With the majority of City’s players having returned through the gates of Colney, departed for Austria and returned back through the gates of Colney, it was time to fire up the laptop and report back to MyFootballWriter HQ for the new season.
Plenty has happened since my last piece:
– Iceland beat Woy’s Boys and gave the football fashionistas the latest terrace bandwagon to jump on with their Viking inspired ‘Huh clap’ (extinguishing Will Grigg’s fire in the process).
– Norwich beat Italy 1-0 with Robbie Brady ensuring that even more of the N’Golo Kanté transfer money will be needed to take him to Leicester.
– Portugal’s triumph gave Ronaldo the opportunity to take off his shirt and prance around like a creosote covered peacock.
– Big Sam somehow managed to convince those in charge of the FA that his brand of hoofball was developed from England’s DNA.
– And Errea went from zeroes to heroes with a clean sweep of kits that have been generally well received, or at least locally. Although the adverse reaction to our new third-kit from certain parts of the national media, has allowed the Yellow Army (or should that be the White and Eggy Cress army?) to play the role of a wise old curator at an art exhibition; “to judge this shirt on purely aesthetic terms would be to miss the underlying emotion and fundamental raison d’etre of this masterpiece.”
The summer break also spanned the first anniversary of my ‘debut’ on MyFootballWriter and so I find myself returning for a second season hoping to emulate the feats of Iwan Roberts; namely to come back leaner and sharper but hopefully with more teeth.
During the close season, it’s hard not to drift into old familiar territory and looking back through the archives, it’s clear that I’ve already ticked many of the usual boxes.
There’s the obligatory piece on the potential renaissance of Ricky, the moan about not signing anyone and the moan at people who moan about not signing anyone.
But in between all of that and just over a year ago I wrote a piece about the importance of retaining the team spirit and the core of the side that had just clinched promotion.
The premise of the article was simple. For a side with modest transfer funds, I reasoned that our biggest asset heading into the Premier League was the team’s identity and the feel-good factor that had been forged throughout a gruelling promotion campaign and on the Wembley balcony.
Whatever new signings were made, they couldn’t be allowed to upset the dynamic within the dressing room and prevent us from riding the promotion wave.
Or so I thought.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but a year on I’m inclined to think that the very thing that I suggested would prove to be our main strength heading into that season actually turned out to become our Achilles heel.
Many of the players who had clinched promotion were those who had suffered relegation the season before. As results took a turn for the worse, the face-palming photos of Messrs Ruddy and Bassong had an all too familiar feel of darker days gone by.
And the soundbites from Russell Martin about ‘focussing on the next game’ interspersed with the ‘erms’ of Jonny Howson during post-match interviews served to create a sense of déjà vu and an uneasy feeling that the writing was on the wall long before our fate was finally sealed.
So as we face another season trying to battle our way back to the Promised Land, do we trust in the squad that has (largely) been there and done it before or is it time to create a new identity?
Do we stick with a tried and tested formula or take the chance to fundamentally rebuild the squad and in doing so negate some of the long standing arguments?
Is Russ a right-back or a centre-half?
Can Bassong last 90 minutes without a catastrophic lapse in concentration?; should Rudd or Ruddy be the man to command the City area?
Will Ricky ever come good?
The new third kit is inspired by the one we had during arguably the greatest couple of seasons in the club’s history. A kit worn by a City squad that contained very few stars but whose exploits turned many of them into household names.
Ruel Fox, Chris Sutton, Mark Robbins, Jeremy Goss et al came within a whisker of winning the first Premier League title and humbled the mighty Bayern Munich the season after. It was a team built from a mix of experience and youth. It was a team which was greater than the sum of its parts; a team with a clear identity and spirit.
As things stand and less than a fortnight until the season begins, we have a strong spine within the team. We have experienced players who know what it takes to get out of the Championship and players in Timm Klose and Steven Naismith who should be a cut above many in the division. We have exciting young attacking players such as James Maddison, Sergi Canos and the Murphys.
So on paper at least, there is no need for a fundamental overhaul.
If the players can shake off the relegation hangover and create a winning mentality and a united dressing room then we should be more than a match for most.
Find ourselves the modern day equivalent of Mark Robbins and then anything becomes possible.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevocook