Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What lies ahead?

Back in May, with our Premier League dream in tatters, I set out what I thought needed to happen to stabilise the ship and give us the best chance of returning to the top flight at the first available opportunity.

To briefly summarise:

1. We needed a new broom to instigate root-and-branch reform.
2. We needed to ship out the high earners who so painfully failed to justify their inflated wages.

I'd add a third point to that list, namely:

3. We needed to add a few more players to freshen up the squad for the challenges ahead.

Unfortunately, Mike Ashley's apparent desire to run the club into the ground (and thereby diminish the value of his investment) seemingly knows no bounds, and as a result we've slipped further and further behind all of our Championship rivals with each day of inactivity. A new broom to instigate root-and-branch reform? Currently I'd settle for any type of broom (well any type bar one being pushed by Fat Fred) if it meant the fat incompetent and his casino-running accomplice would leave us alone.

The problem is that the longer we continue in this state of inertia, the longer it will take for the club to be turned around. Not just for this season, but for the years ahead when the parachute payment has been spent.

Those players whose contracts expired have all, without exception, been shown the door. Whilst Little Saint Mick has somehow landed on his feet under Taggart, and David Edgar has landed a role trying to plug the holes which are expected to open in Burnley's Premier League defence, the rest are floundering in the wilderness, unsurprisingly struggling to find anyone else stupid enough to pay them a fortune for their services.

Gone too is Martins, with Wolfsburg happy to give us a sizaeble bundle of Euros for the Nigerian.

With the transfer window clock ticking, I'd anticipate that Habib Beye and Sebastian Bassong will also have moved on to pastures new by the end of the month, with the Frenchman at least going for a decent sum.

However, our attempts to shift on the remainder of our squad have so far proved fruitless, with practically an entire team of overpaid, underperforming shirkers still hanging around.

With no new faces coming in, it is inevitable that Chris Hughton (possibly the most uninspiring man in football) has been forced to turn to youth in our pre-season games, with Tamas Kadar in particular appearing to move up the first team pecking order. With Nile Ranger having featured for England Under 19s in their recent European Championship campaign, there remains at least the prospect of some good kids emerging over the season.

However, our problems remain significant obstacles which need resolving if we are to have any chance of returning to the top flight at the first time of asking. The inactivity under Ashley needs to end as soon as possible, with a new owner then needing to move fast to appoint a manager (and at this point, I'd settle for pretty much anyone) to then reinvest some of the Martins cash and hopefully ship out a couple more of the lavishly remunerated flops before the end of August.

The other significant issue is that whilst the Championship has, in recent seasons, proved to be a competitive league, ours will almost certainly be the most highly prized scalp in the division, meaning that we'll need to perform to a higher standard than we managed last season to keep ourselves in with a fighting chance of being in the reckoning for promotion come Easter time.

If, and it really is a massive if, we can resolve most of our self-inflicted problems before the end of August, then we stand a modest chance of at least making the play-offs.

However, if we're still in limbo on 1st September, we might well be contemplating life in League One come May.


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