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Demolition Man
Written by tractorboykent on Friday, 16th Apr 2021 15:35

Paul Cook isn’t a man to mince words. Even though we are all sick of the continuing spiral of underachievement at Town, it was nevertheless still a bit of a shock to hear him lay into the 18 that capitulated to Wimbledon in what he described before kick-off as a season defining match.

“If the whole squad didn’t want to come back from Wimbledon the other night, it wouldn’t have bothered me” just about sums it up.

It’s hard to imagine a list of weaknesses longer than the one he bemoaned – “We don’t put crosses in the box, we don’t create chances, we don’t defend well, we don’t retain possession of the ball, we’re not very fit, we’re not very athletic.”

In line with his words, the clear-out has now started.

The problems we have are, of course, deep-rooted and they go back over some years. This is well illustrated by the first team squad in terms of how long players have been around, who brought them in and how many managers they have played under prior to Cook.

PlayerYear SignedManagers Played Under

NB Excludes KVY (who has played so little football and who, I think we would all agree, has some real quality) as well as loanees in and out

This suggests that the foundations of the current crisis have been laid by several managers. We’ll all of course have our own opinions on individuals. Personally, I think we must acknowledge that Freddie Sears was great for us at one point, Kayden Jackson, despite scoring in his early days, looks to me like he will never make a footballer, but collectively we are, as Cook says, a soft touch and that’s been the case for too long.

We all hoped that our decline had culminated in relegation but actually it just continued. These players – to a greater or lesser degree – have been part of that so it’s inevitable that if we are to sweep away the culture then we must remove many of them.

What are likely to be tougher decisions (at least for us as fans) are those affecting the younger players who have come through the youth set-up, ie ‘our own’. For a long time the academy was held out as our big hope and many of us were yelling for the kids to be given a chance. Well, the current squad at least shows that a good number have been:

PlayerYear Joined (age)Managers Played Under
Woolfenden2009 (11)McCarthy/Hurst/Lambert
Kenlock2014 (18)McCarthy/Hurst/Lambert
Lankester2006 (6)Hurst/Lambert
Bishop2003 (7)McCarthy/Hurst/Lambert
Nydam2008 (9)McCarthy/Hurst/Lambert
Downes2005 (7)McCarthy/Hurst/Lambert
Dozzell2007 (8)McCarthy/Hurst/Lambert
Dobra2015 (14)Lambert

Andre Dozzell (quite apart from the respect we all have for his dad) and Jack Lankester, for instance, are Town supporters and these numbers show that most have grown up with us as a club.

The fact remains though that, while they have time on their side, they still have to deliver. Sadly for many of us, the promise of some (such as Teddy Bishop) seems to be receding rather than progressing.

The suggestion that Town’s squad is as ‘strong as any in League One’ was the basis of an expectation that Paul Lambert would get us back up. The assertion was repeated even as recently as when Cook arrived, but not by him and, notably, not by the buyers (maybe only by the seller...).

We, of course, know it to be nonsense. Even a cursory glance at the highlights on Quest every week shows a host of clubs with much stronger sides, many of which are nowhere near the top two. What’s more we have been so regularly outplayed by teams in similarly modest positions that it’s undeniable.

As we approach a mass clear out then it is impossible not to compare the last time a manager took such an approach, and how that ended.

Paul Hurst’s situation was, of course, quite different. Cook has both the need and the opportunity with so many players out of contract and new owners providing funds backed by expectations.

As supporters, we may well not agree with some or even many of his decisions that he is about to make but we are being asked to trust him.

It’s worth pondering the much-repeated fact that, were it not for the points deduction, Cook’s Wigan team which was made up of youth and freebies, many of whom were playing without any guarantee of being paid, would have finished near mid table in the CHAMPIONSHIP. That is as good an illustration as any of what he can achieve with some half decent foundations.

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RegencyBlue added 16:08 - Apr 16
"This suggests that the foundations of the current crisis have been laid by several managers".

Not really. The foundations for the crisis, and the years of relentless decline which preceded it, lay squarely with Evans. I know his supporters just will not have it but I've never witnessed a situation where new owners come in one week and by the next the entire club is being turned on its head with what looks like the vast majority of the first team squad being called out in public by their manager and effectively shown the door before a season ends.

That must surely tell you something as to just how bad things have been found to be. Its going to take a while to undo the damage wrought here by Evans but Cook, and the new owners, have made an excellent start in my view.

Linkboy13 added 16:18 - Apr 16
Cook's views are exactly the way ive been thinking for years. Players constantly underachieving week in week out yet still getting adulation from the fans.

ChrisFelix added 17:18 - Apr 16
Blame Evans i agree. Mccarthy should have been backed during the play off season. Hurst sold gave away our best strikers plus Webster. Even though the later & mcgoldrick
could be considered sick notes. He certainly didn't replace with Championship class. Lambert started well with Norwood , Vincent Young & Garbutt. Shame the former 2 have probably only played 20 games between them. This season his signings especially the loanees have been a disaster. Also the 2 players who get singled out IF we have progressed upwards I doubt they would have remained or even been 'poached '

Tractor_Boy_in_HK added 06:38 - Apr 17
It's Hurst. He sold our top two forwards, and replaced a lot of quality Championship players with lower league players. He wanted a team full of league one players, and he got us in league one.

McCarthy's time was up, I admit, but his teams were always top half of the championship and he would have refreshed as needed. Can't blame him for the decline. He nearly got us promoted and operated on a shoe string throughout his tenure. Our failures after he left shows just how good he was as a manager.

Lambert inherited a tired, worn out and under talented team and did nothing to improve it. Just let it rot really, and apparently didn't even get the boys in shape.

ElephantintheRoom added 09:02 - Apr 17
You are putting a lot of faith into a bloke who couldn't even be bothered to fulfil his duties at a press conference all of one week previously. The lack of results since he arrived suggests a largely coasting squad are not impressed. I wouldn't necessarily blame the gravy train riding managers attracted by Evans for Town's decline.... his crass ownership infected every facet of the club - and ultimately his philosphy of greed and opportunity for minimal, if any effort attracts players of that ilk as well. But the club's decline started well before Evans - and if anything, you could argue, Evans' arrival prevented an imminent implosion brought around by Sheepshanks' reckless stewardship - which itself arrived courtesy of the rather ill-advised Pioneer Stand development. Sheepshanks was all hot air and idiocy - BUT he did understand what the club was about, something neither Evans, nor these new predators have come to grips with. UNtil the club reconnects with its roots it will continue to go nowhere - irrespective of the manager or owners.

Edmundo added 11:12 - Apr 20
I personally feel (with no evidence to prove otherwise as yet) that we have good ownership, a good manager, but now the infrastructure and playing staff need renovation. So far so good imo.

hyperbrit added 06:37 - Jul 23
add to that as someone correctly posted "Chamber's voodoo" which like a cancer apparently still remains with some of the players. I'm very glad he's gone but there's still work to be done.

hyperbrit added 02:45 - Jul 27
you've got to break eggs to make omelettes as someone said.
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