The 2008 Wish List
Date: Sunday 27th January 2008Writing this list ended up akin to writing to Santa. The thought occurred to me “I wonder how good I’d have to be to get some of these things.” 2007 was such a torrid year – the results were absolutely relegation form. Our team won only eight times in the calendar year compared with 18 in 2006 and 19 in 2005. It’s this drift that has seen us go from allegedly “punching above our weight” to relegation scrappers again.
2007 was not without its moments. We’ve seen the return of the balti-pie, a new kick-off routine and even kicked around a new formation for a while. But if we’re not going to start driving to Burnley and Colchester next year there’s some improvements we really have to see.
Beat Teams Around Us
I look at Everton’s fixtures by way of example. Everton rarely win against the big boys. They have the odd win for sure, and the odd draw but on the whole they struggle slightly against the top four. Everton’s success though is built on the fact that they firmly beat teams from the bottom half, and teams around them in the league.
It’s something we’ve always struggled with. We always seem to get the newly-promoted teams around this time of year when they’re desperate for points and have this habit of giving them to them. We have key games away at the pies and Boro coming up and host Sunderland in what will surely be a crucial 6-pointer in the penultimate game. They are games we have to start making count or we are in danger of proving that we have all along been punching above our weight.
This is becoming as clichéd now as 4-4-2 was becoming. But whereas I see 4-4-2 as a preference pace is an absolute must. It exists nowhere in our side. Meite is no real slouch at the back and though not as quick as he used to Ricky can still shift. But it’s no use to a side when you’re quickest players are in the back four.
We must be so easy to defend against from open play. With nobody getting behind defenders, nobody in danger of beating a man to find some space we just totter up the pitch whilst slowly the defence.
Short Throw Ins
It seems like an age when Challinor was brought onto the scene with his long throw in. The Tranmere ace used to hide towels around the pitch to ensure he could grip the ball. In one match at the Bok Phil Brown wandered round the pitch shutting gaps in the advertising to limit his run up.
Big Sam saw something he liked in the tactic, the fact it presents you with an opportunity almost as good as a corner to get the ball into the danger area and involve the big men.
But I watch other teams with a bit of envy. They take quick, simple throw ins to the nearest man who controls the ball before working an opportunity for a cross. This is no short throw in that bounces thigh high or anything, this actually goes to feet and can be controlled before the defender comes in to steal it.
Admittedly when you’re down this end you don’t have the luxury of blooding players. Yet I look around and I see Agbonlahor of Villa who has grown from a raw, lightening fast winger to a very decent Premier League striker. O’Neill played him and played him and has got the benefits. He made mistakes on the way, his finishing used to be shocking, but he’s been allowed to work on that and Villa are reaping the rewards.
Talent need games to gain experience. They need patience because they will make mistakes, which is why we can’t really introduce them now.
A Full House
It’s been a while now. Not even Man Utd or Liverpool have been able to attract a full house at the Reebok for what seems like an age. Not even the purchase of an £8m striker. The club continues to ignore pricing with £38 to see Bolton v Wigan an example of the joke of a pricing system.
I know the club has to make money blah blah blah but the atmosphere with a passionate full stadium backing can only help the players, who will need every lift we can give them in the coming weeks.
Back to Back Wins
Not since the 7th of April when we notched a 3-1 victory at Wigan following a gritty 1-0 defeat of Sheffield Utd have we put two wins together. Our success arguably in recent years has come from streaks of four or five wins which catapulted us up the table. For now I’d just take two and with Fulham, Reading (A) and Pompey at home coming up we’ve got a good as chance as any.
A New Routine From Lofty
If we can jiggle around with our kick off routine, surely Lofty can come back with some new moves. Speaking of moves, when are them yank cheerleaders coming back?
New Theme Music
There’s now a horrid sense of déjà vu every time I go to the Reebok. One of the most uninspiring pre-match videos, then that “this is only the beginning” before the obligatory premier league music. The video could have been better edited by an eight year old on his i-mac. Three repeats of a goal from a bloody long throw in. Why not throw a bit of history in there. Mix it up each week maybe.
The Murmur of Excitement
Every time Kenwyn Jones touched the ball at Sunderland the crowd started this illiterate murmur and folk began to get off their seats. Why? Because the boy makes things happen. No such luck at the Bok. The crowd sit firmly waiting to be entertained. Whenever Nico got the ball we should have had that buzz, that feeling that he was about to do something special. Even Diouf when he gets the ball down in the corner we should get that pang that something could actually happen here. Not since Michael Ricketts do I think we’ve had that reaction where he gets the ball and everyone gets up off their feet expectantly.