For a game heavily marketed to be full of colour and verve, the win against Macclesfield turned into a rather grey affair as everyone became pre-occupied with two very English obsessions; the football and the weather.
In between intermittent bouts of intricate attacking football inspired by Steve MacLean and some fast and loose defending, which is more effective than it is comfortable. The season’s best crowd of over 9000+ regressed to almost silence when thick fog enveloped the ground as if an evil master criminal had released a noxious gas from his island lair.
With distractions aplenty, it was fitting that the last game of the year showed no evidence of that third, very English obsession; our Empire Complex.
Macclesfield brought 86 fans, although there was nowhere near that in the stands at 3pm, and very little evidence of them when they finally evaporated in the toxic cloud just before half-time. It’s a club barely deserving of a place in the football league, when you consider those swimming with the pond life in the Conference.
And yet, we took them on as equals. In the past, our sense of entitlement and superiority has been the source of our downfall. In the past we’ve assumed victory because of who we are. But whatever wrapper Macclesfield come in, they are still a team of half decent lower league professionals with a bit of pace and ability. They made it uncomfortable for us, but rather than being shocked at what we encountered, we took it on face value. So when James Constable was needed on the goal line to clear our lines, he was there doing the job without complaint.
Off the field, it was much the same, there was none of the old ‘you should be beating shit like this’. We now recognise that teams at whatever level need to be respected. They’re all capable over any 90 minute period of winning a game. For all the distractions – the weather, the crowd, the marketing, the Christmas pudding – we’re actually playing teams at football, not at willy waggling.
Chris Wilder is right, our empire, the one built in the 1980’s is gone; as glorious as that was and as sad as it sounds. The best thing we can do with it now is clear the rubble and start building a new one. As we reach the end of 2010; I think we’re as close to starting this new era of success as we’ve been for the last 10 years.