The Darling Buds of September
Green shoots of optimism for the blue and white wizards?

So, at around 2.00 on Saturday I had finished painting the door and found myself contemplating paying for a Wednesday i-follow match for the first time. I’d got the hand of working the thing when the club offered me ten i-follow games at the end of last season as part of the season ticket compensation; up until then I had generally followed away games (unless it was one of the few I could get to in person) on Radio Sheff. So it was that last Saturday for the first time I actually got my card out and paid up.

Interesting question as to what made we want to do it. Maybe it was just that usual sense of (many times misplaced) start of season optimism. I have gone on Twitter record as saying that the new signings look astute – people up for it, hungry and with something to prove which feels right for the one-off situation we find ourselves in. Maybe it was to do with the current circumstances; if I can’t see them live at home, the line between home and away games becomes blurrier meaning that I just feel a need to see all of them as they happen. Or maybe (shameless Trucks nepotism) I was inspired by Steve’s eve of season article on the site, in particular:

"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."  

Maybe me shelling out a tenner for the Cardiff game was a tiny bit of a buy-in to that? Whatever lay behind this last hour impulse it turned out to be the right call. That said I wasn’t expecting the first half to be commentary-less. In fairness every home game watched live is without an official commentary (though we of course all have a bevvy of would be Barry Davies's sat around us on every side) but with a revised team with a couple of newbies thrown in I had to concentrate pretty hard to keep up with who was who (distant camera shots and those new away kits didn’t help the cause either). When you are watching a game with no commentary and in a deserted stadium it’s a fairly weird feeling when a goal goes in (as Windass’s duly did). For a few seconds you imagine there must have been some sort of infringement as there’s no noise to validate what you’ve just seen, and in this case not helped by the scorer going down injured. But a first away goal it certainly was. And then came another one and the palpable relief of Rhodes’s name going down on the score sheet.

And all in all a very satisfying performance. Just what we’ve all been saying for so long – we don’t need to spend forever in (sometimes pointless) possession with no bite going forward. Instead we just stay calm and take our chances when they come up. For me there were two real positives. One is the success of the new lads; joyous it was to see both Izzy Brown (new) and Josh Windass (nearly new) in today’s Championship team of the week (alongside, er, Lucas Joao). All that we saw of the newbies gave our nascent optimism another tiny nudge forward.

And the second thing? Back to Steve’s article again: 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. From the settee where I was sat all four of them seemed to have their levels considerably raised on Saturday. Most noticeable for me was Adam Reach when he came on; almost immediately he had the look of a happier man about him, striding on with more confidence, looking properly engaged and involved and looking like he wanted to be part of the team. But really all four of those bad boys looked, well, better.

What has been noticeable has been the comments turning up on social media since Saturday. Yes, there has been a fair bit of comedy optimism and the odd use of the word “promotion”, but what has been striking has been a feeling amongst the fan-base that this at last feels like a proper team with common purpose and clear direction. Maybe, just maybe Garry Monk is starting to turn it around. Noticeable too is a more coherent feeling from other parts of the club, notably the Communications team. There is a growing feeling of everybody being on board and pulling in the same direction.

Of course with the Saturday/Tuesday/Saturday nature of this season any buds of optimism can take a battering in a matter of days but maybe, for the first time in a long time, those buds may prove to be a little more resilient.


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