“I am looking for a positive reaction from the players,” was what Carlos Carvalhal asked for after the terrible, lacklustre first game of the season at Preston.
Against a well organised Chesterfield last Tuesday I felt he would have been quietly satisfied with what he saw. He shuffled his pack and made a handful of changes, which I wasn’t surprised about. The difference in quality between the two sides was there for all to see and although, understandably, we looked a little lacking in confidence in the first half the tempo, commitment and overall pace of play was very much more like we have come to expect, and indeed is required from a very good set of players.
When they went one down against the run of play just before half time I was interested to see the reaction from the team and to be honest it was very positive. The second half ended up being a good workout and didn’t do anyone’s confidence any harm whatsoever. Overall a good result against a decent, organised and hard working team that came and ‘had a go’ and I left the ground feeling that there should be credit given to both teams.
Roll on Saturday and the first league home game against a newly revamped Queen's Park Rangers. I don’t think anybody was in any doubt that this would bring a far sterner test than the midweek cup game but if we are to improve and achieve our aim this year it is these types of games that need to be dealt with. I was hoping we would learn our lesson from the week before and start the game with a far better tempo and pace of play.
Unfortunately preceding the game was the news, or rumours coming out from the camp that there had been an altercation between Sam Winnall and Fernando Forestieri resulting in the latter being disciplined and dropped from the squad. People would probably be surprised that these altercations aren’t an unusual occurrence in training, especially if you are training at match tempo i.e. working hard and committed.
There are always going to be the odd late or mistimed challenge, a flare up ensues and as long as hands are shaken at the end of it and its forgotten about then life, and training goes on.
Unfortunately for Fernando the past 12 months have been a difficult period for him. He can be a fabulous game-winning individual, a maverick of a player, a genius at times, annoyingly petulant at others. It seems one always comes with the other.
Has he been settled since his refusal to travel to Norwich this time last season? I don’t think he has.
Just after Christmas he had a run of five or six games when I thought he was returning to his best form but the run never continued. There is now lots of discussion as to where does he fit in, or if he even fits in at all and the abundance of strikers makes it all too easy to switch from one to another.
I just wonder if the club are now kicking themselves that the £12 million allegedly offered for him back then was turned down. Undoubtedly there is more to come on the subject but I will just say this - when a player refuses to play, or something happens in training it is extremely difficult for the rest of the group to overlook this. Yes there will be the usual ’clear the air’ meetings but I’m not sure anyone ever looks at that individual the same way again. I experienced it on a couple of occasions in my career and once it had happened, unfortunately, it was a downwards spiral from then on.
The QPR game couldn’t have started worse really with injuries to both Loovens and Hutch, especially with our well documented lack of centre back options, more of that later.
We concede and although we came back into the game in the second half, either team could have won it and I don’t think anybody could say we were firing on all cylinders again. Under Carvalhal we haven’t started any season well and I was hoping this year may be different, although we have only played two league matches and you don’t want to start reading too much into the results, the performances haven’t been anywhere near the level of consistency that is required.
We still look a little ‘edgy’. Still lacking in a bit of confidence. With Sunderland visiting us midweek I hope this may be one of those big games that we did ever so well in last season. If we can produce a positive performance it may well be the kickstart that we need.
I don’t think I would be doing my job right if I didn’t throw my two pennies worth into the lack of centre backs dilemma.
Carlos has stated that his staff has looked at approximately 200 players which to me is a colossal amount. What amazes me is that we allowed Vincent Sasso to leave without having secured at least one replacement. Don’t get me mistaken, Sasso was by no means the answer to our woes but he was a decent back up that would surely have stayed around until the club had secured the right man's signature.
Time is ticking on now and the closer you get to the close of the transfer window then the more ludicrous the fees become. With our limitations of spending power due to the Financial Fair Play rules I hope that something is done sooner rather than later. I’d love to see a dominant, experienced player brought in, someone who will organise us from the back and in turn improve the players around him. They seem to be thin on the ground right now and maybe we have to move a couple of people on to loosen the purse strings before we can get the right man in?
Jon Newsome is the owner of prestige, sports and performance cars specialists, Automarques 21-23 Leigh Street, Sheffield S9 2PR