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Here's Where Mick's Intentions Lay?
Written by Mullet on Sunday, 10th Aug 2014 20:45

In my previous effort I asked the question of Mick's plans for this season, and what they might do for Town's top flight aspirations.

This weekend the grand carnival of football kicked back into life, as once more we spin the teacups of hope and ride the tense carousel of competition in our hunt for promotion.

During the nervy nausea of sneaking a win over newly-fallen Fulham, we got one squeaky-bum inducing sneak peak of how we might just replace the likes of them in the top flight next season. A body of work that relies on guts, legs and heart in large sweat-soaked parts.

Logic suggests we have one of two likely routes to achieve it (as far as the be all and end all, of leaving this division the right way, is concerned for most people). Put together a Burnley type run on a much smaller budget, reminiscent of the ragtag Royle style teams; sneak it at Wembley by virtue of the fact that winning a lottery is the only way to compete with those teams cheating the rest of us these days.

Both are possible if we are to avoid sliding away on an unlevel playing field littered with those squandering disgustingly large parachute payments, or holding two fingers towards FFP (or both in the case QPR last year).

It seems that Mick has gone about doing the obvious and on the way, given us a couple of surprises. The sale of Cresswell was soon followed by the signings of Bajner and Bru. Our season may or may not be judged alone by the majority verdict on these trialists' success, but it does show to some that the Cresswell cash is apparently 'gone'. A rather false logic as we replace one with many reinforcements to last year's lighter squad.

Mick talked openly about both being sent here "on spec" – perhaps it's quite likely this sort of recruitment was arranged some time ago if his "spec" was being sent around as last season wound down. Whether we sent scouts to locales of Bulgaria or Borussia's B team HQ is unlikely as it is irrelevant. Both have shown enough to warrant contracts and presumably fairly cheap ones too. Why, and how are rendered moot now pen has been put to paper.

As each new face walks through the door at Town it seems likely that the old cycle of names holding the most value and commanding higher wages are gone. With the passing of Keane's last big signings and most of Jewell's already long gone bar one notable exception, Mick has been clearing decks and cleaning slates all round.

Paul Taylor is reportedly still our highest paid player and unsurprisingly not long after everyone at the club was given their newly-polished piece of stone, that it sunk in Taylor was not going to be part of this campaign.

With more attacking options on less money, having recognised positions it seems no great shock that we are looking to move him on. Tellingly it was out with the old, and in with the new as far as these three faces were concerned this weekend.

Analysing the 90 minutes too deeply is misleading, given our presence in and around the top of the tree at Christmas is so much more important. What we did learn through Murdoch's lens is that last year's raw recruits Mings and Hewitt have improved with further improvements needed, all round in both cases.

That, and that the new boys we saw aren't yet fully acclimatised at Town unsurprisingly. Ultimately though, the depth of feeling leading up to the opener towards the team and the squad, shows a new depth of personnel which was previously, sorely lacking for far too long.

No defenders on the bench, but one at right wing and one out injured suggests the fluidity that we lacked on opening day isn't so concerning overall immediately. Tabb the perennial divider of opinions did as he did for much of the last season's opening game and reversed his role from the margins. A solid and tireless performance aided greatly by the fact Town's contemporary Gerrard and Lampard showed they could in fact play together.

Cries of “creative” and “midfielder” were jubilantly drowned out as Hyam looked up and set Murphy free. A good goal, a good assist, a good answer to a question long since set upon with relish and rhetoric.

When Skuse left the field, the shape left Town's middle and we looked just a bit softer there. It seems no surprise to me that the key assists will not just come from left-back, but from left wing, right wing, the middle and everywhere in between as well they should.

Wingers have come in regularly under Mick with mixed results and this summer the collective's (lack of) pre-season has seen most of them head for a seat in the treatment room or on the bench for now. Over the course of the season I've no doubt the pace and flair we've added will be apparent game changers.

Mick's management habitually shows that when he can't pick his best XI as he couldn't this weekend, he'll pick the best XI he has available, regardless of individuals' standing.

Didsy might not have started the game, but he bloody well finished it with aplomb, and showed why he is the frontman in every sense. A glorious goal, a tenacious threat but alongside Murphy we have perhaps two of the best suited strikers we've had for many years. It's unfortunate that it was preceded by Bajner's short debut, as McG's glittering display cast the new boy in perhaps unfavourable light unfairly.

The Hungarian may well have been “bollocksed” rather than the proverbial dog's appendages as he was dropped in straight by Mick. Dangling as he did under the harsh glare of the magnifying glass of anticipation before being cut short. Probing fans' opinions rather than many probing runs, wore just as heavy on his legs in 30 odd minutes of Championship football.

