Saturday was like a letter of reconciliation between a bickering couple deciding that it was better to agree to disagree in an attempt to try to move on.
Both sides – team and fans – were well intentioned even if they sometimes struggled to strike the right tone. The team performed better, really well, even, with a display as satisfying as any at home this season. We, in turn, leapt to our feet in a series of generally undeserved ovations every time there was an opportunity. It seemed out of keeping with what had gone before, but there was a general feeling that it had been tough for everyone and that there was still something in the relationship to fight for.
Just before the end we were asked – told – to stay in our seats so the players could complete their lap of honour. This was the equivalent of having make-up sex, which the magazines insist is the best way to end an argument even though its more likely to leave you feeling slightly used and degraded as you churn over in your head unresolved issues and things that still need to be said. In the end, most feigned a headache or tiredness and sloped off early, leaving the gratuitous love-in to those masochistic enough to go to Newport next week.
The atmosphere, as games like this always are, was of like a coach returning from a stag do. Some nursed the broken bones, ripped clothes and blackened eyes of the night, a handful sang gustily as though it were still peak time. The majority snoozed through the entire thing just longing for the end.
The post-game post-mortem was all about the ‘five or six’ players we needed to mount a challenge next year. It’s always ‘five or six’ a number large enough to show a degree of displeasure, but small enough not to appear too scathing. If challenged to venture where those changes are needed, it’s usually ‘a defender, someone in midfield and a striker’; a message to ‘just change stuff’ without getting too personal.
The assumption is that the very best players will stay but, as Jerome Sale said, it’s all very well saying that Kemar Roofe should be signed, but there are 70 odd teams between West Brom and Oxford; it’s quite conceivable that at least one offering more money or better prospects or both, will come in for him.