In my last piece I said that this was to be a season of development and, despite bemoaning the unfortunate refereeing decisions that had cost us points, I nevertheless came to the conclusion that the strength in depth of the squad wasn’t sufficient to hope for anything this season other than survival.
I have just returned from something of a nightmare journey from Huddersfield which was considerably truncated by the closure of three exits on the M1 near Pontefract. That did not, however, douse my spirits too much because I thought that following on from a good display against West Brom in which we were unlucky to come away pointless, the performance at Huddersfield maintained that improvement and we actually deserved all three points.
Sadly, the old problems again reared their heads because despite having the best three chances of the game we failed to put any of them away. Poor finishing and an excellent save from Huddersfield’s goalkeeper Schofield deprived us of our due desserts.
My previous observation about strength in depth was confirmed to an extent when at the end of the game no fewer than five graduates from the academy were on the field. That they all performed admirably was a real bonus and it was a great night for Aynsley Pears to keep a clean sheet on his first team debut.
In important league games, though, the money that was spent over the last couple of seasons should have ensured that we had seasoned and experienced players in every position but Jonathan Woodgate has obviously got selection problems in a number of areas.
Fulham are up next, and they look a different kettle of fish to Huddersfield so it will be very interesting to see how we perform against them. I have to also say – again – that the crowd in the ‘Boro end were both enthusiastic and vociferous and that’s always a huge bonus for the players. Let’s hope that can be maintained throughout the next six months.
So at this still very early stage in the season it looks as though we are going to have it pretty tough and it’s already been widely accepted that the money for January recruitment will be very limited. That means the pre-ordained season of development will be inevitable.
As long as the younger players can continue to improve on strength, fitness and technique, though, that seems to be the future for the time being. But life is most certainly a giant circle and teams now performing at the very highest level have been in the same position we are in at the moment.
It’s not that many years since Manchester City, for instance, were playing at a much lower level. Not every team, however, can attract the investment that they currently enjoy. But I feel quite sure we can come again and I sincerely hope Jonathan Woodgate is given the time to get things right. Changing managers under the current circumstances would be a negative move.