The ShirleyMush View - Saints Go Native
Thursday, 24th Feb 2011 16:49 by ShirleyMush
ShirleyMush returns with his thoughts on the Hartlepool game
There has been much talk recently of Saints’ “glory” years under Lawrie McMenemy. I travelled to the Hartlepool game with a mate who had grown up watching the Saints teams of the early 1980s. I have often felt that this generation of supporters were rather spoilt by the quality of the football they witnessed during this period, as I can only imagine how exhilarating it must have been to see Kevin Keegan et al playing champagne football at The Dell. As a result of having missed all that, I am perhaps a little more tolerant of the mediocrity served up most weeks by the current Saints team. Sometimes I’m even grateful for having missed the McMenemy era. After all, if I’d seen the likes of Alan Ball and Steve Williams in Saints shirts, I might find it hard to stomach Dean Hammond too.
Hammond pretty much personified the grim fare served up in the north east on Tuesday night. Gritty, full of heart, but depressingly and frustratingly short of quality. Make no mistake, this was a game that did League 1 no favours from a marketing perspective. There was little in the way of atmosphere to compensate for the shortage of class, and the few “diamonds in the rough” that were on display failed to sparkle. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked jaded, Adam Lallana off the pace, and there were some desperate passages of play.
Just as it is hard to gauge whether this represented a point gained or two dropped, it is also difficult to judge whether Saints’ honest if rather toothless performance is indicative of progress or inertia. We have lost these games in the recent past. Defeats at Carlisle and Tranmere were huge blows to our promotion chances. Since the latter result, we are unbeaten in the league, but another trend has developed- in each fixture, Saints have tended to play at somewhere near the level of the opposition. A slick if ultimately fruitless exhibition of passing football against Manchester United was followed by a self-destructive capitulation at kamikaze Peterborough and a clueless display at home to an inept Carlisle team who at the time couldn’t win a raffle. At Victoria Park, Saints again took on the characteristics of their opponents- full of endeavour, but lacking in flair.
The team seem to be experiencing a personality crisis. Nigel Adkins displeasure about the players’ inability to play a quick passing game has been made increasingly public, but the suspicion remains that Adkins may not be the football purist he’d have us believe. His constant tinkering with the starting XI, as well as seeming to be counter-productive, also suggests that the game plan may alter from match to match too- something which would go some way to explaining the almost schizophrenic inconsistency of the team’s performances. It is, of course, difficult for Adkins. He inherited a relatively talented squad but also a high level of expectation, and is under pressure he probably hasn’t experienced before. Furthermore, like most managers arriving at a new club, he has felt the need to experiment in order to establish his strongest team. With a comparatively large squad, the agony of choice has come into the equation, and Adkins has been further hampered by injuries to key players. The experimentation has led to Saints exhibiting the symptoms of a patient with bipolar disorder- periods of intense creativity interspersed with spells of depression and despair.
Of course, we as supporters are largely powerless in all of this. We are the doting girlfriend of the manic depressive musician, helplessly watching as they spiral out of control, vicariously experiencing both the dizzy thrill of their highs and the anger and embarrassment of their lows. Sometimes they do things that are so reckless and stupid that we feel like giving up on them, but mostly we cling on in the hope that one day they’ll make another great artistic statement. Some recording artists don’t make a decent record for decades. Saints were at their creative peak between 1976 and 1985, before enjoying a brief return to form in 2003. Until they rediscover their muse, we’ll just have to encourage them as they produce lesser works.
Photo: Action Images
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When Saturday Comes #5 by wessex_exile
“Well, I can tell u my son was stood nearer the back of the Holker Street end and although he couldn't see who was responsible, he was disgusted and was very clear in telling me that the 'N' word was used by someone stood directly behind the goal nearer the front. I'm sick of hearing this, no one but the player being abused heard anything so maybe he was mistaken crap. This shite still exists despite everything that the authorities try to do because unfortunately there are still racists in every, city, town, village and hamlet in this country. [SwearFilter] scum of the earth.”
When Saturday Comes #4 by wessex_exile
I start with an apology for the no-show last weekend, but for all the right reasons. My nephew and his fiancé finally managed to tie the knot on Friday, at the fifth time of asking (previous four attempts falling foul of covid restrictions unfortunately). It was a fantastic afternoon and evening over in Essex, but meant it just wasn’t possible to get a blog produced. A significant proportion of the wedding party were U’s supporters, including the groom, but any thought of live-streaming the Rochdale game at the evening celebration might have resulted in the fastest divorce on record, so we contented ourselves with surreptitious glances at the BBC Sports updates – and what an own goal it was! Different circumstances, but I was (painfully) reminded of Aidan and Kevin’s howler at Blackburn – golden rule, never, ever pass the ball directly towards your own goal.
When Saturday Comes #3 by wessex_exile
The goalless U’s have eventually got that monkey off their backs, with the Frank and Freddie show combining to win a somewhat dubious penalty, in the 5th minute of injury time, allowing Freddie to get his new goal account at the U’s off and running (all in all he now has 37 goals, five of them penalties). It was tight though, and on another day the goalkeeper would have got a hand to it, but they all count, whether it’s a 25 yard peach or one off the arse. Everyone has rightly said that without doubt Mansfield were the best side we’ve faced so far – I’ll go so far as to say they’ll probably be one of the best sides we face all season. Though it wasn’t comfortable viewing at the time, some of their passing and movement, particularly on the break, was breath-taking at times. But enough of the love-in, however good they were, the U’s stood up to them, kept them out for the most part, and eventually got the point we deserved.
When Saturday Comes #2 by wessex_exile
Two games into the season, and although still goalless, it has been a reasonably promising start for the U’s. A tough opening day fixture away at Carlisle, and in front of a bumper crowd which delayed kick-off by 15 minutes, the U’s were largely resolute in defence, whilst still creating enough chances to have won the game if our finishing had been sharper. To be fair though, were it not for prodigal son Shamal George making his return to Brunton Park, we could just have easily lost – a performance which rightly earned him the Man of the Match award. Midweek at Championship club Birmingham City in the Carabao Cup was an even more spirited performance, and one which really should have seen the U’s victorious, but if you don’t take your chances you will get punished, and we did in the 75th minute. Much has been said about the opposition being a second (third?) string side, and with players taking the field with squad numbers in the 50s, that can’t be disputed. But, when you’re facing a team that actually has squad numbers in the 50s, you realise just how big a club our opposition was.
When Saturday Comes #1 by wessex_exile
So here we go for another rollercoaster ride on the trials and tribulations of being a U’s supporter. 2021/22 is a noteworthy personal milestone, as we start my 50th season following Colchester United Football Club. Nowhere near as long-suffering and venerable as some of you out there I know, but it’s significant to me that’s for sure. More of less this time next (on my birthday as it happens) will be my actual 50th anniversary – will I be celebrating with the U’s in League 1? Who knows, but with the players that Hayden Mullins has added to the squad during the summer, hope springs eternal.
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