1. Before the game, the managers. The sad situation of Leonid Slutsky’s departure will always carry a bitter taste, even if his going had seemed inevitable for weeks. A good man who tried his best for the club was left with an impossible situation by people who are not good and do not try their best for the club, and that’s always going to rankle. Once again, we thank Leonid for his efforts and wish him well for the future.
2. We were talking to a friend of Slutsky’s in the week. That friend, and apparently others, urged him not to take the job because of the toxic nature of the owners. That he took it on anyway, having been warned about the Allam family, suggests both foolhardiness and courage. Though it’s interesting and gratifying to know that the Allams’ nature is so widely understood throughout the game.
3. If Slutsky’s departure was widely expected, the identity of his successor was equally predictable. Nigel Adkins, a moderately garrulous individual with some (though not limitless) success at this level had been a recent attendee at City games, and no other contenders felt plausible. Given that few managers want to work with the Allams, he’s probably about as good as we could hope for. Nonetheless, we hope he doesn’t take the lukewarm reception personally; this is a club his bosses have drained of enthusiasm.
4. The first half of his first game was as dire as we’ve seen in this grim season so far. City were disorganised and lethargic, shorn of urgency and invention. It was utterly wretched stuff, and the 12,200 or so present sat cold and mute before sloping off for warm drinks at the interval with barely a peep raised. Which made the second half all the more remarkable. But not before a real team calamity gifted Brentford a lead. Clark’s woeful miskick, the dismal tracking of Brentford runners, Meyler’s clumsy steering of the ball into his own goal – it was farcical stuff.
5. Yet we roused ourselves in a way few of the thoroughly fed up home fans could have expected. Much it came from Kamil Grosicki, perpetually frustrating but abundantly gifted. His goal was a magnificent strike, not his first of the season, and was a moment of inspiration few of his harder-working but more limited team-mates could muster. That Seb Larsson’s goal wasn’t the best of the afternoon is testimony to its excellence.
5a. But back to Grosicki’s goal. Sometimes, it only takes a moment to change everything. As soon as Grosicki scored, confidence surged through a previously lacklustre City side. Gone was the dismally cautious and slow-paced football from the first half, and the Tigers began playing with rare vigour and attack. When Jackson Irvine scored the third goal, the Circle reacted with a joyous fervour we’ve been starved of for so long. It was a genuinely feel-good moment.
6. One of Slutsky’s main failings was an inability to positively change the game with substitutions, but the introduction of Jon-Miquel Toral early in the second half against Brentford transformed the game. He floated around in midfield like a Tesco Value Iniesta, always open to receive the ball, and bringing colleagues into the game with a range of delicious passes such as the one for Jackson Irvine’s first City goal. Granted, the decision to start Aina on the right wing and then send him to left back to make room for Toral was odd (as was playing Luer as a substitute right back), and fairness to Slutsky demands noting that Toral was unavailable to him in November, but it doesn’t change that Adkins made a player interchange that had wondrous results.
7. Okay, it’s only three points. It’s very premature to suggest that we’re suddenly safe this season, although the six point cushion does feel encouraging. And Nigel Adkins has a lot to prove and – as he’ll discover in January – abysmally thin resources with which to do it. But in a season of almost unremitting misery, that second half was a rare but authentic high point.
8. Amazing that the ‘best run club in the league’ had to postpone an under-23 game because it can’t fulfil three fixtures at different age levels in a weekend, isn’t it?
9. Bubblegate at Huddersfield is over 4½ years ago, but an interesting post-script arrived over the weekend. Chief Superintendent Owen West from West Yorkshire Police told City fans on Twitter that his force’s appalling conduct was “wrong” and “shouldn’t be repeated”. Refreshing stuff, and indeed WYP have been significantly less inflammatory on our last few visits to their area, hinting at genuine rather than cosmetic change. There’s a long way to go with policing football, and too often fans are still treated in a way that no other section of society could experience without a huge public outcry, but one day we’ll get there.
10. Thank you to everyone who’s said nice things about us winning the Football Supporters’ Federation’s Club Podcast of the Year in London a week ago. We’re touched that people listen to and watch our semi-coherent Monday evening offers, and appreciate everyone who participates as a guest, listener or viewer. So please, join us at about 7.30pm this evening…