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Petition Started by Leeds Fans on referee Jeremy Simpson...
at 12:22 8 Oct 2018

Now, I know that Jeremy Simpson is not my favourite referee after the penalty-fuelled game at Reading a few years ago and his subsequent efforts at Hillsborough this season, but Leeds fans have taken a novel approach after Saturday's draw against Brentford.

They have organized a petition on the Change.org website to have him investigated by the EFL and have garnered well over 2,000 signatures at the time of posting. I don't trust the man's refereeing judgement but this is taking things to another level. Of course nothing will come of it...

https://www.change.org/p/investigate-jeremy-simpson

(Edit: I just realised that the group behind the petition are called 'Supporters against Incompetence'. They must have their hands full.)
[Post edited 8 Oct 12:24]
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Fans on Forums Across the Country Pay Tribute to Kevin Beattie…
at 22:30 17 Sep 2018

I thought it might be helpful to have a look around the country to see how fans of other teams have responded to this weekend’s very sad news. Such was Kevin’s reputation that it became quickly apparent that every message-board I visited had some kind words or memories to share about the great man. Here is just a small sample - there have been enough tributes to fill a book…

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Liverpool

“RIP Kevin Beattie and respect to what you gave English football. He was one of those players everyone said had everything but he got badly injured and never quite recovered, and that Ipswich team were very, very good. They would probably have won a title if it wasn't for us.”

“Bobby Robson always said he was one of the greatest players he had ever worked with, that’s not something a man like Robson says lightly”, “That is really sad news. The LFC younger generation won't know what a solid player he was in a pretty awesome Ipswich side back in the day. It’s really sad news, as 64 is no age.”

“What a shame. His is an iconic name from my childhood. I have just been watching his goal against West Brom in 76/77. What a rocket. It was such a shame about his injuries. RIP”, “Sad news. My dad is an Ipswich fan and I'm very familiar with their great teams of the past. They would have won a few titles if it wasn't for us.

“He told me the story of how Bill Shankly told him of his regret for not signing him. The story was that as a 15-year-old, he turned up at Lime St for his trial. No one met him (as planned) and he had no money, so got on the train back to Carlisle. A week later Ipswich signed him up.”

“He was immense, an uncompromising solid defender, but above all else an excellent footballer. He forged a defensive partnership with a lad called Hunter I seem to remember, in what was an outstanding Ipswich team. I always thought he'd have fitted in well at LFC (who to leave out!?) but it wasn't meant to be as your post reminds us. It’s a sad loss at such a relatively young age.”

“A sad loss for his family and the game, a hard as nails, uncompromising player but fair. Kevin played in an excellent Ipswich side and for England. RIP Beat, lad”, “Ipswich had a great team in the late 70s, early 80s Paul Cooper, Mick Mills, Kevin Beattie, Terry Butcher, John Wark, Paul Mariner etc. Ipswich winning the FA Cup was the first one I can remember watching as a kid. ‘Osborne 1-0’…

“Great memories RIP KB.”

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Leeds United

“RIP Kevin Beattie, a tough and skilful defender in a marvellous team back in 70's”, “A great player, I remember going down to Filbert Street in 1975 v Ipswich for the two FA Cup replays. The first ended 0-0 and on the Thursday night we lost 3-2. A Clive Woods winner I think. They did have a good side then. RIP.”

“Don Revie handed him is first cap when England beat Cyprus 5 - 0 and Malcolm Macdonald scored all five. Beattie had a goal disallowed. I was in the crowd that night as I used to go fairly regularly to watch England back then. He was a tremendous player whose career was blighted by injury.”

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Manchester City

“RIP Kevin. This is very sad news. I remember him as part of Sir Bobby Robson's great Ipswich side of the mid-late '70s. He was some player with a sweet left-peg and incredible aerial ability”, “An excellent player who sadly never realised his full potential due to a string of serious injuries.”

“Very sad to hear, as others have said. What a fantastic player in an exceptional Ipswich side, and no doubt would have been even better had he not had a few injury problems. I’m pretty sure he was the stand in for the football scenes for Michael Caine in 'Escape to victory'.”

“A top, top player who, injuries aside, would have graced any side. The best Ipswich player I have seen ever. RIP big man”, “A great player. RIP Kevin. I remember when he broke Kenny Clements’s leg. You could hear the crack in the Kippax.”

“I was in the corner section of the Platt Lane and the Main Stand with my dad. They both broke their legs. The impact went through the ball, they both got the ball! Neither gave an inch on that tackle. Kenny never recovered his pace and for Beattie it was another injury. What a player, a by-your-side-in-the-trenches type.”

“That Ipswich side was very, very good. I feared the worst when City were drawn against them for the 1981 FA Cup Semi-Final. You only have to look at this side that was packed with top players”, “That Cup Semi-Final in 81 at Villa Park could have turned out very differently if he had scored with a typically powerful first half header...”

“Beattie had been a doubt all week and he was passed fit. I was hoping he would have been out injured as he was such an influence on that team. You could tell maybe he shouldn't have played as he wasn't 100% but was still a fearsome player for the opposition. I was supporting Ipswich a few weeks later when they won the UEFA Cup and deservedly so.”

“He was one of those players that you wish was in your team, a brilliant defender and strong as an ox. Ipswich had a great team in that era, Mills, Mariner, Boiled B0ll0ck, Muhren, Thijssen, and Beattie was a good footballer. He could use the ball as well. It was scandalous that he only got nine England caps but he did have injury issues. It’s so sad to hear of his passing.”

“He was a great player and legend for the Tractor Boys – RIP”, “A fantastic centre half, committed, brave, skilful and a real leader of men.”

“I remember one match in particular where he was in his prime. He strode out of defence, shimmed past a player and sprayed the ball 60 yards to a team mate on the opposite side of the Portman Road pitch. He had great skill and athleticism for a centre back and ever really got the credit he deserved for his top-notch footballing ability. RIP Kevin Beattie, a sad sad day for Ipswich Town Football club.”

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Millwall

“RIP Kevin, a superb competitor. I think it was former Millwall manager Ron Gray who discovered Kevin when Ron was an Ipswich scout”, “An old school player who gave his all on the pitch and the like of which don't exist anymore. R I P Kevin. Not Millwall....but one hell of a player.”

“I was just thinking that he was a player from a very different generation from today's lot, a player who really grafted who would find it difficult to fit in today with the softies that play the game today, not to mention the whistle happy referees. Then it dawned on me that I am almost the same age!”

“A cracking player the likes of which are missed today, only 64.”, “He scored in the 5-1 win over the Jocks at Wembley”, “I remember seeing him play one night at QPR for Ipswich - he was immense and almost single-handedly kept QPR out.”

“He was a Millwall player in all but shirt. He ever gave less than 100% - and he paid for it with many injuries which eventually ended his professional career”, “This. He should and would have had many more England caps, in an era when such things mattered, if not for all those injuries. Great is used to freely when describing players, but I truly believe he was a great. RIP”

“It shows how quickly the sport has changed, the diluted version we see today seems dire without these characters in it. The gulf between players and fans couldn't be further apart", “You lot are lucky to have such players to look back on. Players my age are mostly detestable c****: Ferdinand, Terry, Sutton, Barton, Savage etc.”

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Glasgow Rangers

“RIP Mr Beattie, respect and condolences to family and friends”, “I have just seen that mate. Sad news, he was a very good player”, He was a rock in the centre of defence for a great Ipswich team. A very good player and hard as nails”, “He was a tremendous player in an Ipswich team that were a joy to watch”, “What a player he was, hard as nails but with a wand of a left foot.”

