It’s been well acknowledged that it’s Chris Hughton’s philosophy to treat triumph and disaster the same; a prerequisite for any top flight manager. It’s therefore fair to assume that he also has the ability to keep his head when all around him are losing theirs.
At least let’s hope so…
A quick skim of the social media and message-boards post-Anfield was enough to have even the most level-headed members of the Yellow Army reaching for the sharp objects.
There is no hiding away from the abjectness of yesterday’s performance, and even those of us for whom the pint-glass is half-full have struggled to unearth too many positives. But we need to remind ourselves that this is the same group of players who took us all on that terrific ten game unbeaten run.
Without wanting to state the obvious (I think I’m about to)… the players don’t become bad ones overnight in the same way that Hughton doesn’t become a bad manager over the course of a two months. The same players who – in the midst of the ten games – took the scalps of Arsenal and Manchester United.
Despite what the national media will have us believe, results like those don’t occur because of giant dollops of luck. They happened because we have some good players who are capable of producing match winning performances, and a management team that is capable of getting the best out of them.
Yesterday was a bad day – a very bad one – akin to the opening day of the season or the reverse fixture; but we’re not the first – and won’t be the last team – to succumb to Suarez, Gerrard and co. Whilst they’re not the Liverpool of old, they still have players capable of inflicting damage… and to lose your best defender on the eve of playing them was always going to be a difficult one to cope with.
I can’t have been alone in having a slight sinking feeling when the team sheet arrived, yet – when the afternoon turned out as many predicted – we go into meltdown.
To have achieved the heady heights of seventh was great but was never going to be for the long-term. In the same way, I don’t expect us to be sinking into the bottom three anytime soon, whatever the doom-mongers may wish us to believe.
Yes, things are in need of a shake-up; Hughton will be acutely aware, hence his confirmation of bids for both Gary Hooper and Danny Graham. (It was worthy of note therefore that our Celtic target should pitch up with a brace yesterday – a little reminder of his value to our Glaswegian friends – while Graham’s contribution was just a 17 minute cameo).
Whilst I remain unconvinced that either will pitch up at Colney in this particular transfer window, this at least smacks of an acknowledgment that things need to be freshened up.
With our search for a striker remaining the main focus of the ‘Sky Sports understands…’ brigade, one should also assume that the need to strengthen all areas of the squad remains prominent in Hughton’s thoughts.
With several players – most of whom played key roles in the good run – suffering dips in form, a couple of new faces could work wonders in terms of giving the squad and fans a lift. The margins are really that fine… a couple of good results and then we potentially find ourselves just two or three wins from safety.
Even a good FA cup win against Luton may serve to turn a few of the current frowns into smiles; chuck a couple of new faces into the mix and the remainder of the season looks slightly less daunting.
Whether the next eleven days will reveal a new face, or two, remains to be seem, but I’d expect yesterday’s defeat to at least heighten the desire to ‘give the current group a hand’.
With Reading and QPR – the two that many of us had down as ‘goners’ – starting to show signs of improvement, there is a clear need to revive our season. There currently still remains a cushion between us and the bottom three – even after picking up one point from eighteen available – so to kick-on sooner rather than later is critical.
The alternative is… well, let’s not go there right now.
So… let’s hold our nerves folk, in the same way that McNally, Hughton and co will. Now is not the time to lose our heads.
As Jonesy would say…