Monday, May 24, 2010

What next for City?

I've waited a few days before posting anything about "that" game at Wembley on Saturday, waiting for the pain to subside, and thought it hasn't really, I feel I have to write something.

Ok, let's get the basics out of the way. Thought it really hurts to say it, Blackpool were the better side on the day. They looked like they wanted it more. City sat off and despite taking the lead twice through superb goals, and hitting the bar twice, we were just abject in defence. Defend like that and you'll get beaten by a Sunday parks team. A decent Championship side (now Premiership side) will severely punish you - and they did. When Bothroyd went off on 15 minutes, the writing was on the wall for me. City didn't start playing until about 75 minutes. Too little, too late. Game over.

The shame of it is that of the 40,000 or so Blackpool "fans", only about 10,000 are real fans - the rest are just jumping on the back of the day. They didn't even look excited in the car park afterwards.

So, where do City go from here? The optimistic will say automatic promotion next year. The realistic will say if we can hold on to some of our players and our manager, maybe the same - playoff contenders. The pessimistic will say, that's as good as it gets. Players and manager will go, we'll fail to compete next term and with our financial troubles as yet unresolved, it's going to get a lot worse. Currently I sit in the realistic camp. I'm sure some of our best players will go. Ledley's out of contract; Whittingham, Bothroyd, Chopra (the only one with Ledley who came out of Saturday with any positives for me) and McCormack will surely attract interest from other clubs, and probably Premiership ones at that. Dave Jones is being spoken of in respect of other jobs.

But, and here's what I'm clinging to. Outgoing Chairman Peter Ridsdale hands over to Malaysian Dato Chan Tien Ghee (TG) on Thursday, and TG said on Saturday he's committed to keeping Jones and investing in the club for the future, to "get back here". If he holds true to his word, it may not be so bad for City. We can only wait and see.

And finally, as is the norm at this time of year, my ratings for the main squad players for this season, marked out of 10.

David Marshall (GK)
Stunning at times, errant at others. The best keeper we've had for a while but responsible for Blackpool's 3rd goal. 7/10
Kevin McNaughton (Defence)
"Naughts" can play anywhere. Big injury problems this season, but never gives less than 100% 7/10
Mark Kennedy (Defence)
An enigma. Sometimes outstanding, sometimes awful. Only got one forward pass - the lofted chip. Great pen in the playoff semi final though. 6/10
Gavin Rae (Midfield)
Again injuries this season. No a great one for Rae, who I think better than a lot of people say. 5/10
Mark Hudson (Captain/Defence)
What can you say? Came on a big billing, but is slow and prone to mistakes. Not impressed. 4/10
Gabor Gyepes (Defender)
Good last season, not had the same chances this term. I rate him though. 5/10
Peter Whittingham (Midfield)
Brilliant season. 20+ goals from midfield can't be sneezed at. Without him we wouldn't have got near the play-offs. 9/10
Michael Chopra (Striker)
Outstanding early season, tame mid-season, came good at the end. I'd always have him in my side 8/10
Jay Bothroyd (Striker)
Another enigma. Occasionally looks like he couldn't care less. But always a target, holds the ball well, works non stop if prone to falling over. My player of the season for his effort whilst being constantly battered. 9/10
Stephen McPhail (Midfield)
Took a lot of stick from supporters last year, but rode it all. Battled cancer too this season. Stability (if not flair) in the middle. 8/10
Chris Burke (Midfield)
Great when he gets the ball wide. Non-existant when City play narrow. The ability to change games, but didn't see it often enough 7/10
Paul Quinn (Defence)
Started well but a couple of howlers saw him put to the bench and he never got another chance 3/10
Anthony Gerrard (Defence)
Still quite raw at this level, but possibly a replacement for Roger Johnson? Great on his day, average on other days. 7/10
Joe Ledley (Midfield)
Cardiff born and bred, and maybe people read too much into that. Brilliant at times, too often a bit part player in midfield for me. 7/10
Darcy Blake (Defence)
Out on loan earlier this season, stormed back because of injuries and had some really great games. Too short for me though if he's going to play at centre half, and was found out against Leicester and Blackpool in the play-offs. 7/10
Adam Matthews (Defence)
Brilliant young attacking centre back. Got opportunities early on and impressed mightily, but faded later in season. One for the future, but we're unlikely to hang on to him. 8/10
Aaron Wildig (Midfield)
Another one for the future. Creative midfielder. Needs more bulk. Will improve. 6/10
Ross McCormack (Striker)
Missed out after a prolific season last term as Jones preferred Bothroyd and Chopra together. Always dangerous, and a game changer. Another one who'll go? 7/10
The rest didn't play well enough or often enough or impress me enough to get a rating.

Dave Jones (Manager)
I've criticised Jonesy in the past, but he did a stunning job this season in the face of a barrel load of injuries, and huge uncertainty about the finances and future of the club. I've been very impressed with his man management too - particularly of Bothroyd, someone who many managers have failed to get the best from. I really feel for him that we couldn't get over the final hurdle. Some people said he didn't have a "Plan B". I don't think he had enough fit players to have a plan B. 9/10

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