Steven Keen looks past the headline-grabbing cup run to a season of under-achievement at Boundary Park.
A season-long battle with relegation but a headline-grabbing cup run…how has this term lived up to pre-season hopes?
Not the best to be perfectly honest. I was hopeful of a safe, mid-table finish at the start of the season so to see us stave off relegation with only 2 games to spare was, let’s say, unexpected. They way we played for a good 3/4 of the season was as bad as I’ve seen it at Boundary Park (and that included the Penney years)! Obviously there was the cup run which certainly provided the rare highlights of an otherwise disappointing season. Cruising past League Once Champions Doncaster, dismantling Forest in a 15 minute spell at The County Ground, outmuscling Liverpool & grinding out a draw at home to Everton were all admirable but I couldn’t help but wonder why we couldn’t replicate those performances in the League.
Happy with your new gaffer so far?
I wont lie…I was furious initially. Sacking Dickov was fine with me and more than warranted. As for a replacement, I wanted experience. I wanted a motivator. I wanted Dowie. Unfortunately, through a combination of him wanting more money and us perhaps not giving him the length of contract he desired, it didn’t materialise and we ended up giving a 31 yr old rookie the job at a time when we were languishing in & around the drop zone.
Once the dust settled, once I’d heard him speak, his vision, his ideas, everything about him really started to grow on me. He isn’t one of those retired footballers wishing he was still playing. He’s a retired footballer wanting to manage. Apparently he turned down a job within Liverpool’s coaching set up to come to us (for drastically lower money) so the commitment and desire is evidently there. He kept us in the league. The team looked invigorated. We were pressing all over the pitch, we looked interested, we looked like we had a plan. All things which we had lacked for a long, long time.
Now we’re approaching June and I can honestly say I am looking forward to the new season. He’s recruiting early and he knows exactly what he wants. Pacey, direct players. Wanting wingers to take defenders on and get the ball in the box as often as possible. Very impressed so far. I’m not naïve enough to think all is well though. Time will tell.
Were you sorry to see Dickov go?
As a person, absolutely no complaints whatsoever. Comes across as a really nice bloke. Even when we let him go, you only had to see his reaction to our last minute equaliser at home to Everton on the TV to see he still had a place in his heart for us.
Unfortunately for him, though, you can be the nicest bloke in the world but if you can’t do what you’re paid to do, you’re shown the door.
I was hopeful Dickov could pass on some of his terrier-like characteristics into the players but it wasn’t to be. Soft in the tackle, lazy looking and just general disinterest. Things you just wouldn’t normally associate with Dickov.
He just didn’t have a plan B. If our tactics from the start didn’t work, that was it. No alternative options. Nothing.
I’ll always believe that with an experience #2 besides him that he could become a good manager. He certainly has good contacts in the game and he can obviously talk the talk since he has somehow managed to back the Doncaster job. I do wish him all the best, though.
If you’d been installed in the dug-out last August what would you have done different?
Hired an assistant who knew the coaching side of the game inside out. Someone like Horton. Taggart was basically a bigger version of Dickov. Plenty of mouth but little tactical knowledge.
Who has been the stand-out performers?
Jose Baxter. How we persuaded him to sign a new deal I don’t know. Unlikely we’d still be in League One if we hadn’t signed him up.
Matt Smith – Only in the cup, though. I think it was March before he actually bagged a league goal at home for us.
Jean Yves M’voto – Rock in defense. He does have a mistake in him but that’s probably why he’s in League One and not higher. I do think he’s better than us, though.
Jonathan Grounds – Solid season. Rarely put a foot wrong.
Anyone you’d happily show the exit door to?
If Johnson got rid of half the squad tomorrow I would not be bothered at all.
Two off the top of my head – Robbie Simpson & Dean Furman. High earners and not producing the goods to warrant the wages. Simpson, I believe, has already been released however there is talk of him coming back on reduced terms. Furman, whilst still technically an Oldham player, will probably join Dickov at Doncaster after a successful loan stint.
What’s been your personal highlight?
People might say Liverpool at home but for me, personally, I loved the win at Forest. Then again, away trips are way better than home games anyway. Great day out, an epic 15 minute period in the 2nd half and, of course, Hooters, just a few minutes away from the County Ground!
How would you sum up this season as a song title?
The Verve – The Drugs Don’t Work
I could have taken every drug under the sun but it still wouldn’t have made our football (in the league) under Dickov any more exciting.