With Pep Clotet having now gone, I was hoping I’d get to write a positive piece this morning where I could talk about moving on and new beginnings, all that wonderful stuff. I had really hoped that moving on Clotet would lift the players a little bit and things would be better.
However, like Harlee Dean said in his post match interview, rather than an ugly performance where the team got the basics right and ground a result out, the team was set up to “play football” and got mullered.
I can’t help but wonder if Dean was making a veiled reference to what was known as “Dongball” in his assessment, with the implied criticism of the club CEO Ren Xuandong’s love for possession-based football.
I’m not the biggest fan of Dean normally but his brutal assessment was accurate; I think he was even man enough to accept that he needed to step up too as a senior player. The problem is we’ve been here before, we’ve heard more than once frank confessions of not being good enough and about the need to step up. We need to see that in actions now.
Instead of a collective team effort where players fought for each other, we got a disjointed group of individuals who didn’t know what to do, what players to pick up or where to go. That absolutely has to change.
Two injuries to Jake Clarke-Salter and Kristian Pedersen respectively meant that Nico Gordon made his starting debut, while Wes Harding was once again asked to play on the left side of defence – a position we all know he cannot play in. I’d heard rumours before the game that there would be three at the back, but I did not for one second think they’d subject us to Harding at left wing back.
Spooner obviously got the memo about playing the kids because Ryan Burke came on to make his debut, while Caolan Boyd-Munce and Jayden Reid also made substitute cameos. None of those trio disgraced themselves, but none of them were able to do anything to give Blues an attacking outlet as Stoke happily sat behind the ball, comfortable with a 2-0 lead.
If anything, Burke (and to some extent Gordon when the team went 4-4-2) both showed that coaches should be given a slap around the chops if they once again succumb to the delirium that causes them to pick Harding on the left hand side of defence when Pedersen is absent.
It all meant for a crappy afternoon, and more people posing questions on Twitter afterwards about what might happen if the club is relegated, and if administration is a possibility. Fans who were once positive and thinking of a finish in the upper reaches of the table are now openly opining that they are willing to accept horrific things if it means the club being rid of Ren.
The problem as I see it is that Ren is as much a symptom of the problem as Clotet had become – a person thrust into a role without the required skillset to do it competently, with bosses who are reluctant to replace them for whatever reason.
Although he has the grandiose title of “Chief Executive Officer”, Ren is merely another pawn in the game the elusive Mr King plays. Even the office at Wast Hills isn’t really Ren’s; he’s merely keeping the seat warm for the Chairman of BSH, Zhao Wenqing.
If Blues are to get anywhere next season, then I think it’s as important that the power structure is updated at Blues to bring in someone who knows how to run the club as it is to bring in a good head coach.
If nothing changes, then I don’t think it will matter who will be brought in, sooner or later they will either leave because of friction with the board or because they weren’t good enough for the role of head coach.
My real fear is that because the club’s owners have such a small circle of trust, they will be reluctant to bring in anyone else to do the job. That lack of trust in outsiders by our owners is what I feel really holds the club back – and until something changes on that front we may be doomed to be forever caught in this Groundhog Day relegation scenario.