There are a number of clichés which no self-respecting football writer should ever allow himself to be drawn into utilising.
Some are forgivable in odd cases but more often than not plain inaccurate (anyone who has played 25 games for your club being described as “a legend” – see Michel Salgado for a case in point) while others become such woolly, nebulous concepts – the “box-to-box midfielder” or the “90-minute player” that repeated use renders them largely meaningless. All midfielders are box-to-box, there is no-one playing football who can’t actually run 60 yards, the best ones just turn up in either box at precisely the right time on a consistent basis.
While hackneyed epithets for such mythical beasts as the False Nine and the Ball-Playing Libero are one thing, there is, however, no more rash or foolhardy, almost certain prelude-to-disaster expression than that which sees fans, managers or players describe their home ground as “Fortress this-or-that.”
It is understandable that football folk value the importance of being strong and hard-to-beat on their own midden but to describe your stadium thus is tempting fate even after an actual good run which partly justifies such hyperbole, as we at Ewood found last season when a run of four consecutive wins for Paul Lambert’s side was precisely so heralded – only for us to lose the subsequent three, draw the fourth and finish the season with the first win in five at home, a ratio which has continued into the current season.
To do so on the back of a such sequence of incompetence and meek vulnerability is bullshit.
Those of you adept in mathematics will have worked out that that’s two wins in the last 10 home games, hardly suggesting that even with a favourable portion of matches at our gaff to come that the place is about to assume the monolithic status of some kind of inpenetrable citadel.
But Owen Coyle is a man with almost a Keanesque capacity for blarney-stone bluster, quite fitting for a man whose given middle name is after (Saint) Columba, an Irish monk who spread Christianity to the masses through powerful oratory.
The Great Beyond lies unknown still but one hopes for the faithful that Columba’s dark ages preachings had a less tenuous link with reality than the worst of Coyle’s rambling rubbish in an increasingly ominous period in our club’s history.
There’s no such thing as Fortress Ewood until the wins and points stack up and both Coyle and those journalists who even allowed the sub-editors to consider headlines built around this staggeringly inappropriate use of the most vacuous of phrases need to give their heads a wobble.
True, on paper home games against Ipswich and Forest in the next few days represent an opportunity to gather some momentum against two more sides barely firing on half cylinders themselves at this stage, but my heart sank even when reading that Mick McCarthy’s side hadn’t scored for four games and that the decidedly contrasting no-nonsense Tractor Boys ‘ boss described the current run as one of the most difficult of his career.
If a little leprechaun was to appear on his shoulder and asked who he fancied playing to end such a sequence, I wonder who he’d choose…..(answers on a postcard please)?
With a strike force available to Big Mick of Leon Best, Luke Varney and Tom Lawrence one can only shudder and imagine just how the scoreless run might end and fear the worst.
Also in the Town side will be Jonathan Douglas, another of those players who couldn’t get beyond an odd League Cup appearance a decade or so ago.
Like so many now plying their trade elsewhere he would probably walk into our current side.
While firing blanks themselves Ipswich don’t concede many either and three clean sheets in their last five hint at some degree of resilience and organisation despite the disappointing points haul.
Forest too have struggled and are without a win in seven league and cup games since August. They do score in most games – only Arsenal have prevented them doing so during that sequence – but like ourselves they have conceded in every game in every competition this season, letting in 30 in 14 games.
If we really do have an impressive array of firepower now and a constant tangible attacking threat, and I’m far from convinced, it’s now or never as far as the proof of the pudding goes.
The time for consoling ourselves with how many points we could have-should have had or how many we deserved is gone now, anything less than four points from these two represents at least one more crushing failure and Coyle’s chirpy silly talk will be wearing thinner than the ice he should already be skating on if only anyone was empowered to make practical footballing decisions.
It was heartening to see young Samuelsen score for Norway, even against tiddlers San Marino (“With 65 minutes gone, Scotland are basically drawing nil nil against the top of a mountain,” said a Caledonian commentator on one memorable occasion).
Quite predictably and understandably reports in the Nordic press have suggested that he’s already becoming disillusioned at Ewood, as well you might if you were below Liam Feeney in the manager’s estimation, and looking to cut short his stay here.
Hopefully we’ll get a look at him over the next seven days, possibly along with another butcher’s at Stokes, another whose Ewood career hasn’t got going yet, particularly if attackers Graham and Emnes are carrying knocks over.
After these games comes a run of matches against sides currently in the top half or likely to be shortly, as I still fancy Villa will climb the table with their expensive collection of summer signings under the tutelage of serial championship success Steve Bruce.
If we don’t collect the better part of these six points I truly believe the relegation game will be almost up by the time we go to Deepdale on the second Saturday in December.
Coyle clinging to the completely unlikely notion that Venkys will release funds they have thus far shown no inclination to part with if we we were somehow to climb the table by January seems as romantic a concept as his patron saint pitching up on Iona to convert the masses, only with about a one per cent chance of proving as successful.
If this shapeless, undefended apology of a season is to assume any kind of recognisable structured form the foundations need laying this week.
Let’s hope the turrets aren’t unmanned and the drawbridge and main gates of the largely fabled Fortress Ewood aren’t left invitingly open and unattended as so often in the recent past.
BLUE EYED BOY