Time to hit the ground running

John Light

John Light

First published in Gloucestershire Sport by

THE phoney war of pre-season friendlies is over.

Will the team score more goals? Will we now beat bottom of the table teams? Will be have the mental strength to sustain a long successful campaign?

Last season the answer to all three questions was no. Last season our team could thrill but also frustrate. What will be different this year? What evidence is there for us to look forward with hope and confidence? I think there is plenty.

First and foremost is squad strength. Everyone of the first team squad is capable of playing at first team level. Secondly there is reputation.

The players have been together for a month. This is no hand-to-mouth team. They are used to playing together, and ready to go. Also squad experience is now a factor.

All our new signings have been around a bit and they bring a streetwise determination to our evolving club.

The last and most significant factor is one over which there is a question mark. Fire power! If we have enough all will be well. Seven goals more last season would have brought 14 extra points and a play- off place (if scored in the right games).

This squad can score an extra 15 or so can’t they? We, the fans, have a part to play.

All British athletes are praising the Olympic crowds, claiming the support they are receiving gives them that little bit extra. That should happen at The New Lawn.

Last season we were too quiet and too critical. I think we have a team, but I wonder if we have a crowd – a crowd who can will the team on, especially when they are up against it. I have to ask questions about the much-vaunted "Rockwool".

If the heart of our support is there we need more noise and more support.

Too often it is silent and you can count those watching there. Also the main stand cannot escape criticism.

Too many carping comments are made, and make no mistake the players hear them.

The club ownership and management have done their bit by assembling a fine group of players.

We, in turn, must play our part. As I write I do not know the nature of the injuries to captain Hodgkiss and new signing Green. I also worry about the absence lately of Stokes.

"Prince" can play at right-back and Collins at left so we have cover, but every injury at this time is worrying.

My team selection caused several comments and it is easy to see why. Selection is no longer automatic, there is competition for every place. Mrs Light (who has an impeccable sporting pedigree – pool – track and Barnet season ticket holder) put me in my place.

"You know the importance of goals and total commitment, yet you leave out Yan and Reece," she said. She has a point but do not tell her. As well as commenting on the team (yes I do read the forum) some fans still question the 4-3-3 formation, preferring 4-4-2.

The advantage of 4-3-3 is that it offers width and can provide numbers in defence and attack. Just watch the movement in the game. It can easily become 4-5-1 or 4-2-4. Some doubt the absence of a plan B.

This I cannot understand, as flexibility is the key word in our system and in several games last year plan B or even plan C was used.

Keep a close eye on manager David. I close by mentioning our biggest problem, small crowds and the number of people unaware of where we are and what we offer. Living in Cirencester I come across people who think we are a Forest of Dean team.

The Man U game will have helped but we all must engage in missionary work and surely this is something we can do with real confidence. We have the product, we have the ground.

I finish by my making a few predications. Position four. Player of the year Oshodi.

Luton – top. Play-off rivals Grimsby, Stockport, Lincoln. Hereford 15th. Newport 14th. Kidderminster 8th. Relegated Dartford, Hyde, Nuneaton, possibly Barrow.

Isn’t it going to be a fun finding out? See you at the New Lawn for the Blue Square opener against Cambridge United on Saturday, 3pm.

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