What did you expect?

Cod Almighty | Article

by Alistair Wilkinson

7 September 2010

When does something become acceptable? Scunthorpe have lost a very successful manager and the man taking over, Ian Baraclough, has asked for time to evaluate his potential position. Can't blame him really. The expectations of a club arguably even smaller than ours are now over-inflated and the new man must maintain Scunthorpe's status or be deemed a failure. He says he doesn't know what to expect from the job: the pressures he and his family will be under are as yet unfamiliar to him. I suspect he realises that the Iron have probably only one way to go and that he would be a convenient scapegoat. Kenny Swain, Paul Groves and even Nicky Law are examples of this.

The boundaries of failure change with time and expectation. What is failure for Grimsby Town this year? Missing out on promotion? The play-offs? Finishing mid-table? There's an unmentioned and altogether more obvious failure that I haven't mentioned - and I don't intend to. Something becomes acceptable once it's familiar. Avoiding relegation from the Football League became an acceptable outcome quite quickly. We were 'saved' by Buckley and Newell, both of whom had plenty of time in the seasons they took over to do more than simply survive. But we were happy and we gave them the summer to regroup and rebuild and we adjusted our expectations accordingly.

Buckley was supposed to relive the glory days one last time. Newell was gonna do a Luton and take us up and sell Ryan Bennett for three million at the same time. And that didn't happen, so with our expectations adjusted again Woods came in and lost to Bath during his probationary period. Has a caretaker manager ever been given the job after such a result? Woods was, and here we are with expectations altered again. How long can the fans hold on? As we all know, not all of them have held on. Expected gates are now around the 3,000 mark. We already expect less.

"McNulty laughed as he cleared hopeful punt after hopeful punt - I'm pretty sure he even had time to nip out to McDonald's"

In my last submission I mentioned the dreaded professionalism. It's something I expect from the players but am never shocked at its omission. Slack defending and ill-discipline at Tamworth saw another defeat and another nail in professionalism's coffin. Maybe there simply isn't enough of it to go around. Four-and-three-quarters professional divisions in one relatively small country are maybe just too much.

Woods came out swinging after the defeat: "Tamworth's tempo was higher... they were more competitive." That's us now then is it? Not even competitive? We were "half-hearted" and he went on to question more than just Town's desire: "It's not brave playing when you're 2-0 down." Is our manager too honest or is there a bit of kidology in there? Was it a deliberate ploy to raise his players' ire and desire before the home game against Fleetwood?

If it was it didn't work. A woefully inept performance as ball after ball was pumped up to the big man in their defence. McNulty, famous for having his picture in the Diary, laughed as he cleared hopeful punt after hopeful punt - I'm pretty sure he even had time to nip out to McDonald's.

Individually there's no lack of effort. Collectively there's no energy, no responsibility. The same could be said of the crowd, but they're not professionals. In my more optimistic moments I cling to the hope that if we're still in the top ten by Christmas then our superior squad will kick in, but many more performances like these and I can't see us being in the top ten - and our crowds will be an expected 2,500.

We have no creativity in the middle, yet we play narrow and so we have to kick it long. It made no sense as we watched the team bang their heads against a brick wall. There seems to be some argument about who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different. Benjamin Franklin and Einstein are the front runners. But whoever of them said it was surely referring to a miserable Saturday afternoon at Blundell Park watching a team kick a ball at a fat bloke.

So the players are doing their jobs, but their focus is such that they're doing it to the exclusion of the rest of the team. The fans are aware of this. We sit, arms folded, participants in this dissolution. We're shrinking while we wait and expect; we're not a crowd, we're a queue, and an impatient one at that. People grow tired of waiting, give up and go home. We've adjusted our expectations so many times in the last decade that we're tired and we're fed up. I'm clinging to the impatience as the last thread of passion in a cold world. An empty Osmond and a sparse crowd make for a doubly miserable experience. But that impatience must be addressed because, as Franklin did say: "We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Got a word or two to lift Al from his despondency? Or is he bang on the money? Use the Cod Almighty feedback form to share your views.