By Archie Brand
Sometimes you hear an argument, and while you can’t quite put your finger on it you just know that something about it doesn’t quite stack up.
A good example of this is our septic cousins across the pond who seem to have almost weekly mass shootings, but still think that the answer to their problem is for more people to have guns. More guns! You have to be a special kind of crazy to go with that one.
A bit closer to home we’re not even 7 games into probably the most difficult start we’ve ever had in the EPL and the doom and gloom brigade have already condemned us to relegation, got Rafa half way out the door, and if that’s not sufficient misery to spread around, in addition to poverty, global warming and Brexit, they’ve somehow also managed to blame Ashley for metal fatigue, mildew and a dead pigeon in the rafters.
Is this really the answer to our problems at the moment? I firmly believe that there are enough things to slag Ashley off for without going over the top and presenting ourselves as complete nutters to the rest of the footballing nation.
Most who know me consider me a bit of a pessimist, or as they usually put it, a miserable git (I insist it’s realism with a just a hint of hostility) – but I really do think that maybe we should give it a few more games before we throw a rope over the roof beams and do something drastic , like pull the roof off the stand, if reports are to be believed.
The papers are trying to whip up a storm by telling us that this is our equal worst start ever in the Prem, but any fan worth his salt knows that they are hardly comparing apples with apples.
19 years ago we lost our first 5 games to mainly mediocre opponents, with a manager who had lost a very talented dressing room and just didn’t “get” the fans.
This season we lost a few opening games against 4 of the top 6 teams in the league, with a fairly average team and a manager who has got both the fans and the players behind him 110%.
With the Dutchman in charge butting heads with the talent, there was only one way it was going to go. Before that memorable Sunderland game started he was losing the fans faster than Kevin Spacey lost the Whitehouse.
With the Spaniard at the helm, and his apparent ongoing spat with Ashley (and I have worded that very cautiously) it’s going the other way. Support for him can only increase – initially at least.
Our start this season was always going to be about expectation management, and while Rafa would never come out and say it beforehand, he’s comfortable after the fact admitting that this is pretty much where he expected us to be after 5 matches, with just the slightest hint of disappointment that we didn’t wrap up the points at Cardiff or show enough going forward at Palace.
So what is our goal this season? Top half? Middle? Survival?
Let’s be up front here and agree that we could have ploughed a hundred million into the team and top 6 would still have been a (somewhat rusty) pipe dream.
There are five or six other teams that fancy their chances at 7th or 8th, and I think they’re probably better equipped to achieve that than we are.
Financially, tossing a hundred million at a squad to make, say, 4 million in prize money doesn’t make a lot of sense, when the team is up for sale and the world already thinks the price you’re asking is a hundred million too high. That kind of investment might make sense long term, or when you’ve just come up, but when offloading the team is always in the back of your mind? The argument here is that we could end up in a relegation battle, but a) I don’t think that will be the case and b) let’s not get into that when there’s no beer in the fridge.
Personally (and I’m being realistic here – without the hostility) I’d say another 10th would be a great result, but think that the club are aiming at a safe 13th or 14th.
We all know the score – Regardless of fans’ expectations the plan is to just keep our heads above water, slowly build up the finances and with any luck slowly improve the quality of the squad. Let’s not forget that we came up with a squad that was put together to get us out of the Championship and many of those same players are now trying to keep us in the Prem.
Do we agree with it? Is it what we pay our season ticket money for? Hell No.
Do we understand the logic? I think many do.
The real question is – is it a winning strategy from a business point of view? I think so, but we all have to buy into it, which is never going to happen.
Rafa’s attitude gives me hope (a bit like the lottery). This is what we have, let’s get on with it. I work on the assumption that if things were really so horrifically bad, he would have walked. By the time you read this the Palace game will probably be over, and we’ll have progressed to either the next level of Hades or, being the fickle creatures that we are, we’ll be deliriously lauding the performance of our team and be screaming about how brilliant some of our new signings are. We may even have something positive to say about Kenedy!
Now that would be nice.