Monday, 27 December 2010

Blackburn Following in Carey's Footsteps

I'm starting to get Chris Blackburn. I wasn't sure about him at first, but I've begun to see his value to the team, and hopefully he'll follow the pattern of previous players I've taken a while to warm to. If he does, he'll be in pretty illustrious company.

I've overcome my reservations to end up seeing a player as absolutely key before. I wasn't sold on Tony Humes at first, as he seemed a bit on the short side for a centre back to me, and was prone to giving away free kicks. I soon came to appreciate his talents, though, as he led us to promotion.

Funnily enough, the other time I've looked at a player in is way was also about a centre back, and I must admit that I'm surprised at myself with this one. However, I have to confess that I had my reservations about Brian Carey at first when he signed permanently for us.

It was probably down to an inflated sense of expectation; having enjoyed two outstanding spells on loan to us, my excitement at landing him probably got the better of me, and I expected a Beckenbauer-like prowess in everything he did. I also recall a strange prejudice I has about the lack of yellow cards he got; I think I had a notion that centre backs ought to eat raw meat, tear dressing room doors off their hinges to throw them at their quaking opponents in the tunnel, and kick lumps out of them if they have the temerity to ignore that and venture onto the pitch. Carey didn't conform to that notion, as he has far too much class. He just stuck to what he did best; being a top notch centre back. Eventually I got it, and I'm hopefully I'll be able to praise Chris Blackburn in similar vein in the future.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Them's The Breaks

I've always been dead set against winter breaks, but I'm beginning to warm to them!

This is the second season in a row where it looks like our mid-season will be decimated by the weather, so perhaps we should accept the inevitable and not bother scheduling games when they're not likely to take place.

If clubs were less keen to take the shameful approach AFC Wimbledon took to our postponed game (and I say that with a heavy heart, because I have the same affection for them as many other fans do) then I might bot feel this way, but I'm not desperate to spend the winter hanging on the misleading proclamations of clubs who are willing to make me put my plans on hold and contemplate skidding my way across the country because they don't want to put local fans off from attending a game if, by some miracle, the 1% chance that will go ahead comes off.

Of course, my attitude towards winter breaks int he past has been coloured by a combination of nostalgia and perspective.

The nostalgic part of me enjoys freak football, likes the random nature of a game played with an orange ball on the snow, with the potential for hilarity it brings. Also, my perspective on the issue was always governed by the thought of hypocritical Premiership mega-clubs demanding a break for their poor, shattered players and then taking them all off for a lucrative tour of Qatar for a fortnight when they should be tucked up at home under a blanket, seeing how mawkish Noel Edmonds can be this year!

Being in non-league football offers a different reason not to have a break, which I have to take into account. During e recent cold snap, teams have been arranging friendlies rather than rest their players, because the lack of revenue coming throughout the turnstiles could hit them hard. I get that, but there's no reason why teams couldn't arrange a series of friendlies during a break. Equally, there's no reason why I should attend them, so there's no problem of waiting to see if a game will have the plug pulled on it. Surely friendly is optional and non-attendance won't incur the wrath of the football gods!

So, on balance I think we should have a break after all, and perhaps ditch FA Trophy replays to bot, although I can understand the FA's reluctance to do that as it would compromise their intention to give the tournament an equal footing with the FA Cup. I think something should be done out of respect of the travelling fans who are the lifeblood of the game; sadly, I suspect it won't be done before we play a waiting game over the trip to Barrow though!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Shearer's Bravery Goes Unrewarded

Spare a thought for Scott Shearer this Christmas. It can’t be easy for him to contemplate how his move to The Racecourse has panned out.

He’s a player whose pedigree is wholly at a higher level, an established Football League pro. No doubt he could have got himself a spot as a reserve keeper in League One or League Two last Summer if he’d wanted to.

