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Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Silly Billy Debacle Derailed Season

Yesterday a revealing interview with Fawaz showed he seemed to lay that blame squarely at Billy's door. Training methods were questioned, and if that played a part in injuries. This of course led to a drop off in form.

Coupled with his apparent loss of control of his club to Davies and Price, Fawaz felt he needed to act. Hindsight is wonderful, and you could argue with how things panned out that maybe at least sticking to the end of the season might have been better, but things were so bad it appears that Fawaz felt he needed to act.

This killed any chance of momentum, especially when the caretaker manager was revealed to only ever be that as usually they get a burst of form when players attempt to impress the new boss in case he gets the job. It's possible to suggest the season was still possible to be saved after Billy's removal, hence that’s why it was done, (or rather the official reason) but the seeds of the issue go back long before the runs of injuries and form started. Shutting out the media, shutting off the players from potential outside influences, controlling what came in and out, was Billy's aim, but the side effects were confusion for fans and players. It often detracted from on field matters with people discussing some of the issues going on like it was Eastenders. How this must affect the minds of all involved is impossible to say.

But all of this said, the season could and should have offered more. The tools Billy had at his disposal were good enough. What he failed to do was use them properly. The implication is over training stretched players fitness to breaking point and wear and tear took their toll. I think it speaks volumes that the players putting in the highest mileages fitness struggled. Defenders also fell foul, putting themselves on the line and getting long term injuries that wouldn't go away.

Many fans don't believe in politics playing a role. The person I sit next to and a friend of mine is certainly one of those. His view is the players turn up and play, and that everything else is irrelevant. I don't subscribe to that theory. People can't help but be influenced by off the field matters. The concentration required to play in defence, to be switched on all the time. All it takes is one hesitance. Let's face it; we've all played at some level no matter how amateur, junior or five a side. We all know that your mind for that entire duration isn't on the game.| we're humans. You will think of other things as it's going on, and that could slow you down by that slightest of moments.

The classic case is the striker who is on a barren run getting that one on one. He's going through panicking thinking I can't miss this, I can't mess it up, they all think I will. Or such like. If confidence is low you aren't going to back yourself to score, an if you individually don't, then who will. The same with a winger taking players on, if he doesn't have the confidence it won't work.

Case in point. Cox. Much maligned, and has missed a number of chances when put through. All his career he'd have buried those. You don't get to where he's got if you can't no matter what some knee jerk reactionary on twitter will claim. So when he's thorough on goal, the natural game is gone and the mentality of the situation takes over. Any indecision slows the chance and gives the keeper extra time. You miss. The fans get more on your back and the vicious cycle continues.

Similarly when Paterson came in, he was new and young and full of bravado and beating everyone. That whole confidence issue gets the better eventually and in the first few games if he didn't succeed fans were ok with it. He was young and trying. Because we know he can later on, when he fails he's not give that patience. So now fans moan he's trying too much. And it plays on the players mind.

So with all the off field matters going on with the media circus, with various FFP threats, the various rumours of dressing room frictions and a manager seemingly not taking training sessions but also running the players fitness down, you wonder what the players mind-set was like.

Therefore without a happy camp, you get a badly playing camp.

But none of this should have happened. Looking back if Fawaz had really lost day to day control to Billy and Price (and that seems a stretch of the imagination) then that was failure on his behalf too. As the owner and the main man, he needs to have got his management structure in better order. The fact he eventually saw what was happening and acted shows he isn't weak willed. But he should have nipped these issues in the bud earlier. A proper management structure with a CEO who knew what he was doing would have averted one of the main problems early on. I feel he was vaguely complicity but wasn't completely aware of the various implications or just what a media ban would mean. I think at first he tried to appease a man who was getting results, and went along with various culls of staff Billy & Jimbo disliked, those complicit in Davies demise under Doughty. When results went wrong, this whole silly charade was shown up, and Fawaz acted. It seems advice from the head of the Football League helped.

I've always said with Davies he has a wonderful motivational side of creating an us versus them vibe, but it can go too far. It only works when there's a mentality needed of us against the world. He did that before with the lack of signings, using it as a tool to get the best out of players. But this time he tried creating the siege mentality it spectacularly imploded. Brazil had an impossible task to pick those players up in that time, and it seems from the Fawaz interview Pearce knew this and didn’t want to take over someone else's mess. He wanted a pre-season and a summer to weave his magic, not inheriting someone else's mess ad all that emotional baggage. A clean slate in a new season.

I could write vast swathes on various things this season. It's been a soap opera. But what it boils down to is we didn't achieve what we should have. Promotion. Playoffs at very least. Injuries played a part, and a lot of this is bad luck. But a strained body is one at risk of injury. Modern players seem to suffer the strains and niggle more than in the past. Wilson has spent so long out, like Cohen that you almost forgot they play for us. Hobbs was a big loss. The midfield trio were irreplaceable. Rushing Reid back turned out to be disastrous. But other injuries at times to other players contributed. 


It'll be remembered for the fall out and fall from grace of King Billy. Rightly so really, when you behave in that manner you set yourself up for a fall. That he made his position so untenable speaks volumes. But players aren't absolved. If the rumours of the off field happenings are true (and I don’t want to publish the speculation for fear of libel) then something creating schisms in the squad won’t have helped. But a good manager (and one spending more time with the players and not commuting from Scotland) would have seen this and tried to heal such things. It's not the coaching staffs place to do that.

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