I write this, a bottle of Merlot deep, at 11:30pm following the deeply depressing Huddersfield defeat.
Common sense is telling me to just go to sleep and think again in the morning. But, to be a football fan, to really care, is to suffer with your team.
And at the moment we are suffering.
I look at the team and ask myself: ‘What can be done?’
Well, although we’ve just seen 90 minutes go by with a big fat zero to add to the goals for column, I’m surprisingly not going to point at that area. Until recently we were one of the highest scorers in all of Europe, and nothing that Jerome or Oliviera have done this season suggests they won’t score goals again next season.
Neither am I going to point at the defence. ‘Why not?’ I hear you ask. Shooting fish in a barrel comes to mind. Too easy.
But I will point at the goalkeeping position. And I will point out the factoid tweeted by Jake Humphrey that although Michael McGovern has played 50 per cent more games than John Ruddy, JR has kept twice as many clean sheets. Because somebody should. It’s not often I find myself in agreement with our Jake, but it seems we live in unusual times.
I will point at the fact that McGovern has, for the second game running, been responsible for at least one, and possibly more, of the goals we have conceded, although God knows, Ryan Bennett has done his best to challenge him for the title of ‘most culpable’.
When McGovern was signed in that post-Euro euphoria of being one of the keepers of the tournament and being the ‘best goalkeeper Alex Neil had ever worked with’, the general reaction seemed to be ‘Oh. Didn’t know we needed a goalie. Well he looked good for Northern Ireland. In Neil we trust’.
In truth, we really didn’t need another goalkeeper. We had Ruddy. We had Rudd. We had Matthews. And latterly we had Paul Jones. Adding McGovern was a luxury acquired in the period where we had no CEO and where we chucked £90k at Ed Balls to hold that particular fort over the summer (despite saying Steve Stone was in charge). And where we promptly gave a three-year contract to a 32 year-old who had never played at this level before.
In terms of the goalkeeping position for next season we now have Ruddy out of contract and potentially in the ‘big pay cheque’ portion of his career.
We have McGovern with two years left of his contract who inspires zero confidence from the fan base and seemingly little confidence from what passes for our defence, as they have no clue where he is or whether he’s coming to collect the ball at any given time.
We have Rudd, also out of contract, who reports suggest has been average at Charlton in League One.
We have Matthews, who has earned rave reviews at Hamilton, but following McGovern and Tony Andreu, this hardly seems the Everest of achievement pinnacles.
And we have Paul Jones who has been the quiet, invisible number three, doing reasonably well whenever called upon for unobtrusive duty. The Carlo Nash commemorative award awaits.
We have to resolve this. Either bite the bullet and give Ruddy a contract or scrap the majority and bring someone else in as first choice keeper.
With his remaining two years of contract and current place in the team, McGovern seems to be in pole position for August. This would be an accident waiting to happen. He’s a reasonable shot stopper, yes. But so should any goalkeeper be at this level.
He has no presence, no communication, and no command of his area. He was only here because Alex Neil had a soft spot for him. We don’t need to suffer under that misplaced loyalty any more.
Getting rid of McGovern may be the most expensive option, but the alternative, to keep playing him for financial rather than footballing reasons, will bleed the life out of this team and fan base. Put him up for sale and take any offer. Any offer. A set of tracksuits and a subscription to What Car magazine?
Done. You have been.
Ruddy? I still think he’s our best option. Burton’s second goal in our recent abysmal away defeat aside (if you remember it was kind of sandwiched in-between the abysmal away defeat to Rotherham and the abysmal away defeat to Sheffield Wednesday – both a little way before the abysmal away defeats to Aston Villa and Huddersfield), I don’t think he’s been glaringly responsible for too much this season.
When he’s in form he’s still one of the best keepers in this division, and if we can side-line the absolute circus that he’s had to play behind for four years and bring in some defenders with more backbone than a jellyfish, he should be good enough.
You need some continuity when you make massive changes. I reckon Big John would be ours at the back. Keep Jones as another steady Eddie, and one of Rudd or Matthews as your three options, and offload the other.
