Years ago it was a rare to see a player get a standing ovation when substituted. If the Beech Road rose as one, you knew the player trotting towards the dugout had been exceptional. During the Kassam years this evolved to a point where every player got a standing ovation. Like an encore at a rock concert; what was once the appreciation of excellence was a meaningless ritual.
After yesterday’s defeat to Stockport we witnessed the eroding of another tradition. At the front of the South Stand Upper people were applauding. Lots of people. It was an ovation typically associated emphatic victory, not defeat. Down on the pitch, the players were applauded back. It was all very cosy and conciliatory.
The reality is that we’ve lost half our games at home. Granted, the performances have been top draw and there is much still to be optimistic about. But we seem to be quite satisfied with performance over results.
Now, I fully believe that coaches should concern themselves with performances not results because its what they can control. However, it is typically the fans who worry about results, except when you’re us, it seems.
Post-Wembley, results are of little concern. As unhealthy as our habit of losing is, we’re generally happy just to be a league team. Like an octogenarian who won’t exercise because they’re ‘too old to worry about that kind of thing’, now we’ve had our time in the sun, we seem happy for this season to just drift away from us.
This lack of urgency risks slipping onto the field, the players, especially those signed this season, could lose a few percent because the pressure to perform isn’t there. In the last few minutes yesterday we stroked the ball around looking for an opening when a few panicky hail-marys into the box may have paid dividends. The team would have done well to recognise when to be more direct, but we were hardly pushing them in that direction.
I’m with most people, the performances this season have been outstanding and results will come. But, if we lose a bit of the intensity that was built up last year, and a few more results just slip by unnoticed, then our season will be over at Christmas.