This time it's the real deal

The Peter Grant era starts this afternoon. I know the first person to disagree with me will be the manager himself, who admirably took responsibility for every team he sent out last year, but last season was a case of salvaging something from the aftermath of the previous regime, using (in the main) the tools that had been left by Nigel Worthington.

The Peter Grant era starts this afternoon. I know the first person to disagree with me will be the manager himself, who admirably took responsibility for every team he sent out last year, but last season was a case of salvaging something from the aftermath of the previous regime, using (in the main) the tools that had been left by Nigel Worthington.

But today's team is the one that Grant built, and that means the pressure on him has been ratcheted up a notch or two.

I may come to regret saying this come 4.45pm today but the early signs are good and I believe we could surprise a few people this season.

Much of the reason for that has been the transfer activity which has - by our standards - been pretty remarkable.


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We got wind that Grant meant action last season when the likes of Carl Robinson were let go, and this summer has seen some more much-needed tidying up of the squad.

This week's sale of Andy Hughes for an undisclosed sum (although the figure of £250,000 has been doing the rounds) to Leeds was a great bit of business, coming on the back of the departures of some of the more unimpressive City players of recent years.

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There's no need to depress ourselves again by listing them all, but there are some who have been let go who should have been shown the door some time ago.

However, while most of those who have left this summer will be mere footnotes in the club's history, a couple of the departures were more noteworthy.

Robert Earnshaw was sold too cheaply, although if there was a contract clause I suppose our hands were tied. But it was a mistake bringing him back from injury towards the end of last season as all it did was put him back in the shop window.

Having said that, relegation was a genuine fear at the time and we'd have looked pretty silly getting going down while our best player was sitting (fully fit) in the stands.

Meanwhile, possibly the most controversial departure of the summer was that of Dickson Etuhu. I say controversial, but perhaps that's the wrong word because I reckon it was about the best thing we've done for a long time.

Indeed, when someone told me last season that Etuhu had a clause in his contract stating he was free to leave if anyone bid £1.5m for him, I thought it was a mickey-take.

And it wasn't just me, either - the vast majority of people I passed this bit of news on to laughed, too.

He finished last season in better form, but the fact is that he was not good enough in the year and a half he was at Carrow Road. Time and time again his admirers said that “there's a good player in there somewhere”, but time and time again he bottled it.

Grant made it clear he didn't agree that Etuhu's departure was a good thing but at least the manager has had fun spending his transfer kitty, and the signings of Darel Russell, Julian Brellier, David Marshall and Jamie Cureton are particularly exciting.

I have been a fan of Grant since he got the job last October. With a couple of exceptions - most notably his unnecessary comments about the fans after the Hull game - he has been a breath of fresh air.

My biggest concern this season, though, is that supporters seem to have polarised views about him. There aren't many people who seem indifferent about him - many see him as the best thing since sliced bread, while another section of the support sees him as someone already living on borrowed time who is far from the answer to our prayers.

Any doubts could be dismissed easily if we start the season well, but my concern is that a shaky start could see the emergence of an anti-Grant movement sooner rather than later.

That would be a shame because I believe we could prove the pundits wrong this season. My track record as a pundit is pretty ropey, but I think we've a good chance of making the play-offs. Certainly, if we can be in the top nine or 10 come the turn of the year, we will be well placed to move on from there.

I'm certainly not going to lecture anyone on how to behave - you pay your money and you have the right to support or criticise your team as you see fit. After all, if it wasn't for fan pressure, we might still have Nigel Worthington in charge.

But I have a feeling that a little bit of extra faith from the terraces this year might just pay dividends.

IRONY AND JUST DESERTS…

There were mixed receptions for the returning old boys during the recent Carrow Road friendly against West Ham - Craig Bellamy and Robert Green were greeted with open arms while Dean Ashton was made slightly less welcome.

But even though the fans showed Green they bore him no resentment for leaving, it's a tad ironic that he has joined forces with Ashton to front the campaign to promote the West Ham credit card.

OK, so Green gave us several years of sterling service before heading to London, but for the Hammers to use his mugshot alongside the slogan 'Rewarding your loyalty' is perhaps a step too far for even the most forgiving City fan . . .

t One of the more depressing things to have happened during the close season was the Premier League's refusal to do the decent thing and relegate West Ham.

There's no doubt in my mind that Sheffield United should have stayed up at the expense of the Hammers. It's all about who you know, I suppose.

But at least the summer ended on a happier note with this week's vote by the Football League that Leeds should start the campaign on -15 points.

The way that Ken Bates's team managed to get their initial 10-point penalty applied to last season's total once they had already been relegated was a disgrace, so it's good to see that they are starting this season at a disadvantage after all.

For a brief moment I thought that getting points deducted and signing Andy Hughes on the same day was pretty rotten luck, but then I remembered which team we're talking about here - and, quite frankly, Leeds deserve everything they get.

Who knows? They could yet end up in League Two. Fingers crossed, anyway.

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