Adjusting to life in League One is hard. Our news is now hard to find on the BBC website; I’ve never heard of any of the players we’re signing or thinking of signing; we’re not in for any of the players starring in the World Cup - even the ones from Panama - and some cheeky sods are suggesting that Portsmouth are the biggest club in the division, like that’s a thing!
But I’m coping. I never much liked us signing players who’d had a good half in a meaningless World Cup group game. Not that I’m against foreign players, far from it, but too many players signed for us without knowing anything about the club and then didn’t fit in, or want to fit in, from day one.
A period out of the national media spotlight will do us no harm after the last couple of years. And Portsmouth? I’ve always enjoyed my trips to Pompey and it’s on my list for next year, but their main feature was someone ringing a bell from one of the paddocks to whip up support – all a bit third tier.
However, what’s got my pulse racing is hearing Stewart Donald on the Roker Rapport Podcast – simply the best bit of fanzine reportage ever. Well done lads.
Look, I’m not naïve, I’ve been around the block with owners and funders. But I’ve never heard someone in his position at any club speak with such obvious openness and honesty. Maybes it will all go tits up at some point, but you can’t fault the lad for trying and for doing his best for the club.
According to our owner (at the time of recording) just one first-teamer – Ethan Robson – made it abundantly clear that he sees his future with the club going forward. That lad deserves the freedom of the city and should be first on the teamsheet next season. I don’t care what happens from now on, in 40 years time when old players are welcomed back to the club for some sort of celebration of times past he deserves the biggest cheer for sticking with us and showing faith in the new regime.
As Donald made clear, there’s a huge amount of agent talk going on, and some of the lads who supposedly want to leave will start next season in a red and white shirt. Let’s not be too judgemental when it comes to the likes of Asoro, Honeyman and Gooch. If they stay they’ll be enormous assets in League One, and if they do well the transfer talk will subside. Perhaps a few players just need to be talked to one-on-one in order to ensure they buy into Jack Ross’ project on Wearside.
As for the rest – thanks a bunch but you’re the failed generation which has almost brought our club to its knees, so jog on, if you’re fit enough.
Apparently Lee Cattermole is open to moving on - but only if he leaves with ‘every penny’ due to him under his long-term contract. Some people say this is just his agent doing her thing to get the best deal for Catts, but he has clearly condoned this approach.
He can spend a few years training by himself on the beach as far as I’m concerned.
Lamine Kone has gone quiet too, for once, perhaps hoping we’ve all forgotten how far he let his professional standards fall in the last two years. Holding out for a big payoff? I hope not. Team Kone can ply it’s pitiful trade in the Northern League and get kicked from Eppleton to Ryhope for all I care.
I wrote previously about the rejuvenating effect we experienced in 1987, when we last went down to this level, and it’s the same atmosphere today, with season tickets flying out the door. But like last time, the first few weeks will be tricky. Who knows how good Jack Ross is, but chances are it will take a few weeks for a totally new team to bed down.
Charlton at home is a tough start and those first few games will be a hard lesson in the reality of League One. But, I’m confident that if we pull together and give the new regime a chance we’ll be heading quickly in the right direction. Oxford, Wycombe, Charlton, Luton, Southend – not the stuff of dreams, but the places I hope to get to next term to see us win.
We can do this. Ha’way me bonny lads!