The head on the door

2 Mar

Saturday 1st March 2014

Nottingham Forest                       1.4      Wigan Athletic                  

(Paterson)                                                           (Waghorn, Boyce, McArthur, Gomez)

In the hugely successful Game of Thrones, lots of unfortunate characters end up having their head brutally disconnected from their necks. Sometimes this is for the rather unspectacular crime of being privy to information that is likely to embarrass the ruling party (Plot spoiler klaxon: step forward, Edddard Stark. But since this unfortunate Stark is played by Sean Bean, then you really should have seen that coming from a mile off given that Bean rarely makes it to the end of any film still standing but more often than not, dying nobly) but on most other occasions, it is to show the people that blame has been apportioned and justice been meted out, as if to say, ‘See that? HE was to blame and now that his head’s on a stick with his tongue lolloping out we can all feel better about this whole sticky situation, put it behind us and things will be ever so much better now.’

And they are. Until another head ends up being disconnected from the neck and ceremoniously stuck on a stick

We need to blame someone when things go wrong.

Things went wrong yesterday and I wanted to blame someone. I wanted to see heads on sticks.

I wanted to see Cox’s head on a stick for making a hash of that early chance that was presented to him on, um, a platter. I’ll tell you who else’s head would have looked good on a spike too – the fitness coach and physio: surely whatever it is that they are doing with the players is to blame for the injury situation at the moment. And the injured players themselves – they can take some blame too for…well… being injured. I bet they’re just putting it on. That Jordi Gomez too – his head on a stick for generally running the midfield all afternoon. And as for that bloody Dave Whelan who, rumour has it, broke his leg while playing in the FA Cup final although he is reluctant to mention it and only a few insiders are aware of this. And the stadium announcer who pettily and childishly reads out the opposition names really quietly and quickly in the seemingly vague hope that they will all miraculously cease to exist.

Billy Davies’ head on a spike?

Some thought so and have done for a while. The case against? Not utilising the players he had at his disposal. After all, the team was littered with a nice combination of youth and experience: Chilean, Irish and Polish caps alongside talented youth. It should be enough to give Wigan a good game and chalk up a result that keeps us ticking along nicely until the injury situation subsides. Furthermore, Cox was clearly struggling to keep hold of the ball in his position at the spearhead of the attack and so the usual springing forward of midfield support in numbers was about as useful as deep sea diving boots in the desert or having Jonathon Greening on your side in a shooting competition.

But maybe not. Options regarding team selection were limited and whatever team he put out was probably going to lack coherence on the simple basis that they wouldn’t have played together before.

Admittedly, it is very difficult to place such an abstract thing like ‘an injury list’ atop a stick and loft it to the skies. Nonetheless, we needed a head on a spike and someone to blame.

‘Get more players in’ goes the cry. ‘What about emergency loans?’ question the hordes. If only life were as simple as replacing someone every time they fall short of success. If that were the case, groups of children would be huddled outside of school gates on a daily basis as newer, shinier students were sought to replace them. ‘They’re no good I tell you. I need better students to achieve these targets!’

Would it were so.

In reality, we are forced to work with what we’ve got and slowly, painstakingly and laboriously, work with them until they show progress and improvement.

We’ve got a trying and demanding few months ahead of us and there will be times when it feels as if all is lost as it looks like a whole season’s work will count for nought. A victory at Barnsley will not mean that the ‘automatic place’ is ‘on’ again. Neither will defeat mean that we’ve blown it and we’ll drop out of the play-off positions. However, confidence has been eroded and the concern is that even if we stay in the top six, to be successful means hitting the play-offs in a run of good form; something that looks distant at this point in time and space.

The reality is that we’ve come up short against the teams above us. Deep down, we probably knew we would do so, even if we’ve done well against them up to now. However, heads on sticks won’t solve anything in the short term. It would sure make us all feel a little better as our anger and pain would be assuaged but then we’d all feel a little guilty and empty.

I’m not Billy’s biggest fan, mostly due to his tantrums and tiaras off the field and I, like many others, can see the season petering out into mediocrity and leaving us with a heightened sense of ennui and existential angst. My desire to blame someone for recent results naturally puts the boss in the firing line but seeing his head atop a pole like a small pickled onion on a cocktail stick (cube of cheese optional) is partly satisfying but ultimately self-destructive.

The injuries won’t magically go away though and we do need to get on with it with what we’ve got and make do and mend. This is not quite the time for Eddard Stark situations…let’s leave the fickle finger of fate to be the judge of that.

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