“You wanted to see me, Mister Chairman?”
I stepped into Tony Wilkinson’s office with a slight apprehension. It was time for the monthly meet with the main man, and Oli warned me that the Chairman had wind of our current situation with the players’ discontent and how it affected our current performances. The meeting started off well enough, with Wilkinson prefacing the discussion by saying that our league performances and continued hold on the lead was outstanding, as was our cup run so far, and that he was still pleased with me being the team’s skipper. Or “gaffer” as the Brits say. However, we had a long, intense talk about the squad’s harmony and the rift right down the middle of the dressing room.
It’s my fault, to be fair. Following a draw where we scrapped through by the skin of our teeth, I let the team know in no uncertain terms that I felt like my expectations weren’t met, and that they needed to work harder. Looking back now, I still feel like my decision to take the approach was justified, though a section of the team, including vice-captain Drew Shore, disagreed with me, putting the club into what could very well end up a downward spiral as some of the older, established players put into the squad the seeds of doubt about their young skipper’s ability to lead them.”
I’m starting to like this creative writing thing and putting these snippets of what I’d imagine as my memoir, written well into the future.
As the title and introduction of this post suggests, while we’re still doing quite well performance-wise, I’ve had arguably one of the worst morale situations I’ve ever had. I’ve had my fair share of upset players, like any other Football Manager would, but this is the first time where the squad’s harmony has been explicitly called out by the board.
How did all of this start, you may ask?
Firstly, after the 10-1 win against Ansty covered in the last update, we went on to enjoy another win, this time in the Brian Hall Challenge Cup
It was a 1-4 victory to us with winger Ryan McKechnie getting a well-deserved Player of the Match award. Business as usual.
We followed that up with a 1-1 draw away from home in the league against Rotherfield III, who as you’ll notice, occupy ninth place in the league. In a match that was deadlocked in a bore, which was quite unusual and disappointing for us, considering the opposition, I gave the usual “I’m not pleased” response, which fired up a chunk of players, but demotivated and angered several players, including (and most notably) the vice captain, Drew Shore.
He came into my office to gripe about it, and I decided that considering the result and how we usually perform, I had nothing to apologise about and I insisted he get back to his duty. That completely backfired, and I ended up holding a team meeting shortly afterwards where my more neutral attempt at responding to the issue really irritated several players, putting a good chunk of the team into poor morale, many of the rest into average morale, fracturing the team I worked so hard to build up into winners.
Our next game was a win against Nutley II, where despite commanding possession and having twice as many attempts on goal, we had to scrape by with a penalty to take all three points. Points are points, and we’re still in the lead, though I wish the win was slightly more convincing.
Here’s a news item that came in reporting Shore’s unhappiness at the start of the new year.
The team is split quite down the middle, with vice captain Shore and a handful of key players and reserves against me, captain Dominic Green, and the lot who I was able to calm down.
As if matters could be made worse, we’re plagued by injuries to our forwards, which while a headache for me, has given me a good chance to size up a few reserves who have performed admirably, given the circumstances.
Making matters worse, between injuries and trying to hold together a band of unhappy footballers, we ended up losing a match against Stones II to record our second loss of the league season. We’re still holding the lead by nine points, but with five matches left in the league, we can still bottle it and risk losing the title and/or promotion in what would be a major disappointment considering the strength of our season before now.
Following the Stones II match, we lose 2-3 to Danehill in the Mid-Sussex Junior Cup quarterfinal before having this boring draw against Ashurst Wood III in the league with only six attempts on goal between the teams.
While I’d normally be half-pleased about being out of a cup commitment and able to focus on the league, the fractured dressing room is really affecting performance and it’s becoming quite concerning after the events of the previous month.
During the Ashhurst Wood match, Pallen picked up an injury again, not long after coming off his long injury, and starting centerback Oak Mapson picked up a two week injury.
As you can see here, we hold the league by nine points, and we’ve now only got one cup commitment left, with us soon to participate in the Brian Hall Challenge Cup semifinal, a contest that we’re still very much serious contenders for if I can get the team to be on the same team with each other for a bit.
Following our schedule full of wins in the league, we can see in the schedule the eyesore of a streak of losses and a draw that’s left me a bit concerned.
I’m not convinced I can easily swing around the opinions of some of the players, particularly Shore, though anything can happen. Worse comes to worst, I can try to just hold them together long enough to get to the end of the league, and since everyone is on amateur contracts, I can sack the players who are discontent, up to and including the vice captain, since there are plenty of talented amateur players circulating that I can get in and set up during the off-season.
Next post will cover our end of season, let’s hope things are looking a lot better by then!