He’s Gone…

….I’m out all day and I come back to some positive news at last.

Clearly as disappointed as the rest of us, the board have finally shown Gary Brabin the door.

Alan Nielsen is in temporary charge whilst Paul Carden hangs on.

He had to go, it was cruel keeping in charge for so long when he was so obviously out of his depth. I wish him well in the future – and here’s betting that the first time his new club play us, they beat us. It can’t have been easy for him, he’s had a bad year losing his father and now his job. It must have been frustrating feeling so out of control of the players. I suspect tonight, he feels just a little bit relieved. Relieved that he hasn’t got to face the wrath of the crowd again, on the back of another terrible result.

The writing has been on the wall for a while this year. There have been a number of strange and worrying results. Whilst we don’t have a divine right to win every game – alarm bells began to ring as early as the strange home draw against Forest Green, the draw at Hayes, the draw at Stockport, the draw at Bath, the home defeat to Cambridge, the draw at Ebbsfleet, the draw with Telford, the draw at Lincoln, the defeat at Barrow, the poor performance against Bath, the draw at Darlo, the home draw to Grimsby and the defeats against York. You get my drift.

The only way from here is up. This is the first stage and this is early days. Still got a hard game away on Tuesday and still got the dismal dispirited bunch of players who have been letting Brabin and the crowd down recently. Might take more than Alan Nielsen to pump some spirit into them. But, the shackles have been cast aside. Southport did us a favour today by losing at home too.

Next steps:

1) Do what we can to try to get into the play-offs and scrap ourselves into some form, like wounded tigers.

2) Find the right man for the job 4th time lucky, someone to believe in, someone the players will believe in, someone the fans have faith in.

In the summer:

3) Get rid of some of the idlers at the club – the bonfire of the contracts. Reduce the size of the squad.

4) Procure players who want to play for the club and are proud to wear the shirt.

5) Encourage a seamless transition from the youth players to the first team squad.

6) Try to play some decent football in the style we expect.

7) Turn us from a side who can’t beat the top 6, to a side the other teams in the top 6 fear.

Not too much to ask…it can’t be too tricky now can it?!?!?

Come on you Hatters!

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"Have you ever thought it might be you?"

Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, this time by our bête noirs from Bootham Crescent.  Yet again, once we had failed to build on our early lead, the writing was on the wall, and as sure as night follows day we imploded into defeat.

What more is there to say? I can’t keep trotting out the same stuff. Brabin has been on borrowed time now for ages – there is no turning point in sight with him in charge. The players huff and puff, but there is no character or fight and they limp tamely into submission each week.

The Luton fans continue to come in great numbers. I’m just amazed, as the performances and results subside the Hatters continue to come in numbers like lambs to the slaughter. Our faith in the team and club is superb, and despite having every excuse not to come – the match being on a Friday night, on the telly, in a recession, after poor results, still the fans come in droves. The team doesn’t deserve us. And tonight the atmosphere the singing and the encouragement was superb, at least whilst we were doing our best to attack and win. We are trying to do our bit.

On the pitch – after Andre Gray’s excellent opener, springing onto a knock on turning a half chance into a goal we started in a positive way, on the front foot, playing with vigour and pace. But after about 20 minutes the entropy began.  The determination started to dissolve, the players forgot how they had been playing and we started to let York back in, after having initially given them nothing, or rather, allowed them nothing. Inexplicably with about 15 mins to go in the first half, we ceded the initiative by reverting to Brab’s favourite 4-5-1, with Crow on the wing (no pun intended). We stayed at 4-5-1 for the 2nd half and our fate was sealed.

We knew we needed to get 2 or 3 up, because Brabin’s half time talk is usually enough to turn a performance around in the oppositions favour. And as sure as eggs is eggs with us having allowed York back into the game, they  equalised, when Howells was harshly adjudged to have fouled the ginger penalty-chipper Walker on the left hand edge of the box. The ensuring free kick found its way to McLaughlin on the edge of the box in acres of room , not closed down by a midfielder and he fired in the equaliser. Do you know, whilst I was surprised in the manner they equalised, I’m sad to say that I was certain that they would.

And with York being York, they were hungry enough to finish us off Meredith tucked home at a corner from a Tyler save.

I could mention the strange decision to play McAllister on the left – as it happens, bless him, he won nearly every ball there – so strange to see a Luton striker do that, but it was a bit weird having a 6’2” striker out on the wing. I’d love to see him alongside Gray in a front two. Think of the chaos they could cause.  A big centre forward alongside a smaller fast nippy striker – think of that as a concept.  I do believe it may have been tried before somewhere….

So there you go – there’s much to discuss – but there is nothing more to add to what has gone before.

We know that things are in crisis, so do the board. The manager sails happily on sticking to his line about genuinely believing we can get into the play offs and get promotion, without any empirical evidence to support his case. I’ve said it before, he is like Comical Ali – roundly insisting that Iraq will win the war, whilst the American tanks advance in the background. He’s like Alistair Campbell, who lives in a little bubble where he is right and the rest of the world is wrong. Right now, I think that Gary might be the only person in the place who actually believes what he is saying. The title of this post echoes those words Alan Shearer said to Glen Hoddle. I just wish one or two of the team would say it to the manager. Yes, many of their actions on the pitch make them appear to be clueless and spineless, but surely they’ve lost complete faith in him too. Well either they have got blind faith, or at some point the penny will drop and they will realise that, nice bloke though he is, he will not lead them into the promised land, however nice that would be.

You could say it wasn’t the manager who failed to close McLaughlin down for their first (tue) – but you could also argue that it wasn’t McAllister who stood on the wing of his own accord, it wasn’t the players who decided to adopt 4-5-1 mid way through the first half. Whilst their performance casts doubt on their support for the manager, you’ve got to also wonder what they must make of the constant changes to the team & squad, the constant tinkering with tactics and formation and the problem of forcing to players to play out of position. Yes, it is the players who underperform on the pitch, but are we really making the most of what we have got at the club? I now we have a much weaker squad than in the last two seasons, but some would say it is strong enough to be in the top 5 by the end of March.

I don’t know – it’s hard to take. I can but hope that one day, perhaps next season we will have a tactically astute man at the helm of the club, sure of his best starting XI and formation and inspiring enough to ensure that his players work hard, play football the right way and now how to score goals and win matches.

Not too much to hope for is it? You never know….

 

 

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You couldn’t make it up

 

Town 1-1 Grimsby

 

After a strange, rollercoaster week, there have been four more twists and turns in the past 24 hours in the developing and ongoing soap opera of Luton Town FC.

I say rollercoaster – rollercoasters have ups as well as downs. Our week was more like a go on the dodgems.

First of all, last night at tea-time the board threw us a strange curve ball in the shape of Lil Fuccillo. Now the fans today and 3CR were full of intrigue and gossip and rumour about why Lil has been brought in. ‘Manager in waiting’ ‘Director of Football’ ‘Breathing down Brabin’s neck’. For all the hidden agendas (and of course time will tell) I’m happy to go on what the press release said and what Gary Sweet said in his programme notes (more of that in a second).  All the Board know Lil quite well, he’s a local man and a Luton chap and they want someone ‘Footbally’ on the board. Despite his grandiose title of Technical Director, Sweet suggested that whilst they are all football fans on the Board, none of them has a soccer background and Lil adds that experience and knowledge that they haven’t got. Presumably he will help in negotiations with the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea as they snaffle our promising youngsters and give the benefit of his footballness in recruitment policy. I was suggesting a similar role for Big Mick, when he stepped down. Actually I’d still have Mick at the club but as both head coach and Director of Football – but presumably he’s had enough of us (for now) and so now we have Lil. I always thought Lil looked bloody grumpy as a player, but apparently he’s a charming chap and Luton through and through. If it gives the management structure of the club an edge over other clubs and helps the board’s decisions then I’m all for it.

The second twist and turn was the pre-match notes by Gary Sweet. Gary has been under intense pressure this week to both act in terms of sacking GB, but to come out and say something about the current state of affairs. Now he said nothing all week which I commented on yesterday but I think he was unequivocal in his programme notes today. I predicted that it would be full of the usual warm words about giving the manager support. But, ahem, I’m delighted to say that it was full and frank and left us in no doubt as to his, and presumably the board’s position. I think it mirrored most of our opinions and certainly all of the comments left on here in the past week or so.

I’m going to quote some of the best bits – bear with me – the italics are mine:

“…I’ve been left disenchanted and dejected after some dreadful league performances…”

“I can’t remember when I have ever felt embarrassed about …the Hatters, past or present. Tuesday night though truly dented my pride after witnessing one of the most abject and sterile performances…from a Luton team.”

“As a club official…I feel unreservedly apologetic for letting every one of you down…”

“…what we have delivered recently has not been acceptable.”

“…what decisions we make from herein [sic] are of paramount importance to us all. We are in control and know what needs to be done to ensure that these performances are not repeated.”

“I was particularly disheartened…by the apparent lack of fight and drive from almost every member of the team…”

“Like it or not, Luton Town players need to fully embrace the fervent, passionate and…volatile culture of this Club. This Club is clearly not for the faint-hearted…good nature wins nothing out on the pitch.”

“At this time of year football players and staff all need to impress ahead of pre-season and contract renewal…very few are demonstrating the required ambition to be rewarded.”

“We have demanded that a substantial improvement is expected from all directly involved – that this ship is firmly placed on course without delay and starting this afternoon.”

Well, if that’s not a bollocking, I don’t know what is. I wonder if all of the elements of the phrases above were communicated to the staff and players, or just basically the last paragraph. Even if it was only the last paragraph then the rest of it is now in the open and is direct and open in its meaning and intent.  Hats off to GS for saying what he did. He’s restored my confidence.

To paraphrase: shape up bloody quickly or ship out. I suspect GB is on the equivalent of a final warning and another performance like Tuesday’s today would have meant the end of him.  I think the 1-1 leaves the board between a rock and a hard place. Whilst the attitude was improved, the result did us no favours, we are still going backwards, and if York win their game in hand on Tuesday (at Bath) then we are out of the play offs altogether. Yes, my friends, we will have to fight just to get back in the play offs – we won’t be in the top five in the fifth tier. Incredible. How did it ever get to this?

I’ve been at businesses where the employees treat work as if it’s a jolly where you are given an inch but take a mile and take the piss and don’t care about the work.  But I’ve also been in ones where everyone is pulling together and their roles and success are interdependent, but you are left in no doubt that you pull your weight or are shown the door.  Our club is like the former, successful clubs are like the latter. There has been nothing to suggest from the players’ demeanour, comments and attitude that some of them see their time at the club as anything but a big party and a country club. I get the impression that some of them don’t give a stuff about Luton. I can tell you now that if that group of players had had the talking-to on Tuesday night that I would have given them, or that they would have got at my work place, they wouldn’t have been messing around on the pitch before kick off or laughing and joking on twitter. They would have had very solemn, stern and determined expressions and demeanour. They would have been very, very focussed indeed. They would have had some manners stuck on ‘em.

As it was – and we come on the third bit – the performance, but not the outcome, was improved. The players did play better, not brilliantly, but better. There was more passion, though clearly confidence and belief are still low. There were some nice touches and some good football. They dominated large chunks of the afternoon. Poku and Keano added some balls and crunch to the midfield. Lawless and Willmott showed glimpses of what they can do out wide. Even Big Hips Crow, even though he was out-jumped all afternoon showed some good touches and vision in the second half at least. The new lad, Gray deserved his goal and looked a breath of fresh air. I’ve got to ask, how long before his sharpness and eye for goal are dulled and he is turned into yet another toothless tiger (oh David – you old cynic.). I don’t think we play to his strengths though. He is a quick nippy player, but we won’t exploit him unless we are quick to break downfield. Our tempo is normally far too slow. I could mention the interesting substitutions we got to enjoy this afternoon. But I’m sure much more will be written elsewhere.Y

But for a bit more luck in front of goal – albeit Lawless’ shot, one of the corners, Crow’s lob, or that cross from Howells which just went over Gray’s head then the result would not have been in doubt. But that has been the case nearly all season. Crosses haven’t connected, shots haven’t found the target, penalties have been missed etc. It’s either just not clicking or we’ve run out of luck/karma or there’s something fundamentally wrong. I’ll let you decide which.

