Before I write much, and believe me there isn’t much to write this evening, let me make one thing clear; I do not like pre-season friendlies.
There’s a lot not to like, whether it is the nullified atmosphere, the general carnage caused by a ‘sit where you want’ policy or the complete non entity of the game itself, pre-season friendlies, for me, defy the point of football. They’re nothing games designed purely to give the team a work out and match fitness, but for a spectator there is little to get excited about.
Case points; the two loudest cheers of the first half came when the white noise coming through the speakers, which sounded like torrential rain on the roof of the Coop stand, was turned off and when a cross field pass for Norwich found their number 18 who’d be calling for it for five minutes. Is that football?
I tell you what isn’t football, a group of eight kids, all under ten apparently unaccompanied and throwing sweets at people, messing about and paying no interest to the game at all. That was a pain and the old boys sat behind me had no hesitation in telling them off on numerous occasions, not that they listened. I also got wound up by people meandering around whilst the game was on, spotting friends and standing in gangways for a chat. I’d come to watch the football, or at least the rather pleasant exchanges that passed for football, not to look at the back of Big Sheila’s pink keeper shirt whilst she nattered away to Joan and Linda about how much Bozzie ought to ‘sort it out’.
I went along, mainly because I wanted to get a glimpse of a few new faces and just to feel being at the Bank again. I may get heavily criticised for this, but I came away a little after half time, utterly convinced that anything of use wouldn’t reveal itself to me in the final 45 minutes. Maybe I could have watched Billy, Carl, Dave, Ethan, Frank and Greg Trialist, the sextuplets we had on the bench, but they’re difficult to tell apart so I figured I’d let them get on with it.
Danny will have issued instructions and will have had a look at the new players, he’ll have seen how they respond to his tactics and how they’ve fitted in around the squad. We have seen a group of players going through a practice match, wanting to win but also wanting to avoid injury. Tackles are a rarity (unless you’re Michael Bostwick) and we glean very little.
I thought Ellis being included was telling, he settled nicely into the middle of the park and looked a threat. Alfred Trialist at the back is a big lad with plenty to offer and, aside from a slice after fifteen minutes or so, barely put a foot wrong. He looks identical to Sean Raggett and Rob Dickie, I’m wondering if Danny has spent his summer cloning Raggs and hasn’t named the trialist because he’s still thinking of a name for him. Frank Stein might be appropriate, based not only on him being grown from the DNA of our former hero, but also because he’s a big old beast.
Aside from that, what did we learn, really? Nothing. I doubt the set up we started with is the planned tactic for the new season, although the back four looked suspiciously like a starting defence. With both Freck and O’Connor missing out we didn’t learn a thing about the midfield, with John Akinde not featuring we were also non the wiser as to who’ll be up front. If you’re judging our new players on tonight’s performance, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
To all intents and purposes, tonight may as well have been an opening training session. that isn’t a criticism of the club, the players or anything, just an observation of the pre-season friendly. At least when you play a non-league side they have a dig at you, fed up of working 9-5 in an office they stick a few tasty challenges in on the higher paid players. Anyone remember all hell breaking loose against either Lincoln United or Lincoln Moorlands in early 2000s? THAT was a friendly, this was a warm up.
There are lots of positives to take of course. Big John was unveiled to the crowd which was nice and I can happily confirm the new kits does not look better close up, but from a distance I can put up with it. I learned people will moan at anything, I heard complaints about the lack of food in the fan zone, despite it being quiet, moans about the gates which were open and (justifiably) moans that some tickets worked on some scanners and not others. In fact, the most passionate exchanges of the night took place not on the pitch, but when a group of five blokes were told three of them could get into the ground but the other two would have to go to the ticket office to sort out the issues. Needless to say a raised voice and a bit of a scene negated the need for the long walk around the ground, eventually.
I bumped into Nathan too and Garry Goddard for a chat which was good. Maybe the friendlies are as much about getting together with friends and other fans than the match. I haven’t seen my mate Dave since the penultimate home game of the season, so sharing a steak with him before the game was nice. I haven’t seen my Dad since Sunday, but it was still nice to get together with him all the same. Nathan had a chat about Boston and how he was taking in the games from a scouting point of view. It was nice to hear him fired up about his new role too, I commented before I wasn’t sure he enjoyed his football anymore, but I can tell he’s hungry and excited by the challenge at York Street. It pleases me because Nathan is a cracking lad and Boston will be much richer for focusing his enthusiasm and experience.
It was nice to see Raggs come across to the home fans for a second, and to hear the ovation he got. it was nice to see the new programme design, nice to see Casey for a chat and alan of course, nice to try the new burgers.
It was all nice… not competitive, not exciting, not enthralling, but nice. That’s pre-season for you I guess. it’s nice to have something to write about, and it was nice to leave when I wanted without drawing the ire of other fans too!