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In Harry's defence - Part II

Filed: Wednesday, 14th March 2001
By: Chris Tye

OK Harry sceptics, I'll do a deal with you. Let's debate Harry based on this season. You stop banging on about 'we were 5th 2 years ago and have gone backwards', and I'll stop using the 'look where were 5 years ago to 3 top 10 finishes in a row' argument. Both out of bounds, deemed irrelevant. Call it quits on these arguments.

OK, so lets go back to the start of the season. The team came 9th last year, and won no pots. Our hopes and dreams are a bit higher than that, obviously - but it was clear from the last campaign that there were serious and crippling deficiencies in the squad - no right back, no real reliable left back, no natural goalscorer, lack of cover in most areas that meant these were not realised, were never going to be realised. Over a 38 game campaign with 2 cups, 9th was probably around the correct place for that squad to finish - neither under or over achieving. Anyone who expects higher with those deficiencies is not being realistic - you can hope, but not expect.

You might get a miracle like Ipswich this year, but there ain't many miracles to go round. Now, most managers in the Premiership also realised along with Harry that their squads needed strengthening as there are only 3 pots available and most supporters commence each season demanding to land one of them, some demand at least 2 and all demand and expect an improvement on last year. Of all the managers that went cap in hand, most got money to spend, some got loads. Not only did Harry get bollock all, he also had to 'balance the books' - ie raise money before he could even buy the promising on loan striker we had that other clubs were starting to sniff around.

So, undaunted by the lack of funds Harry got to work. We landed the
promising striker, but had to let our main midfield enforcer go to get him.
We got a left back, but had to get a late 30's reserve player because of
the lack of money, and we got a proven goalscorer, but again lack of funds forced this to be someone on the slide in his career. We still hadn't got a right back, we still were a couple of injuries/suspensions away from a pretty makeshift and vulnerable side, and 2 of our buys were strictly in the 'gamble' category. Meanwhile other teams are spunking untold millions trying to rectify their own squad deficiencies.

Expectations at the start of the season?? As usual a good League campaign - a top 6ish, and a trophy. Despite a squad barely strengthened (key players lost as well as gained) when others had, eg Totts had spent £10-20m with no key players leaving that expectation remained. That's a big ask, and again realistically that squad probably ranks about 10th, given the weaknesses in it and the gambles taken, and lack of cover in certain areas. How many other top 10 rated squads relied on 2 defenders in their late 30's. We fans seriously over-rate this squad, then hand Harry for not matching that expectation.

And then we're off. A bad start, but Harry's just beginning to put that right when the Chairman flogs our best player and key defender, making a small proportion of the funds available to replace both that player and
for any other squad building requirements. Is it any wonder we got f*cking derailed?? Clubs like Villa get a £10m striker when the goals dry up a bit, we have to replace our best player halfway through the season. And STILL the demand is top 6 and a trophy. Mission f*cking impossible!! And Harry hangs if he doesn't make it.

Never mind, H gets to work with the Rio money and does the only thing he can do - add players. He finds a couple of gems - Schemmell and Dailly, drops a couple of ricks (we know who they are) and adds a couple for the future. Our league form goes patchy, but some fabulous performances see us progress to the FA Cup Qtr finals. Now go back to those early season expectations. We're behind schedule in one, the League form, but bang on target in another - cup success.

If someone had offered me last (99-00) season again - 10th place no pots, or a season finishing say 14th but winning the FA Cup, I'd take the latter. I'd take it twice if someone told me we'd also knock out the mancs and totts in the cup en route. So we're 3 games from doing better this season than last. Everyone bangs on about 1980, great season, memories of Wembley - but that year we finished midtable in Div 2. Should we have sacked Lyall when he was in the Qtr finals of that cup because the League form had gone awol as we neared Wembley(let's be honest that squad should have romped Div 2, and did the following year). No way.

It's been a poor League campaign. no question, but there still remains the possibility that this will be a great season for us. Has Harry been so
unbeleivably shit this year that he should be fired, given the circumstances?? Imagine if he could have bought Dyer when he wanted to.

Imagine if he could have bought Fredi without flogging Foe. Imagine if he could have added Schemmell, Dailly to a squad that still had Rio in it.
Imagine if harry had had £17m to solve goalscoring problems in the summer, rather then minus £2m. If he'd have done all those, and we still hadn't cracked the top 6 then, fair do's, he won't ever. The trouble is that
people's expectations are totally out of kilter with the resources the poor
sod has to do his job. Nobody lowers their expectations because he's had less money to spend than anyone else, or because his best player was flogged halfway through the season. No-one calls Bobby Robson tactically stupid, but look how he's struggling with a far deeper squad than ours now that the purse strings have tightened. Walter Smith at Everton - a proven winner struggling because he's living with the sort of transfer budget that Harry's thrived on. George Graham - one of the top managers in the game, finished 1 place below West Ham last season, £17m spunked and still nothing between us.

Gregory at Villa touted for the England job, has spent £40 or £50m and
prformance no better than H. Venebles: grand master of tactics now
struggling at Middlesborough after a good start.And yet Harry's c**ted off
as if HE was the one who had all the money to spend. People even want his head before he's even failed with one of the primary objectives of the
season: to win a pot.In other words doing exactly what we did in the 'great' year of 1980 - cup triumph and crap league campaign. Ridiculous.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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