As one chapter ends, another begins. Drew Heatley assesses this week’s news and says it’s time to back Scott Parker and the boys.
Can you name the moment that sums up our season? Mitro’s handball at Brighton? Huddersfield away? Our FA Cup exit? For me, it’s a moment off the pitch – it happened digitally, in fact. On our website, when Shad Khan described Claudio Ranieri as a “risk-free” appointment.
The quote’s now infamous – if erroneously attributed to Tony – and it encapsulates how badly we’ve misjudged our return to the Premier League. From player recruitment (hindsight being 20/20, of course) to ticket pricing (#StopTheGreed), it’s been one mistake after another. And everyone at the club has to take a portion of the blame. Shad hinted as much in yesterday’s statement.
Appointing Ranieri was a mistake. Dismissing him certainly isn’t, despite what some outside the club might say. Yes, he’s an affable man – really hard to dislike, in fact – but when judged in the context of being a football manager (and that’s the real quiz) he’s stubborn, inflexible and has shown an at-times stunning lack of tactical awareness.
It’s all resulted in us being a huge 10 points adrift before the first daffodils of spring have truly sprung. Wrap your mind around that: ten points. On the pitch, it’s worse than 2013/14.
Crucially, though, we’re in better shape off it this time around. We’ve a hoard of valuable assets we can cash in (as vulgar as it sounds) and, whatever your views on junior, we’ve got an owner who’s shown he’s ready to put his hand in his pocket to help this club succeed. We need root-and-branch reform in the summer, so the contents of those pockets are directed in a more effective manner.
Until then, it’s up to Scott Parker to start to repair the damage already done. To last season’s heroes. To this season’s new recruits. To our relationship with our football club. I’ve been very vocal about the fact that we’ve had it a lot worse in the past, but that shouldn’t excuse the problems of the present. And Parker’s remit will be to address and fix some of these issues.
Whether he’s in the running to stay full-time isn’t a question for now. But, to my mind, he’s got 10 games to take the shackles off and let the boys play (what we now know beyond any doubt is) the only way they know how to. He talked in his press conference about passion and desire – and as basic as it seems, we need those attributes – by the bucket load. I honestly think he’ll provide them, too – despite what his questionable Monday Night Football debut might otherwise indicate.
The players look up to him. He’s even played alongside the likes of Cairney, Sess, McDonald and Bettinelli. He’s reportedly behind our rousing second half versus Brighton. And bringing back Stuart Gray from both a tactical and morale perspective could be a masterstroke.
I said this week that we have a little more than two months to figure out what kind of club we want to be. The decision we arrive at will determine the next five years, at least. There’s little we can do to influence that, but we can get behind Scott and the boys.
We’ve said Ciao to Claudio. We’re about to bid adieu to the Premier League. But we’re saying hello to the next chapter. Let’s hope it’s a real page-turner.