And so onto the result. Hands up who could see that coming? Almost everyone I suspect. How many times this year has a failure to extend the lead led to us being bitten on the arse by a late goal or comeback by the opposition? Some might argue that having failed to extend the lead, and with wins in such short supply recently that the team might just have decided to cling on to the 1-0 and get what would have been a well-deserved win. Others might say that once we went one up our change of tempo had already been enough to allow Grimsby a chance to get back in. Whatever it was, with about four minutes left, we were all up the field and exposed and mistakes from the defenders allowed them in to equalise. No change there then. Mike Newell always insisted that the only way to defend a lead was to score another goal – but Gary Brabin is no Mike Newell.

The result is a shame really, because I enjoyed the game and thought we deserved to win. Perhaps you could argue we were unlucky. No – to sound very clichéd – you have to make your own luck.

Another enjoyable aspect of today’s play was the terrible ref. Well, he was terrible in some ways at least. Very keen to let play flow where he could, he certainly allowed plenty of challenges which would have been blown up and carded in the majority of games, but it wasn’t a dirty game. What he wasn’t terribly good at was getting the decisions right. Fortunately (for his own safety’s sake) most of the decisions went in our favour. There were too many to mention, about a dozen perhaps? But I think the best one of all was when Tyler did a beautiful tip over, a good save, only for it to be given as a goal kick. A wonderfully short-sighted non-league ref.

The last thing to comment on was the fans. Bearing in mind the poor performances recently, and helped perhaps by kids for a quid (note to the board: must do this more often) for 5,700 home fans to turn up today was remarkable. Every excuse to stay away. God knows how many we will get when we are half decent again next year.

Whilst there isn’t the singing that there used to be, there was more than there has been of late at home. The players were warmly applauded and supported all the way. The fans responded to the increased effort and determination and spurred the team on. The crowd erupted when we went 1-0 up and for a second we were lulled into thinking that, hey perhaps things have turned the corner and will all be okay from here on in. Though there was good reason for it to be like a morgue the Hatters fans gave it our all and kept our side of the bargain. At least the players weren’t given the option of blaming the result on a lack of vocal support.

What was fascinating was that when at the start of the game when Brabin came onto the pitch after the players the clapping noticeably died down, he got no plaudits and sought none either.

At the end of the game the players were applauded off, but oh dear, as poor GB ventured near the Kenny End boy did it vent its collective opinion – he was left in no doubt as to what the feeling was on his continued presence at the club. The crowd turned on him like an angry bear. He instantly retreated from the cacophony of jeers like the neighbour’s cat when squirted with a hose.  The applause resumed for the players when it was clear that it was not GB they were clapping. Sad really, feel sorry for the guy. Only promotion would grant him redemption I suspect, and even then with a multitude of reservations. Alas, I don’t feel confident that we will even reach the play offs with him in charge. So we won’t get the chance to see.

So, the board and the manager demanded a change in attitude and they got it. Though things were not perfect they were better. Taken on its own or in a different time and place, that performance would have been okay. Disappointing result but an okay day out. But because it came after the recent lows it will be judged in context and as another game we could and should have won.

In summary then – Lil…interesting, Gary Sweet’s comments…spot on, the performance…better, the result…much the same, Andre Gray…promising, the fans…unstintingly supportive. Gary Sweet’s comments relieved some of the frustration I was feeling because they echoed how I feel. As I’ve said before though – I can’t do anything about the present situation – he can.

 

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Grimsby Home)

Was hoping for blood splattered all over the walls of Kenilworth Road this afternoon( whose, not really bothered about) after the aftermath of the team’s own Sport Relief tribute in Gloucestershire on Tuesday. Hand Relief. But sadly there was none. Until we get a manager who is respected rather than popular and players who put the effort in game in, game out not dependant whether they fancy it or not, things are not going to improve a huge deal over the medium/long term.

Once again we were unable to hold a lead thanks to another poor decison by a senior player, who is far better than that. Pilkington backing off Mason-Hughes, allowing him to progress into the box, the Grimsby sub could improve the angle and scuff his shot into the corner, to net the Mariners a point their negative, miserable performance barely deserved. Not helped to be fair, the fact that Kovacs who had been rendered increasingly immobile, following an injury( possibly tweaking a msucle beneath his knee)late in the first half, which he over stretched from a counter attack from Grimsby’s corner. As crucial as Kovacs is, asking a bit much to play on one leg. Finally Blackett came on not for Kovacs but Willmott. Oh blimey, I give up.

Grimsby not in the game until the introduction of two subs ( until we scored, they were happy with a 0-0 draw. How wonderfully tedious of them, when we are there for taking with our current form) Elding and Mason-Hughes had done nothing. If the game had gone for another ten minutes, they probably would have nicked it, which would have been a travesty on the balance of play.

We were the better of two average sides in a typical huff and puff Conference game ran by a clueless referee. Plenty of fouls conceded, however Disley(4), Wright (3), Poku (3), made fouls which were borderline bookable, all ignored, but Tyler booked for protesting after Disley jumped at Kovacs rather the ball. It’s madness. The best skill was shown in the kids match at half time, some very good players on display in that game. Actually, that is harsh, we were OK, they were dire. Obviously a huge improvement on Tuesday. But the fact that either side still has a chance of getting promotion, says everything you need to know about the general paucity of class in this negative, charmless, boring League. The main positive of the performance, was of the debut of Andre Gray. Deserved his goal, because of his work rate. Some of his new colleagues would do well to match it. He’s raw, probably in an ideal world you would bring him on gradually, improving his positional sense and first touch, in view on giving him more opportunities next season. It’s good he comes here with something to prove after being booted by Shrewsbury, as long as players put in an effort, will support them all the way, it’s the one who turn up and do little to earn their money, I despair of.

In the first half, Gray had to do double the work, as a speck of dust would have been an improvement on Daniel Crow’s all action display. Even when an open goal was there, he slipped after McKeown spillled Lawless’ side foot. At least this week, surely has seen the death knell of a number of these players come the Summer.

It was similar to a number of home games this season. Opposition on a damage limitation exercise, our bulid up was decent, but in open play we didn’t create much, nor was McKeown forced into doing anything flash to defend his goal.

Three changes today. To be honest, overjoyed to see the back of O’Connor and Fleetwood after Tuesday. Fleetwood is probably our best striker after AMS, but he flatters to deceive but am very bored of his petulance. Although looked very lively in his brief cameo ( coming off the bench seems to suit him)not happy that Lawless stayed in the side. He wasn’t bad today. However he has ability, but hasn’t done nearly enough this season and his effort put in at Forest Green, was bordering on gross professional misconduct. Lawless and Fleetwood have the ability in this shocking division to cruise past teams, but too often have been a let down.

Trouble is whatever team Brabin selects, for my money, it contains more cons than pros. Back to 4-4-2, which is odd as I swear I read Brabin said no team has got promoted playing 4-4-2. More to the point has any team ever got promoted playing one central striker whio isn’t mobile?Still don’t think we will get far playing it, either to be honest. Taylor, and on a good day Willmott we don’t have enough quality out wide. The same back five who played at FGR, Lawless on the right, Poku and Keane in the middle, Willmott on the left. Crow and Gray a height disadvantaged strike pairing. The midfield looked combative but lacking creavity. Looked like a team picked not to lose. One good thing was we did keep it to feet, would have done more so when Tyler looked to throw the ball out, but Willmott made runs forward rather than dropping deep to start an attack.

Grimsby. Looked as abject as they did during the reverse game up there in October. Their long unbeaten run looks good, but like our similar run earlier, such is the standard in the league, teams can go on these runs, without being anything more than moderate. They are a physical team , which with weak officials you can get away with. Produced nothing in the final third until the later stages. Well organised but medicore. Maybe they were confused by that yellow round thing in the sky, must be odd for them to be at a place which doesn’t have bordered up shops or have a delighful aroma of unwashed genitalia.

We started well, but we always need to nick a goal in the first twenty minutes otherwise we start to peter out. The tempo was decent. Godfrey getting stuck in, at first keeping it simple, then got carried away by attempting to knock long passes. Whatever the limitataions in their games of both Poku and Gray, they both gave it their best shot. Although Godfrey being named MOTM was miles of the mark.

We started OK, against a deep sitting defence. But again we bossed the play, Grimsby were hardly hanging on. A Lawless header blocked by Disley and a poor pass by Poku evaded Wood, allowing Keane to smuggle forward and take aim. His strike looked to be heading just wide, but McKeown pushed it wide to be on the safe side.

We managed to get the ball into Gray’s feet, he shielded it well despite the close attentions. Maybe tactical, but neither full back got forward much. Without Taylor, we do miss his power, pace and drive from wide areas.

We continued to have the lion’s share of the play, but struggled to get behind them and create much. However our football was of a reasonable standard. Grimsby’s plan looked like shut up shop and maybe nick a goal from a set piece. Their two forwards, Duffy and Coulson received nothing. Playing a narrow midfield comprising Disney, Wood and Wright all of whom get their foot in, there was a ‘Dogs of War’ approach to their tedious game plan.

Howells, found from Poku’s early knock to the wing, soared a decent ball towards Gray produced a faint touch which defeated Crow. Disley grounding Keane yet again, without a yellow card shown, on the right. Willmott smashed a near perfect centre, which Kovacs met and found the bar. It would have been ruled out as Pearson had been shoved. Ironic as Pearson had been taking a piggy back on Kovacs all game.

We did start to fade, but in that half we didnt lose control. Lawless and Crow did link up to set Keane to nail a well struck low shoot, McKeown dealt with it to his left. We could isolate Willmott often enough against the relatively slow Silk.

Pearson, off balance, couldnt direct a header from Winn’s free kick. That apart, Wright’s wayward shot and Disney’s header, after Wood had been given too much room down the right flank. Tyler saved the header with ease. That the sum total of the Mariners attempt to catch something in our net.

Final ball continues to be a source of frustation. Clever reverse pass by Lawless, Osano drove forward but was crowed out, Gray headed over Howells’ centre. Then Howells playing a one two with Willmott, continued his run into the box, but poked a shot at Pearson. Lawless flicking a tame side foot at Willmott’s pass, McKeown could only help the ball away, whilst still on the deck, all Crow had to do was stay on his feet for a tap in. Oh.

Was going to say was surprised Crow wasnt replaced at half time. But nothing does now at our club, just dismayes and depresses. Crow did improve slightly after the break. But it’s rare for a player to contribute so little yet remain on the park.

With Fleetwood, McAllister and Watkins there were options avaliable. Whilst we werent bad, we needed more to break them down.Grimsby, brave lickle soliders , even pushed forward once or twice. Duffy penlaiswed for a puish on Pilkington after Winn hooked the ball across, then Wright clumped a header over from Coulson’s right wing centre.

Obce again, although Gray was giving the midfielders options to hit with his movement, we didn’t really look thratending exccept for pot shots from outisdethe box or at set pieces, with McKeown looking vulernable apparently glued to his line.

Grimsby looked to break up play conceding a number of fouls, if the referee had eys which worked, a lot more would have followed. Wright allowed to go through the backof Gray, again no caution. Lawless’ strike swerved in the air but was claimed by the keeper, then after a quick throw in Crow fed Keane, but a weak shot wasn’t troubling anyone.

The game looked to be fizzling out, even with half an hour to play. Grimsby happy with a point. Then we scored from a corner, which given their size Grimsby didn’t cope particularly well at defending all afternoon, Willmott’s ball played into the centre of teh goalmouth, McKeown panicked and flapped the ball away, kleane picked up the loose ball, drived in a cross/shot which Gray turned back to goal and volley ed in from close range, taking it off Kovacs’s forehead. Excellent strike.

But thyis is where the problems started. With all confidence gone, we looked to sit on a 1-0 lead, playing into Grimsby’s ahnds, who finally had to chase the game,made three subs- all positive changes, Soares a winger and two strikers in Elding and Mason-Hughes giving strength and pace to their game, looked a different side, with a aerial threat. Brabin was far too slow too react to this.

A long ball dropped to Crow laid across to Lawless, his effort neither a shot or a cross, as Willmott unable to get onto it.

We struggled to cope with Elding’s physicality, would have been nice for the officials to spot even occassionally to see he jumped with his arms up every time. . Gray’s lob was helped away by McKeown under his bar, Pilkington recycled the ball back intelligently for Keane to stretch and the keeper made another save. From the attempted throw out, Crow did very well to chase down Silk and win the ball back, , he tried a lob over which not easy, should have done better than send the ball drifting wide.

With Lawless dropping deeper, to protect Osano, Townsend was allowed to get forward and put some good deliveries in, although Soares produced a great pass to give Mason-Hughes a chance to run at Pilkington, this time Pilkiington stood his ground and Mason-Hughes lashed wide, not given the space.

With Kovacs doing well, but noticeably struggling against Elding and the effects of his injury, Blacklett came but for Willmott, with Howells. We were tiring ( quite how as we forfeited the game on Tuesday), and it was obvious we needed fresh legs. Fleetwood, always better with a point to prove otherwise he is in the comfort zone or Watkins, his ability to push a clever pass could maybe have opened a gap or two in Grimsby’s defence, as they pushed forward.

We did have the odd opportunity on the break, Lawless broke down the left, Howells overlapped, but it was a woeful cross too high for Gray. The somewhatinevitable leveller came from a long ball won by Elding to the isolated Mason-Hughes running forward, Pilkington backpedalling ( in a manner Gleeson would have been proud), ended up opening up the angle, and Mason-Hughes got enough on the ball to divert it past Tyler .

Naturally the goal brought away the change Fleetwood/ Howells. We almost lost it at the end, corner repelled, fell to Poku, caught in two minds( either shoot or pass), in the event did neither, as Elding robbed him with ease, forward pass into their left channel to Mason-Hughes, with Lawless back-tracking and taking one for the teamhauling down mason-Hughes. Some referees would have shown a red card. With a good angle, just outside the box, Townsend on his left foot, took a superb free kick, which produced another equalling splended finger tip save by Tyler. For a goal kick.

The match ended, with the not unexpected cries of Brabin Out, whilst the players who have let the club down equally to blame walk off to a round of applause. Very few have come out of the season in credit. If the nightmare at FGR was not enough for him to lose his job, a draw with fellow play off contenders wouldn’t either. Logically anyway. A witch hunt isn’t really going to help matters either.

In the cold light of day, a draw today isn’t the end of the world, after the two difficult matches against York and at Gateshead, we have a run of four games againt Braintree, Alfreton, Hayes, Ebbsfleet, if we can’t get a decent number of points from those games, when a play off spot is up for grabs, we frankly don’t deserve to qualify for the foul end of season bunfight.

Mark Tyler 6.5 , Curtis Osano 6, Janos Kovacs 7.25, George Pilkington 6.25, Jake Howells 6.25(Stuart Fleetwood), Alex Lawless 6.25, Keith Keane 7.5, Godfrey Poku 6.75 ,Robbie Willmott 6.25(Shane Blackett), Danny Crow 5, Andre Gray 8. Subs not used – Craig McAllister, Andre Boucaud, Adam Watkins. Booked – Lawless, Tyler

Grimsby – McKeown, Silk, Pearson, Miller, Townsend, Wood( Mason-Hughes), Wright, Disley, Winn ( Elding), Duffy(Soares), Coulson. Booked – Disley, Wood.

*THE DISCLAIMER* The above ratings were picked on a whim and very rarely are an accurate reflection on the player’s performances simply to annoy the reader. Today’s fatuous comments are about the return to the ranks of Lil Fuccillo, when I first heard the news that great he will improve our midfield no end, but alas he returns in a made up role. On the good side, the Board havehave honestly admitted they are clueless on the football side. But would have preferred a non former Luton player being involved. He may be very experienced, but it includes spells working with that gobby navvy Barry Fry, and whilst only had rubbish to work with during his short spell thanks to Ricky Hill and the woefully inept Chris Ramsey . The names of Richard Dryden, Adrian Whitbread and Lee Nogan didn’t exactly improve matters. If it’s a link between the board and the playing staff as was reported in the midst of the dreadful business slang, then have no problems with his appointment, but wouldn’t want him to be manager again.

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The Sound of Silence

 

Well another day rolls by without any statement from the board, or any reaction to the result the other night, giving the appearance that everything is fine and dandy and tomorrow is just another day.

Judging from what I have read on the internet, the twittersphere, blogs and message boards, reaction amongst Hatters fans (online ones at least) is pretty much unanimous: time for a change – it cannot continue to go on like it has been.  Internet aside – perhaps even people in the real world feel that way too? You never know…

Seems a little odd that no one with responsibility for the club should feel drawn to perhaps make a little comment on what is perceived by many fans (most fans?) as a bit of a crisis after the 3-0 hammering at FGR. Very tight lipped – and pretty unusual frankly.  Other than what happened in the car park when Gurney’s men arrived, I can’t recall too many similar reactions and outpourings of anger in a single week in recent memory.

I note that some players have given ‘under fire’ manager Gary Brabin their support. It’s hardly a surprise though is it? They’re hardly going to say anything else. It’s a bit like a local government employee voting Tory. The underperforming players know which side their bread is buttered on.  A new manager means change and “the bonfire of the contracts”. Undermining Brabin would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.

There must of course be things going on behind the scenes. We know that the board would never talk about an individual employee’s contract or employment status in public. As fans, they would have been as livid and as despondent as we were on Tuesday night.  I can’t believe that GB isn’t on the equivalent of a performance related final warning.  I’m sure the two year contract that was offered last season has a break clause for either party in the event of us not getting promotion. So I’m sure by the summer, one way or another, he will no longer be the manager – assuming that the current run of insipid, spineless, clueless crap continues for the remainder of the season.  To be fair, their hands may be tied.

But is waiting for the inevitable disappointment (anything else would be a miracle) so that he can get released in June the best way? By doing so surely consigns this season to the bin in March. Far too soon. Remember in March 2010 we were winning games 8-0 and 6-3 and 5-1.

Without any evidence to the contrary we can only assume that the board are keen to persevere and slog on to the bitter end.

No doubt on Saturday there will be the inevitable column from a member of the board saying about how disappointed we all are as fans with the performances of late and that we are doing all we can to pull together, and at this time the players and manager need our support more than ever. Same old warm words no doubt.

I agree – the players and manager do need our support, but it is difficult to support a set up that now feels so fundamentally wrong to so many people. To me we are now beyond the point of no return.  For me, the essential trust between club and fans has been broken, the goods are soiled. It’s like a marriage where one party has caught the other committing adultery. We might still be together, but the seed of doubt will always be there at the back of our minds.

If we don’t win on Saturday I want to run down the front and chuck my season ticket on the pitch – they might as well have it. But then again I’m a Luton Town fan. I’m mad on the Hatters. I was coming to watch Luton 30 years before Brabin came to the club and God-willing will still be coming 30 years after he has gone. It’s the club I love, not the manager and not particularly the underperforming set of non-league prima donnas at the club. I don’t think their performances have been acceptable. They should look in the mirror occasionally and ‘fess up. If I performed that badly at work, I’d not be coming in on Monday. I want them to do well – I really do. I would have loved Mr Brabin to have been our saviour, but he has not been.  I wish him well, but I wish him out of here.

What can I do? I’m not going to boo. I want to encourage, not boo. Perhaps a big banner? Perhaps a dirty protest? Mind you, bearing in mind the state of the bogs at the Kenny End it would be hard to tell if there had been a dirty protest or not.

Perhaps I’ll spend the game in the bar. Perhaps I’ll stand with my back to the pitch. I’ve got to do something. I want the team to win, I want Luton Town to be successful, but I genuinely think that the chances of that happening with the current set up are slim.

Just sitting there in silence accepting more of the same would suggest I’m complicit with the underperformance and find it acceptable. I’m patently not.

As I said above, and the other day I think that the board have undermined themselves by not doing or saying anything. Whilst seemingly everyone is thinking that we should have a change of team management, they say nothing. By saying nothing they are lending their support to the status quo, flying in the face of opinion, and potentially setting themselves up for a fall.

Perhaps they are right, and we are all wrong.  Perhaps their hands are tied. Let’s see. Tomorrow we play Grimsby. Apart from their 2-1 defeat at Fleetwood the other week, they haven’t lost away in 11 games since October. Imagine that!

As a fan of the club I hope that we stuff them good ad proper. As we are beyond the point of no return for GB it will merely be a good result in a sea of mediocre ones.  In the same way that a single defeat doesn’t turn a good side bad, neither would a single victory somehow wipe the slate clean.  A win won’t make everything in the garden rosy. Tomorrow’s game should have seen the steps to a new dawn – the beginning of the end of our time in non-league. Instead, I fear we are merely prolonging the agony.

Come on you Hatters.

 

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions – another bloody mess (FGR away)

Visiting Forest Green, always a pleasure never a chore, sadly the reverse can said of watching the mighty Hatters this season. Would say last night was a seasonal low being well beaten by a team named after a housing estate was bad enough, but it still doesn’t compare with letting Dean Beckwith sign a two year deal. Oh for someone with contacts outside the Northamptonshire teams.

And Brabin still hasn’t gone. The time has come ( well, actually it came after Ebbsfleet) for some positive leadership of the club. Brabin I don’t doubt, has tried his best, this season we are now in a worse position when mental Money departed. Is it a case of the board admirable, if somewhat misguided loyalty or can’t afford to pay him off? Maybe in future the board shouldn’t be so foolhardy as to hand out long contracts to someone unproven. Rolling one year deals at this awful level of football, is surely the way to go. Quantity over quality has long since been a weakness in English football, too many players can cheat a living out of the professional game. No need for any players beneath the third tier to be full time. It has to be said, Brabin was hung out to dry by the players last night. If they do want him out, they couldn’t have done a better showcase than that. Brabin is hardly the new Bill Shankly, he’s barely Armitage Shanks but has bring badly let down by players this season.

A sulky, insipid performance played with all the desire of doing the house work. Had it been an end of season game with little at stake, wouldn’t have minded, but it wasn’t. After a winless streak and not won away in the League since New Years Eve, a big performance was required to get the season back on track, however a pitiful one was produced. To lose to a team from a town whose population is equal to our average home attendances is damning. It needs freshening up now even giving Neilson the job on a short term basis and then assess the situation in the summer and oh..maybe advertise the position this time. With two season defining games ahead, lose either of them it will get messy. The biggest shame is when Brabin finally goes, he can’t take the majority of his signings with him ( Kovacs and Taylor the obvious expections). Houdini would struggle to turn the season on that performance let alone a Liverpudlian with the merest grasp on the English Language.

How the same group of players put in a peerless stotic display at York and barely looked bothered ten days later, is yet another indication of the attitude and arrogrance problems within the playing staff. The best way to look at it, is at least of the some players are rotting away in the level they deserve to be at.

Fair play to Forest Green Rovers deserved winners on the night, a team with nothing to play for, they battled hard, played some tidy stuff at times( must be all those Tofu burgers), then after getting their noses in front, sat back, soaked up pressure with ease before scoring twice on the break. The performance of Taylor up front was outstanding, small but strong,mobile he chased after anything. The sort of player you need if you are going down the one central striker route. One of those nights there everything went right for them and things couldn’t have got much worse for us.

Chronic lack of confidence all across the team. Some good players, but nowhere good enough collectively. The League Table doesn’t lie.Once again, very few chances were created. Fleetwood missed a one on one glorious chance at 0-0 it would have been different. We had plenty of possession, Boucaud kept the ball better, but at times he is ponderous with passing it on, it’s easy for the oppositions to shuffle back. Most of our possession, was in front of them, not hurting them. The lack of self confidence was evident, when a gap appeared to shoot, another pass was made. Also of the crosses into the box were catching practise for Russell or heading practise for Turley, so few orange shirts in the box to aim for. Naturally when McAlister appeared little was served up to his head.

The second half was positively Brazil compared to the first half. FGR gave us little time to settle on the ball, but a hoof down the channel was as good as it got. Keane apart, the midfield was outfought and rarely got into the game. The service to the forwards non existance, although O’Connor spent most of it standing offside. He began awfully, improved vastly, but now backpedalling quickly again. Although to be fair, he and the a number of the others aren’t helped by the in out selection policy. One of the many for the skip come the Summer. Sad thing is most of the players will probably only be replaced by worse players.The budget will only get lower, not see many to renew or become season ticket holders after such a humdrum season. Unlesss promotion is gained, which is looking increasingly unlikely, although with the abject unfairness of that tournament, anything is possible.

The defence never got to grips with the work-rate of Taylor or the midfielders running though. It was horrific to watch. The team lined up with it’s usual shape. Tyler in goal. Back four of Osano, Kovacs, Pilkington, Howells replacing Taylor. Lawless the deepest sitting midfielder, Keane and Watkins ( unusually anonymous), O’Connor and Willmott on the wings, with Fleetwood upfront. However as usual the hokey cokey between the forwards. Leaving Fleetwood on the wing ( wonder how long it will take Brabin to work out, that position does litle to help player or team). Mistake happen, but not learning from them is unforgivable.

FGR themselves only play one up top, but they have players who break from midfield. It’s a formation that lives or dies on movement and quick passing. Forbes, Norwood, Klukowski got forward well, leaving Collins to do the donkey work. They aren’t a bad team, with the money pumped in they should be doing better in such a poor league. but never are they more than decent.

How novel, there was grass not on sand on the pitch was in perfect condition, unlike last year, it looked like Weston-Super-Mare beach without Brummies riding donkies on it. They really should have sex in the privacy of their hotel rooms.

The start was even, great if you enjoy watching long ball filth. Dont know why we have taken recently to bypassing the midfield, attempting to hit a mobile, target man we still dont have is an interesting tactic. If George Pilkington after two square passes, lumps it forward aimlessly towards Mr Invisible again, he deserves shooting. About time he and Kovacs switched over positions. If we can get Blackett fit, for more than a millisecond, a natural left foot centre half would be handy. Defensively, Pilkington is fine, but cant one of the three wise monkeys on the touchline on the bench, tell him just to roll the ball in midfield and build attacks from there?

Few chances in a game watched by ever fewer people, the first attempt coming from Taylor’s chest trap giving Klukowski a chance to hit a low drive.

Most of our attempts came from some hestistancy in the FGR back line. Fleetwood cut out Stokes’ wayward pass, Lawless received the ball, however his powerful strike cannoned off Hodkiss. A long clearance by Russell, flicked on by Norwood, Taylor opted for an early strike, which flew over aided by Pilkington’s deflection.

Keane, the one player who did put in a noteable shift, closed down Oshodi, the ball fell invitingly for Fleetwood to dash through, Russell stood up for a long time before saving with his legs, as the ball ballooned over the ball. A miss which probably cost the game . On the back of a bad loss to Hayes, they may well have folded.

But they seemed to take confidence from that and never looked back.Keane again, sliding in a fine pass beyond Stokes, Russell out quickly to deny O’Connor.Another one of our newly found problems is not being switched on defensively. Short corner by Klukowski to the unmarked Stokes, fortunate it was an awful delivery behind Taylor.

Howells, another player struggling recently, played a blind pass to Tyler, Taylor nipped in a heavy touch, by the time he recovered, from an acute angle could only hit it into the side netting.

Generally, the match was scrappy, being stop and start due to a number of fouls conceded. FGR took the lead with a well crafted goal, Taylor with Kovacs on his back, played it to Forbes, who waited for Klukowski to make a run and find him with a perfectly weighted ball. Klukowski did the rest, nudging the ball past Tyler in the corner.

Even conceding, didnt get a response. Osano found Keane, O’Connor’s horrific attempt, landed near the corner flag. A good probing run by Howells, transferring possession to Watkins limply driving wide.The hosts finished the half on top. Oshadi’s drive cleverly blocked by Kovacs, then after Collins won another tackle, gave Stokes the chance to play in the quick Norwood to leg it past Kovacs, before shooting wide of Tyler’s right half post.

Heroically half time came to save us from more misery. It’s a shame the groundsman only put the sprinklers on the pitch. Would have preferred if a water cannon had been turned on in the away dressing room.

Boucaud for Watkins the other change. 7 or 8 could have been subbed with no complaint.
Whilst Boucaud improved our retention of the ball, FGR merely sat back and defended in numbers. Taylor’s pace meant they were always dangerous on the break. One thing that waslcear FGR players knew their roles in the team, ours often look confused.

Kovacs’ crossfieldpass set up Willmott to strike, which Russell split at his near post. Lawless’ careless pass allowed Norwood to set up Taylor, which Tyler collected comfortably.

Rraely did we ever get behind their defence, so whilst they defnded well, we didn’t do nearly enough to make it hard for them. In terms of shots if not possession, they were the most likely to score. Fleetwood picked out by Keane’s centre, but Fleetwood could only balloon the ball skyward thus an easy catch after a long leap by Russell. A bad touch by Osano, allowed Klukowski away down the left flank, but he recovered well tackling Taylor.

After all the high crosses reigned in without a targetman, on came McAllister and we tried to play our way into their box, on replacing O’Connor.Henry did better in a brief cameo, at least keen to get on the ball and notably not trying to start a fight, when he does came from Stevenage. Boucuaud left wing cross searched out Kovacs to nod down for McAlplister, but some assured defdning by Forbnes shepherd the ball away. Keane and Boucuad played a one two, shifted it across to Osano, who hacked a high cross, which which even someone on stiles would have failed to raech. Willmott, didnt see much of the ball, but looked to have beating of Hodkiss. For all our huff and puff, we wouldn’t have scored had we still been playing now.

Excellent lofted pass over the top by Osano, taken in his stride well by McAllister, but Turley coming around managed to get his foot in. From the corner, they broke away and scored. Norwood pinched the ball off Henry, and run half the length of the field making ground on the left, switching the play across to Taylor, who looped over Tyler into the far corner giving them no chance.

Heads dropped rapidly. Apart from Boucaud’s soft shot, and a awful hit by Keane which is still making it’s way to Bath was the best we can mustard.

Norwood’s flick on past Howells from Russell’s kick out, found Taylor, his drive well stopped by Tyler. Oshodi was allowed to drifted forward beating, Taylor beat the offside trap, neating sidstepping Tyler, and rolling the ball past Kovacs. But for a solid challange by Pilkington denying Taylor a hat trick chance from Hodkiss’ hook.

Asking a lot for Andre Gray to be our saviour. Another small striker isn’t exactly what we were looking for. He looked very decent against us for Hinckley,not surprised Conference clubs are interested, worth a pop for someone . But his finishing in both games was somewhat flakey, although he does have quick feet,is very direct and did run amok through our makeshift defence. Odd if we were going to sign him, why it took this long. Wonder what he is like on the wing, though? :o(

Not that it would ever happen in a million years, but would like to see Brabin send the first team to Biggleswade tonight and drop some of the players who have long seen being selected on reputation on Saturday. Give the likes of Woolley a start. He isn’t ready yet, but a bit of his energy and effort may run off on the rest of the team. Time for Brabin to show the players who is boss. As at the moment, the tail is wagging the dog.

