This is not an article I wanted to write.
I came home from the Stoke game cold, angry and frustrated at the capitulation I’d witnessed but I held off from writing anything in case Rooney and Blues were able to rectify matters in the game against Bristol City.
Sadly, that wasn’t to happen.
An oddly anxious and scared performance did manage to keep a clean sheet but at the cost of any vague attacking threat. Frustration abounded in the stands, and I think only the lack of a Bristol City goal prevented outright chants for Rooney to be sacked.
I really wanted it to work but it’s not going to is it?
Time to go Rooney #bcfc
— Daniel Ivery (@almajir) December 29, 2023
I’ll hold my hands up. In the aftermath of the game, I tweeted my own dissatisfaction with the way things had gone.
I’ve slept on it and sobered up, but my feelings remain the same: As much as I want Rooney to turn it around, my faith in him doing so has now completely evaporated.
The question now is how prevalent that feeling is among the fans, the players and the board of directors.
Judging by the sparsity of fans sat around me in the Gil Merrick Lower, the urge to watch Blues play has definitely dropped.
There were a fair few season ticket seats that remained empty, while the lack of queues outside the ground pre-game and in the concession area at half time was evidence that there were far fewer fans in the GML than usual.
It was kind of sad; the lack of fans coupled with the frustration of some sat in the stand meant I could clearly hear the individual insults thrown at Blues players as the game petered out.
In the other stands there were tweets telling of arguments between staff and fans, and between players and fans during the game.
I think there were some who stayed away in the executive areas due to toxicity from the Stoke game although I’ve been assured Garry Cook’s absence was more due to illness than anything else.
The toxicity is bad, but the resultant apathy will be far worse.
Wagner, Knighthead and co need the club to sell as many matchday tickets as possible to help balance the books in a season where the club is close to Profit and Sustainability rule thresholds.
Worse, toxicity and apathy aren’t good for selling the club to would-be commercial partners and sponsors. Brands want to be associated not only with success but positive vibes – something that is clearly amiss at Blues.
There is also a question of how much faith the players have in Wayne Rooney.
We’re not in a position where we can replace huge numbers of the squad in January and as such it’s imperative that Rooney gets the team to be playing to the best of its capabilities.
Yet it feels that some players have regressed from levels we have seen from them in the past.
I don’t know enough to know whether it’s players not knowing how Rooney wants them to play or not caring how Rooney wants them to play, but it’s clear something is wrong.
And while the return of injured players like Lee Buchanan as well as the suspended Krystian Bielik should help the team, I don’t think we can blame the absence of some players for everything.
We shouldn’t be in a position where we’re playing for a goalless draw at home against Bristol City. One shot on target all game doesn’t scream of front-foot football and it’s not going to help put bums on seats.
The question now I guess is how much longer Tom Wagner, Garry Cook and their cohorts think this can carry on.
Everyone I’ve spoken to who knows Wagner has talked about what a focused, intense individual he is. They’ve talked about how Wagner is a serial winner who is absolutely dedicated to making this all work.
One doesn’t get to run a multi-billion dollar fund without being able to make tough decisions or without being ruthless when required.
I have faith that Wagner knows the point where the benefit of changing the manager again outweighs the financial cost of doing so. It’s my feeling that point is fairly close – but only Wagner will know for sure.
As I said at the beginning of this article, I didn’t want to write this.
Sometimes though, tough things need to be done.