Issue The silly season

As told by Jason Mckeown

A comment posted this week on one of the various City-related message boards read, “No wonder people aren’t buying the season tickets…how pathetic City, c’mon pull your fingers out…

It’s not the first time City have been labelled ‘pathetic’ by one of their own, and it certainly isn’t going to the last. The reason for this supporter’s particular anger was the lack of signings so far and belief that all targets should be on board before Sunday’s season ticket offer ends, to encourage floating fans to purchase in time.

They were not the only fan to state such views this week and, if he bothered to read these bulletin boards, Stuart McCall could be forgiven for scratching his head. Usually the role of a manager is to bring in the right players in time for the next season. It would be easier to understand why City were considered ‘pathetic’ if it was the week before the big kick off or if these supporters had only just started supporting the club and never experienced a close season, but when have City ever sorted even half of their summer signings by June 15?

Undoubtedly this a frustrating time of year for football supporters; by June most of us have forgotten the previous season’s frustrations and are anxious for the next one to begin. With pre-season friendlies not starting for another month, there is little to get excited about other than new signings. Each day I, as I’m sure do many others, anxiously check the City-related websites for news of who might be coming in, and the loading up of The Telegraph & Argus website to find a tame news story about something unrelated is unsatisfying.

One such piece appeared earlier this week, where Stuart McCall spoke about finding Holland’s first Euro 2008 match inspiration for how he’d like City to play next season. A comment underneath the piece complained that, “Instead of McCall watching the Euro’s, he should be on the blower to players and their agents he has already spoken to and firmed up his offers.” Imagine that, Stuart McCall being allowed to relax and watch TV in the evening instead of spending every second chasing his targets? Disgraceful stuff, hasn’t he just been on holiday?

Not that we City fans can even agree on what makes a good signing when they are made. It’s been amusing to read opinions of the various targets and types of players Stuart should be chasing. There are many fans who think we should be after, “young, hungry non-league players.” Sure there is a risk they might not be up to it, but they will be so grateful for the opportunity they will always give 110%, unlike some of the current shirkers in the squad. Clearly not everyone agrees and the signing of Harrogate Town keeper Jonathan McLaughlin prompted sarcastic remarks from some along the lines of, “ooh wow I’m sure that will encourage everyone to rush out and buy a season ticket!

It would be fair to assume that those calling for City to sign ‘hungry non-league players’ are the same people who, when City were in the two divisions, were calling for City to sign ‘hungry, lower-league players’; but now we are firmly stuck in the lower leagues, why don’t we look to sign those ‘hungry, lower-league players’ instead?

Then there are the former players, with calls from others to sign up any former Bantam potentially available. As great as it would be to see Nathan Doyle, Simon Francis or Robbie Blake back at Valley Parade, such hopes are largely unrealistic. Even if they were available would they want to play in League Two? I was particularly worried to read comments that City should sign free agent Gareth Edds, until he signed for Tranmere. Why would we want to bring him back? Wow, that would get people rushing out to buy season tickets (oops, it’s contagious!).

But it’s one definite former player City are targeting which leads to the other major difference of opinion over who City should sign. Darren Moore was at Valley Parade for talks this week and, while it seems unlikely he’ll be rejoining this summer, you would have thought City fans would be in universal agreement this was a good move. Forgetting the fact he was a hero of our last promotion winning side, here is someone who was playing Premiership football last season and is wanted by around 14 other clubs. But no, according to some, he’s too old.

In what feels like a jump back nine years to a time when our team was considered a laughing stock by the national media, our squad is suddenly too old and we need to, “lower the average age.” At 34 Moore is coming towards the end of a successful career, but like second summer signing Chris Brandon (33) and other target Luke Beckett (31), he is hardly over the hill just yet. One would have thought that, with Dean Windass and Peter Thorne both joining City at 34 years of age, this would be the one club who’s supporters appreciate that playing careers last longer these days, and age is just a number.

“Oh and don’t forget Darren Moore wasn’t really that good for us and left because he was a disgraceful money grabber.” The truth about these two criticisms is somewhat different, of course.

In our promotion winning season Moore was one of our stars, making over 50 appearances. He had one particularly poor game at home to Huddersfield and was dropped, yet he quickly won back his place and made the PFA divisional team of the season. Even if he was ultimately considered not good enough for a team promoted to the Premier League, it hardly makes him a poor signing for a League Two club now.

As for money grabbing, imagine if the organisation you work for started performing outstandingly, partly thanks to you, and they brought in new employees on larger salaries. Wouldn’t you expect to be rewarded too?

Should we get Beckett or Boulding to strengthen the forward line next season? Are Carlisle pair Paul Arnison and Zigor Aranalde the full backs to bomb forward in the manner Stuart wants next term? Is Lewis Emmanuel really worth another go? Whoever we sign it’s guaranteed some will be delighted, while others will offer reasons why it’s a bad move.

The wait for summer signings can be frustrating, amusing and exciting, but no matter how many different opinions are offered it should be remembered it’s one person’s view which ultimately matters – which the rest of us need to have faith in.