D3D4 Columnist and Walsall fan Darren Young decides it is time to eat some humble pie and give credit where credit is due…
Turkey, all the trimmings and Humble Pie for Me This Christmas
A few weeks ago, I broke from the usual nonsense and went for some a little closer to home, using this column to call for a change of manager at my club, Walsall.
Now, I don’t normally stray into Banks’s Stadium territory for that very reason. I’m too connected to be unbiased and too emotionally attached to the subject matter and therefore, prone to say things that I might, one day, come to regret.
Which brings me back to that previous column. It had the hallmarks of an egg on face article from the start. And typically, straight after I wrote it, Walsall and manager Jon Whitney did what Walsall and manager Jon Whitney always do, and pulled a rabbit (and three goals) out of the hat at Doncaster.
But we’ve had false dawns before so I kept my nerve and sure enough, a dismal home defeat followed that. One swift never made a summer.
However, how many swifts does it take to make one? Since that last defeat, we’ve won three on the bounce, beating in-form teams, Fleetwood and Scunthorpe plus picking up a tricky away win at AFC Wimbledon.
Not just scrappy wins either. Decent football (I can’t recall a match with so many goals set up by back heels as ours with Fleetwood), long range beauties and dominant displays (Scunthorpe being the classic example as it always finishes 1-4 yet on Saturday they didn’t have enough shots to get two, let alone four).
We did lose a Checkatrade Trophy match in the middle but I’m not counting that one as we can’t have it both ways. One minute, as ‘fans’ we don’t care and it’s not an important competition and then, when it suits, we all of a sudden do care; it’s a missed opportunity of a trip to Wembley (that we apparently wouldn’t go to anyway if we got there) and we use it to berate the manager because it’s the only stick available at the time to beat him with.
You see, in any sport, three wins is three wins and at what point do you say it is an improvement, an upturn in fortunes and worthy of a change of opinion? When do you say that the manager has to have been at least partly responsible for the success and it wasn’t the opposition being crap, the pitch, the weather, the fans’ unofficial website or Brexit wot won it?
For me that point is now.
I’ll admit I was hasty and wrong to write that article, and I’ll apologise to Jon Whitney for that.
Just watch us lose three nil at Northampton on Saturday now!
But even if we do, and I’m getting a rare chance to see our final two away games before Christmas, I’m still not going to turn again. I’m going to get behind him for at least the rest of this season to find out if it’s a flash in the pan or the real thing, and that means not jumping ship if Rochdale beat us on Christmas Eve’s Eve.
The ‘we love you, we hate you’ relationship we have with our clubs is better suited to Ross and Rachel in Friends. I’ve been critical for a long time and said it’s a problem with football today; that very few people are prepared to look longer term.
Sadly, after fighting it so much, I ended up on the bandwagon.
I honestly believed enough was enough after too many dropped home points, and that change was the only realistic alternative to another season of mediocrity and poor performances in the name of entertainment.
I couldn’t see where it was going to get better. The tactics felt all wrong, players were out of position, it seemed like there was in-fighting going on behind the scenes and a turnaround looked as unlikely as Pep and Jose spending Christmas Day together.
So, I admit, I wanted to see us go another way. In a very respectful way though. For the record, I politely said that I felt the manager should be changed. That is was time for a fresh approach and new pair of hands on the training pitch. I also said he seemed a thoroughly decent bloke who had shown the club a lot of loyalty. I didn’t pick up on any pre-match or post-match soundbite and belittle him for it. I didn’t call him clueless, a moron or worse, or tell him to f**** off, call him a w***** or a c*** as I heard lots do at MK Dons and that apparently happened during that convincing win at Donny Rovers.
And I did it after real consideration; not just because we conceded a corner or took off an [injured] striker. It was definitely with a heavy heart although I see some so-called supporters who seem to absolutely hate it when we do win because it damages their narrative and rhetoric. For a few days, anyway.
And it’s also really easy to fondly look back at Dean Smith’s tenure with the red coloured tinge of Wembley and a near miss in the play offs. But to reach that stage we went through some thinner times, with worse results and performances than the current manager has ever dished up. But Deano got it right in the end. He’d have been called something else had he not.
So maybe change can come from within.
Maybe Jon Whitney – still a very raw manager let’s not forget – has worked out a better style, system or way of motivating the players.
Maybe he’s just got luckier. Who knows?
Actually, who cares? I just hope it continues.
But if I’m prepared to call for his head (which I hated doing anyway) then I have to be prepared to also put up my hand and say well done Jon Whitney, and the team, for proving me wrong.
I’m really glad you did.
I’ve a feeling that Jon Whitney won’t need or care that much about my apology.
He’s a big lad, with thick enough skin to take it and ride the abuse he’s been getting. And all power to him. Football has enough over sensitive souls as it is.
Like the Welsh FA who are investigating their own CEO for saying – actually pointing to someone else saying it – that the next Welsh manager should be ‘definitely not English’. I ask you!
So, who should be making decisions about Welsh football in future?
Someone Welsh? Probably.
A foreigner? Possibly.
Maybe even someone English.
But definitely not the clowns there at the moment.
Darren’s original column can be found here: