|Lee Clark - the half term report|
Written by basilrobbiereborn on Thursday, 19th Feb 2015 09:38
For Lee Clark, we are more or less half way through the task he was given at the end of October, and it seems a good moment to have a look at how he is actually doing.
In some senses, nothing much has changed. The club are still bottom of the table, and still quite a long way from safety. They still haven't managed to win a game away from home, and when they do play at Bloomfield Road the atmosphere swings between sullen apathy and anger, bur rarely ventures anywhere else. As such, there probably isn't much in the way of hope that we are going to get out of the predicament we are in.
In other senses, a great deal has changed. Whatever the rights and wrongs of each party's position, there can be little doubt that Jose Riga was a disastrous appointment and his tenure at the club has done far more harm than good. He was certainly not responsible for all of it, but to my mind he and the chairman should both look back on that period and feel that they let a lot of people down very badly.
So, Clark isn't Riga, for which some thanks. I must be honest and say that at the outset I did not want him and thought the chairman had compounded one very bad mistake with another. And, to an extent, I still think the same way. He seems tactically rigid - and negative - to me, his public persona takes dourness to new levels and you do wonder what inspirational or motivational qualities he actually has.
However, there is a case to be made for him, the first of which is that he has presided over a modest - but noticeable - improvement in results. 15 points from 17 games is relegation form (and easily so), but it is a significant improvement on 6 points from 14, which is all his predecessor managed. He's also been pro-active in a way that seemed beyond Riga when it comes to getting in players. We'll never know all the ins and outs of the Belgian's recruitment policy (or lack of it), but Clark has been far better at getting people in, to the extent that there have been so many that you do wonder whether some of them (Sene, Feruz) have been left in a cupboard and forgotten about.
He has also shown a willingness to play younger players and in giving experience to the likes of Parish, Aldred, Waddington, Telford, Ferguson and Cameron he has shown a commendable desire to look to the future - not always easy to do when you are on a short term contract. If his interest in players like Potts is anything to go by, you get the sense that the average age of the squad might drop sharply in the summer.
And that really is the crux of it, as far as he is concerned. I doubt he will be sacked even if he does take us down and it will be interesting to see how he does with what its bound to be a much changed squad at a level where he has had some success in the past.
In all of this, of course, the elephant in the room is the chairman. I think he may have been more badly burned by his experiences with Riga than is immediately apparent, and he now seems to have stumbled upon a manager who he may be more comfortable with, in the sense that Clark seems more interested in acquiring and developing young players than he is in spending money. That said, he does need to be backed, and it is to be hoped that one day the chairman will find it in himself to acknowledge his past mistakes and learn from them.
For us, I think it is high time that some elements of our support conceded that Clark is trying to do a difficult job in very trying circumstances, and it isn't merely because he likes rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty. He needs to work, he wants to enhance his reputation, and the sooner the puerile cries of "collaborator" stop, the better off we will all be.
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Although not an avid collector, I recently catalogued my collection of football memorabilia and I have 175 items, mostly programmes, some fanzines, and a few ticket stubs which aren’t accompanied by anything else. I have no idea how many more may have been misplaced during house moves, clear-outs etc., but the collection spans nearly 30 years (the earliest is the programme from our 1990 Boxing Day game against Barnet at Layer Rd), and is almost universally Colchester United related (though not quite all of it). I have decided to try and put this to some use, by choosing one at random prior to each match and writing a short article about the match, maybe the programme, and even any personal recollections I have of the game (notwithstanding enforced enfeeblement due to excessive libation). I will try and do this ahead of each game this season, but my apologies in advance if I don’t quite achieve that.