“I saw the Ipswich side that beat us 2-1 at Ibrox at the beginning of the 80s, a fantastic team with talented players in every position but I don't think he played that day. I do remember the 5-1 game at Wembley where he was outstanding and head and shoulders above anyone else on the park which included Bell, Ball, Keegan, Todd, Francis, Jardine, McGrain, Dalglish.”

“I was at Wembley in 1975 when England won 5-1 against Scotland. He was the best player on the park. Looked like a star for years to come but I'm sure he was plagued by injury”, “He was a class above that day and bossed the game.”

“Sad news, as a youngster he was seen as an England stalwart for years and compared to the great Duncan Edwards but unfortunately injuries curtailed his career. He still made the team for ‘Escape to Victory’.”

“He was an outstanding player whose career was curtailed by injuries. A terrible piece of news. As other posters have noted, he was imperious as England horsed us in 1975 and was an utter joy, albeit through clenched teeth, to watch. Rest in peace.”


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West Ham United

“RIP a great player who was always fully committed”, “He was a cracking player and the Ipswich Cup Final winning team was a special team. They could play football the right way and he was vital to that team”, “I know a lot of Ipswich lads and he will be sadly missed, by all accounts a top man as well as a top player.”

“Very very sad news, such a shame. Bobby Robson said he was the greatest player he ever saw, who would argue with that man. I went to Kevin Beattie's house once, a mate of mine in Ipswich knew him, blimey he was a big lad. Nice bloke, very decent, RIP.”

“Sad news. A great servant to his club who was part of a fantastic Ipswich team led by Sir Bobby Robson that probably should have won the league (and may well have, but for Bob Paisley's all-conquering Liverpool side).”

“Very sad to hear of his passing. A very good footballer from an era where the competitions were on a leveller playing field and teams from cities like Ipswich, Nottingham Forest and Southampton could win trophies.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. He was a great player from Ipswich's golden era. I remember that he played a stormer against us in the 1975 cup Semi-Final at Villa Park. We were a tad lucky to get the replay, and the rest is history. RIP fella.

“He was never dirty but the kind of player you would know you had played against. Ipswich Town supporters will be feeling pretty sad today. They have had no better player since he retired.”

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Norwich City

“Putting everything to one side, Kevin Beattie was a great centre back at a time when that lot down the road had a few decent players. He was up there with the best of them”, “He was an excellent player in a very excellent team”, “Sad news indeed, he a great player for both Ipswich and England, my thoughts are with his family and friends.”

“He was a great player who rightly so became an ITFC legend. He was taken far too early at 64, a real shame”, “Credit where it's due, he was a massive player for them back in the day and he seemed like a really genuine fellow, very sad”, “A devoted fan to his old team and still broadcast at their games.”

“This is such a sad loss. He was a truly awesome player at his best. Without doubt he would have racked up 100+ caps for England had savage knee injuries not ruined his career”, “A good player for them when Ipswich had their best years. A colossus for England and one from the old school of footballers.”

“Sad news. He was very good player and big-hearted, a great loss at only 64”, “He was a fantastic player for both Ipswich and England and could head the ball as hard as some could kick it”, “A player I remember from their good team who was such a difficult opponent. RIP”, “A great player, when that lot down the road lorded it over us back in the olden days.”

“Yes, sad news. He was the best player Ipswich ever had I would say. I hated his guts until he played for England - remember his header against the Sweaties? RIP Beattie”, “If he hadn't been so seriously injured, the England team might have been in a better place too.”

“I can just about remember him playing, more for England than Ipswich. That Admiral kit for England is iconic and players like Beattie, Keegan, Wilkins are embedded in my earliest memories of watching international football”, “There are not too many defenders around like him anymore.”

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Sunderland

“Great player in a great team. RIP”, “Kevin was a hard as nails centre half who made Norman Hunter look like Julian Clary”, “A good player and a big part of an excellent Ipswich Town team”, “He could put himself about when he had to but was much more of a footballer than the average 70's clogger.”

