The aftermath (part one)

I can’t quite yet proclaim myself to be ‘hollow’ or ‘devastated’ as some have since Wednesday. I can’t, however, seem to shake a certain fug. Perhaps it’s the abruptness of the season’s end, perhaps it’s simple overload from Wednesday but something isn’t right.

Where do we go from here, seems to be a common theme. Plenty of unknowns seem to be floating around. Nobody was prepared to fail, I know I wasn’t. So where do we go from here? Well, why not start by assessing where ‘here’ is starting at the top and the management team of (broadly) Nick Merry, Jim Smith and Darren Patterson.

Call it a gamble or a major strategic error; but the decision to bring in players with lots of league experience was the wrong one. League players who can’t get league teams don’t really add up. They are either too old, too injured or just not good enough anymore.

It worked when it worked. But when the injuries came and the gaffer tape holding the Phil Gilchrist together unravelled, we had no plan B, no depth. The assumption from the outset appeared to be that we could last the season with two left backs who have a combined age of 74. It was always going to be a risk.

Nick Merry is a positive force in the club, of that there’s no doubt but he is perhaps a little to wedded to Jim Smith to be totally objective about his management team.

The one component that can make this work is Darren Patterson and the move to make him Assistant Manager was as good one. This season’s team was a core of experienced pros surrounded by a smattering of youngsters, but the formula required may be the complete opposite. Smith is not the strongest tactician in the world; he’s a motivator and networker, an old fashioned wheeler dealer. He has never been a strong teacher and has little pedigree with bringing players up through the ranks. He’s working with players less able than he’s used to and this may be an area in which we’re struggling. Patterson has the experience in the youth team and the qualifications to get the basics across that will turn us into solid unit.

If Patterson was to take up a central role as team manager getting the core right, Smith can use his networks to bring in the one or two experienced pros needed to support the core. There’s no way you would want to lose the experience of Smith if he’s prepared to stay, but a role away from the front line and frustrations of team management could be the solution that’s needed.

Next: the goalkeepers.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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