A New Season And Reason To Be Optimistic

Well, it’s that time of year again when all supporters up and down the country start to talk about their team’s chances for the forthcoming season (except in Scotland where the season has already started). It has certainly been an interesting close season this summer with football authorities shirking their responsibilities with both the on-going Tevez affair and the recent announcement of the 15 point deduction for Leeds United. (At this point, I must add the City supporters should have some sympathy for Leeds United supporters after ourselves going through two separate administration periods. We, the City supporter, should understand how it feels when your club is in serious financial difficulties. City supporters laughing at Leeds’ current position have short memories and deep down would you really want to see our rivals disappear from the footballing map?)

Following our third relegation since the 2000/2001 season in May of this year, you would have thought that going into this new season, City supporters would be full of pessimism. Far from it if you gage supporters views on messageboards, in newspapers and from general discussion. The main reason for this new found optimism is the return of a true hero, Stuart McCall, as our new manager. Julian Rhodes should take alot of credit for securing McCall’s employment as he stuck to his task of obtaining the legend after the sacking of Colin Todd back in February. Indeed, when Neil Warnock was relieved of his duties at Bramell Lane, many people thought that we had no chance of obtaining Stuart as our new manager.

Stuart now has the enormous challenge of getting us promoted during his first season in charge. Well, this is what most supporters are demanding before a football has even been kicked. Stuart has made some interesting signings since he took over at the helm and along with the players who remain from last season, I believe that Stuart will have done well to have secured a play-off position come May 2008. It will be interesting to see how the likes of Penford, Bentham, Colbeck and Ainge perform this season. Much has been written about home grown players in the past and supporters all have their own views on the four players that I’ve just mentioned. For me, City looked like a more balanced side when Bentham was playing in central midfield last season and it will be interesting to see how Eddie Johnson performs in his new midfield role this season. Penford was down the pecking order when Bridge-Wilkinson and Schumacher were at the club. They have now both departed but McCall has signed Scott Phelan (another midfielder from Everton) and he looked useful against Farsley in pre-season. Ainge could have a promising future as he looked composed on the ball when he was given his chance in the first team last season. Of the home grown players, Colbeck played the most first team games last season and much has been written about him. Supporters need to give this young lad time to progress. At Farsley, supporters were barracking him if a pass went astray but then he played a neat pass to trialist Simon Johnson who set up Peter Thorne’s goal. All of a sudden, Colbeck’s not such a bad player. Talk about supporters blowing hot and cold with their opinions.

Another reason for renewed optimism is the fact that the club has told over 12,000 season tickets. Again, credit to Mr Rhodes for sticking to his guns when others thought that his superb idea of reasonably priced football was set to fail. If Stuart hadn’t taken up the managerial reins, the number of season tickets that would have been sold is debatable. However, we don’t have to worry about that and we should have the biggest home attendances in Division 4 this coming season. We will be the big fish in a small pond. Other teams will come to Valley Parade and will feel inspired to play well in front of a large crowd and a fantastic stadium. As we know from the past, this could have a detrimental effect on our performances. Hopefully, our new look team will feel the need to perform well in front of their own supporters. We shouldn’t however have this big club mentality and should keep our feet firmly on the ground. As I mentioned earlier, many supporters are demanding promotion this season and I’ve even heard people say that if we don’t gain automatic promotion they will be disappointed. After seeing us in freefall for the past few seasons, it would be nice if we can have a good season but we must remember that we don’t have a divine right to promotion just because of out stadium and the size of our attendances.

However, we have a good platform from which we can build a club that we can be proud of again; a legend as manager, a great club servant as assistant manager, a Chairman who supports the club (I use the word support in relation to passion and not in terms of financial support), a solid supporter base in terms of number of season tickets sold and no large debts hanging around the club’s neck thanks to our new Co-Chairman.

If, and it’s a big if, we are promoted at the end of the season I would be absolutely delighted for two people more than any others; firstly Julian Rhodes for supporting the club in times of crisis and for David Wetherall who has stuck with us despite 3 relegations.

Bring on the new season!