Resolutions. Targets. A wish list, if you will. It doesn’t matter what you call them really - setting objectives for yourself can be a very positive thing.
Around this time last year (it was pretty much this exact time) I wrote a piece about our club having some resolutions. I’ve no idea what I put in that piece but clearly it didn’t work and/or not one person from the club read it: we picked up 8 (eight!) points in the following months to send us packing to League One.
To say 2023 as a calendar year was shambolic would be like saying that Joey Barton has some slightly divisive opinions on things. It was dreadful: a true annus horribilis (or something to that effect).
I’ve heard and read people say and write that 2024 can’t be worse. It can. I’m not going to go into the worst-case scenarios now, but suffice to say that ain’t pretty. So let’s focus on the semi-controllables, the main possibles, the things which could cause us the most amount of joy in the next 12 months.
Basically, keep it together. Of course, there are players that are so far out in the cold they’ve become penguins (Nesta Guinness-Walker, Harlee Dean, Sam Hutchinson etc) and it would be better, for all involved, for them to move on. Think along the lines of Ovie Ejaria, basically.
However, there are fringe players/players used incorrectly or not enough that we need to keep for depth sake. Charlie Savage, Big E, Ben Elliott: there’s a few for starters. Ruben Selles needs to find a way to get these players into our squad more capably and look to use them more regularly. We know they are capable, but they’ve not been managed correctly.
There is a developing spine to the team, that’s obvious. But we need to be more flexible in utilising these players over condensed periods of games and rotate more appropriately. I don’t want to see these players leaving in January - we need all hands to the pump if we are going to get out of the League One basement and stay in this league (I did not think I’d be writing that sentence 12 months ago...).
This won’t happen while Selles is in charge, but I’d love to see us use a 3-5-2 set-up consistently. Imagine the possibilities we could have with a five-man midfield and the damage a well-supported Sam Smith could cause. I’m fairly confident we can mix it in this league - the problem is we don’t.
We haven’t met the potential of what we are capable of yet and that’s the main bug bear for me. 3-5-2 would really put the fox among the partridges in terms of proactive play; on far too many occasions we’ve started games passively and left ourselves a mountain to climb.
Granted, we have shown much more resilience in the latest block of games (Peterborough United and Cheltenham Town, for example), but think about those games that we narrowly lost or drew. If we could get a head start we’d turn those into three-point hauls.
Kick to goal
You all know where I sit. If you don’t, you clearly haven’t read my award-winning column. I love the Dolan, always will. I like sitting there, in my seat of 23 years. But we aren’t the noisiest, let’s be honest. People have been thrown out of there for sneezing during games.
So, if we have the option, I’d prefer us to kick towards the South Stand in the second half, not vice versa. I respect the efforts of Club 1871 and the traditional noise of that south-east corner where the scoreboard sits, so why not use that to our advantage, especially if we are chasing the game? Those fans could quite literally (not literally) suck the ball into the net when required. So to the captain’s group, let’s at least try it, yeah?
We all know the club needs an overhaul, from the very top to the very bottom (if there is such a thing in a football club). Staff numbers have dwindled almost as quickly as the attendances in recent times and that has had a huge effect on the product on offer, across all departments.
As fans, we can only speculate and empathise with how bad the situation has been for the employees in RG2. The constant threat of non-payment of hard-earned wages is a cross that no one should have to carry. Let’s remember too that many of these staff are indeed fans of the club. It’s painful on all fronts.
It’s really wishful thinking (basically what this piece is turning out to be, to be honest) to want everyone and everything sorted out straight away. You could argue (and you’d be right) that the fanbase has been beyond patient in recent years, but even with the takeover we all crave, a magic wand won’t suddenly appear. It could get worse before it gets better.
Whoever comes in from an ownership point of view will need time to evaluate all departments, the strengths and weaknesses of each and put a plan in place to improve each aspect of the club.
On a very different scale, I’ve had to do this several times in my career and it’s not easy. We all want change as fans, that’s evident, but this will take time to turn the tanker away from the rocks on the shoreline.
We just want it to be fun again, don’t we? We want to go into games knowing we will compete and have a chance at winning. We want to watch exciting players strut their stuff. We want to go to a match and know we’ve spent our time well.
One day, it will be fun once more and I’m holding both arms wide open to give a massive hug when that day does finally arrive.
Here’s to a decent 2024 and more than eight points between now and the end of the season.