Fan’s View – Gateshead

Article by Paul Beasley Saturday, December 7th, 2013  

WILDER IN OR OUT

Seldom is all rosy in the garden of a football club. There’s always something to worry about even if your club is top of the league.
So what’s with the Chris Wilder Pompey thing? Does it show disloyalty on his part? How do I feel about it? Do I want him gone?
We have to remember football management is CW’s way of earning a living. It is his job. It may well be his passion but, unlike (most of) us fans, that passion does not begin and end at Oxford United. Managers, coaches and players (unless your name is Giggs or Stevie G) move from club to club. That’s the way it is and has been for decades. That’s not to say they are not loyal and do not have the right to kiss the badge with genuine sincerity at each stop off point.

Wilder’s contract runs out at the end of this season so in no way can he be blamed for talking to other potential suitors even if it is only to get a feel for what is out there or to strengthen his bargaining power if he ends up sitting at the negotiating table with Ian Lenagan to discuss a contract for 2014 onwards, presumably in League One.

When it seemed that there was a real chance of him going – I think there still is although not to Pompey; more likely somewhere up North nearer his roots – I was genuinely concerned for our chances of achieving success come May. But to repeat myself yet again, if I was writing this on the back of another of those home performances I would probably be putting a very different slant on things.

GATESHEAD – Mark three

Having been part of the previous mission that was aborted at the eleventh hour I was not going to be defeated even if it was to cost me another day and a half leave.

So what if the forecast was not great? It was on until it was off. So what if the temperature was due to drop to freezing at kick off time? So what if it was going to be very very windy?

But it wasn’t the weather that nearly did for us it was the bloody traffic. All but stopped for nearly two hours on the M1 somewhere near Mansfield it had that little voice in the head whispering, “It’s going to be one of those days”. The good news was that this enforced delay meant we didn’t have to stop off at the service area for the driver swap over to take place.

To be honest I was really glad I was a passenger and not a driver as I could sit back, read, sleep, listen to music and eat as fancy took me. No point worrying, it was out of my hands.

And all for £14 for those who had been on trip number one. A marvellous gesture by the club yet I’ve heard that some were not happy that it wasn’t free. It wasn’t OUFC’s fault that the game was called off an hour before the scheduled kick off and having got there the coach company still had to be paid.

In the circumstances it was more than a very acceptable and cost effective way to travel. There are of course still those who talk of tongues and windows. Judge for yourself the sanity of passengers.

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The fish was called Fenton, apparently. We also had Keith on board. Keith wore shorts.

It was with some relief that we arrived at the International Stadium just gone 7 o’clock even though this ruled out a trip to the Schooner. Instead it was a quick bottle of Newcastle Brown in the brightly lit Stadium Bar, an area more akin to an airport lounge than a convivial drinking area.

Then we heard that both Michael Raynes and Johnny Mullins were out. “One of those days” said that voice even louder.

Given the way Gateshead had played at the Kassam, their unbeaten record since September and us being down to the bare bones already (little did we know) I made them marginal favourites without this depressing news. Now I made us very much the underdogs. Not only had we lost our remaining two centre halves who have “winners” written all over them, we’d also basically lost two full backs as well as Dave Hunt and Tom Newey were required to cover in the centre. This meant two very raw youngsters were going to have to protect the flanks.

If we were going to get out of this predicament and into the next round it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Yet amazingly instead of realising the gravity of the situation there was an, in my opinion, illogical undercurrent of blame and also expectation that we should be coming to the North East in such inhospitable conditions, playing attractive football and demonstrating our superiority as we are after all a football league side, irrespective of the personnel wearing the yellow shirt on the day.

I heard, “that’s the trouble with Wilder, he’s always changing the team”. Err, he has to when there are injuries.

I heard, “Raynes has just walked through, he looked ok”. Err, players’ injuries don’t always manifest themselves in visible deformities.

Not long after the game had started one amongst our number was spouting blame and zero tolerance as a young full back mis-controlled the ball. I heard moans about how boring the game was and how bad we must have looked on TV. After the game I read some comments along the lines of, “how the f**k are we top of the league”.

So what if the Heed played the better football, so what if they hit the post with five minutes of extra time to go, so what if it could be deemed floodlight robbery? We hung on in there. We showed grit and determination and whilst we never closed them down in midfield it wasn’t as though they were peppering our goal with dangerous efforts every few minutes. We had a chance or two ourselves and in Ryan Williams the best player on the pitch. Occasionally his superior class shone through.

The penalty was a very strange one. But even though Williams had completely miskicked, he was then taken out. It almost certainly was an accident as the result of tired legs but that constitutes a foul doesn’t it? Without being totally confident I had more faith in Deane Smalley to convert than I had in Danny Rose the previous weekend. The returning Smalley did not let us down.

Cue our band of travellers going ape. Santa’s mate hurtling towards the Geordies to our left failed to take proper account of the token orange dividing material and executed a swallow dive onto concrete, Fenton went awol and we were left with four minutes plus added time to see it out, which we did with not too many worries considering.

Massive credit has to go to Hunt and Newey for their efforts in front of Ryan Clarke. Centre half is a very specialist role and whilst there were times when their heading, as to be expected, wasn’t as commanding as that of the usual incumbents they proved what true professionals they are. My admiration for them grows by the week. They might not be spectacular but their defensive qualities have to be admired.

Their performances cannot have done anything other than help the replacements out wide. That was some baptism of fire for David Lynn and Matt Bevans but they came through it and will be stronger as a result. Cramp nearly did for Lynn at the end but he grimaced and limped his way through it. There were one or two nice touches on the ball and my initial fears that they would be blown aside proved unfounded. Gateshead came at us down the right flank time and again and I thought we ain’t going to survive. But we did.

We will come a cropper one day, it could have been in the North East, and when it does, if the circumstances are as they are now, I won’t be having a go. We’re doing pretty well in these circumstances, circumstances which don’t appear to be getting any better with Danny Rose and Dave Kitson limping off. On the bright side Smalley was back and Sean Rigg is pretty close to returning too.

But for us to keep going we’ll need more of the same on Monday at Wrexham. It would also help if Beano were to get back to some reasonable form and Scott Davies, if picked, were to do things that said to the manager he was hard to drop even when others have been restored to full health.

So bye bye Gateshead, I like the way you play football and would wish you well except that I would rather never have to watch my team play football in an athletics stadium again. And don’t start me on the quality of the floodlights and arctic conditions. My hands have never been so cold. After taking my gloves off at half time it took me about five minutes to get them back on again as I had no feeling in any fingers. But I don’t care, it was all about staying in the FA Cup.

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 7th, 2013 at 10:28 pm and appears under 2013, Comment, News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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