“I’m so sorry to hear of this today. I had the pleasure a few years ago of a couple of nights out with him whilst going to Ipswich for the opening of the Bobby Robson stand with one of his best mates at the club. A lovely bloke full of fun and stories and what a player. He would have gained many more caps but for injuries. A real Ipswich Town and English legend has passed away today. God bless him.”

“My Dad didn't tend to eulogise players, especially from the seventies on, but he talked of Beattie as a player on a different level. He had quality and power, and he stood out in an exceptional team at Ipswich. His injuries robbed football of a great player”, “Aye, he had everything but was blighted with injuries though, 64 is no age to go.”

“Anyone who grew up watching football in the 1970s has heard of this bloke. A northern lad, one of many who ended up at Ipswich Town. I remember going with my dad in about 1975 to watch Middlesbrough v Ipswich and he was amazing. A true great whose career was ruined by injuries. Sad to hear of his passing”

“For those not quite old enough to remember him, think of Paul McGrath or Ledley King. All top-class defenders who could have been even better if it wasn't for injuries”, “He was struggling with his knees when he played for Boro. Every now and then he would have a game where you would see what a tremendous player he was.”

“I seem to remember that at one point, early in his career, he was compared to Duncan Edwards. Does anyone else remember that?”, “I can, he was a very good player indeed”, “He really was the real deal as a player”, “This totally. I grew up watching him, great player for Ipswich. This is very sad news. He was a colossus in the 1978 FA Cup Final when the brilliant Ipswich side beat Arsenal.”

“He was an integral part to a very good Ipswich Town side. FA Cup and UEFA Cup winners, a side that were one of the main rivals to the virtually invincible Liverpool side of the time. Sad news”, “A very good player in his day when football meant something to the players and not just the money.”

“He was always a one you looked out for in your sticker book as a kid, lots of swaps which usually meant he was a top player”, “Had it not been for injuries he would have been a permanent fixture in the England team”, A fine player, the rare sort you could build a team around. Rock solid and nee little skill either. Peace be with him, his family & friends.”

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Brighton & Hove Albion

“RIP big man, a great player in a great team. It was a privilege to live in Suffolk then and go along to Portman Road to see Bobby Robson's wonderful team”, “A true great, one of Bobby Robson’s gems”, “A true Town legend, rest easy big man and thank you for the memories.”

“Beattie was a great player, who surely would have got more caps but for injury”, “One of the very best ball-playing centre-backs I've ever seen. What a team that Ipswich side was”, “He was playing for England on my first ever trip to the old Wembley as part of a school trip. A really fond memory.”

“Same here. Our secondary school used to take a couple of coach loads up for midweek England matches in the late 1970's. This was my first and Beattie was in the team against the brilliant Dutch. Beattie was worthy of his place.”

“I remember him nearly putting Tony Towner over a Portman Road stand with a legitimate block tackle back in the late 70’s at the start of that great League Cup run when we were in Division three (in the days when a Seagull Special was a train!)”, “He was a player ahead of his time.”

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Preston North End

“RIP Kevin Beattie, a quality player in his day”, “I used to love watching him play. People tell me he was also a really decent bloke too. RIP”, “I'll always remember him for his hair.”

“I remember that Ipswich side when I was a kid. Beattie, Mariner, Wark, Cooper, Brazil etc. What a good side that was, slugging it out with Arsenal for the top honours with no Manchester City, Chelsea or Manchester United in sight of them.”

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Carlisle United

“Well that news has just spoiled my day. Kevin Beattie you are a legend, RIP”, “He was in the same year as my brother at Newman School”, “’Hiya Mam!’. I remember him saying that during Ipswich Towns post-match FA Cup celebrations live on television.”

“RIP Kevin, the best Cumbrian footballer ever. Very sad news as everyone has said has to be the best player to come from this area. ‘One of the best players to play the game’ - Bobby Robson. That is some statement if you consider who Bobby had worked with!”

