Injury-time gut-wrenchers… pah!
Over the last 12 months City fans have endured more than their fair share of heartbreak – much of it courtesy of conceding injury-time goals – so to watch that 92nd minute header agonisingly loop over Joe Hart was no biggie for us.
And in the same way City don’t do opening day wins, neither do England – especially in the European Championships – and so in the Gowers’ household Russia’s equaliser was greeted with a shrug rather than tears.
Roy Hodgson will obviously take a pasting for his ‘game management’ but aside from defending poorly a single, late, hopeful, hanging cross for which the Russians had pushed forward their centre-back, they really didn’t do too much wrong.
Those who’ve read my previous incursions into international territory will know I’m no paid up member of the Hodgson fan club but what I saw last night was an England side with attacking intent, with two full-backs encouraged to join in and a team that, for once, played largely without fear. And, especially in the first half, they played some good, entertaining stuff.
Clearly there were elements that didn’t function as Gary Neville Roy would have liked, and Harry Kane looked every inch a striker who’d played 50+ games in 2015/16, but there was more than enough there to offer encouragement for what lies ahead.
And how about the form of Adam Lallana? Folk who know me will tell you, with great delight, that I had long marked his card as another Stewart Downing. How wrong I was.
Key will be how long the psychological scars remain from that late blow and if conservative Roy returns and perceives Thursday’s game with Wales as ‘not lose’, but the fact they played some good football at times at least sets this England disappointment apart from others of yesteryear.
It was only Russia though.
“We’ve got O’Neil…” oh, no we haven’t
News that Gary O’Neil had declined Alex Neil’s one-year deal in favour of a two-year version at Bristol City was greeted by some with horror; many of those same good folk seeing it as yet another example of the club sliding further down that slippery slope of Championship oblivion.
I’m not so convinced.
He clearly still has something to offer – the offer of another year was proof it it were needed – but at 33 years of age I’d be more concerned if Alex saw him as the fulcrum of our midfield for next season and beyond.
I’m not ‘in the know’ (as others seem to be) but my guess is that his one-to-one with the boss included him being made aware that he was unlikely to be a starter next season, and at 33 he clearly needs to play. I may be wrong but that, coupled with the offer of two years, made the Bristol City deal irresistible.
He’s clearly a decent guy who’ll be missed around the place, and he could certainly rock a head bandage, but in the brain freeze stakes of 2016/17 his offering at Stoke saw him take gold, just ahead of Russell Martin’s ‘pass’ to James Milner.
He’ll be missed but not that much.
It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel sort of Fine)…
The good ol’ Times did Ed Balls and the club few favours this week when it sensationally revealed that City are using two football agencies to help it conduct its transfer business over the summer.
The gist of the piece was that said agencies were looking to attract the highest possible fees for Nathan Redmond, Robbie Brady and Cameron Jerome, while it neglected to mention any involvement in players incoming.
Almost immediately the Twittersphere was awash with cries of ‘fire sale’, shortly followed by talk of a ‘crisis’ and not long after ‘shambles’ was tripping off the keyboards. By Friday night it was next stop National League South.
Now, I have absolutely no idea what is going on in the corridors of power at Carrow Road but there is no question that the timing of David McNally’s departure did throw a giant spanner in the works.
In order to fill the vacuum the chairman made it clear that short-term measures had been put in place so as to allow the club to function in the summer transfer market.
It now becomes clear that one of, probably, several measures was to appoint external ‘experts’ to assist in the process. Not unreasonable. Not unusual. Sensible even. But not good enough for some.
That Brady and Redmond were names mentioned came as no surprise. Both have ambition beyond which City can currently deliver and so in their own one-to-ones I suspect both made clear to Alex their wish to depart, hence them being touted to bigger clubs.
Jerome’s inclusion in the Times piece may simply be an indication that he’s unhappy with the reduced terms of his contract, triggered by relegation.
In all three cases it’s common sense that the club extracts every last pound out of any deal, made ever more pertinent by having additional agents fees to cover.
So, while it may just be my yellow tinted glasses offering me an overly idyllic view, I’m not convinced there is a rat here festering away. I just think – and hope – it’s the club making the best of a far from ideal situation.
Who saw that one coming? Not me. In fact, until a few weeks ago I was wrongly of the assumption we had sold Michael Turner to Sheffield Wednesday. But, along with Wes and Alex Tettey, he’s accepted the offer of another year at City.
This all came as part of a club announcement that listed the nine players who will be departing this summer, a list that includes FA Youth Cup winners Reece Hall-Johnson and Cameron Norman.
One suspects that the services of Steven Whittaker and now Turner have been securred with a view to them providing solid defensive cover next season rather than them being shoo-ins for the starting XI.
So… so far, plenty of departures, a few who we know wish to jump ship and a few old stagers who are hanging around for a while longer. The missing element, the one that will lift the spirits, is the arrival of some new faces. And I fear until they start trickling in we should brace ourselves for continued unrest.
The natives are restless and if patience is not your thing I can see there is plenty of scope for concern. Deep down I too worry that we’re not about to make hay in a season where parachute payments should be King, but can also see it’s still early days.
If we’re still lurching around without an obvious plan in July, then it’ll be time to worry.
In the meantime, if there’s one good thing to come out of Turner’s contract extension it’s that new life has been breathed into this. Enjoy.