Not since 2006/07, a season so forgettable we had Peter Grant in charge for most of it, have we had a run-in that was without even the slightest hint of jeopardy. But we have one now – and it’s not much fun.
It didn’t matter that City dropped two points yesterday, in the same way it didn’t really matter that Mitchell Dijks got sent off, that we went ahead, that we went behind, or even that ultimately Cameron Jerome (bless him) salvaged us a point. None of it really mattered.
And it won’t for the remaining nine games – unless by some miracle Leeds, Reading or Sheffield Wednesday hit an iceberg en route to the play-offs while City miraculously discover the formula for winning a game away from home. Not going to happen.
So we’d best get used to it.
It doesn’t help that several players in the current squad know full well that their days in the Fine City are numbered and that all those nine games offer them, if they actually make it onto the grass, is a shop window.
But that’s of course not to say that the talking points have dried up. Quite the opposite. It’s just that 99.9 per cent of talking points between now and the start of next season will pertain to events off the pitch.
What is clear, and was confirmed by Ed Balls in his series of interviews pre-match, is that Alex Neil’s P45 was but the first in a chain of events designed to gear this club up for life in the 21st century.
We’ve long established that while Alex was deemed not up to the job by the majority as winter gave way to spring – and eventually the Board agreed – his failings were far from being the sole reason this club has bumbled along outside the Championship’s play-off places via several car crashes.
One could argue that any success on his part would have been in spite of the system.
Balls’ admission that the sheet of paper is blank is at least an admission on the Board’s part that they too recognise the current structure as being one that’s unfit for purpose. That’s a start. They also need to recognise that there are several personnel in that same structure who are equally unworthy of being part of it.
What it can’t be is a cosmetic exercise designed to appease the “moaners” that Delia so despises; one that essentially just shuffles around the building blocks to such an extent it becomes unrecognisable but offers more of the same.
What it needs to be is innovative, yet sound and sustainable, and one that achieves the full buy in from top to bottom. And if that means Michael Wynn-Jones and Delia having to alter their view on the evils of anyone or anything that threatens their stranglehold on this football club then all well and good.
They were part of the solution in the mid-90s. In 2017 they are part of the problem.
Whether a revised structure that includes the pair of them at its heart, however the boxes are linked up, can propel this club forward will only be revealed in the coming months and years; indeed if they are at its heart, and part of me wonders if now is Tom Smith’s time.
Either way, if his time is now or if he’ll be eased into the hot-seat in the months/years to come, it’s clear there will be limitations placed on what exactly he can do with his shares, so modernisation and clarity have to be key in this brave new world.
With the parachute payments running out in just over a year’s time and the current financial model being only workable if propped up by massive dollops of Sky and BT money, the new model will need to be embedded in a long-term plan; one that recognises, as much as we all wish otherwise, that this club may be in receipt of second tier revenue for the foreseeable.
I wrote around this time last season my theory on how to be a Premier League club this club needed to do something different and extraordinary. That we’re no longer one suggests we did neither. Now, one year on, I stand by that theory albeit it now needs to happen in order for this club to sustain itself as a competitive Championship club.
Minus any financial support from outside the existing streams we’re threatened with a future as Championship also-rans. Those we consider direct rivals will, in many cases, be in receipt of financial help from outside of just gate receipts and incoming transfer fees and we’ll be the poor relations of many – just how we were in the mid to late 90s.
But, as Huddersfield have shown, thinking outside of the box and doing well with what you have within a structure that works can be sufficient to propel you beyond some with deeper pockets. We should know.
Yet it’s going to take bravery, a willingness to admit mistakes of the past and a desire to do what’s best for this club regardless of self-interest to make it work. Only then can we genuinely look forward with ‘hope in our hearts’.
All will hopefully be revealed in the next few days.