If 90 minutes of football could encapsulate an entire domestic season for a football club, then the 1-1 draw on Saturday at home to Blackpool was it. We went into the game with many fans looking forward to a convincing win. Even someone like me, with my half empty glass thought we were due a home game where goals would flow and we’d get a relatively easy victory. No disrespect to Blackpool of course but they’re not the same team that was performing so well in the first half of the season and with Man City’s earlier defeat the door to the top 4 was left slightly ajar once again.
Unfortunately what we got was similar to what we’ve witnessed for large portions of the season. I’m not talking about the Champions League which saw us playing high tempo, exciting football, getting stuck in and showing a will to win. I’m talking about the Saturday games, matches we seem to turn up for expecting to win in first or second gear. Especially the home games. Whether you blame the strikers alone or the team as a whole it makes little difference, we’ve struggled to score and win on a consistent enough basis.
When you consider the champions elect this season have only won 5 away games (albeit with a superb home record) and all the other teams above and around us have failed to improve on last seasons points tally and performances you’ve got to think we’ve missed a trick this season. With one more years experience behind the team surely there should’ve been improvement?
“We’ve drawn too many games lately and we just haven’t quite been able to kill teams off. Whether we’ve just gone flat after the Champions League run, and we were so involved in that, it can take an awful lot out of you.” – Harry Redknapp
So, because of the involvement in the Champions League the reason / excuse for a lacklustre performance is tiredness? That doesn’t explain the other similar displays throughout the season but more importantly it’s utter rubbish. Thanks to our terrible domestic cup form, come May 22nd we will have played 3 games more than we did last season. That’s 3 extra games in 10 months of football, or approximately 27 minutes more a month.
Those of us who have felt let down at times this season have been considered by many as unrealistic or fickle. I prefer to see it as ambitious, maybe overly ambitious, but ambitious all the same. We all know what the team is capable of and when you look at performances like Saturday you have to wonder why we’re not performing to our full potential. Maybe Redknapp’s right. Maybe the Champions League took so much out of the players mentally that now physically they’ve got nothing to give, but I would’ve thought the relegation battle Blackpool, Wigan, West Ham and Wolves have been involved in would be far more mentally taxing than trips to the San Siro and Bernabèu. So why did I expect more from this season? Why did I look at the relevant squads in August and believe not only could be achieve a top 4 finish again but we could possibly push on?
“We can beat anybody and this win today has put us right back in the race again. We can achieve anything. We have to believe. It is not impossible to win the title.” – Harry Redknapp
That was said in November. He’d already stated we could win the league before the season kicked off. Some thought he was crazy but I liked the idea and positivity. I didn’t think for one second it could actually be done but there was definitely a chance of competing for it at least until the final couple of months. What’s the point in going into a season with any other attitude anyway? The Bill Nic quote, “It’s better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low”, was bandied about all over the net. Consider we’re only 10 points behind United in top spot with a game in hand and you’ll see had we managed to improve on last season he would’ve been right.
Back to Saturday’s performance. Blackpool deserved their point, although their slightly over aggressive display left a bad taste in my mouth but needs must when you’re at the wrong end of the table. Hopefully Charlie Adam will face retrospective punishment for his tackle on Bale because it was definitely meant no matter what the talented Scotsman says. At least that tackle should mean we won’t have to worry about Redknapp making him his number one target in the summer. The pre-match interviews revolved around the Europe League and getting into 5th place in the league:
“Teams who get into the Europa League want to get out of it. Half of them put reserve teams out in the early stages and it’s difficult to play every Thursday and Sunday. It disrupts things. We didn’t have European football last year and we finished fourth. That was a big advantage to us. Our first year in the Champions League has been hard. It has taken its toll but the Europa League takes a bigger toll.” – Harry Redknapp
Hardly inspiring words to get a team ready for a game. Of course the lads wanted to win but it’s clear the thoughts of the manager are very much if we don’t get into 5th place and the Europa League it won’t be the end of the world. We all know the Europa League is a badly organised tournament with too many games, against teams from too far away and it’s importance is diminished even more when the losers from the Champions League drop into it, but surely giving the impression in the press that you’d rather not be in it and therefore not finish high enough in the league to get that position isn’t the right thing to say to motivate a team into a good performance.
What about the rest of the season and more importantly our chances of getting back into the top 4 next season? Spending money isn’t a guarantee of success. No matter how much Chelsea and City have spent had we improved by only 5-6 points this season over last they’d finish below us. Neither of those teams have improved even with the vast amounts of cash thrown at the transfer market. Hopefully with the right additions made to our squad we’ll prove this season is just a blip but just in case we don’t we’re getting our excuses in early:
“It’s a tough ask, that top four. If people are realistic and understand football they’d look at the top four and say ‘Look, who’s going to drop out of the top four every year? Manchester United? I don’t think so. Man City are going to spend God knows what this summer now that they have Champions League football to offer their players. Arsenal are going to be in it, Chelsea too, and Man United. We did it last year but it was so tough.” – Harry Redknapp
I can only presume when he stated we could win the league at the beginning of the year he was either lying or being unrealistic. At least we don’t have to worry about players leaving though, or at least the players we don’t want to leave.
“When they came here they weren’t in the Champions League, and when I arrived here they weren’t anywhere near Champions League football.” – Harry Redknapp
Thank God we’ve got Harry Redknapp in charge. Without him we’d be back struggling to get into the top 8 and players like Modric, Bale, Dawson, Lennon, Ekotto, Huddlestone etc would be playing in the Championship somewhere.
Did he raise my hopes or did I do that myself? A little bit of both I think but I’ve never been one to take what he says seriously. How can you when he’s got a column in The Sun, but based on what I saw last season we had a real chance this time around. Maybe not to win the league, actually definitely not to win the league but the top 4 should’ve been achieved once again and if we’re talking about realism, I believe top 3 was there for the taking.
Whether it’s been injuries, the introduction of a new system, champions league hangovers, strikers not scoring or everyone believing our own hype the one thing we’ve seen far too much of this season is lacklustre, uninspiring performances. Last season we showed week in, week out how badly we wanted Champions League football. This season we look like we’ve enjoyed the experience but forgot we’d have to fight to get it again.
Win, lose or draw we should all expect 100%. Had we got that this season in every league game we’d be looking at Champions League once again.
Submitted by THFC1882