“Back in the day I lived to the west of Melbourne Park and in the long summer nights we would play football on the park until dark. I remember many a time our side taking on the other side of the park, usually about 20-a-side games going on for hours…

“The first time I saw Kev play you could tell how good he was, scored a goal from what seemed like the half way line and the ball was still rising when it went past the floundering goalie. Great memories. RIP Kevin Beattie.”

“He sat right behind us at the Birmingham Auto Windscreens Final and every single one of the lads got their programmes signed. Four of us had passes to the after-match reception at the old Wembley Hilton and he came with us…

“Security was tight we had our tickets checked a dozen times, yet not once did anybody ask him for his (a good job because he didn't have one) and he stuck a couple of rounds of drinks for us on Alan Brazil's tab.”

“I used to work on the Post Office counter in 1970 and Kevin used to send his dad a money-order every week, such a genuine bloke was Kevin.”

“Kevin never forgot where he came from and was proud to be a Cumbrian. The word legend is banded around too much these days but Kevin Beattie truly was a fantastic player from Carlisle. At the time at Ipswich Sir Bobby Robson said that he was the best English footballer that he had ever seen. One of the true greats.

“He stuck something like six past the under-16 team I played for. He was totally unstoppable. He was great in the air for his size too", "I saw him score the second at Wembley against Scotland in 1975. I jumped up to celebrate before realizing I was in the Scotland end full of 25,000 upset Scots.”

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This small sample of tributes will give everyone an idea of the sheer scale of just how highly Kevin was regarded by fans throughout the country. That said, the conclusion of his 1998 memoir ‘the Beat’ showed where his heart truly remained. It was so very fitting that George Burley was able to fulfil the wish he expressed in the final paragraph his book…

“Ipswich Town is in my blood, it is part of me and my life. I love the town, the supporters and the people of Suffolk and I hope one day I see them playing in the Premiership and back in Europe just as I had the privilege to do all those years ago.”


[Post edited 17 Sep 23:28]
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Nights at the Circus – Late Reflections on Last Night’s Game at Derby
at 15:30 22 Aug 2018

The rise of podcasts in the last few years has been an interesting phenomenon to observe. Ranging from the knowledgeable and well-informed to the downright weird, it was hard to know what to make of them at first but over time they have definitely emerged as the verbal fanzines of our era.

Anyone listening to the BBC’s wretched radio coverage of the Friday night Reading v Derby game which kicked off the Championship campaign three weeks ago will have immediately understood why they have grown in popularity. “Frank has gone through a roller-coaster of emotions. He had his head in his hands when Reading scored but he was jumping for joy when they equalized.”

The FiveLive coverage got worse. “Frank was hugging the rest of the substitutes and training staff” when they took the lead, and “was cool and calm, classy and collected as ever at full time”. “Frank Lampard will take home three points.” If this wasn’t enough, they finished – horror of horrors – with the news that, “we are covering the Aberdeen v Steven Gerrard’s Rangers game on Sunday”.

With coverage as dismal as this – and the most galling thing is that they are being well paid to put this bilge out – is it any wonder that people are now turning to programmes put together by fellow fans who only want to discuss the game having given it some thought? I was vexed initially by the “Frank Lampard’s Derby” drivel, but realise that it summarises our status in the eyes of the media.

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We had the same circus with ‘Roy Keane’s Ipswich’ and it became pretty tedious once the gilt had worn off and we realised that he was taking us collectively into the house of Slytherin. Frankie in contrast seems to be a bouncy and chipper character, but he has little time to play with given the money Derby have spent and a fan base whose expectations have been proportionately raised.

A 'tinkering' theme has grown with Lampard’s early team rotations, but this may have been his trying to land on the right balance from his inflated squad. The inclusion of George Evans in a holding role, along with Craig Forsyth at left-back and Mason Bennett on the right wing all made sense. They were all operating in their correct positions and all three had played well in recent games.