But you can see why someone so undercooked is favoured by coaches who excel with raw ingredients. The lad has a bit about him in my view and may well need TC to pitch in a few gentle words to grow his development before he eventually blossoms.

While the match may have seen us lose much possession to a team stacked with a greater amount of resources, we showed the greater amount of resourcefulness in holding on. Even in such supposed frugal times, £11 million buys you not a lot it seems, and football is a game where taking chances is much better than failing to make them at all for large periods of play.

With a full squad to pick from and a long way to go I think we'll see more from Mick's little book of tactics than the armchair experts' many books on tika-taka. I doubt we'll stray far from four at the back, whether it's the big athletic units of Saturday always or not, but I've no doubt any combination of one, two or three up top and in the middle will be changed up and down to grind and steal yards and points on a weekly basis.

The prospect of Mings and perhaps Hewitt being regulars this year still seems unlikely save for injuries, but they showed the belief to get forward and deliver. Although the left-back may lack even more defensive awareness than Cresswell, whose little boots he is some way off filling, and Hewitt's corners had no edge to speak of, we saw determined and tenacious displays from two players very much key to complimenting the side now.

The fact so many such as Nouble, Marriott and Henshall et al were not on display just yet is tantalising. This aspect may be the most pleasing one of all about the start to the season.

We didn't see our best team, our best shape, our best performance but we won, and deservedly so against tough opposition in front of the cameras.

With three points in the bank and a few weeks to apply for loans, there is every reason to believe in more steady evolution. To see the potential for Mick's steady approach to cut ground like the blades of a plough on our opponents, is reason enough to unfurrow brows for a week longer at least. Who knows how long it'll be before we can unfurl beach towels, and crucially, deckchairs again?

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Blue041273 added 16:32 - Aug 11
Thanks Mullet, I enjoyed your reasoned in depth analysis of our situation following game one. I particularly agree with your 'Mick's management habitually shows that when he can't pick his best XI as he couldn't this weekend, he'll pick the best XI he has available, regardless of individuals' standing'. The stand out fact for me on Saturday is that everyone got stuck in and run their socks off. It was a performance which reflected Mick's attitude to the game and underlined why there is no room for the likes of PT in his thinking. We might not win every game but with Mick you get commitment and attitude laced with no little skill which, in this league might, just might, keep us all interested.


ericclacton added 07:49 - Aug 12
Good stuff as usual Mullet, keep them coming.

gazzmac4 added 14:20 - Aug 12
Good stuff, Mullet. Enjoyed the read.

Injuries and aches and pains aside i would be quick to praise the fitness work done in preseason based on saturday's performance. As you rightly point out it was a team full of energy, graft and persistence. Flair and exciting it may not always be but it worked a charm.

The lads always seem to be in peak physical condition bar the odd time we have 3 or 4 games in the space of 9 days as we did in April this year and that is to the great credit of Micks backroom staff.

I personally have longed for years for a team of XI who would bleed and throw themselves into everything 100% to fill the blue we all love so much. To see this effort and commitment from back to front is refreshing to me so long may it continue.

Weve had many debates on here about the merits of freebies and loans but i would agree we may want to bulk the numbers up a little before the window (transfer and free/loan) slams shut later this year.

For me the light at the end of the tunnel is the average age of the squad. We have the likes of Murph and Tabb who are by no means spring chickens but then this is balanced with the Mings', the Hewitts', the Tommy Smiths' of this world. Players who are only going to improve. They slot in nicely alongside the middle grounders in Chambo and Didsy et al.

Special mention for Luke Hyam who for me was fantastic on saturday. He clearly has the engine to be box to box so lets hope his performance on saturday is the first of many where we see him get forward more. As they always say, he is one of our own!

Regardless of the result tonight, saturday only enhanced my joy that the season is back. Lets get stuck in to em! COYB's!!

bigolconnor added 17:39 - Aug 12
Thanks Mullet. Very nicely put. We really did pull together as a team on Saturday. That hopefully will be the difference between ourselves and other possibly more affluent teams this season. A camaraderie afforded by eliminating the likes of Paul Taylor and passing on the signing of Leroy Lita. Non team players possibly.

bigolconnor added 17:39 - Aug 12
Thanks Mullet. Very nicely put. We really did pull together as a team on Saturday. That hopefully will be the difference between ourselves and other possibly more affluent teams this season. A camaraderie afforded by eliminating the likes of Paul Taylor and passing on the signing of Leroy Lita. Non team players possibly.

tractorgrl added 13:24 - Aug 14
Mullet Sunday Sir, that was an absolute pleasure to read. Thankyou.
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