“HE TALKS SO WELL, WHAT CAN YOU DO,
IT’S PRETTY PLAIN, HE MEANS IT TO,
I DON’T WANT TO SELL YOU LINES,
I ONLY MEAN TO DO YOU RIGHT.”
(‘Appetite’ by Prefab Sprout).
Hi Readers, strange how you can have the performance and not the result some weeks, and then the opposite the week after…..and so it proved today. Leigh 1 Uppermill 2. A deserved win (just) but a performance that left so much to be desired. Last week we played a better team, Altrincham, and produced a performance to be proud of, yet ran out (very) late losers. Last week I was proud, this week I feel a bit cheated. We need a bit of truth here – ‘I only mean to do you right’.
If we are on a journey then today’s performance was either a step backwards or, at best, a step sidewards. Today taught me a lot and reminded me of a lot. First, preparation is everything, closely followed by attitude and then by hard work. We lacked all 3 for large parts of today. Quite why 4 players found it acceptable to turn up between 15 and 25 minutes late (two of whom were promptly dropped to the bench) was beyond me. Sadly, that set the tone for the pre match and the first half. We lacked the prep, and therefore the mentality and therefore the work ethic. Fail to deliver on those 3 and we are simply not good enough as a football team to bluff our way through a match. Sorry to remind some players of that, but it’s a fact.
So, first half, we produced our most insipid and lethargic 45 minutes for many, many months. We somehow managed to come off at half time at 1-1. Our goal coming from a deflected Mark Jackson long range shot. Leigh had proven enthusiastic and had two or three young and talented players. Not the best team, but better than the dismal Uppermill effort. Words were exchanged at half time – a few truths delivered. That said, nothing of any particular insight or talent. Pretty simple: work harder and with more intensity. That was the limit of the wisdom.
To be fair, the second half was much better – much, much better. We were more patient on the ball, used the width/full backs better and built our way towards the edge of the Leigh goal. (First half – as per last week – consisted of long, ambitious and ultimately useless passes forward). As ever, we take an eternity to score. Our winner came in the late 70 minutes period – a close finish from Sub Sam Cunliffe. Leigh had a late flurry but we held on. Leigh’s keeper pulled off 3 or 4 great saves, but, beyond that, was rarely troubled as Uppermill tried everything in their power NOT to have a shot. All in all, 2 poor teams who will end up closer to the foot of the table than the summit unless things change.
UFC’s star player – by a million miles – was Greg Burgess: our emergency centre back as the first choice was benched for his part in Late Gate. No coincidence that Greg has an exemplary attitude, works incredibly hard, has no ego and accepts criticism with the enthusiasm of a player desperate to improve. Others should take note. Mark Jackson was the best of the rest, followed by Nathan Driscoll. The rest were the rest (apart from keeper Andy McVeigh, who had relatively little to do).
Today was a reminder of how far we have to go. It was a kick up the backside for me and the coaches. We were responsible for the prep, the attitude and the work ethic. We failed on all 3 counts. Yes, we salvaged it at half time, but how many more times can we do that? We’ve played 9 games and gone behind in 6 of them. In pretty much every game, we’ve only turned up in the 46th minute. Yes, the players have to look at themselves, but we, the coaches, have to as well. I’ve put my hand up (in this report) to acknowledge my role. Will the players? I’ve had one message – asking if he is in the 1/3rd of players who I’ve predicted will be disposed of in the next 3 months. Nothing else. No one putting their hand up to comment on their performance. Too many players are Pub not Club. Too many players are happy with their level of performance. Too few genuinely want to improve. It’s all too cosy.
Today is an irrelevance because we are not looking to peak today. BUT, I am looking at today asking myself whether each of the players has the capacity to be there when we are supposed to peak. I have to say that AT LEAST 1/3rd of the players have question marks against them. Boxes need to be ticked: preparation, attitude, work ethic, willingness to learn, ability to learn and so forth. The cheering after the game was misplaced. We stole that game. A more competent opposition would have destroyed us. Let’s be clear: my coaches and I will succeed. This crop of players has the capacity to succeed BUT the point is coming where some players need to be left behind. Shape up or ship out guys.