We don’t have quite so many options, so it was a question of who could cover on our left-wing. Grant Ward playing in front of Jonas Knudsen was a blast from the last few seasons, in contrast with new boys Janoi Donacien and Gwion Edwards pairing up on our right side. It was a mild evening with the sun setting behind our stadium view as the game kicked off, a perfect evening for a football match.

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“Paul Hurst’s barmy army!” The opening 15 minutes were to reflect the wider pattern of the game. Two sides, neither of whom were physically dominant, were trying to play neat passing football on the deck but were also incapable of doing so. Passes were being under or overhit, runs weren’t being read and momentary lapses in concentration would lead to disrupting turnovers in possession.

“Oh, Bobby Zamora!”, “You’ll never go up!”, “You’re just a **** Nottingham Forest!” With little to entertain us on the pitch, the two sets of fans played a benign game of song-tennis to keep us all amused. One thing which was quickly apparent was our lack of high pressing in the early exchanges. We would occasionally try to close down an individual player but these were usually isolated.

Trevoh Chalobah was the deepest of our three midfielders and he found the going here a lot tougher than at Exeter. One momentary early slip set Mason Mount off but Derby were unable to capitalise on his error. He kept his fellow Chelsea loanee well shackled and was positionally comfortable but with less time, he was less threatening and he also struggled to influence the pattern of our play.

Gwion Edwards was as lively as ever but he also found the going tougher against a wily experienced left-back in Craig Forsyth. He got free on a couple of occasions but the Scotsman used his strength and occasional ruggedness to keep him quiet. Derby were not malicious, but they were streetwise, with Edwards and Jon Nolan being targeted with softeners in less threatening areas of the pitch.

They weren’t afraid to take yellow cards for the team. Craig Bryson and Richard Keogh cynically took Grant Ward out when we had 2-v-1 counter-attacks beckoning. Ward was alert and more energetic than in his Exeter showing and his set-pieces often were of a decent standard but his industry, like that of all of our midfielders, still lacked a focus and a purpose. Our attackers were all playing alone.

We used Ellis Harrison’s heading ability as a focal point from goal-kicks and deeper free-kicks, much as we did with Joe Garner last season. Everybody has referenced his isolation in post-match thoughts because this is true. Our wide attackers and central midfielders are not getting forward to support him. He would be twice the threat he is if his team-mates could get 10 yards further up the pitch.

If Harrison was struggling with his isolation, Jon Nolan found this game even more problematic. He seemed to pick up a knock early on which he ran off, but at no point did he look like dictating the tempo although he combined well with Knudsen. A couple of weak shots summed up his attacking threat and my friend’s comment about him needing to bulk up physically struck a chord with me.

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The scoreless first half was an accurate reflection of both the balance of the game and the fact that neither side looked capable of scoring. Chatting in the concourse at the interval, there was little to say about the game. It wasn’t quite pre-season as both teams were trying, but nothing happened. We were happy with what we were trying to do but I sensed an increasing impatience from the Rams.

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“Why do we always seem to get yellow cards as an afterthought?” Skuse’s early caution after the break heralded his departure. He had tried to push forward before the interval, harassing Carson at one point, but supporting a playmaker is not his natural role and more central creativity might have improved our balance. The feisty Flynn Downes replaced him but didn’t add greatly to our creativity.

We could have dealt more assertively with the corner-kick which fell to Joe Ledley for the opening goal, but one over-riding issue was Derby getting their shots on target when in dangerous areas whereas we were hitting and hoping or failing to connect when truly threatening moments arose. As well as supporting our lone striker from midfield, we have to be more ruthless with our finishing.

Watching Aristote Nsiala I often think of Tyrone Mings. Our new centre-back isn’t as cultured on the ball and often plays his passes half-a-Weetabix too heavy, but he is positionally good and solid in the tackle. His foul on Tom Lawrence which led to their second goal had more to do with the pace of the moment rather than any malice, but it brought back one comment Mings made at a fans’ meet-up.

