Sunday, August 27, 2006


Jim Smith says he's not enjoying being a manager. It reminds me of an article with Tony Adams from just before the 1998 World Cup. Adams said that it was all very well having expectations as a fan, but when you're the player who has got to actually put the effort into delivering on that expectation, it's something else altogether.

Oxblogger once visited the Nou Camp in Barcelona. On the stadium tour you walk up the tunnel and onto the pitch, your legs feel heavy, the pitch yawns out in front of you. Its terrifying. If you're a player and the ground is full, you've then got to go and perform and perform to the expectation of thousands of others.

Smith has got to make the decisions, and the right ones, week after week. He has many options, and he's got to pick the right one. Though he is one of the best equipped managers to get things right, it doesn't give him impunity from errors. That said his decision making has been impeccable so far.

Fitness has been key in the victories over Dagenham and Burton suggesting the investment in the infrastructure is already paying dividends. Yesterday, he identified the rather agricultural style of Northwich where the long ball was the primary option whether playing up and down the pitch or across it. The under utilised midfield allowed Burgess to push on, whilst Johnson and Anaclet tucked in to absorb any bombardment. Only Hargreaves and Pettefer really played in a conventional midfield role. Once the game was won Johnson and Anaclet were released to turn the screw further.

It worked a treat; early enthusiasm was dampened and Northwich looked exhausted by half time. The physical stuff didn't work and the Yellows drove home their technical superiority over and over again. There was no complacency at all, and no remorse.

Such thrashings may not be to the taste of everyone. Phil Gilchrist and Gavin Johnson didn't seem to be enjoying the new convention that ensures every player joins in with goal celebrations. Gilchrist's jog up the pitch slowed with each goal whilst Johnson gave up completely after the second.

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