What's the Strategy?
A few thoughts on our club following the local derby

In the Fans Forum at Hillsborough in the summer Mr Chansiri made a comment that was along the lines of “none of the SUFC squad would get a place in our team”. Some attendees cheered and laughed at this bravado, others, like me, thought he was way wide of the mark. The 3 games we have played against our city neighbours since they returned to the Championship have proved him to be wrong. Both of the clubs are unstable off the field in their different ways – ownership squabbles and consequent tied purse strings at one club, whilst a lack of clarity on who leads on what, complying with P&S rules and a never far away threat of a transfer embargo at the other club. The major differences at the moment between the clubs are threefold in my view:

1. One club has a younger, fitter squad that fits into what the manager wants them to do, the other doesn’t

2. One club has a manager who has forged a team with an identity and a way of playing that is finely honed, and suits the players he has, the other doesn’t

3. One club has a much better sense of its place in the community, the connections it needs to have with the community, and a better drive to its charitable work in the community, the other doesn't

The pillars of a successful football club – overall business strategy/ finances, the academy/ football strategy, an effective first team, and communications/community strategy – seem to be done better overall at Bramall Lane than at Hillsborough, as painful as it is to say. Our academy has caught up with theirs in recent times but in other areas we seem to be second at the moment.

The game on Friday was a difficult watch for Wednesdayites. We did what we had to do which was not to lose and thereby end a losing streak, and we kept our first clean sheet of the season. But that’s all we did. We demonstrated little ambition to try to win the game but across the 90 minutes we did show far more organisation and fight than we have in parts of our recent games. All that was very welcome. And, despite the opposition’s almost total domination of the ball, they didn’t actually threaten our goal much at all, but it was tough to watch them being camped around our 18 yard box for the majority of the game. The biggest positive was that it was a good night for Cameron Dawson.

In the summer I thought that JL would have used the break to have re-organised the defence and made us a much harder team to beat – after all this was the reputation that preceded him. I also thought that with a bit of luck with form and injuries we might have a chance at a play-off place. When I saw the defending against Villareal I was worried and this followed us into the season proper. The manager clearly hadn’t been able to work any defensive magic and when he started to be bullish about only losing games by the odd goal, and not expressing any concern about conceding goals I became even more worried. There’s an old adage about results always following form, we had some decent results but the form hadn’t always been great and there was always the risk that the defending would eventually undermine the team – so it has proved to be.

Our club now faces twin challenges. First we have to sort out the structural problems of cutting the wages budget, selling players to raise cash, complying with P&S rules and thereby avoiding a transfer embargo, whilst re-structuring the squad. Secondly we have to ensure that the team retains its place in the Championship for next season. I suspect I am not alone in wondering whether the DC regime and JL are up to the task in the short and long term. I accept that getting a few injured players back may well assist the team to attack and defend more effectively, that and JL finding a way of playing that suits the players he has rather than trying to impose a game plan that they seem incapable of carrying out, may just deliver that latter. But on the former I haven’t seen or heard anything that the DC regime and JL have a plan for the longer term.

I don’t want the club to operate in a goldfish bowl and tell us everything about the business that has to be done; but they need to convey a sense of confidence that they have a strategy and they have the right people in place, carrying out the right roles to deliver it effectively. The current vacuum of communication will be filled by doom mongers and conspiracy theorists if it isn’t managed and filled by the club – evidence the recent speculation about why certain players are not playing. And the type of bravado we heard in the summer won’t cut it either – fans can see that we are way short of the promotion challenge that DC said we needed to mount to sort out our P&S problems. So, I respectfully pose the question: What is the strategy, who is leading on it, and what confidence can we have it will be delivered successfully? Over to you Mr Chansiri for an answer please.

On a lighter note the All Wednesday paper fanzine is progressing well and will go to the printers this week. It will be on sale in the run up to, and at, the game against Derby County and then against Bolton. For fans who want to get one by mail order we will be announcing those details later this week. The fanzine will have 64 pages, will cost £2 and any profits we make will go to the Children’s Hospital Charity. More news to follow!

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