Report from an innocent bystander. Trouble is once you commit to and are publically lauded as providing a report, win, lose or draw, then any form of silence following a 5-0 reversal seems to speak louder than any words! Fact is for eight years I have failed to see some or all of what is usually our first game of the season because of my pleasant duty of attending my students’ graduation in Wolverhampton. In recent years more often than not I’ve popped in on the way (since even after 22 years being entirely absent is too painful) however with Willis’ move to Small Heath this was not possible. Hence what follows is a reflection on a depressing conversation from a phone box (I have no mobile [more positives than negatives, try it!]), a brief chat with Mike (who saw half an hour) and my involvement in all of the week long build up which resulted in us scratching around for a team so early in the season.
First though, congratulations to Connect. We beat them 4-2 three or so weeks ago and they clearly took their revenge. Mark said despite the fact we played some tidy football, they always had the edge. 4-0 by half time. Our problem was personnel and not just bodies but balance. Having struggled to accommodate five strikers for the last three years, today Mark had one, Craigy, asked to play up on his own (with Leon, Christie, Welsh Matt and Sammy all unavailable). The psychology of going into a game without that feasible threat is sadly well known. Add to this the absence also of South, ‘big’ Dave, Nathan Hylton and Ben and you’ve got most of the side that finished last season so well and might have been expected to start this one positively. Rob Hill and Stew Harvey were excellent I understand and everyone had a decent go but the difference between the teams was ‘threat’ and this superficially little difference amplified the scoreline rather than domination of possession. A test then of character and managerial nous for our visit to the champions next week!