“There are two big differences between playing at Chippenham level and at Championship level. The pace of Championship football is far quicker, and if you make a mistake, you will be punished.” It’s not just Nsiala who is on this learning curve – he just happened to be the player caught out last night - but it is a risk we will run with all our new recruits as they grow accustomed to playing at this level.

Derby fans had criticised Lawrence for being their archetypal circus act, scoring great set-pieces or goals of momentary individual brilliance but doing little else. This was true last night, and it was in no small part to Donacien’s shackling of him. Our new right-back could possibly have pushed forward to help Edwards, but he kept Lawrence properly under wraps with some superb running and tackling.

Kayden Jackson’s introduction for Harrison meant that we had a different type of striker but with the same underlying lack of support. Jackson was using pace, but one late break saw him drive towards the box with five Derby players covering and three Town team mates getting there too late. Nobody deserves individual criticism but collectively we are too weak and disparate as an attacking unit.

“Frankie, Frankie give us a wave!”, “Hurrah!”, “Super Frankie Lampard!” I smiled when the home fans cried out to acclaim their manager with the game petering out. About an hour earlier they had been murmuring the frustration and discontent I had picked up on over the weekend on their forum. The Rams will tolerate this circus but only for as long at it gets them results.

You could see the obvious disappointment on the players’ faces at full time but it was heartening to see the positive response from the away fans. As I said after the Exeter game, there are times when this feels like a terrifying gamble, but this inexperienced team need to know we have their backs. It was reassuring to see us bolstering their confidence last night as they will definitely need this.

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The walk back with a fellow Blue to our cars with took place in reflective silence, apart from one consoling comment from a passing Ram of “two mid-table teams, one of whom got lucky with a couple of goals”. I’m not so sure about that. There were elements of our display which had echoes of Barnsley’s performance at Portman Road on the night overshadowed by Mick’s theatrical departure.

I have always felt that our fate this season will hang on how we crack the final third of the pitch. The soft set-piece goals are a proper irritation, but they only turn one point gained into none. The issue of turning one point into three is a far more pressing concern, and right now it looks as though this is where we should be turning our gaze both on the training ground and in any transfer dealings.

We need defensive cover, but we have to crack the problem of moving the midfield up the pitch and narrowing the distance to our striker, along with working the keeper more with our finishing. I came away from last night praying for the safe return of Emyr Huws. Our midfield would have had a much better creative balance last night if we had a player of his ilk instead of Skuse or Chalobah.

The issue of fatigue within the squad came to mind as well as I sat in the car waiting for the queues to clear. The squad may not have pressed Derby so much due to the physical exertions of Saturday’s Villa game, but I was also mindful that there is a risk of mental tiredness with so many games coming on top of each other and so many new players getting to grips with playing at this new higher level.

Mick always used to say that Marcus Evans was very even whether we won or lost games. This will be a huge strength if we continue to stutter in these opening games, but if I was in Evans’s shoes my thoughts would revolve around the support Hurst was getting. This is a huge ask for him and an area of risk. It’s not just the players who are making a huge leap from lower-leagues to the Championship.

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I am glad we didn’t appoint Frank Lampard and I was relieved to get away from the circus at Derby. They may have won last night but their lack of patience with managers have left them with a bloated and unbalanced squad of high-earning misfits who they can’t offload. Relegation may not be a worry right now but Wigan were ultimately undone this way. This is a gamble which could really backfire.

As for us, well, it’s true that relegated teams usually have more than one thing wrong with them and this is where we are right now. I got back to Bath at 2am and the same hopes and fears were there heading down a quiet M5 as had been there heading up the same road from Exeter seven days earlier.

We can see what needs addressing. Some fixes will be on the training ground, some on the pitch and some through reinforcements, while the importance of maintaining the squad's confidence is huge right now. I am no less terrified than a week ago but I can see how our pathway is starting to emerge. As the great Hobbit once said, "There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something."


[Post edited 22 Aug 15:43]
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