Now is not the time to back the errors of the predecessors and keep McGovern because we foolishly signed a big expensive contract. Now is the time to right our wrongs so we can move forward.
Stewart Lewis says
A lot of sense here, Andy, as well as pain. That Merlot can’t have been too bad.
I still have faith in Ruddy’s ability to be first-choice keeper for an ambitious City team. In fairness, though, two things have to be acknowledged. His overall form over the past couple of years hasn’t matched previous levels. And he did commit a howler to open the floodgates at Hillsborough.
This seems fair enough, start at the back and work forward as to who to keep, or let go. The verdict seems to be, if Ruddy will take a pay cut we’ll be quite happy otherwise it’s all change.
Looking forward to the hatchet job on the defence, I’m guessing that’s the next article, I’m sensing all change here as well!
Jan Blazak says
Couldn’t agree more..
Though same elsewhere…. Martin/Whittaker/Turner(who?)/Bassong/Naismith/Tettey (can’t pass wind)/ and sick notes Dorrans/Jarvis/Mulumbu… all need to be added to the departure lounge… however much it costs…. end of
See what you have left… put the kids in … and then buy young hungry quality who can improve for the gaps… is it that hard?
Jan Blazak says
Oh and Bennett needs a one way ticket too
And I thought I was the only one who still rated Ruddy as our number one number one. If nothing else, he has presence, and can also kick a ball (Sheffield Wednesday excepted), whereas McGovern always looks like a calamity waiting to happen. It was obvious that AN just could not wait to demote Ruddy at the first available opportunity.
Here’s the controversial bit; if we are to see the best of Pritchard, Maddison and the Murphy’s, where is the place for Wes?
Time for a farewell??
O T B C
Andy Head says
The Merlot takes the blame for me forgetting the Sheff Wed opener.
I’ve already done a piece on the defence not so long ago so I’ll leave them alone. Someone else can wade through that paticular swamp if they want!
Ruddy’s form has dropped a little and replacing is certainly an option. I’d be inclined to keep him simply because we have so many holes to fill with the defence in particular that it saves us a difficult search for yet another player, plus I still think a rejuvenated defence would be a tonic for Ruddy.
Secret Canary says
Ruddy is better than McGovern, but wouldn’t get in any of the teams in the top 6. He has been average at best for some time, and not many keepers come back from bring repeatedly dropped; it tends to suggest he’s not good enough. McGovern was a pointless signing. It would have been better to give Rudd the gloves for the first 15 games of the season in a bid to prove himself once and for all. At least then we’d know either way. Last season in the flurry of wins around Christmas time he was excellent and won us the points before making a series of mistakes. I can’t remember the last time Ruddy was regularly contributing to wins.
Alex B says
Hi all, I agree with all the suggestions of who to get rid of except Bennet as I have said a few times in the last few months when Klose was playing well and Bennett was with him he also played well.
AN must have had a problem with Bennett as he never gave him a long enough run in the side to develop his skills with Klose he only got game time when Martins was out who is never a prem or championship CM at the best of times he now struggles to be a RB when needed. Whittaker, Bassong, Turner, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Tettly, Mcgovern should be ditched, go back to Derby and try for B Johnson he shouldn’t have been sold he was the strength in midfield.
You’re all agreeing a keeper who concedes nearly a goal for every shot on target and has been part of the worst defence is recent memory other than the French in WW2 should be staying on? What is wrong with you lot?! He MUST go for the sake of our club. Do you lot support a different club? Do you know what a goalkeeper is supposed to do? I can imagine Delia agreeing with you all nicely. This is surreal.
PS. You’re also wrong about rudd. He has been getting rave reviews and was described as the best keeper in league one a few weeks back. Ruddy, like most of our squad, peaked in our first prem season and has been woeful since. Please get a grip.
Ruddy must be one of the top earners. He certainly isn’t amongst the top performers, even during such a lean season.
I feel he hasn’t been the same since Paul scholes reckless tackle put him out of action years ago. He was dreadful last season costing us many points.
