All I asked for was one goal. One bloomin’ goal. For a team that couldn’t keep a clean sheet for love nor money last season, was it too much to ask. To let me run rampant with a snatch of Golden Gordon here, a snippet there. For all the agony and occasional ecstasy, was that too much to ask for?
I won’t let the minor problem of a clean sheet spoil the fun. Nor, should I add, will we let an 8 – 0 win bolster ambitions too highly. It’s pre-season, a time when hope springs eternal before the dank autumn gives way to winter.
The sun is shining and the squad is in its Austrian boot camp, preparing for a swift set of friendlies ahead of what seems to be toughest test next season can offer: Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
As we search for any hint or glimmer of what the future may hold in the next few weeks, it becomes harder to hold onto your expectations, to stop them floating off into the sky like a wayward balloon at a funfair. You’ve got the string firmly in your grasp but win after win after win, in quick succession, saps your strength and your grip on reality is loosened.
On the opening day of the season, you are there and you find the victories over the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club second XI mean nothing. The harsh reality of blood and thunder – or thud and blunder as we found last season – takes over; this is a promotion fight and the last man standing is the victor.
An 8 – 0 win is unlikely to be bettered in the next three or four weeks. In a way, that’s a blessing. We need a reality check. Not the brutal one of defeat but one which tempers the view that turning up means victory.
We didn’t turn up last season, what makes you think we will this time?
A new way of thinking is needed and we have the positive encouragement of new management on and off the pitch. Experienced professionals and energetic youngsters. So long as they are all streetwise, that’s all that counts.
With some time to go until the transfer window closes, there will be more changes. Some good, some bad but that’s the beauty of pre-season. We’re still lying on the beach and as much as the players are toning themselves up for the coming season, so are we. There’s no need for angst, little need for awe. Enjoy a match. Be partisan by all means but it doesn’t matter: match fitness is all that counts.
With a new manager the next few weeks is about ironing out mistakes, getting attuned to new teammates. And for us, it’s getting back into the swing of things. Getting the routines re-adjusted for kick-off. “Sorry love; Norwich away” can be tested in front of the mirror with varying degrees of assertion: genuine regret through defiance. Get the facial expressions right.
Pre-season is for everyone in football, not just the players.
And if you’re too young to remember, the one programme where football truly captured the supporters angst: Ripping Yarns – Golden Gordon…