Laws replaced too late
Season 2010/2011 had far fewer highlights as a Claret than the last time we were in this division and the final game matched most of the
others: Fantastic for 45 minutes, scrappy for the other 45. As we hovered around 8th place all season we did finish where we deserved.
There were games where we were awful for 90 (Leeds away as a fresh
memory) but not too many where we were good for 90 (maybe Bolton in the League cup). Anybody watching us in the first half against Middlesborough a couple of weeks ago would have thought we were capable of giving Man Utd a game. Two games later we looked as though we’d have struggled against FC United of Manchester such was the difference!
So a lack of consistency was certainly the reason for failure. Why there was such a lack is open to debate and there is probably a combination of reasons. Certainly starting the season with a mediocre manager aiming for 6th place was part of the problem and unfortunately the change looks like it was made too late. There seemed a slim hope after a great run of wins but this was followed by a poor run of defeats to finish us off.
It may be a blessing in disguise. A chance for supporters to lower their expectations a little, to make the Turf a more positive place for those wearing the claret and blue on the pitch, and a chance for Eddie Howe to really get to know the squad and make the necessary tweaks required to have a proper go at promotion rather than a low play off aim.
Our chances may rest on which players stay rather than which players are signed though. Out of the 4 players in the running for player of the year, only one is contracted to us past the end of next season and one was only on loan. If we have all 4 of these still with us by the end of the summer transfer window I feel we will have a real chance of progressing. Sadly though, Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears may not want to waste another year out of the Premier League and who can blame them. As a Claret though, I really hope they give us a season with a manager the fans actually want rather than Mr mediocre before him.
Eddie is certainly making mistakes but he does seem to be learning quickly and in the final game of the season we appeared to get our best centre half partnership of all 46 games. It did make most fans wonder why David Edgar hadn’t been given a chance in his preferred position before!
As for which positions need filling, I’m not quite sure we have a definite number 1. Brian Jensen does seem to be the better of the two but both keepers can throw in howlers. A centre half is a definite requirement, even if Bikey and Edgar become a good partnership there will be games they are out through suspension or injury.
The full back positions just depend on players staying. Midfield and attack are interesting ones. Chris McCann and Jack Cork looks a great partnership in the middle but we don’t actually have Jack Cork! With Marvin Bartley and Dean Marney as alternative options the centre should be OK. Wade Elliott and Chris Eagles are both capable of opening defences up and Jay Rodriguez looks a future Premier League star in the making.
With Charlie Austin and Martin Paterson due to come back from injury, it does look like we’ll be able to field a decent first 11.
So a summer of hope to come again… if Jack Cork, Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears can be persuaded to stay then next season should be a good one.