What was meant to be the unofficial reboot of the season became another false dawn on Saturday as the Cobblers crashed to another home defeat and as we approach Christmas and head towards Chris Wilder’s year anniversary of being in charge we’re left with the distinct possibility of going completely full circle to where we were when he arrived.
Add to that a post-match interview where Wilder all but wrote off any ambitions for the top seven by readjusting his target to simply reaching fifty points and it doesn’t read well. The excuse of injuries has been apparent, and partly understandable, all season but the disorganisation at the back, the questionable selection policies and the lack of understanding is something that, after twenty games, should be sorted.
We’re only six points better off than we were at this stage last season when everything was closing in on Aidy Boothroyd. There’s no doubt that we have a better squad – even with those injuries – than twelve months ago so Wilder is going to need to change something fast or the restless natives are going to have the knives out.
I wouldn’t mind this situation half as much if I genuinely felt like Wilder had a plan or any idea about progressing. Getting to fifty points is not ambition and though we obviously need to be realistic after recent troubles it would have been better to hear that back in August from the man in charge and for him to set out his grand plan rather than play up a promotion charge and then readjust to make himself look better when things start to go wrong.
What we really needed from a post-match interview is passion and a sense that Wilder truly believes in his methods, not devaluing his squad to the point where the players might even take a step off the gas with those new expectations.
If you’ve been reading this blog over the years you know I’m no advocate for changing the manager on a whim but I just don’t have confidence in Wilder at the moment. He’s got added time for the remarkable rescue from relegation last season but there’s only so far that will get you – look at Wycombe, one of our rivals for the drop back in May, who are top of the table and showing no signs of stopping their promotion charge.
So what can Wilder do to save his own skin? The first thing, I think, is to stop these short term loans. We’ve had the situation so many times over the years and I don’t know how many times I’ve written that short term loans just don’t work. I understand the need sometimes in a shocker of an injury crisis but the supporters would understand more, correct me if I’m wrong, if a young lad came up from the youth system for a month and gave it a go rather than dropping someone in who has no affinity to the club who knows he’s off back to his League One life once he’s played a few games.
What threat is there to the first team when they know the player challenging their position is going away again once they’re fully fit? I honestly don’t see the harm in blooding one or two younger talents in League Two even if it does mean we’re in mid-table. I’d rather be in mid-table and have optimism about the future rather than dreading Saturdays again which it’s come to once more.
There’s also a huge need for defensive stability – most goals we concede are results of standing off, poor marking or opposition players just waltzing through. Even the usually reliable Matt Duke is showing signs of a decline in terms of commanding an area whilst Jordan Archer doesn’t fill anyone with confidence. Injuries again have been a problem here but the very least we can expect from experienced players is a sense of understanding. Someone needs to step up.
I really want Wilder to turn this around, don’t get me wrong, but his leadership style is worrying me. David Cardoza is getting shot at as well but I can’t see any reason why he’s being brought into why we’re doing so badly on the pitch. He has big questions to answer off it which we’re still waiting for but throwing our results at his feet is wrong in my opinion.
The chairman has backed three successive managers who had strong reputations in the lower leagues and it’s down to the latest incumbent of the office to turn things around or leave the big boss with no choice but to spend some of the possible money we get from flogging Ivan Toney off in January on paying off yet another contract.
It’s not come to it yet but with big away games against other struggling sides coming up Wilder is certainly on the brink of sink or swim territory.