One of the things Donald Trump picked up on in Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians involved in meddling in the US elections was the line that they couldn’t prove that the activities led to a different result. Trump suggested that it proved he would have won anyway. It didn’t, it just highlighted that they simply can’t know for sure whether the meddling worked or not. This plays to the old advertising adage that only half of all advertising works, we just don’t know which half.
Similarly, bad things are causing our form to dip, we just don’t know what those things are. It may be the prospect of a takeover, it may be the management, it may be the lack of management, or something else, or all of those things, or none.
But it’s reasonable to say that the Russian campaign didn’t do the Trump any harm, in the same way that, while not being able to identify the specific problem, our off-the-field paralysis doesn’t do much good for our on-field form.
In the short term, apart from being depressing to watch, I don’t think our lack of form matters hugely. It has been fairly apparent from early on this season that we’re not equipped to threaten the promotion places and I don’t see the unlikely combination of events – the ongoing collapse of our form along with the resurgence of teams below us sucking us into relegation. It could happen, of course, but probably won’t. As everyone acknowledged on Saturday, the performance was a significant improvement on Bristol Rovers with the only difference being Simon Eastwood’s uncharacteristic, but ill-judged, flapping.
The bigger issue is longer term. Of the eleven that started on Saturday, four will go back to their parent clubs, three are likely to be sold, the remaining – Dickie, Mousinho and Obika don’t look like the backbone of a promotion winning team. There is an opportunity now to start planning for next year, but we don’t have a manager to oversee that. Although we have Hall, Nelson and Brannagan to come back, the longer the uncertainty goes on, the less prepared we’re likely to be to sustain our position, let alone improve on it.
If this feels familiar, it is; when Chris Wilder left in 2014 we were left without a manager for a couple of months as the club were stuck between the immediate need to appoint the manager and the longer term issue of the club’s ownership. The result was a gentle decay which was only arrested by the appointment of Michael Appleton, and then it took him a year to turn the club around.
Fans are demanding answers, which are, in the main, unreasonable. However, the uncertainty appears to be grating on everyone, including Derek Fazackerley who struggled to maintain his poker face post-match. It is very likely that any announcement will be necessarily vacuous – takeovers take time, managerial appointments are a process. But, there is a credibility issue here.
Theoretically, Darryl Eales being overseas (perhaps on holiday, it was half-term) shouldn’t prevent the club from making some sort of comment. We have a chief executive back at base who should be equipped to make some reassuring noises that the club are actively working on the issues. Not providing a running commentary of the appointment process is perfectly reasonable, but saying nothing at all creates a vacuum which is filled with debilitating gossip.