Would the real SAFC please stand up! After coming perilously close to taking Darwen’s record of straight defeats, we went on a smaller run where we couldn’t stop winning. Defeat at Stoke, and only Poom’s heroics at Pride Park were signs of a return to earth, but Third Division’s Huddersfield’s win at the Stadium of Light was the biggest, bump.
So, the question is, do we have the strength in depth to launch a successful promotion campaign, or are we already floundering under the weight of games, as we approach October?
On the Huddersfield defeat, Mick McCarthy was honest enough to say the following: “I said to the lads afterwards that they will learn from this and perhaps they should go away and think about it. I have no doubt that some of those players will have been wondering why they were not playing in the first team. Perhaps that result just highlights that we are not that good a squad to be able to tinker with it in a cup tie. It might just highlight for us the strengths and weaknesses that this squad has now got. They are a good set of lads and worked their socks off. We lost, but it was not for lack of effort – absolutely not. It is better that I see exactly what I’ve got now. It’s no good waiting until January or February and finding that I have got to have a look at players then because we’ve got injuries or whatever.”
If we can get everyone fit, our first XI should make most fans comfortable enough. A line-up of Poom, Wright, Arca, McCartney, Breen, Piper, Butler, Thornton, Healy, Stewart, & Kyle should be good enough for this level. Myhre, Williams, James, Bjorklund, Clark, Oster, Thirlwell, McAteer, Whitley, Proctor, Reddy, and now Tommy Smith, should all provide cover, and certainly be a match for a mid-table, 3rd Division side in the cup.
However, the mounting injuries to Breen, Bjorklund, Wright, Williams, McAteer & Piper, coupled with the suspensions (and possible suspensions) to Thornton, Clark, Thirlwell & Kyle show how thin our real strength is. And not many would have put Kyle & Thirlwell as a loss many months ago!
Our efforts to reduce the wage bill are well documented, and whilst we have lost many premiership quality players, their replacements (if any) are either designed to succeed at the current level, or an eye on the future. In that respect, SAFC will continue to struggle to cover up the cracks when the more established first-teamers are not available. This was highlighted in the cup game, and may be forcibly repeated in league games over the course of the season. A run of a few wins, followed by a few more games where we don’t, may be a pattern that emerges over the coming months. Unless, that is, key figures get – and remain – fit, or cover appears through the loan system.
The bigger problem may be if we do launch a successful promotion campaign, when the Board will need to fund at least 5 major recruits. But that seems a long way off, and the least of our worries, when Huddersfield have just beaten us 4-2 at home.