Who to blame?

Like 13,197 other City fans I left Valley Parade in a bad mood on Saturday. I spent the journey back to the car complaining with my friend Steve about certain aspects of City’s display and our mutterings were in unison over the tactical changes which appeared to work against the team. “That’s the play offs ruled out,” I hastily concluded, thinking back to only a couple of hours ago where, walking from the pub down Manningham Lane to the ground we half-joked about going to the Mexican restaurant we always pass to celebrate after we got back from Wembley in May, having witnessed City go up. How stupid did we now feel even to kid about it?

We listened to Stuart McCall’s interview on the radio as we drove back, faintly satisfied, at least, to hear that Billy Topp had been taken off due to flagging fitness. I wanted Stuart to be asked why he took off Peter Thorne, our best player, and replaced him with the lightweight and ineffective David Brown, who barely touched the ball. Or why, despite playing below standards and suffering some utterly abysmal abuse from so-called supporters, Omar Daley was hauled off when he at least looked as though he could do something, which couldn’t be said of Kyle Nix on the opposite side. The calm and honest words of Stuart at least made me feel better and, while I wasn’t impressed with his changes, I felt confident they were mistakes the manager will learn from going forward.

So gradually I calmed down, watched a bit of the Man U v Arsenal game with a beer at home. Seeing the own goal again on The Championship the following morning was difficult viewing but, sharing opinions with other City fans I bumped into that day calmed me down further and, while I was still in a bad mood back at work Monday morning, I began to look forward to the trip to Notts County on Saturday which I hope can only be better.

I appreciate it’s not the same for everyone and that anger over the two recent performances is still high, but I’ve found some of the opinions posted on various City-related websites difficult to read calmly. It appears we’re back to the blame game, where some folk seem determined to pick on players and declare everything the club is doing is wrong. Just over a week ago we were excitedly talking up the play offs with our chances looking increasingly better, now we’re back to describing the season as dreadful.

There are the usual targets for criticism when it all goes wrong. When Wayne Jacobs returned to the club during the summer I remember thinking he might be the easy target for some. 12 years service as a player, but he was never universally popular. Now a very slim minority have decided the last two defeats are entirely down to our assistant manager. When I read these views I struggle to find the reasons for why it’s Jacobs fault, probably because those making such comments don’t know either.

Then there’s our training which is prehistoric, dated and nothing like as good as Rochdale’s, a small insignificant club we should be thrashing. I’m not sure if the people criticising City’s training methods have actually witnessed them to know they are bad as they make out, and I’m even less certain they will have seen Rochdale’s to compare.

Of course it’s down to Stuart’s failure to pick certain players which is to blame. Have a quick scan through our reserves team, choose a couple of names who are been ‘disgracefully’ ignored, Alex Rhodes and, of course, Luke Medley on this occasion, and tell the world they should be playing. It doesn’t matter that the players keeping them out of the side have recently gone on a six match unbeaten run – that was two weeks ago, why haven’t they been sacked yet?!

Last but not least, after every player, member of management team and coaching method has been blamed; let’s have a go at the Chairmen for not backing the manager and hoarding all the cash. What a joke of a football club we really are, from top to bottom.

Among the message board comments and views added below T&A website stories, there is a lot of sense spoken. It’s just unfortunate that a lot of it is diluted by the strange and nonsense views of others. They who should loudest are usually heard, but that doesn’t mean their views make any sense.

The reality of the situation is that, after showing some real promise in recent weeks, we’ve suffered a set back. There are things that need to be improved about the team clearly; the first half against Rochdale was embarrassingly one-sided. Yet after grabbing an underserved equaliser the team improved considerably in the second. For all the feelings of disgust we all had about the performance Saturday night, we nearly won the game. When Peter Thorne cracked the outside of the post with that long range effort with five minutes to go it wasn’t only nearly a winner for us, with the beautiful way Barry Conlon back-heeled the ball into Joe Colbeck’s path and marvellous through ball to set up Thorne’s volley, we were agonisingly close to witnessing one of the best Valley Parade goals seen in years. Rochdale won it through our mistake, but for how bad that left us feeling we could easily have been celebrating a win.

And now, rather than carve the team up and start everything again, we face three presentable-looking games in a week where a decent points haul is achievable. Stuart will have seen a lot of things he didn’t like during the performance and certain players have some making up to do, but while changes will be made the progress from the team since the turn of the year should not be forgotten.

The players and management made mistakes on Saturday, but anyone among the 13,198 City fans that witnessed them who says they have never made mistakes in their career and life is lying. The key is to accept and learn from mistakes, so that you move on and develop. No football manager gets their tactics correct all the time. We, as fans, now need to forgive and hope Stuart never forgets.

As for our own contribution, well it was hardly great was it? 10 minutes to go, an enthralling end to end game that is clearly a battle; where are we making noise and backing the players? We’re sat glumly in our seats groaning everytime something goes wrong and hammering on individuals’ mistakes. We have the biggest crowds in the division, but where’s the advantage we give to the team from it?

But we move on, get over these defeats and back the players for the next three important games. We probably won’t win them all and we almost definitely won’t make a late play off surge now, but there has been some progress made this season which we all hope will be more visible next season.

Me and Steve might not get chance to enjoy that Mexican after Wembley, but we might just go for it anyway on the journey back from Wycombe May 3. If you can see the positives and don’t believe everything should be considered a failure just because we’re unlikely to bounce straight back up this season, I invite you to join us for a Corona or five. The rest may as well get off home and inflict their usual moaning all over our City cyber world.