I can’t remember the last time I heard this. The last time I had this feeling in March. Not in 2009. Not 2015. But now, it’s here, that shrill voice singing "we’re going down" is ringing in my ears and I don’t think I’ll shake it.
I usually start the season with hope.
Flash back to July and I wanted to believe that we were about to see a change in this club. Sure, there was still that little vein of cynicism running through. I know who the owner is. I know the track record. But, after a harrowing year of abysmal football, shockingly poor management, and non-existent leadership on the pitch, a few signings in the summer and the appointment of Steve McClaren made me excited to be a supporter again. We might do something! We have goals! We’ve turfed John Carver! We won’t have to spend the season protesting! It was reinvigorating for a bit, but superficial.
As the season started, the curtain slowly drifted back in the breeze, and once again supporters were asked not to pay attention to the man back there pulling the levers.
Instead, we were asked to wait. To ride it out. To judge the team and manager after an arbitrary number of games - a number that seemed to increase with every poor decision and worse performance. The excuses from McClaren started raining down like small bills in a strip club and were just as soul-crushingly empty. The problem is that this practice of building up the fan base with false promises and under-delivering has been happening for years. We can call for the manager’s head, but he’s simply a deckhand who’s been handed the helm when the captain steers the ship into the coastline and pisses off in the first available lifeboat. I wouldn’t even trust Schteve to fold towels into swans on the Verandah Deck.
And, it’s all well and good to point the blame at McClaren. I’d like to. He’s an easier target than most. It seems like each week he’s rolling dice to pick his starting team. He seems to thrive on strange superstitions and rituals. He always looks like he’s spending 90 minutes trying to remember where he’s parked his car. His demeanour and the depressing results make it pretty clear that he has as much control over the team as he does his hairline. But, I don’t know whether that is the fault of his apathy, his in ability, the club, or a group of fed up players rebelling to incite change. Maybe it’s a bit of everything. What is clear to me is that while the manager lacks dignity and integrity, so does everyone else in the organization.
At every sign of adversity, this club collectively shrugs. They bury their heads in the sand. They dodge real questions. They talk about the next few games like they have a lifetime to sort problems out. They’re all a little bit dead behind the eyes. They’ll all get paid regardless. Only the fans seem bothered if the team succeeds this season, if you call scraping by simply because three teams happen to be slightly worse than you "succeeding."
It bothers me that it’s taken me so long to see the reality here. I usually cling onto that last shred of hope for the entire season, despite my better judgement. But now, I feel we’ve just been played the same song on repeat. A predictable four chords. A couple of verses about hardship, a joyous chorus, an experimental key change where we forget the banal opening bars, chorus, chorus, fade like nothing’s wrong.
I don’t like this tune anymore.
See you in the Championship, pals.