It’s not great at the moment. One win in seven, no money to spend on new players, repairs to the stands seemingly on hold and, for those who are bothered about this kind of thing, a poor and worsening matchday ‘experience’.
We’re not quite at peak late eighties, where we were down to crowds of 4,000 and the owner was trying to flog the lead off the top of the terrace and stand roofs for his scrap metal business, but the number of people who have fallen out of love with the club and just can’t be bothered brings a sense of deja vu to those of us who have been at this for a long time.
The road to recovery from the late eighties to the height of the Premier League and League Cup glory was a long one. Not until the club was in the hands of Sullivan, the Golds and Brady, following another false start, another ‘rebirth of the Blues, under the Kumars, did the notorious sleeping giant start to wake.
This brings us to what I see as one of the two ways out of the position we find ourselves in – a takeover.
I’m no expert in football ownership and those who are, like the erudite and knowledgeable @almajir, suggest that we shouldn’t be holding our breath waiting for the current owners, whoever they may be, to sell. There appear to be bigger forces in play than the mere success or failure of a Championship club.
For a long time, I never understood why the current lot wanted to buy the club from whatever entity Carson Yeung was fronting. As time passes, it becomes apparent that the football club was just a bit that came with the real asset, a listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
What is, therefore, surprising, is not so much the current drastic underfunding, but why they spaffed so much on Harry’s trolley dash, which, in hindsight, is the main reason we’re in the state we’re in.
I think this points to one of the main problems with the current ownership, a lack of consistent and sustainable strategy, personified by the work of Dong. Dong seemed to change the direction of travel every season after the power grab of getting rid of the able administrators who had the club at heart and a better idea of how to run an English professional football club.
So, neither a new set of owners nor a cash injection to spend on playing staff or infrastructure looks like a way out of the mess we are in.
Another similarity with the late eighties is the make-up of the side, a mixture of not good enoughs – remembering Trevor Aylott and Carl Richards here – and youngsters – game triers like Dean Peer and Mark Yates.
What is different is the quality of the youngsters now is better than then, a big shout out to those who have worked in the academy over the last ten years or so who have basically saved the business with the development of saleable assets, Jude the most obvious example. And it looks like we will have to call on their charges again to survive this latest crisis.
The other thing that has changed is the number of loans that make up today’s matchday squads. Whether filling your team with short term signings constitutes a sustainable strategy, I’m not so sure, but it might just be a case of beggars not being choosers.
We now have a Director of Football who knows and understands the club. This is the opportunity to get together a coherent strategy to get us out of the doo-doo by gradually improving the playing staff and the method of play to the point where we can challenge for the play-offs and above – get to the Prem and your money worries are over for a while.
The problem is that strategies take time to implement. As we’ve found to our cost with Harry, there’s rarely an overnight fix to such deep-rooted problems.
So, that means keeping the faith and not turning our back on the club we love. It also means, in likelihood, having to put up with some less than optimum football and some more losing streaks like we’re going through at the moment.
I’d argue that having Lee Bowyer as the manager is an asset to the delivery of a strategic approach. He’s been here before, evolving competitive teams at Charlton while working to basket case employers who don’t make good on promises of assets he’ll have at his disposal to do his job. I’m sure that the situation he and Craig find themselves in is even worse than they first thought.
I’m not particularly enjoying 5-3-2 when we haven’t got the staff to play it, but I do see it as part of the education of the staff to play in a way that is more suited to the modern game. 4-4-2 is good for firefighting, as we see most seasons, keep it simple, stupid, but is it, here comes that word again, sustainable?
There are increasing calls for Lee’s head, but can we really afford to go round that block again? Sack the manager, get a newby in, go gung-ho and save ourselves from League One, rinse and repeat.
Personally, as well as the ample opportunities for the youngsters, another thing that takes time to come to fruition, they’re not all Jude’s ready to go at 16, I’d like to see more emphasis placed on buying lower league players on the way up. Get them at 22, 23, 24, as both short-term assets to get some energy and commitment into the team and as longer-term investments. It still smarts that we could have had, say, a Jordan Clarke-Harris for a million, while we spent huge amounts on Spanish number 10s who fall over at the first breath of wind, old-timers more suited to playing in the nineties or grossly overpriced Scottish centre forwards.
I think that Lee and Craig are the best people for the job at our club, but that’s an act of faith based on not enough evidence and I think they could let us in a bit more about what the medium to long-term plan is.
So, an act of faith, a belief in the men running the football side of things at the club, a need to, and here comes the obligatory quote from the song, keep right on to the end of the road even though we’re tired and weary (got ’em both in).
Chances are there is going to be more pain in store before it gets better and we will need to show patience, a thing in short supply in the modern game. But I don’t think we have any other choice than to take the short-term pain to allow men who care about our football club to deliver a longer-term strategy, as the owners show no signs of helping us out with more cash or by selling the club.