Owing to essays on separatist terrorism in 1970s Spain and atrocity propaganda during the First World War, my contribution to MFW over the past few weeks has been limited.
The timing’s not been great. Such work has coincided with a South Yorkshire capitulation, a West Country display of ineptitude, and the eventual P45 of Alex Neil.
Alan Irvine has been rapidly propelled into the vacant managerial hot seat, laudably accumulating four points in the last week. The club has undergone a fundamental restructure. And remarkably, after such recent and considerable turbulence, City sit a paltry five points off that critical sixth place.
How? In a season characterised by individual incompetence, defensive vulnerability and relentless away day gloom, City have no right whatsoever to even be challenging for a swift return to the Premier League.
We’ve witnessed our team disintegrate at Birmingham, Brighton, Barnsley, Reading, Rotherham and Burton, yet the hope somehow still remains. It’s a crazy game.
The point remains that this current squad does not possess the sufficient character, hunger, nor Championship efficacy to warrant promotion. It lacks leaders, responsibility-takers and players with something to prove. And for the vast majority of this thoroughly underwhelming campaign, it has lacked adept management.
But things have changed. The new and innovative business model announced on Saturday morning represents a significant turning point from our club, terminating the seemingly outdated and recently ineffective traditional system and implementing a refreshed, overtly modern continental structure. Although many may have their doubts, such a reconfiguration was exactly what this drifting club needed.
The additional position of a Sporting Director was the most notable aspect of the transition. For too long, City have been recruiting relentless mediocrity, scouting and subsequently signing players who are not equipped with the requisite ability to progressively take the team forward.
All five of our current centre-backs – the forgotten Michael Turner included – continue to delineate their serial sense of fragility, while other individuals such as Steven Whitaker, Michael McGovern and Kyle Lafferty appear to have no long-term future in Nelson’s County. Further change is imperative.
The announcement made pre-Barnsley only constitutes the beginning. The appointment of a savvy, shrewd and ruthless operator in this new position remains vital, with the later arrival of an expectedly youthful and forward-thinking Head Coach possessing equal importance.
The two must immediately forge a fluid, interactive and progressive relationship, uniting in their vision for the future of the club and ardently striving collectively to achieve it. It’s a tough ask.
But it’s doable. The board are now faced with two dichotomous choices. Ask swiftly, appointing a Sporting Director and manager before within the next fortnight before we travel to Aston Villa and continue to seek sixth place, or allow this season of unabating misery to peter out and launch a slower rebuild before August comes.
My preference? Act now.
We must be decisive. Yes, this group of players have so frequently manifested their inability to compete at this level, and yes, we do appear completely incapable of winning away from home, but we must not neglect the notion that this squad has received poor management. While these players may not be the bunch of Premier League starlets they once perceived themselves to be, they should be achieving so much more.
It’s axiomatic that Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield represent the best this league has to offer. But what about the Leeds, the Readings, the Sheffield Wednesdays and the Fulhams? What actually differentiates them from us in terms of the talent inherent to their squad? Not a lot, I would argue. Instead, the respective likes of Gary Monk, Jaap Stam, Carlos Carvalhal and Slavisa Jokanovic have managed with impressive ability.
Alex Neil did not. Under his leadership, City became an outfit fundamentally unable to defend. Although we have often appeared slow and lateral in possession and going forward, the shortcomings of our season lie at the back. Conceding 56 league goals is as comical as my donning of a teletubby outfit last time we played Barnsley.
So I have a blueprint for the board to follow. Be ruthless, appointing a new Sporting Director within the week. Following this, appoint a manager who possesses the ability to achieve some form of immediate impact, instilling this underachieving squad with renewed notions of determination and desire. He must be a motivator, a figure who can inspire.
Make this duo of appointments before our trip to the West Midlands next Saturday. Provide the loyal following something to be optimistic about, a cause to believe in, a reason to be loud and proud and support a team whose season remains far from over.
New managers can make an impact. Players naturally enhance their levels of performance upon arrival. They can function as a substantial catalyst for change. That – I think we can all agree – is something that City badly need.
We all know that Alan Irvine is not the man to pioneer a late play-off push. He is not in contention for the job. All he represents is a form of continuity from Alex Neil, as denoted by the weekend’s conspicuously average showing against a profligate Barnsley. If a new man is appointed by the beginning of April, we can have rational reason to believe.
So please, board. Don’t let this season fade out into one of unremitting mediocrity. Be bold. Act quickly and give the fans a cause to unite behind with eight crucial games remaining. Our run in is hard. But I – amongst others I’m sure – believe that the right appointment could inspire something special.
My recent reading taught me that propaganda was central in fostering enhanced British morale in times of conflict. Exactly one hundred years on, shrewdness and decisiveness from Ed Balls and co could have equally triumphant consequences.