We have to take the result on the chin, dust ourselves down and start all over again.
Occasionally in football, teams have days when nothing goes right and everything appears wrong. We should credit Southampton for their well-deserved win but Glenn and the boys will know that our supporters now need a quick pick-me-up.
In this column I’ve always sought to give praise when we have played well. It would be unfair and biased not to accept that the performance last Saturday let everybody down.
Football has a great unpredictability. When we played Arsenal off the park for 70 or so minutes only a matter of weeks ago the sun was shining. I well know, from bitter experience, that while one swallow doesn’t make a summer, the odd knock back doesn’t turn the picture completely black either.
I was heartened by the performance by our young Reserve side on a cold night at Kingstonian last week when, in a 2-0 victory, those who returned from injury included Anthony Gardner, Gary Doherty, Matthew Etherington and, particularly, Alton Thelwell. Also returning to Reserve action was John Jackson having completed three months loan at Swindon.
Defender Alton, who has made many determined performances for the first team, has been pushed to the back of the queue by his absence from games due to a groin injury and the advance of several other younger players. There is no better professional at the club than
Alton and he is a super guy for the coaching staff to work with. We were all thrilled that his very first steps of this season were successful against Wimbledon and we hope he has a strong second half of the season to convince the management that his future is here.
Injuries can cause havoc with a player’s career, particularly a young one, and especially in the current climate when there is going to be a purge on over-employment and salaries in football clubs. Alton’s contract is up for renewal at the end of the season and, as with other players at the club, we have not yet entered into any contract talks.
Similarly to other clubs, we will allow experienced players to work out their contracts before sitting down and negotiating, we will not be talking in detail prior to the final weeks of the season.
Transfer gossip heightens and continues during this January window. We have been talking to several clubs regarding advances for players who may be surplus to our situation. In the meantime we have 16 League games to try to surge into the top six which has always been — and continues to be — this season’s goal.
After we knocked down the stories that had been circulating around Stephen Carr’s future, we have been forced to make the same comments after stories regarding Simon Davies’s future surfaced last weekend. We have had no contact from any clubs and should any club ring us they will be told politely that he is not available.
Supporters will also have read of Christian Ziege’s injury problem after our last home game. We send him warm wishes and hope for a quick recovery.
Next Wednesday I hope we will be celebrating a good FA Youth Cup performance against Swindon Town. In our last game at Portsmouth we played some excellent football in our victory and several of the boys captured the attention of our senior management.
The other side of football, which is never ever pleasant, is to tell a young prospective player that he has not made enough progress to continue his career. A boy with a positive attitude can take heart and be determined to prove the decision wrong. In the past few weeks
I have been speaking to John Sutton, Walter Thomas and Diego Bortolozzo whose contracts have been cancelled. John is now trialling at Swindon where promising junior professional Dean Marney is on loan.
We have also told George Snee and goalkeeper Gavin Kelly that we will not be renewing their agreements. Gavin has recently been on loan to Kettering.
It has not been a good week and we all look for motivation in this situation. Like our visitors, defeated at Shrewsbury, we both now have clear objectives this season. Newcastle too are out of both domestic cups. Our ambition now must be to rise above Everton, our welcome visitors today, and Newcastle as we seek to ensure that we are the intruders amongst the major players this season at the top of the table.
We have everything to play for and although we are aware of the recent past we must only look forward optimistically to the future.
Defeat is always difficult to take, particularly when it comes in a one-off cup competition and even more so when the performance is poor and is being watched by an audience of millions.