FIRST the good news! Chairman Dale’s vision for the club remains as does his determination to see it through. A manager has been appointed who has clearly bought into that vision and in my view is the right man to take us forward.
Now the bad news – we all know what that is; quite simply the football has not been good enough. Looking back over the year there were two false dawns. The 5-0 wins at Newport on New Year’s Day, and the 8-0 demolition of Hyde on the opening day of the season. Too many of us read too much into those results, making the subsequent slumps harder to bear.
With close season signings and other cosmetic additions (sports psychologists etc) we all expected something better as well as something different.
Sadly what we got was more of the same. It was not good enough and results showed that. The old faults were still there.
It became obvious that a managerial change was needed. This is an opinion column. The sports editor Ashley Loveridge brings you the news, while I give a personal view on what is happening.
Looking back I bottled it. Seeing Dave Hockaday every week and anxious to maintain a working relationship with someone I respected on a personal level I held back.
The managerial change should have come after the home defeat by Tamworth. Now we are in a new era and it is obvious that for the football to keep pace with the other changes there is the need for forthright action.
The manager’s thinking has brought some of us down to earth. He is clearly worried about the quality of the squad. I think he is right.
We all remember Darren Jones, Alex Lawless, Simon Clist, Michael Brough, defenders Hardiker, Nicholson and Tonkin. Do we have players of that quality with us now? The answer must be no.
What we do have and what Jim Harvey did not is strength in numbers to cover injuries and suspensions.
If we give players marks out of ten, Harvey had seven or eight players who were eight or nine. What we have today is about 20 who score a barely adequate six. They are no better, no worse than each other, but are they good enough? Ludicrous long contracts may tie the manager’s hands so do not expect a huge clear out!
With so many players of similar ability it is hard for many of us to select our best team. It cannot be easy for Ady. He has to deal with another problem. The current squad were purchased to play in a 4-3-3 system.
If that is not his favoured system there will have to be readjustment. Has Ady found the best way to use James Norwood, one player of undoubted quality? We have seen James playing up front and in midfield. His undoubted speed makes him a dangerous striker and his goal scoring record backs that up. James started his career as a centre forward and is dangerous anywhere in the front line. His pace alone causes problems. He is of most value to the team as an out and out attacker.
This where we have a real problem At Halifax goalkeeper Glennon was scarcely troubled in the first half. We were more dangerous after the break but the phrase ‘no cutting edge’ must be revived. The inability to defend a routine corner lost us the game and another red card stopped us gaining even a point. Experienced players should be dealing with these problems in a more professional and mature way. We are being let down.
I am sure Ady Pennock will take us forward and will soon establish who his best eleven are. I hope no players are already written off for instance Brogan and Forbes may have something to offer.
The Mangan situation, of which I know nothing, needs to be resolved, but above all a way of playing needs to be decided on.
The players are used to 4-3-3 and it may be best to stick close to that plan. I have heard the expression ‘The Stoke Way’ used but we have not the players with the height or physical strength to play that way.
Whatever pattern the manager decides it needs to be a way the present group of players can adapt to, bearing in mind their stature and skill levels. There are no forecasts this week, just a hope for a lively game on Boxing Day. We all need cheering up.