My first ever driving lesson was in the deserted car park of the local industrial estate. I sat in the driver’s seat and my dad told me that all I had to do was lift the clutch, press the accelerator and I’d be off.
I did just that, and kangarooed off around the car park, unable to get my foot firmly onto the accelerator to truly pull away. It was driving, but not perhaps as it was envisaged.
Yesterday, we saw the next evolution of Chris Wilder’s blueprint. Following last week’s miserable capitulation to Macclesfield, it was evident that all-out attack was being sacrificed for something a bit more sophisticated. Instead of launching forward, we took a leaf out of Herbert Chapman’s old playbook and decided that we didn’t need to attack all the time.
With a back-four of full-backs, Northampton were clearly expecting an assault. But, by holding the ball we were able to draw them out allowing us to probe throughout the whole 90 minutes, not until we ran out of ideas around the hour mark.
Comfortable, though, it was not. I was reminded of Graham Rix’s first game in charge. Insisting on playing ‘the right way’ we witnessed the likes of Andy Crosby and Paul McCarthy (both classically trained in the Ian Atkins ‘put some snow on it’ school) attempting to pass the ball along their own six-yard line. You could see what they were trying to do, but it was nothing like the slick passing side that Rix envisaged in his head. As he tried to re-train a bunch of whorey old pros to play Total Football, we slipped out of the play-off positions.
Like my first driving lesson, what we witnessed yesterday was a rough-cut version of the Oxford Wilder is trying to fashion. Effective though it was in terms of the result, you suspect there’s some way to go before we see it in its completed form.