Friday, 10 October 2014

No room for sentiment

FOOTBALL can be an unforgiving game - one minute you can be the hero, the next a complete zero.
That is even more so the case these days, with fans, media and chairmen adopting a much more short-termist mindset - Russ Wilcox's axing at Scunthorpe a few months after winning promotion and the League Two's manager of the year soon after a 28-match unbeaten run is an example of that.
It can also be a sentimental game. Fans grow attached to players and they would happily see them stick around for ever - you only need to see the reception Alan Bennett got the other week for an example of that, and he was only a CTFC player for 15 months.
Supporters want to see effort and commitment, and these are the players who are remembered and revered long after they have gone - even if they are not the most successful that we have had.
But you cannot keep players around on effort, work-rate and commitment alone. 
Effort and commitment should be a given anyway. Every player should be trying, for every minute of every game.
In the past, players like Josh Low have come in for flak, Matt Richards got it last season, and now it is Byron Harrison's turn, as they have all been perceived to not be trying, not giving 100 per cent, cruising through games, or just simply being lazy.
Every player has their off games. Yes, we need more from Byron, but this is the same Byron who scored 15 goals in our terrible side last season and who many of the fans now moaning about him voted as their player of the year a few months ago (me included...).
The reaction from a lot of fans to Terry Gornell being transfer-listed at his own request (remember - his own request) has not come as a great surprise to me.
A lot of fans are not happy at the thought of him going, with the reasoning largely being that he works hard, shows passion and is committed.
I would agree he does all those things, but it can only get you so far - you have to look at his record of five goals in all competitions, three in the league in 26 starts and 19 sub appearances. 
That has to be the bottom line, no matter how much running about he does, and how committed he is.
Sooner or later, you have to say enough is enough, this isn't working, and accept that it might be time to move on, and this is what Terry has seen fit to do by asking to go elsewhere.
I am sure that he is frustrated and thinks he should have had more game-time, and there will be those blaming Mark Yates, and claiming there has been a fall-out, as there seemingly has to have been with every player who leaves the club, or wants to.
Sometimes there has been, Darryl Duffy was one, Darren Carter I think another who didn't leave on the best of terms and had a parting shot. But not every time.
Yates has been undoubtedly been wrong on a few occasions to get rid of players - Bennett, Russ Penn and Keith Lowe are the ones who immediately spring to mind. But in Gornell's case, you have to go back to that goal record every time. It is all there in black and white.
Wednesday night's was his first goal in 352 days. 50 weeks. Almost a year. He is a forward. That cannot be acceptable as a reason to keep giving him chances.
He'll start scoring soon if we give him a run of games. So you keep him in the side, in the hope that his luck might change and he will go on a run. How long do you wait? How many chances do you give?
I am also reminded of what happens whenever we sign, or are about to sign a forward player.
What is the first thing that happens? Social media is full of posts detailing that player's past goalscoring records at his previous clubs, and giving opinions on it, good or bad.
So what would the reaction be if we were going to sign  a player whose recent record revealed three league goals in 45 games?  I can't believe many of our fans would be happy at the thought of signing him - yet many seem to want us to keep Gornell with that recent record.
If that three in 45 was Harrison's goal record, I doubt if there would be a Cheltenham fan wanting him to stay here. Because he is perceived not to be hard-working or committed, many fans would happily see him go it seems... even with his vastly superior goal record to Gornell.
I am sure there will be interest in Gornell. Teams up in his neck of the woods like Southport, Chester or Macclesfield - his former club Accrington maybe. We know he has turned one side down, believed to be a Conference side.
It would be even better would be if the transfer-listing had the same effect on him is it has on Jason Taylor - a player transformed this season. In fact, Taylor is officially still on the list, and when he went on it we were told another player might join him but it never happened. 
I wonder if that was Gornell. I cannot believe he has not been thinking about this for a while. I cannot see that he has scored on Wednesday, and gone into Yates on Thursday morning and said "see, told you I should be playing. I want to leave." This will have been brewing for a while.
