A New Season Begins
Thoughts before we start all over again

These are tough times at the moment and football is not insulated, although looking at the way some of the PL clubs are spending cash you would be hard put to think that’s the case. But for the vast majority of EFL clubs the times are really tough, and in that context, I accept that it can be hard work to drum up some optimism at the start of a new league season. Our club is having to retrench financially due to our previous gamble, if that wasn’t difficult enough Covid adds to the problems, and then we have a 12-point deduction on top. But all is far from lost and we have a chance to establish a more positive climate around the club and team.

The club and team need all shoulders to the wheel this season after connection with the fans has been damaged by recent events; the positive and open social media stuff this summer has been helpful with that. But the club has to do more, particularly being more open about the financial position at the club (both FFP and Covid related), what the club is doing about it, what the future plans are and what fans can do to help. For example, I am sure there are some fans who might be happy to leave season ticket money in the club, to help with cash flow, if they knew what degree of challenge the club faces and what sort of re-imbursement or compensation they may receive in future. Not all fans will be willing I accept but some might. In any case, the more open communication might help build common cause between fans and club. The club needs to reach out and try to build a new positive and unified relationship.

Garry Monk has driven the social media openness at the training ground which has been good. He has been allowed to refresh his coaching team and does appear to be driving the player recruitment, difficult though it is in the current circumstances. We were never going to recruit Guardiola after Bruce walked out and I think he was a decent appointment who walked into a mess that wasn’t of his making. When I see some of the very personal comments he receives on social media I do feel it is unfair – I am not saying he has been perfect but he has to deal with the kind of situation the club was in during 2000-2005 period. I just think he has to be given some leeway, but I recognise with a 12-point deduction he will be under enormous pressure to start well.

There appears to be some positivity in the camp and we have added some younger players who want to be here, despite the difficult circumstances, and I hope that in Chey Dunkley we have found the leadership type we have needed for some time. Dele-Bashiru looks to have some drive about him but he may take time to settle into first team and Championship football. Windass brings some energy and ability, and both he and Kachunga have experience in the Championship. I still think we need another wing-back and at least 2 more up front – particularly a more physical presence but we might not be able to do those deals until PL clubs start to send more out on loan etc nearer the close of the window. The other big test is whether GM and his team can raise the levels of Lees, Van-Aken, Reach and Rhodes – they all have ability but need to be doing far better. All are out of contract next Summer and if they aren’t making a positive contribution by Xmas then it may well be time to say goodbye. We will see.

Unless the appeal reduces the points deduction, our focus just has to be to achieve 63 points next season and anything else will be a bonus. The net 51 points will then hopefully be enough to keep us up. Last season Bristol City and Blackburn both got 63 points, Bristol City scored 60 goals and conceded 65 whilst Blackburn scored 66 and conceded 66. We got 58 points, scored 58 and conceded 66 and that was in the context of the collapse into relegation form. Blackburn and Bristol City finished in 11th and 12th spots. So, we are not looking for a massive improvement on last season’s points total to secure our safety next season. That has to be possible for our squad, if they can cope with the mental pressure of starting 12 points behind. I am not predicting they will do it but equally I am not going into the season with my chin on the floor expecting relegation before we have even started. It is going to be an odd season with games on Sat and Tuesday every week and where the whole squad is going to have to play a part. We will need to be behind them and be as positive as we can, even if we can’t be there in person. Togetherness will be critical and the players, GM and staff, fans and the club all need to be helping foster that.

Fingers crossed!


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