1. Another wretched week for City. A tepid 0-0 draw at the Den and a startling collapse on Saturday garned just a point, while neither performance offers much cause for optimism. If we were still in denial about being a relegation battle last week, we’ve been firmly disabused of that notion now. We’re in a lot of trouble.
2. Match analysis shortly, but how City cope with the realisation of being in a survival battle will be interesting. We can’t pretend to be optimistic. Entering this sort of battle with an incompetently assembled squad of moderate loanees, a porous defence and a soft, fat underbelly doesn’t fill us with hope. The best that can happen is that following the absymal capitulation against Bristol City is that the manager (whoever that ends up being) and the players quickly realise the gravity of our predicament and collectively readjust their sights. Pretending we aren’t in a serious situation until the New Year is no good. We need to start fighting now.
3. And yes, “whoever that ends up being”. The circumstances of this specific defeat, plus the general wretchedness of latter performances, have brought Leonid Slutsky’s own position under the spotlight, not least by his own candid interviews in which he has tried to be dignified and honest and has sometimes looked consequently like he has located his own sword to fall on. Maybe it’s clever psychology from Slutsky – after all, a manager who dares his chairman to sack him may risk not being given the satisfaction and could prolong his spell as a result. If he really thought he deserved to go, he’d just resign. He seems an honourable man, and we’d like to think it’s not about the payoff he’d sacrifice if he just quit, so maybe putting the feelers out about his own precarious position could, by contrast, strengthen his stance within the club. We will forever feel that he has been dealt some truly rotten hands by the Allams, who sold all his best players from a very useful inherited squad, replaced them only partially, and on the cheap at that, and then told him to get on with it. Tactically there are questions to be asked, of course, but the abysmal way the club is run clearly seeps down to the coaching staff and the squad. Slutsky is culpable when a team he picks and schools chucks away a two goal lead at home to an ordinary side, sure, but some of the other defeats and drab displays have been telegraphed from the first minute and as such have not been about him nor the players, but about those in the hierarchy who apply the binds and gags in each transfer window.
4. And really, whether he stays or goes feels irrelevant. For as long as the Allams cash more cheques than they sign and continue to claim that City are the best run club going despite a weak squad, a befuddled, betrayed manager and a half empty stadium in a one-club city that has recently enjoyed Premier League football, an FA Cup final and a European campaign, it really doesn’t matter who the manager is. If Slutsky goes, it’d be to save his own sanity because his reputation isn’t shot. Football people know the true incompetents here, and they don’t wear boots or tracksuits.
5. We were probably indebted to Allan McGregor for the point at Millwall six days ago. Along with Jarrod Bowen, he’s been a rare success this season, and he made a string of saves you can’t guarantee will always be made. It ensured a point for City that wasn’t pretty, but wasn’t wholly without use – even if it did leave to a near-death experience for poor old Leonid, whose job seemed unlikely to survive the result.
6. Whether it does survive the Bristol City disaster is anyone’s guess. And yet it wasn’t entirely hopeless. After a dour arm-wrestle at the beginning, City assumed control from about 20 to 65 minutes, assuming comfortable dominance of possession and even creating a few chances with it. When the second went in, the match really did seem secure – Bristol had offered vanishingly little and while it hadn’t been convincingly, the Tigers had deserved the lead.
7. But when the visitors pulled one back, the panic was palpable. Shorn of any semblence of leadership and with Slutsky making a rotten pair of substitutions, an equaliser (probably from a set piece) always felt likely. And so a filthy leveller duly arrived. At which point the usual late goal to lose a game always felt likely, etc etc…
8. Although the detail from the meeting between the Allams and selected supporters is a bit scant, we have hope. The Supporters Trust is represented, and they have been trying to acquire reasonable dialogue with the Allams since formation, and this is the first time it has happened. While the Trust is involved, there is hope that a) City fans will be afforded some respect again; and b) the minutes of these meetings will be accurate and conclusive. For now, we should let the process take its course and see what emerges.
9. Not that attending their first meeting since November 2013 means anything just yet. Just turning up doesn’t guarantee that they’ve listened to or understood anything they were told, let alone decided to act upon it. Merely attending a meeting of carefully selected individuals is nowhere enough to consent to an “amnesty” of protests. Even righting a few of the grevious wrongs they’ve inflicted upon this wounded club is may not be enough. For some, there will be no amnesty until they’ve gone, and the long slog of repairing the damage is begun.
10. Finally, City declared an attendance of 14,762 on Saturday. Home crowds this season have been much discussed this season, with official announcements not always corresponding to what fans have seen this season. Tune into our podcast on Periscope tonight from around 7.30pm, we have some interesting numbers to share…