I know the financial situations are different, but it’s the sort of decision you often see made at higher levels of the game, where a goalkeeper decides to sit on the bench and make some easy money; there’s a tradition in Italy of keepers doing exactly that, and as there are no reserve teams in Serie A it’s not unusal for a guy to make a handsome sum just for training!

However, Shearer is straighter than that and didn’t take the easy option. Although reports suggested his confidence had been tested at Wycombe, he chose to come to us as a first choice keeper and prove his worth. Sadly, things just didn’t work out for him.

Unfortunately for Shearer, the circumstantial evidence stacks up against him. He certainly didn’t convince in either of those two heavy defeats at the start of the season, and the stats are damning; they are the only two instances in the last year and a half we’ve conceded three goals in a game.

It would be unfair to lay the blame solely at his door, particularly at Forest Green, where although he looked shaky in the air and help to create a sense of unease in the back four with some of his decision-making, you couldn’t point the finger at him for any of the goals he conceded.

Worse was to come for him though. No one who was at Eastbourne could have forgotten the remarkably public dressing down he got from Marvin Andrews. I'm not saying it wasn't necessary. Andrews, making his debut and seeing our defence for the first time, realised something had to be done, and lectured Shearer on his indecisive decision-making. It needed to be said, and might well have been the turning point of our season as he forced us to face up to reality and sort ourselves out. However, Shearer's confidence might well have been the necessary victim of Andrews' reality check.

Straight after that match came the Kidderminster game in which Shearer became a target for harsh criticism from some fans. He showed character to fight back from that, but the die was cast. Never mind being a Football League back-up: soon he would be a Conference benchwarmer.

Another statistic is rather damning; we’ve conceded goals this season twice as often when he’s in goal compared to when Chris Maxwell’s between the sticks.

Maybe the poor bloke was on a hiding to nothing; after all, Maxwell has earned a lot of goodwill from Wrexham fans and most of us wanted to see him start the season as first choice. Shearer's decision to take him on for his place was, perhaps, always destined to end in failure.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Wrexham FC v Kidderminster Harriers FC Preview


Is Marc Playing For A Contract?

I've already said that circumstances suggest Marc Williams won't be offered a new contract as a Christmas present. His involvement in the squad since his return suggests I might be wrong; I certainly hope so! The question now is, if offered would he sign it?

That might seem like an odd question as it seems to be the accepted wisdom that Williams is desperate for a contract and, given the chance on the pitch, will battle like mad to get one. Well, he'll certainly battle like mad, but that's because it's in his whole-hearted nature to do so. I just can't imagine ever looking at Williams coming off the pitch and thinking that he'd left a shred of effort behind. Whether desperation to remain at The Racecourse would be a factor's a different matter.

I might be wrong; he might be very keen to stay at the club he has represented with honour throughout his career. But what have we done for him lately? Given him a short-term contract, just one short year after he was one of the outstanding players in our division, then farmed him out on loan so he could "play for his contract" while spending half his current deal out of sight. Then, two weeks ago when he returned to the bench, he stayed there even though the game was screaming out for his sort of enthusiastic endeavour, Mathias Pogba having been thrown on ahead of him to no avail. Oh, and we rather harshly released his brother too. That isn't how to make someone feel wanted, is it?

So perhaps Williams might decide, even if he does enough to earn a new deal, that he needs pastures new. That spell at Kidderminster might have helped to convince him that making a break from what he's known all his career might not be as big a wrench as he might have feared. And there's likely to be no lack of suitors; like I said in the last paragraph, it's not long since he was our outstanding player, and plenty of managers will be willing to take a punt on him because of that. Judging by the fawning commentary of Mark Cooper on Premier Sports when Kidderminster played Southport last month, there might well be a spot waiting for him in Darlington, for starters!

I hope I'm wrong. I'm a Marc Williams fan, and I'd love to attend his testimonial at The Racecourse in a few years' time. If he's offered another six month contract at the end of the month though, and in the current circumstances I suspect that's the best we'd come up with, I think I'd advise him to say no though.

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