Mark Tyler 6.25 , Curtis Osano 5.75, Janos Kovacs 6.5, George Pilkington 6, Jake Howells 4.5, Alex Lawless 4( Charlie Henry 6.5), Keith Keane 7, Adam Watkins 4 ( Andre Boucaud 6.75), ,Aaron O’Connor 4( Craig McAllister 5.75), Stuart Fleetwood 5.75, Robbie Willmott 6.5. Subs not used – Danny Crow, Godfrey Poku Booked – Osano

Forest Green – Russell, Hodkiss, Oshodi, Turley, Stokes, Norwood, Forbes(Pook), Klukowski(Thomson), Henderson (Uwezu). Booked – Taylor

*THE DISCLAIMER* The above ratings were picked on a whim and very rarely are an accurate reflection on the player’s performances simply to annoy the reader. Today’s fatuous comments are about Kids for a quid on Saturday. Ignoring the obvious about free air horns( how very Watford). Childline will be busy come Saturday evening.

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We simply must not allow this state of affairs to continue. Enough is Enough.

 

Well, I thought I’d seen it all. I thought the home defeat to Ebbsfleet in January 2010 was the low point. But I think this beats even that. It’s just so lifeless and poor.

In August 2009 we struggled to beat Forest Green Rovers 1-0 under Mick and that was poor enough. But two seasons on we have a weaker team in a worse state playing poorer football, with a manager who is unable to motivate and is tactically naive.  Even tonight, before the game, however much of a shambles it has been recently defeat was unthinkable. A draw was the worst I could have imagined – Danny Finkelstein’s predictor, even with our terrible away form would have had us as 2-1 winners. But no.

There is nothing I can say about tonight which I haven’t written before or what others haven’t said recently.

We have no God-given right to be at the top of this division – but then again much smaller clubs do so much more with so much less. There is no spark at the top, no motivation and no drive. He’s lost the players. There’s no backbone in the team, and accordingly the performances are spineless. There’s no reason for this club not to be thriving other than the playing staff and the management. The management have chosen average players, and then chop and change the players, the formation and the style and at the end of it we have a mish-mash of nothing football, played by disinterested, unmotivated players. Whilst Money’s team were fettered and overburdened with tactics and were stifled into non-performance; Brabin’s squad are just underwhelmed, under motivated and floundering in a sea of chaos. Average players led by an average manager into footballing ennui.

What amazes me is that the manager, though ‘disappointed’ by the drubbing at the hands of a club who counts its fans in hundreds, still genuinely believes he is the right man for the job, without a shred of evidence to the contrary. That surely demonstrates that he is either arrogant or deluded.  It’s one or the other. Surely he can’t genuinely believe that he is the man to lead us to glory? He reminds me of the Iraqi spokesman Comical Ali saying that they were winning the war whilst the US tanks rolled on in the background.

He needs goals, so he gets a striker on loan from a club in the lower half of the league, only too happy to send him out because he hasn’t scored in 20-odd games. This is after barely playing, and never starting with a youngster from a Premier League club who had got a hat trick in the reserves. You couldn’t make it up, genuinely you couldn’t.

How more games do we have to have where we limp from one uninspired performance to another?

What annoys me now, is that having previously had blind faith in 2020, the saviours of our club, I feel I’m being let down by them. To keep a manager in place who is so woefully and obviously inadequate, seemingly for no reason other than to try to keep at least one for a whole season ‘to give him a fair crack of the whip’ is wrong. It’s actually unfair to Gary Brabin: Imagine your workplace. There is someone struggling to do the job, despite management’s best efforts to give him every chance, time and time again, that employee just can’t do the job, he is floundering and everyone is laughing at him. What is best for that employee? To allow him to continue to struggle, and to embarrass himself? Or to find another role for him or to show him the door? So it is with Gary Brabin. 2020 are showing poor management skills by keeping him on. It is reflecting badly on 2020, an excellent group of people, who as fans, want to win as much as we do. Now, no senior management can ever get it right all of the time, but I think enough is enough – they are bringing their own judgement into question.  They are undermining their own credibility.

For the first time since I was 10 I’m having second thoughts about going on Saturday against Grimsby. I know we aren’t going to play very well and that Grimsby are going to surprise us.  But I didn’t stay away when Jayten were ruining and raping the club, so it feels wrong to stop going when the right people own the club, even if the direction on the pitch is wrong. At least when Jayten were in charge we knew that there was light at the end of the tunnel somehow because of the sterling efforts of LLSC and TiL to undermine the corrupt regime. We knew it would get worse before it got better, but that ultimately through their efforts it would be okay. But the right people are in charge now. So what can I do? I’ve paid for my Diamond Ticket so the club have my funds. All I can do is not turn up – not give the funds I would have spent in the bar or the kids would spend on sweets and pop and not cheer for the players, so it is that little bit quieter. But I’m a supporter – and supporting means sticking with your team through thick and thin. When we are in the Championship I want to tell my grandchildren that I was there when we were in non league and getting hammered by a village team from Gloucestershire who you can’t find on the map. But what else can I do to register my disapproval if GB hasn’t been shown the door by Saturday am? I want the players to do well, even though I don’t think as a group they are good enough. I’m not going to boo. I’ll never boo a player wearing an orange shirt as long as I live. But they don’t half test your patience. They’d test the patience of a saint.  I don’t wish GB ill – I don’t dislike him as a man. I wish him well in his future life – he is just not right for LTFC. I’d respect him more if he fell on his sword, rather than holding on to get the push.

So where do we go from here? This team is in crisis, make no mistake. If we carry on as we are there is not a hope in hell of making the play offs. If we play like this next year we will be in the bottom half. Just not acceptable. We might get blips, but it will only get gradually worse (if 0-3 at FGR isn’t bad enough). We’ve got to hope that the board will put dear GB out of his misery (it can’t be much fun for him, or his family and I fear that when we fail to make the play offs with him still in charge some lunatic will lynch him) and hope that someone like Alan Nielsen can inspire the players for the rest of the season to limp into the play offs with some sort of confidence and we’ll see where we go from there.  Then, the board need to hire a confident manager with a track record of success, who has a clear idea of what he wants to achieve and how he is going to get it. We need a bonfire of the contracts in the summer to clear out the mediocrity in the squad that has been allowed to accumulate because Brabin has wrongly been given a free hand, and to thin out the enormous squad.  We need players who will stand out and who will stand up at this level. We need a team and a manager who will blow this league away. We’ve no excuse not to. It’s not predestined that we have to struggle at this level. I want a team we can be proud of – the board quickly need to do something show us that they do too.

 

 

 

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