Monday, August 05, 2013

A Month Of Saturdays: July 2013

Prime minister? Bomb disposal expert? The Lone Ranger's lawyer? All undoubtedly tough jobs, but if we learnt anything in July it was that the toughest job in the world is actually to get "something over the line". Time and again we were told this was being worked on intensively, and yet nothing transpired. That "something" seemed to be a planet-sized boulder.

The person doing the talking was invariably the Silver Fox, who did at least mix his metaphors up a bit when he talked about getting "down the road" with something instead. In fairness to the manager, he was under constant pressure to enthuse about progress that hadn't been made, and his pronouncements had the dual function of (supposedly) reassuring and placating us fans desperate for news of incoming reinforcements while also chivvying along those responsible for making the deals happen.

And when I say "those responsible", I really mean JFK, the man who swanned into St James' Park for a second time bragging about all his connections and contacts. He's proving to be a magnet all right - if you remember that magnets repel as well as attract. At the same time as attracting nothing but ridicule to the club, he's contrived to repel even those close to him, his old mucker Mick Harford turning down a backroom role in favour of a glamorous position as Millwall assistant manager...

In July, experienced pros Steve Harper, Perchinho and Danny Simpson all left permanently, with Shane Ferguson and James Tavernier temporarily switching allegiances to Birmingham and Shrewsbury respectively, and yet our only addition was a 17-year-old teenager (French, of course, and already sporting the club's official haircut) whose signing had nothing whatsoever to do with JFK, though he's probably tried to take some credit. If the Silver Fox's nose was somewhat put out of joint by JFK's appointment, then you'd imagine his view of his new boss would have been growing dimmer by the day during July.

Not that player recruitment was the Silver Fox's only headache last month. The rumblings of discontent emanating from Papiss Cisse in relation to wearing the new Wonga-branded shirt came to a head with the striker missing out on our pre-season trip to Portugal, and for a while it looked as though we might never seen him flagged offside in black and white again. But then came tabloid revelations that were, for once, welcome, exposing our number nine's habit of occasionally visiting casinos. After apparently consulting various religious teachers, he backed down - but you have to suspect that the newspaper article had a hand in the swiftness with which the dispute was eventually resolved.

Soon afterwards, Cisse was back to doing what he does best and most naturally, smilingly finding the back of the net in an encouraging 2-0 friendly win at St Mirren. That was our fifth fixture of the pre-season; we'd already triumphed once against an SPL side, beating Motherwell 4-2, before a morale-sapping 3-1 defeat to Rio Ave and a 1-1 draw with Pacos de Ferreira in which skipper Sideshow Bob lost his cool and received a red card for throttling the home side's scorer.

Scorer of both our goals in Portugal, as well as the only strike at Blackpool when we returned to Blighty, was Big Lad. In July, rumours of his international career with Nigeria being over as soon as it had started proved premature, with the striker eagerly welcomed back into the fold only a few days later. The expiry of the gentleman's agreement between player and club that enabled this to happen suggested that he's no longer regarded as a hugely significant member of the squad.

Mr T, on the other hand, still is - though the Silver Fox may have misgivings about his state of mind (well, more misgivings than usual) given that he's up on fraud charges shortly and is determined to deny them. (At least the manager no longer has to take any responsibility for the actions of the Lone Ranger, who was charged with rape and, rather than getting fitted with a tag, very thoughtfully had his name tattooed on his face so he'll be even easier for the police to identify in future...)

With the lack of signings and the farcical appointment of JFK over his head, the Silver Fox could be forgiven for thinking he's being hung out to dry. Certainly it's hard to see him (or Llambiarse, King Kev or Wor Al for that matter) agreeing with the Sports Direct employee who gushingly described Jabba as "a brilliant boss" in a profile piece that appeared in the Independent. The club's owner has always acted ruthlessly and unilaterally (bringing JFK back being just the most recent and starkest case in point), so it was something of a surprise to learn that a revamped fans' forum is being launched with the full involvement of the club. Might he actually be about to start listening?




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