And so the prologue ends with 46 crucial chapters to follow. The friendlies are completed and the serious stuff begins at Cardiff City’s Millennium Stadium at 3pm precisely on Saturday.
City followed up a 2-0 defeat at Celtic Park with a completely lacklustre 1-0 reverse at Easter Road against Hibernian yesterday which saw youngsters Jonathan Rowe, Jonathan Tomkinson, Liam Gibbs, Lewis Shipley and Brad Hills included in the starting line-up.
I had to remind myself who Shipley and Hills are because although the names rang the very faintest of bells I had to check their forenames on NCFC Official. I couldn’t find either until I delved into the depths of the under-18s.
I suppose this is what happens when the Head Coach decides he wants to play SPL Champions Celtic and a decent outfit such as the Hibees on consecutive days in order to prepare his first team for a gruelling campaign. Dean Smith must see some kind of logic in this as he’s done it before during his time at Villa but yours truly remains utterly unconvinced.
Isaac Hayden and Gaby Sara [pre-ordained], Kieran Dowell, Ben Gibson, Sam Byram [unexpected “strains”] and Tony Springett [rolled ankle] all missed our mini-tour of Scotland so it must have been a case of “when push comes to shove, sling in the kids”.
I know it’s Monday morning but I’m going to proffer a sobering thought nonetheless.
Dean Smith and Craig Shakespeare have a maximum of four days at Colney to get things sorted before we face Steve Morison & Co.
I do not know what Smith and Shakey have learned from pre-season. I’ve yet to see a discernible style and cannot even say for sure if we will be setting up 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. It looks like Max Aarons will be staying for now as only an eejit would have sanctioned the loan of Bali Mumba to Plymouth Argyle otherwise. I hope I’m right on that score anyway.
We are told that Gaby Sara will begin training for the first time tomorrow and the chances are that Byram, Dowell and Gibson will be joining him as well.
But the problem for Deano is that he needs to hit the ground running, something which Daniel Farke failed to do during each of his three Championship seasons. And there lies the rub. At the time Farke had the love and trust from supporters that Smith is yet to acquire and I am not so sure that he will be cut the same slack if it all goes pear-shaped early on.
Stuart Webber’s stock with the supporters was high at that point whereas now he seems as popular as a wasp in your summer pint.
Throw in the signings of yet another relatively expensive two players with known injuries and any feelgood factor dissipates even further.
Let’s hope this only a temporary feeling as I’m sure all wish Isaac and Gaby the rudest of heath for the season.
As for the Hibs match itself, it’s over to MFW’s man in the stands, Don Harold:
“I left Glasgow, arrived in Edinburgh, realised I had left my ticket in Glasgow, drove back to Glasgow and arrived in the ground about two minutes after the kick-off of the Joma shirts derby.
“I was surprised at our line-up. I didn’t recognise Hills or Shipley and the same applied to Kamara and Riley.
“It’s hard to see what kind of team we’re trying to be. We didn’t play a press in either of the weekend’s games and seem slow to play out of defence. I know the tempo should improve when the competitive season starts but I do have worries.
“It was good to see the youngsters. Tomkinson and Gibbs looked comfortably good enough to be important parts of the squad. Idah looked out of touch as should be expected of someone coming back from a long lay-off. The trouble is that he often looked just as out of touch before the injury!
“I chatted to a Hibs fan on the way back to the car. We had both been to the 1973 Dryborough Cup Final [a Scottish pre-season tournament of the 70s sponsored by a company that brewed terrible beer]. The final was at Hampden in front of about 50,000 and Hibs won 2-1. He was cautiously optimistic about Hibs’ forthcoming season and the management of Little Lee Johnson. He said nice things about us, but I got the feeling he was being polite.
“I’ve had a superb weekend but my losing goalless NCFC streak continues. Perhaps I have become a Jonah!”
I know that if I chose anything other than this to end with Gary would be having stern words with me (correct – Ed} and quite justifiably so.
It follows the Hibees 2016 Scottish Cup win over, erm, Kenny McLean’s lot. And Billy Gilmour’s club of choice too. You might just pick up on the sheer emotional power of this one: