March 14 2014 Latest news:
Friday, August 24, 2012
Didn’t we get all hot and bothered on Saturday?
Blistering heat, not enough breeze to trouble the boats that sailed down the Thames past Craven Cottage, and a tube train that appeared to have had every form of ventilation removed (was it a post-Olympic thing? I can’t believe all underground trains were like that during the 2012 extravaganza).
And then there was the fayre on offer – and I don’t mean the first-of-the season reports of what was served up in the press room (in case you are interested it was, would you believe, chicken curry. And very nice too).
Rather less appetising was City’s performance. I had horrible flashbacks to that Colchester game, but thankfully City were nowhere near that. But they were poor. Very poor.
Is there anything to retrieve from the day? Perhaps – if you dig deeply enough. What worried me most of all was the lack of response when goals went in – and, on a personal level, how darned hard it was not to compare this City side with the one we watched and grew to love over the previous three seasons. I muttered the ‘L’ word on more than a few occasions, but it’s unfair to compare managers and teams. The oldest cliché in the book is that good players don’t become bad players overnight. What sometimes causes that appearance is what stokes them along. What pushes their buttons.
I know little about Chris Hughton above and beyond what most City fans know, but I did know a little about Paul Lambert. It’s obvious they are not peas in a pod. Lambert had his own way of getting the best out of his players – a method that I suggest isn’t readily available to many of today’s managers. Lambert prised the last drop out of them, because he managed to create an aura, a feeling, a philosophy and, most of all, a unity – they were HIS players. All of those he left behind, bar one or two, were signed by him.
Hughton is adopting someone else’s family and while his brood perhaps don’t exactly ‘miss their mum’, they may have found a hole where the aforementioned cajoling techniques and practises once existed. Hughton has to use his own techniques to extract the best from his players, and it is only in match day situations that he will discover the best method.
Forget the friendlies – you can’t tell a bloke to go and bust a gut in a glorified training session. Saturday was for real. Next Saturday is for real.
The difference this weekend is that Hughton and his staff will have watched a video of the Fulham game by then and worked out what went wrong. And then he will prepare for a very different beast – a home game, where he will be expected to field a side to go out and win.
Not a team set up not to lose, but one which will claim three points in front of their home fans, which is mandatory.
You cannot renounce the initiative at Carrow Road – which is why the tipster in me goes for a home win against Queens Park Rangers every day of the week. It’s not exactly a bold statement given QPR’s home mauling by Swansea on the opening day, but don’t expect controversial stuff in this column just for the sake of it.
Rangers, to me, have gone the wrong way by over adding to their squad. The plan appears to be a simple one: check who’s available, see how well-known they are, sign them.
Incidentally, watching Rangers always brings back memories of sitting in the press room at Loftus Road one afternoon, diving into a lasagne, looking up and seeing Glenn Roeder staring down at me. Fortunately, he was wearing kit, having been captured perfectly by a photographer, whose effort was then framed and mounted for the media to admire.
In future, what was my first trip to Fulham will be remembered by the sight of a sailboat gently easing its way down the Thames – I shall try and forget what I hope was just an aberration.