Friday, 8 August 2014

A Gallon Glass Half Full of Magnet

In the past four years of putting my thoughts out to the world I have, at several points in time, been accused of being negative. It goes with the territory. Fans are clappers or slashers, there is very little middle ground in these categorisations.

There have been times where I would suggest that it wasn't so much me being negative as taking a questioning approach to events. I am a strong believer in not taking all at face value and ensuring that you dig below the surface a little. All that glitters ain't gold and what people want you to perceive and think may be quite different from the ultimate reality. 

This approach can be applied everywhere, but it is never more important than in football. You only have to look at events at clubs elsewhere and a short distance across the city to see why. Looking closer to home there have been several chancers and crooks in the Bramall Lane boardroom, some who claimed to be fans, now on the run or having served custodial sentences.

It is true that I have a glass half empty approach, my thirty odd years of attending the Lane have provided more disappointment than joy. I often try and manage my expectations and play down our chances. That way, if and when success comes, it feels all the better. Does that make me negative? Maybe. I prefer cautious.

But this season is different. When asked for predictions for United's final league position by When Saturday Comes and World Soccer, I have responded with "Automatic places". Yes, I have predicted Top 2.

As a result I am currently sat rocking in the corner, back and forth, to and fro. My head involuntarily shaking from side to side. A stiff brandy is being poured for my consumption. My wife's just got me a doctor's appointment. I am sure there must be some medication to help with this mental torture.

I am tapping these words out on the laptop keyboard as a form of written absolution for my brazen optimism and the unease I am experiencing as I deal with these alien feelings. So here is my train of thought....

Whilst many complain that the starting eleven is weaker, I disagree. It appears weaker in parts, a view skewed by positive memories of players who have left and loanees who haven't returned, but it is stronger in positions that matter. In any case, those perceived weaknesses may well be dismissed once players bed in. Who is not to say that with a stronger midfield we might not need a Brayford bombing on from right back and that Alcock will do a perfectly good job? Who can say whether McGahey might be a better all round central defender than Maguire? Therefore why think negatively?

The midfield has plenty of options and with McNulty and Higton no one can claim our forward options are not enhanced. Some may question whether they will score the goals required, but having a proper striker down the middle is more likely to bring other players into play and we should see more goal-put from Murphy, Flynn, Scougall, Baxter et al as a result. The squad is more capable and has a depth we lacked last season, with promising youngsters such as Reed, Khan and Dimaio who can augment it when required.

There will be pressure and expectation placed on the club by outsiders (thanks to the bookies favourites tag) as well as by fans. The run we went on in the final three months of last season was bound to strengthen belief amongst supporters and yes, kick-starting the season in the same manner will be difficult. The opening game is a great test. Along with PNE I expect Bristol City to be up there with us come May, but a draw or defeat isn't a disaster.

Remember the pleasure taken from our opening night victory over Notts County. The win that night was soon put into context, our reliance on a key player and the relative mediocrity of the opposition becoming apparent.

But this season the division is weaker. I don't see any of the promoted clubs doing a Rotherham. Of those coming down, Doncaster are in disarray and Barnsley don't look like anything to fear. Yeovil will slot back in to League One comfortably, although carry less of the threat, shorn of several key players. Of those that remain, Leyton Orient and Peterborough have lost key players and it will not be the same as last season for them. This season needs to be our time and we will never have a better opportunity.

The biggest factor though. That is faith and trust. In the people running the club and the decisions they are making, not just for the short term of this season, but for the long term future and stability of the club as well.  In the manager and coaching staff. In the way the manager goes about his business and how they handle their players. How they respond to set backs, how they handle the press and how they speak in an open, honest, straight-forward way.

I don't expect everyone to agree with me, or my reasoning. But step up, try and be positive, don't look for the negatives and be United. This could be the start of something good. 

By the way, my predictions are usually pretty good. See the excerpt below from When Saturday Comes' look back to last season's League One preview and what the fans of the 24 clubs thought the final table might look like. I may not have predicted the story en-route, but the final league position wasn't wrong.

Up the Blades!

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