The news that Jonathan Rowe has returned to the club after sustaining an ankle injury while training with the England Under-21s was symptomatic of a season that keeps on delivering in the worst possible way.
Things that can go wrong tend to.
Without wanting to tempt fate, it would surprise no one if in this Thursday’s presser, David Wagner announces that Gabriel Sara is out until the new year with a rolled ankle. It’s been that type of campaign and right now, at least to many City fans, we feel like that kind of club.
Much of it, both on and off the pitch, has been self-inflicted, and in terms of injuries, we’ve not picked up more than anyone else – despite some club officials trying to convince us otherwise – but there’s no disputing that ours have been to the good players in a squad that is full of fairly average ones.
The double blow of losing Josh Sargent and Ashley Barnes within seven days of each other was particularly cruel. We can only hope that both are edging ever closer to full fitness and that Rowe’s early return to Colney was more precautionary than anything else.
Hope. Something we’ve done a lot of lately.
But what has been clear this week is that those of us hoping to see a change of head coach are going to be disappointed.
The seeds were sewn by Neil Adams, of all people, in a fans’ forum in Great Yarmouth when asked about the Wagner situation he spoke of a club that doesn’t take ‘knee-jerk’ decisions, that doesn’t believe in churning head coaches at a rate of knots and that “the club is looking at more than just results”.
Final confirmation that Wagner’s position was safe came when he spoke of the club needing to ‘look around the edges’.
The good win in Cardiff, five days after the event in Yarmouth, bought Wagner yet more time, and with Stuart Webber exiting stage left that same day – once he’d been afforded his guard of honour in Cardiff – it became clear that any big decisions were going to be left to Ben Knapper.
As everyone knows by now, Knapper started on Monday – the ridiculous handover planned with Webber thankfully shelved – and was, of course, never going to go in all guns blazing and deliver a silver bullet in the form of a P45. Those hoping for one were always destined for disappointment.
Any lingering doubts about Wagner’s immediate position were quashed once Knapper spoke, which unsurprisingly came via the club’s official channels. If you haven’t seen it…
And to be fair, he came across very well – as you would expect of someone who came out top in what was, we’re told, a rigourous interview process. Aside from all his other undoubted qualities, here is a man who clearly knows his way around a PowerPoint presentation and an Excel spreadsheet.
He said all of the right things, of course – in an in-house interview it’s quite difficult to say the wrong thing – but he did deliver a few important messages, including the one about introducing a brand of exciting, attacking football across the whole club, from academy teams through to the women’s team and the men’s first team.
He also spoke of a good relationship with Wagner, built up over a series of phone calls and meetings.
His whole demeanour wasn’t, in truth, too dissimilar to Webber circa 2017.
But, in terms of the playing side, this is very much the start of a new era for our football club such is the key role a sporting director plays in the structure our club now deploys. Knapper needs to be given time to embed his ideas and ideals and, for now, that includes him taking a closer look at Wagner’s methods, tactics, and plans.
And we have to accept that. We have no choice.
Unless something very drastic occurs, and by drastic I mean a humping (or two) that makes the 6-2 in Plymouth look like a decent performance, Wagner is going to be in situ on Derby Day, which is but 27 days away.
That, for me, is D-Day. Win at Portman Road (as unlikely as that feels right now), and Wagner does a bit more than buy himself a few more days. But lose, especially badly, and the relatively light heat that he felt in the aftermath of the Blackburn defeat will be cranked up several notches.
To be City’s head coach when the unbeaten run since 2009 comes to an end will be no place to be when the majority of supporters have already spent several months questioning your worthiness of the job.
Harsh perhaps but, as I see it, that’s the reality.
Wagner though, as desperate as his situation has become in the view of the fans, clearly isn’t feeling that same heat from within. He’s even been on the receiving end of ‘we have your back’ phone calls from Michael and Delia, so it is well worth noting that the picture as we all see it, is very different from the one seen by Messrs Knapper and Adams.
We, as ever, are perceived to be the ones who are impatient and out of step by those in power.
So, for now, we have no option but to park our reservations over Wagner and hope that in the next few weeks, he is able to extract something out of this ordinary team that helps it perform greater than the sum of its parts.
The jury is still very much out but with two of the bottom three upcoming in the next few weeks prior to the Ipswich game, there should be no excuses or hiding places.
The bad luck I wrote of earlier hasn’t extended to Wagner himself, who can consider himself lucky to still be in a job, but the ball is now in his court and he has a chance to prove us all wrong.