Where We Are?
Well its’ the start of the season and already things are looking grim. A seemingly certain 15 point deduction and a minimum of 3 years in Northampton. What sort of club will one day return to Coventry is uncertain, there’s no immediate prospect of SISU selling and their exact plans are still shrouded in a large degree of mystery. From the looks of things this coming season has already been determined as fight for survival, both in the league and financially. Starting significantly behind the rest of the league puts pressure on the team to start well and just reach 0 points as soon as possible. I’m expecting this to take 7-10 games to actually achieve, any longer and we’re almost certainties for relegation.
With the squad on the thin-side, especially in defence, and the prospect of new signings until at least September then Pressley’s job has once again been made more difficult and it says a lot about the man himself that he hasn’t decided to quit. All the optimism that a new season usually brings has been evaporated and already the fear and loathing of a tough winter has set above the fans. Pressley’s ability to motivate the players and convince that there’s more or at least something to play for will be vital in these early weeks of the season. We cannot afford a slow start like last year, the pressure’s on to gain as many points as possible to catch up with the chasing pack. Should we fail to win any of the first 3 games then I anticipate the pressure already on Pressley’s shoulders from some quarters to increase as the desperation of the situation really begins to bite.
Our league season begins tomorrow with a tough trip to Crawley. As far as the team goes there appears to be no new injury concerns. Of particular concern shall be the decision that Pressley makes in regards to his tactics. There’s been talk that he’s been so impressed with Callum Wilson that he’ll change from his preferred 4-4-1-1 to 4-4-2 in order to accomodate him alongside Leon Clarke. However given the options we have in midfield it seems more likely that he’ll keep his preferred shape especially away from home. It’s likely that our centre-back pairing will be Jordan Willis and Jordan Clarke given the lack of other options which is currently my main concern going into the new season.
Last Time We Played Them?
Not so long ago. Back in April we made the trip down to Crawley in one of the post-points deduction fixtures. Needless to say it was a toothless performance lack comittment with Pressley experimenting, this time with Billy Daniels in the starting line-up. The final result was 2-0 to Crawley Town with both goals coming from set pieces. It was a miserable day and a miserable performance and the minimum for tomorrow is at least far more comittment to the cause than was on display there.
How Are They Doing?
Despite making only two signings during the summer and their squad only containing 15 senior pros, there’s optimism amongst Crawley fans that they can replicate the success of last season in reaching the upper echelons of mid-table. Those two signings, James Hurst and Andy Drury, both improve the squad and should both start, Hurst at right-back and Drury somewhere either on the right or centre of midfield. A recent 3-0 friendly win over Crystal Palace emphasises the strength of a side who only 3 years ago were playing non-league football.
The players to watch out for look like being the aforementioned James Hurst who played much of his pre-season in Iceland after being released by West Brom, he’s an attacking right-back and former England youth international. Their talismanic centre-back Kyle McFadzean looks to have recovered from an injury keeping out of pre-season and looks like he could be thrown back into the starting line-up straight away. Winger Nicky Adams had a strong season last year and could cause our experimental defence concern as well as striker Jamie Proctor who’ll be looking to test Willis and Clarke’s experience as centre-backs.
It’s important to hit the ground running in any season, however given the current circumstances it’ll be infinitely more important. Not only in terms of points but in terms of confidence that the players, fans and coach need in order to catch up with the other 23 sides in this league. The longer we go without a win next season, the more confidence drops. It took us nearly into October to win our first game last time out, we cannot afford that luxury. It’s hard to predict how all the off field events have affected the team or just exactly how well Pressley’s has prepared them relative to the other teams in the league. I suspect that about 15 minutes into the game those two things will be made clearer it it’s anything like how the team reacted to losing 10 points last season then we’re doomed, the effort and commitment on display in April last time out was simply unacceptable. We’ve seen how low our players confidence can drop when subjected to adversity but now’s the time for them to show how much playing professional football means to them.
I’m struggling to pick a scoreline, I can see both the players wanting to give something back to the fans but I can see them conceding an early goal and losing the will to live. My gut feeling is that we’ll play like we have done in pre-season, decent on the ball without much of a threat, I predict then that it will finish 0-0.