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So Close, Yet So Far?
Written by radiogaga on Sunday, 14th Feb 2016 14:49

Fifteen games to go and we sit in eighth position, three points off sixth. Looking in with a pragmatic point of view, we are in a good position to kick on and push for a play-off place between now and May. We can only hope that another play-off campaign can be achieved.

Town started the new year sitting nicely in fifth position on the back of some excellent results against QPR, Brighton and Burnley. We were three points off the top four and perhaps looking up the table more so than behind our shoulders, as a comfortable gap between the top eight and the chasing pack had emerged.

We fast forward seven weeks, three defeats and no clean sheets later, and much of the hard work put in over the Christmas period is now looking like a distant memory.

We currently look like a team that is getting somewhat left behind by our rivals (and caught up by the chasers) since the January transfer window.

So what has changed? An Anthony Knockaert-inspired Brighton have rediscovered their form in recent weeks. The goals of big money signing Gary Hooper and the recent arrival of Aiden McGeady have propelled Sheffield Wednesday closer to the Championship summit and they look set to go from strength to strength.

Birmingham have more than filled the void left by Demarai Gray's departure by reinvesting on Will Buckley and Diego Fabbrini (whose former loan club Middlesbrough, for all their big names, have not won a single game and have struggled to score since his departure).

Wolves supplemented the loss of Benik Afobe with a big money move for Joe Mason and the shrewd signing of Poland international Michal Zyro, both of whom have made an immediate impact.

Cardiff's sale of Mason and Kenwyne Jones freed up money for them to bring in Lars Immers from Dutch football, and he too has made an instant impact and fitted in well to a squad that has been on the most part retained from their Premier League campaign and post-relegation rebuild.

We have been rocked by injuries to key players Ryan Fraser and Cole Skuse. It was disappointing to hear that the unsettled Tommy Oar and Jonathan Parr's Town stints were ended, leaving us even further short of reliable strength in depth.

David McGoldrick (fast becoming our Daniel Sturridge) is in danger of becoming our forgotten man with the Blues having played without him for so long.

The January arrivals of Barnsley fringe man Paul Digby and 31-year-old Kevin Foley, who has not played regular first team football in England for a number of years, have done little to ease concerns about the strength of our squad, nor has the needless suspension to Jonathan Douglas.

Whilst we did not spend big last season either, we got through much of the season with a settled squad that was rarely disrupted by injury or suspension. It was also boosted by the shrewd January signing of Freddie Sears, whose incoming contribution proved invaluable based on the six-figure sum paid (successful investment does not necessarily require big sums of money, as proven in this case).

I have little reason to believe our January business will push us on this time around, and the lack of depth in our injury-hit squad has been brutally exposed in our recent defeats to fourth-bottom Bristol City and a QPR side who had yet to register a home win in Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's two-month tenure prior to our visit.

We are not the only team going through a difficult patch. The recent chaos at Derby has seen them dragged into the mix also, despite their embarrassment of riches. It goes to demonstrate the importance of having stability at a football club. Without it, no investment can flourish to its full potential.

Spending isn't a guarantee for promotion, nor is it my intention to portray that message. We all saw Derby go big to bring in Tom Ince, Darren Bent and Jesse Lingard last season and still nosedive out of the promotion race. But as is proven more often than not, it does give you a massive chance to push on if you spend wisely.

I accept that Mick McCarthy has his critics. I cannot say that recent performances home and away have given me a lot of hope for the coming months of the season. Certainly at QPR last week, we looked nothing like a team aspiring to be in the promotion shake-up come May, and it has not been our only poor performance of recent weeks.

But what should the aspirations really be? We continue to look like a club that is punching above its weight compared to big-spending rivals. In that regard, we should applaud everyone at the club for getting so much out of the resources available.

But is that really acceptable for the fans, given the cost and dedication of our core who follow on a frequent basis home and away? Forget our fluctuating home attendances, our recent 1,400 at Ashton Gate yesterday, 3,500 at Loftus Road, 2,500 at St Andrew's, and the close to 900 at Fratton Park shows the club still has a strong core support who have stood by despite some dour times.

In the interests of perspective, three points off the play-offs with 15 games to go is not dour. This season has so far had many twists and turns, and hopefully Mick can continue to get all he can out of the group to keep that happening.

However, where can we expect to go long term with our current model in such a rich man's game? If we did make the play-offs, could we actually believe we can go head to head with a Hull, a Brighton, a Burnley, and win promotion?

With such minimal investment to the squad, could we soon find ourselves more and more left behind? How much longer can Town really continue to sustain our upper table trends on such inferior budgets to our rivals in years to come? Time will tell. Our fingers are crossed.

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atty added 16:12 - Feb 14
Agree, no investment in solid Championship quality players, huge debt/interest payments, lower gates ( butsuperb away support), and no youngsters coming through except Hyam. Maybe some now on the fringes will make it into the team, but how long before they are settled/regular choices? All rather depressing, particularly when you also consider the quality of the football, or rather lack of it. That said a lot of us will probably still turn up to watch the dross. Any other business with no investment, huge debts, lower customer numbers, no young/rising talent, and a poor product would be out of business by now! Suppose we should be grateful!

DurhamTownFan added 21:43 - Feb 14
Second half of this blog was very interesting (I felt it was slightly better than the first bit).

We just look like a club who for some reason don't want to go for it, either in the managers playing style on the pitch or in the way the board avoids expansive investments in the playing squad. I feel like our default position is about 8th-10th every year now with the odd play off run maybe one year in five. I suppose we should count ourselves lucky, but fact is the football is bloody dire and we never seem to really kill a game and win 3, 4-0 to give the fan some excitement (clearly the manager prefers to draw 0-0 than win 4-3!) for me that all just means: zzzzz lately!

Cakeman added 22:34 - Feb 14
Some very valid points made.
Putting this season to one side we shall need a large rebuild next season irrespective of what division we find ourselves in.
A lot of our current meagre in number squad have had their best days through age and/or ability. I refer to Chambers, Berra, Foley, Douglas, McGoldrick, Tabb, Varney and Murphy.
Add to this with next to nothing coming through with the youngsters then the afore mentioned rebuild has to take place.
That will be interesting and will determine our future in the Evans era. We sure need to spend quite a bit in the Summer.
PS the season ticket response will be equally interesting. I would imagine that numbers will drop significantly unless there is a strong feeling that Evans and co do actually want to forget the Keane and Jewell times and look forward not back.

tractorboybig added 08:46 - Feb 15
Some valid points but may be a little unfair. Evans holds a large debt perhaps 80 million, that is a large investment. The club with that debt level is unsellable and maybe even unsustainable. Whether we like it or not the club is being run efficiently in business terms by a successful businessman. Do we have the right manager to develop and take us forward is a different matter. Sadly this club is destined for a long period of indifference.=

1psw1ch added 14:06 - Feb 15
theres light at the end of the tunnel ,,15 games to go ,,,3 points of the playoffs,,,come on you blues come fu##king onnnnn

Witchesaswell added 15:23 - Feb 15
Unfortunately I have to say things are definitely taking a turn in the wrong direction at the moment!

Early doors in the season we looked like we had pretty reasonable cover for most areas of the pitch but with a couple of departures and more than a couple of injuries we look stuffed at the moment.

No strength in depth and no decent signings (loan or permanent) makes me think we are going to struggle to get in the top six, let alone be a force in the playoffs.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love the lads to prove me wrong and get us promoted but how many on here can honestly say they believe we have the quality to achieve this?

Answers on the back of a postage stamp please

BossMan added 17:10 - Feb 16
@durhamtownfan agree with you that we are a mid table side. I really don't want Mick as our manager even though he has performed slightly above where our budget should put us. Can't see us making the play offs and will be interesting to see if this seasons mistakes are addressed in the summer. Won't hold my breath

chrishants added 19:30 - Feb 16
A very good blog. I wanted McCarthy as manager but I'm frustrated by the lack of progress. With wolves he built a good team which I remember out played us at PR on their way to the championship . Surely he could have bought in better players than Douglas & Coke. There are good players in the lower leagues, like Mat Holland

Bert added 22:55 - Feb 16
Evans had his hands burned by failures brought in by previous Managers. He is not going to lavish millions again so it is about sitting tight and doing what MM can with committed but perhaps not extraordinary players. It is a well run club in many respects, has its roots in the community and is not run by idiots with egos like some clubs. We all want the glory days back but football has changed. If you subscribe to Sky then just ponder whether it is tv rights that has caused such a huge divide between the PL and the FL. I remain proud of ITFC as a club but perhaps it is our history that is making it difficult to accept that what we see as a playing style is not to our liking. Lesson stone learned from Portsmouth and Peterborough.

brittaniaman added 19:17 - Feb 18

RaymondovicBlue added 12:37 - Feb 19
Agree Chrishants - but ...

Is Matt Holland still playing ?!
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