The clean sheet of paper afforded by a new season invariably offers hope – even where there is none – and as the media heavyweight that is Perry Groves explained on talkSPORT, “Everyone starts level”.
Insightful stuff Grovesy.
And while it’s hard to argue with Essex’ finest, although everyone starts level they don’t all start at the same time. Already Blackburn have drawn with Cardiff and by the time City and Wolves kick-off tomorrow at 4pm, the rest of the Championship will all have ninety minutes under their belts.
As Ed (Couzens-Lake) pointed out, it’s ironic that given one of the supposed advantages of being back in the Football League is the ‘3pm on Saturday’ afternoon kick-offs, our opening salvo is played out live on Sky TV in their Sunday primetime slot.
And, bravado to one side, it makes me a tad nervous.
All too often in the recent past City have been dazzled by the bright lights of Murdoch’s men and, although that record has slowly improved over time, to watch them on the box invariably involves sweaty palms, profanities, sighing and more profanities.
It’s generally a fairly unpleasant experience that’s littered, occasionally, with the odd nugget of gold. I hope tomorrow the nuggets are of the old gold variety.
But for the superstitious among us, an opening day fixture away at Wolves and live TV coverage is a fairly toxic cocktail.
City don’t do opening day wins of course – at least not very often. A Phil Mulryne inspired 4-0 home win against Grimsby in August 2002 was the last one.
That this particular opening day occurs at Molineux – second only to Portman Road in the ‘I wanna go home’ stakes – with the home side on the bounce of a League One Championship makes it doubly tricky.
And the bookies agree. Some have Wolves as short as 6/5 for the win, with a City win being as generous as 23/10.
In reality of course, it matters not one jot what the bookies or pundits or bloggers think, and it matters little that City’s opening day record is so dire.
As Perry would no doubt remind us, it’s eleven versus eleven and it’s all about what happens on the day.
That City haven’t managed a win on opening day for eleven consecutive seasons will hopefully mean nothing to Neil Adams’ chosen XI – most will be blissfully unaware – and the aforementioned clean sheet of paper applies equally to unwanted records and bogey grounds.
Much will depend – for tomorrow and the season ahead – on Adams’ ability to motivate and organise. Even allowing for a departure or two, the hand at his disposal will be one of the strongest in the Championship. Player for player, pound for pound City will be up there.
The trick of course is to translate that advantage on to the pitch and make it count where it matters. Adams will up against some experienced Championship operators – one of them only 45 miles away – who know the league inside out.
It will be an unforgiving place but, for City to succeed, the boss needs to more than match the guile and know-how from every opposing technical area. In the game of chess that is Championship football the moves need to be meticulously planned.
Earlier this week on talkSPORT, Bournemouth captain Tommy Elphick extolled the virtues of his manager, Eddie Howe, explaining his fastidious eye for detail and innovative methods, and in the pre-amble to tomorrow’s game Wolves boss, Kenney Jackett reminded us, “…I’ve done fantastic analysis and broke down the opposition perfectly…”
And then there are others, like Mr McCarthy, who will adopt a less subtle but equally tried and tested approach to getting out of the Championship via the top end. Every game will throw up different challenges and we need to trust the Adams, Holt and Robson combo to meet them head on.
In fairness, the signs are good. While pre-season is a notoriously poor barometer for what lies ahead, this summer it was important that City rediscovered the noble art of winning. And they’ve done that (even if we take a 13-0 win against ‘who knows’ out of the equation).
In the process Adams has shown himself to be adaptable and flexible in his approach, both in terms of personnel and systems, while always having a core plan. The challenges before him are aplenty and mistakes will be made along the way. But there are signs of an identity re-emerging.
And the real hard work starts now. While a defeat at Wolves wouldn’t render the summer’s work futile, it would be disappointing. But nothing more. Adams needs to be afforded time.
Let’s give him that chance.
Thanks to all our readers who took the time to offer us their chosen XI for the Wolves game and the respective formation. For the record the consensus was for a 4-2-3-1 with the following personnel:
——————————— Ruddy ———————————-
Martin ——— R Bennett ————- Turner ————Olsson
—————— Johnson ————— Surman ——————–
———- E Bennett ——- Hoolahan ——— Redmond ———
——————————— Grabban ——————————-
And, in the virtual world of Football Manager, Martin Emerson informs me this team was successful! Only time will tell whether the 3-2 win over Wolves is a good omen, but it does confirm what we already knew: that the MFW readers are a knowledgeable bunch. Thanks to Martin for masterminding this ‘opening day’ win; hopefully the first of many.
“Never mind the danger…”