Gornell may yet come back. A loan spell somewhere might revitalise him. It might see the loan system work in our favour for once, rather than the other way round, as it might play one of our players into form instead of us doing just that for other clubs.
But we have to be careful about letting him go out on loan, maybe until January for example, or we could have a problem in a few weeks time, as John Marquis' spell ends at the end of November and can't be extended any further.
So we could be left then with Harrison, Raffa de Vita and our newest recruit, Eusebio Bancessi as our forward options, unless of course Yates heads back to the loan market again... or wants to give Bobbie Dale a go.
My view of the loan market, especially the 'here today, gone tomorrow' short-term ones is well known, and again I am left disappointed to see us overlooking our own lads to bring in someone else's teenager.
Nothing against Eusebio, he seems a good player, but why doesn't Terry's decision mean a chance for Harry Williams, Dale or Zack Kotwica?
We do need to be careful with the way we treat these lads. I would hope that the performances of Marley Watkins up at Inverness recently have given some food for thought.
I know people will say 'it's only Inverness' and 'Scottish football is crap anyway' but he has done well for himself and is an example of someone going away and showing signs of fulfilling the promise many fans thought he had - he wasn't given much of a chance and drifted away. Sam Foley is another who has come back via Newport to Yeovil.
Harry got 37 goals from midfield last season - so why haven't we seen him even on the bench in a side which has struggled to score goals? All this after he started three of our last four games last season, and in my view did not look out of place.
It just seems a perplexing decision to me. Now he is back at Evesham again. Good news for Paul Collicutt, but I am not sure if it's the right thing for Harry - surely he needs to be tested at a higher level (no disrespect to Evesham, but Harry scored four goals in his last spell, so surely he had proved he can do it there), or be on our bench getting game time.
Dale also scored regularly last season and got four this term in the reserves and has been on the bench, but that's it.
Kotwica has a couple of short run-outs, Adam Powell has not been seen at all, James Bowen on the bench once and Jamal Lawrence from the youth team twice.
But I wonder just how likely players like Bowen and Lawrence are to ever come on to the pitch, or if they are just filling the bench. I hope Yates is not just putting them there for lip service, to say to the board "see, I do care about our youngsters."
I would love to know what Russ Milton or Jamie Victory think if that were the case. If it is, what is the point of having an academy?
That would be dangling the carrot in front of them and giving them some false hope. Joe Hanks has proved that, given a chance, these lads are good enough to make an impact. But they need an opening.
I am slightly concerned therefore that the manager now seems to be contradicting the chairman's words from the summer that we were not going to use the loan market as much as we have before.
Expense, the short-termism, and the detachment from fans that these players can have as they are not ours and that they don't 'buy in' to things are the reasons he gave.
The bigger, younger, hungrier squad was also meant to be there as a comfort blanket to allow Yates more scope with injuries and suspensions, so he could use the young lads if senior ones went down.
Seems he didn't tell the manager all that though. Eusebio is now the fourth loanee in already, only 11 league games in - and I am pleased he said no to Jordan Wynter's return. I don't feel we need him.
The comments he has made in the Echo article here include a few confusing ones - he seems to say that it is okay to play this lad ahead of our own lads simply because he has been at Benfica and Wolves, and our lads need more development in senior football. Why can't they get that 'development' here with exposure to first-team football?
I am not saying we should be playing five or six of them from the start. But at least they should have the odd substitute appearance, and a start here and there. For example, why not have one or two on the bench on Wednesday and give them a go? 
We do have to be careful with them - Hanks has done well but showed signs of weariness recently so he might have to come out of the side, rest and go back in again later, but we also have to show them we believe in them and we really think they have a future here.
And it's not just the youngsters who get overtaken by the loanees. I can't believe Omari Sterling-James and Andy Haworth, to name two, are overly thrilled at another body arriving.
Another quote struck me from that article: "We have a few players up front who are a bit alike." 
Yates is right there - and I can't help feeling Eusebio only adds to de Vita, Sterling-James, Kotwica and Haworth in the players-who-can-play-wide-or-in-midfield-or-behind-the-striker category - and does the 3-5-2 allow for players who do that sort of job?