The idea secret canary proposes regarding putting Rudd in for a concerted run to give him the opportunity to pitch for a regular spot would have been the ideal.
An athletic, imposing figure between the sticks this season cloud have garnered some extra points to perhaps make a difference. See the form of Bialkowski at Ipswich, who has kept them in games single handed ly and possibly has kept them up, to witness what a good goalkeeper can do for a team,
Elsewhere, like Jan, I’m all for offloading the sick notes, but realise that it might be very difficult if the said individual is on a lucrative contract with no clamour from elsewhere for his services.
Alex Neil really did saddle us with some expensive duds. His legacy.
Andy Head says
Funny you say that John. There’s a Wes piece coming up at some point next week. My Football Writer – Proactive, not Reactive!
Gary Gowers says
Have to confess, I’m with our Jeff (9) on this one. No one can doubt Ruddy’s contribution to the cause but, for me, the goalkeeping department is one of those in desperate need of a refresh.
JR may be pick of the bunch but he’s one who looks ready for a scenery change.
I have noticed that when on the bench, Ruddy seems to be in a sulk.
He never takes part in the half time warm up, that all the other subs take part in. WHY?
I agree Rudd should be given a chance, can’t be worse than the other keepers that’s for sure.
rory mc govern says
What a hatchet job on michael mc govern. Back him and he will get better.
McGovern plays like an outfield player forced to play in goal
A few reaction saves then gives up. Supposed to make the goal look small to the striker but did the opposite for the first goal
Bennett makes himself look bad sometimes because he’s the only one trying.
Rudd did well,had two bad games and was abandoned
Ruddy has been dropped after poor team performances and it has affected his confidence
McGovern has been allowed to carry on after a long run of disasters, if he’s no 1 next season we’re in big trouble.
In answer to rory mc govern its not a hatchet job on mcgovern just a factual assessment of his ability. He is just not up to the standard required at this level and unfortunately backing him will not improve him. During his time at ncfc he has never dominated his goal area crosses fly through both on the ground and in the air totally uninterupted by him, he pulls off a good save occasionally usually as result of his failure to cut out a cross. I have been supporting city for over 40 years and watched some great keepers, sadly he isn’t one of them.
Good article but a bit harsh on MMcG… He has been soft at times, but so have been the rest of the defence. He made a few decent saves before being Bennetted for the second time in four days. Give the man a better defence with the likes of Evans and Macauley and he will deliver as he has.
Andy Head says
Rory – McGovern has had a lot of opportunities this season and has never once shown anything other than shot-stopping. He’s clearly out of his depth. I can’t follow the “let’s show blind faith” route with these players any more. We’ve “backed them and hoped they’d get better” a million times. It has patently not worked.
Gary Field says
@19 Andy Head. We had a Twitter exchange on this subject following the game and I believe our views are broadly similar.
For me, John Ruddy is still the number one. I accept that he may not have been on his top form this season and he may even be past his best. Getting back up last summer was sensible – even if I personally doubted the need for the two arrivals.
For me the whole transfer business is about squad evolution; bringing in “the next number one” and, to my mind, bringing in two thirty somethings – one of whom who had never played at this level before – just smacked of poor recruitment
Inside right says
I wanted Rudd as first choice this season as I thought he would perform well at this level, but clearly he wasn’t rated. Ruddy, while better than McGovern, should be shown the door as he is clearly on the way down. There is no logic in keeping him.
You would have to agree with Paddy Davitt, who correctly states that all the defence with maybe the exception of Pinto should be shown the door.
I’d like to see Rudd come back and a new keeper added. We need too clear as much as the dead wood as possible and we have forest at Carrow Road.
I have a feeling that perhaps Ruddy isn’t starting not because of his ability but because the club knows he won’t be here next season.
As for next season, I’d get shot of Ruddy and McGovern (someone would probably take him on loan) and possibly even Rudd and have Matthews and Jones battling it out with a new signing for the no 1 jersey. Worth looking at going down the loan route as well – I hear Sam Johnstone is playing well at Villa (on loan from Man U) and it worked well for us when we got Forster under Lambert.