Meeting the Challenge
Last weekend two meetings took place at Molineux, the outcomes of which will greatly influence the team`s fortunes over the rest of the season.
At an eight hour meeting on Friday 3 December the board agreed to make money available to MM to strengthen the squad in the January window. Presumably, Steven Morgan and Jez Moxey prioritised the acquisition of a central defender and a left back, given our problems in those positions. The fans certainly think so, judging from the cyber-chatter. The manager, however, was non-committal, merely observing on Tuesday (7 December) that, "If the right players are available, we will try and do something."
Even so, I was somewhat surprised to read the following day that the boss was intent on signing up Robbie Keane. Scoring goals is certainly a problem at the moment but our dodgy defence is at least partly responsible for this. If their colleagues at the back were doing their job properly, the forwards would be free to do theirs. We have so many strikers we can even afford £7m bench-warmers.
Less certain, the manager interpreted the outcome of the meeting as a vote of confidence in his leadership. It could be, but the cash won`t be available until January and by then the situation might be even grimmer. The dreadful result at Ewood Park the following day couldn`t have helped his cause either.
This brings me to the second meeting of the weekend, the one that took place in the dressing-room after the Blackburn match. On Monday (6 December) Ward, in a masterly piece of understatement, recalled that, "The manager was not happy with the result." I bet he wasn`t: I suspect he all but bit their bollocks off, especially as he must have put his own on the block the previous day.
Reading between the lines, I think that even MM has lost patience with his under-performing defenders. Whereas his reaction after the Bolton match suggested sadness rather than anger, the tone following the Blackpool game was one of exasperation. Mick was beaming again after the Sunderland victory, though the praise he gave the players focused on their effort rather than their skill. He also thought it an opportune moment to hit out at a soft target, us numpties." Look", he seemed to be saying, "I got it right, so stop criticising the team."
Well, after the Blackburn game he was doing it himself. As he pointed out, " ... we defended badly from a corner which gave them a goal and then defended even worse if we could have done for the second." His observation that Premier League teams should not gift the opposition a goal by allowing them two free headers in the box enabled him to stumble across the blindingly obvious insight, "We`ve just a bad day defending that`s for sure." Almost wearily, he repeated his customary mantra of learning from the experience and working on the weakness in training. Even he did not sound convinced, as suggested by his conclusion that, "We`ve just made mistakes but we will carry on working as hard as we do",
Ironically, at the very moment when MM might have achieved enlightenment, he found himself devoid of options because of injuries. The two defenders wheeled out on Monday to provide the spin on Saturday`s debacle, were Berra and Ward, arguably the players most responsible for the team`s desperate plight. Depending upon one`s perspective of the problem, their utterances were either platitudinous, complacent or delusional. Thus, while Blackburn sportingly played to their known strengths, which presumably we had trained to counteract, they unsportingly put a lot of balls in the box when they realised that we hadn`t. It`s whistling in a dark Groundhog night ... again.
Anyway, let`s hope that the revival of last year`s slogan, 'Win Ugly`, can be extended to the manager`s man-management skills ... no more 'Mr. Nice Guy` in team selections or toleration of repeated defensive errors. While I appreciate, even admire, MM`s public loyalty to his players, I would like to know that he is aware of their shortcomings, when made manifest, and will act accordingly.