Five Years On.......
5 years into DC's regime, where are we now?

29th January 2010 was the point at which DC concluded his deal with Milan Mandaric to buy our club. Exactly 5 years into this ownership I posed the question on Twitter as to whether the club is in a better position now than it was then. The responses indicate there is still a fair bit of support/sympathy for DC but also a lot of criticism too. The supportive approach was along the lines of; we nearly achieved promotion, we gave it a good go, he has spent money and is committed, he has been badly advised, and that we are further forward as a result of DC's ownership. The gainsayers view was that; we have wasted lots of money on poor recruitment, ticket prices are too high, we now don’t own our own stadium, the commercial side of the club is poor and we are on the verge of a nerve-jangling period over a possible EFL sanction. The things on which everyone agrees are that the pitch is better, the scoreboard is good, we had a great day at Wembley and the 15/16 season was fun.

I recognise that some fans believe that a man who is spending his money on our club should not be criticised by fans, but I take the view that fans have a right to hold a club owner to account for their actions – whether they spend money or they don’t. I have always acknowledged that DC has been committed, energetic and he has put money into the club, I am appreciative of that. But the strategy of throwing money at ageing players in pursuit of early promotion rather than progressive club and capacity building has failed big time, and the position could get worse. Add to that the recruitment of players, to whom we have paid good money for little or no contribution, and then not selling players at the right time to boost resources and refresh the squad, are massive issues. Compare our track record with the systematic and strategic approach at Brentford FC – I am not saying we should mirror what Brentford do but it has taken far too long for us to learn any lessons from other clubs. So, yes, we had a great time in 15/16. which was big step forward from 14/15, but we are now back in 14/15 territory with a major rebuilding job to do, on and off the field. In that context it’s hard to say we are in a better place than we were in January 2015.

EFL and the Disciplinary Process

It looks like the possible EFL disciplinary process is now to be the subject of an arbitration hearing first, possibly in February. If EFL win at arbitration no doubt fairly quickly there will then be a Disciplinary Commission that will determine guilt and any possible sanction regarding alleged FFP breaches. If the club win at the arbitration hearing then hopefully that will be then end of the process and we can move on. It is to be hoped it is the latter - the former has the potential to massively reshape the season for us. A deduction of 15 or more points would leave us in the middle of a relegation battle, a maximum deduction of 21 points would leave us bottom of the table. Avoiding relegation looks like it will need 45 points this season - without a points deduction we will be fine. A 15 points deduction would leave us needing 6 wins and a draw to miss relegation, a 21 points deduction would leave us needing 8 wins and a draw to avoid the drop. Those points would have to come from 17 games;  bear in mind we have so far won 12 out of 29 games (41%). 8 wins from 17 would require a step up from achievements so far, 6 wins would be within our form over the season so far. To achieve a play-off place it would need 75 points - 11 wins from 17 (65%), it’s possible, but not going to happen I suspect! Our realistic target has to be to avoid relegation and then rebuild.

It feels like EFL have taken a lax approach to regulation under the previous regime (if what Wednesday and Derby are saying is correct), another EFL club has threatened legal action against EFL in the belief that the perceived laxity led to unfairness. Now a new EFL regime has reacted to show that they are being tough. EFL  have got themselves in a mess and stuck in the middle. Hopefully we can get over this stage of the process without too much damage, then in the future there will be clarity from EFL about the rules and the proper application of them. It’s not healthy for EFL to be under legal challenge from its own member clubs, or for clubs to be mounting legal action against each other.

Team Prospects

The recent defeats for SWFC have not only blown any realistic chance of a play-off place but, if coupled with a substantial points deduction, have dropped us in the relegation mire. All the stuff about the mentality and attitude of the players has re-surfaced and now GM has the same frustrations we have felt for some time now. But it seems he knows what he wants to do about it, we have to give him time and space to make the required changes as they won't happen overnight. We now need the lawyers to weave their magic, GM to weave his, or maybe a bit of both, to get us to a position of still being a Championship club in 2020/21. Hopefully we will then have a more strategic and sustainable approach to the management of our club, we can then build from there.

In the short-term Wickham, Windass and Da Cruz might spark things up a bit – it’s good that DC has enabled us to make those signings. The balance of deals (ins but not enough outs) will still leave us with major outgoings to manage later, but hopefully we can do enough to have a decent Championship base from which to build next season.

The journey starts against Millwall today.

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