been recruited? I’m saying not.
A poor manager won’t be able to look into the future and spot the potential of the player, and so won’t ask himself questions 1 or 2.
An average manager will be pretty good at spotting the potential, will usually ask the questions and will get it right much of the time.
A great manager will ask the questions, spot the talent a mile off and snaffle the player.
So, as well as being a good tactician, a decent manager must be able to recruit the ones with potential, not just the ones who can ‘do a job in non-league’.
Right – it is 1am now, and I think I have ranted for long enough. Sorry if I’ve gone on a bit and sorry if you were looking for a match report – that seems to have gone by the wayside.
Perhaps I care too much? Perhaps I want too much for my club to be able to lift itself out of this league by being so obviously better than the others that we walk it. I know that there is a manager out there who is capable of finding the right balance between excellent youngsters (on our books or elsewhere) and good experienced players. Unfortunately I am increasingly led to think that our manager – pleasant and keen enough though he is – is not that man and perhaps, just perhaps, is a little out of his depth.
Rant over – apologies if I have offended anyone, least of all the players I have described as journeymen. Hopefully you appreciate the point I am trying to make. And if not, and if you think I am wrong, please say so.
Come on you Hatters.