It seems there was a worrying disconnect between the Blues team and fans at Barnsley last Saturday.
From what I saw on Davo’s Diary, players received the ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’ treatment, which I don’t recall our fans singing since Fulham away in 2008.
I don’t agree with our fans singing that, but it also disappointed me that the players trudged directly towards the tunnel without making eye contact with the stand of travelling fans right next to them.
Some are already turning on Steve Cotterill, but for me this is a big mistake. If we’re to get out of trouble, we have to rally round our manager and back him to weed out the bad eggs in what is clearly a fractious dressing room.
If we as a fanbase constantly put him under the microscope – as we saw during Gianfranco Zola’s tenure – the players are given more leeway.
That said, I would like to see Cotterill put Craig Gardner back in the starting eleven for two reasons. Firstly, we need a leader and a dominant influence in that dressing room – as much as I love Paul Robinson, he’s no longer a viable option week-in, week-out at this level.
Secondly, we need someone who will be brave in possession. On paper, we have attacking players that shouldn’t be part of a team that is the lowest scorers in the EFL, but Jota, for example, played in an expansive Brentford side where there was always movement and quality passing from deep.
Cheikh N’Doye has the physicality, but he can’t pass to save his life. Maikel Kieftenbeld does the simple things well but he’s not that creative, nor is David Davis, another willing battler. Gardner can be wasteful, granted, but right now we need someone who will try something different to get us further up the pitch.
I’d also agree with Tom Ross that we might as well start Lukas Jutkiewicz and get men forward in support of him. When we’ve had quick attacking players like Che Adams and Jacques Maghoma – as well as Isaac Vassell before he got injured – we’ve made the mistake of sitting back and hoping they can conjure something out of nothing, but those players have often looked quite isolated. When Jutkiewicz is given the right support and service, he can be a real handful for centre-backs.
Those are my thoughts on the team, but Cotterill is paid to get these decisions right. For now, we need to support him. It will be hard enough for us to avoid relegation as a united club – divided, we stand no chance.
Words by Gabriel Sutton for @FootbalLab