The Morning After
Although last night was the sort of shambles that will hopefully never happen again (although knowing our record in the cups probably will), it might not be completely in vain as long as we can grab something positive out of it. I'm sure we can all remember a 2-1 defeat to Colchester in the League Cup four years ago; after that team was ripped apart and we went on a six game unbeaten run. Indeed, by two months after that game we had reached 2nd in the table before the young legs thrown in started to fail and we ended... er.. 17th.
But the players realised they had cocked up big time and realised they had to do better. And did.
For us, the road to recovery starts at 5:15 on Saturday up at Bolton. Although points would be nice the main aim has got to be a performance that shows we're worthy of staying in this league. If the players churn out the same sort of efforts as yesterday then we're going to be in trouble, and I'd dare say Bolton will seize on it far more viciously than Gillingham did. The players have got to prove themselves to the fans all over again - and not just the new guys, but even people like Taylor and Hughes have got to live up to the Premiership badges on their arm.
Get ourselves back on track, ditching the League Cup for the tin pot competition it is and "concentrating on the league". Admittedly I'm only saying that because we got knocked out but we can't dwell on it and have to get back to the big task in hand; Premiership survival.
Right, so that's short term done and dusted. More worrying is the pressure being piled onto Perrin already and the way that this morning a common topic of discussion seems to be "should he stay or should he go". I don't think there's much worse I can imagine currently happening than changing manager, although I suppose it's a sign of the times in revolving door football where instant results are required and if they're not achieved it's time to leave. Yep, we were very poor last night but look back through your football history - even the biggest teams in the country fall apart from time to time and for the most part the fans don't want the manager out straight away.
The question to be asked really is that whether or not this is just a lingering anti-Perrin feeling since his appointment that is waiting to explode. It was said when he arrived he wasn't a big enough name, he's got rid of the aging fan favourites and is by no means charismatic and exciting - he's just here to get a job done and, like at Marseille, doesn't really care who he upsets if we get results. Whilst 13th in the Premiership is no need to panic, only one win all season (and that away from home so not many people would've seen it) isn't going to help persuade those who were holding something against him from the start.
I've no doubt he's man enough to ride the criticism and hopefully the players are too (although I have more doubts over them than I do Perrin).
And what about Milan? He's put plenty of money into the club and kept us in the Premiership for a couple of years but there will inevitably be questions about "the next level" and the commitment of his funding to get us there. Obviously it's easier said than done; Charlton have been struggling to get there for years and Birmingham have spent millions more and achieved just about the same as us. We all know Milan's an emotional man and not the most patient either, so trying to pre-empt his feelings or future decisions would not be easy. But it's true to say that some fans are getting more frustrated with a perceived lack of investment and that you reap what you sow - once again, it'll fall to the players and management to prove that money doesn't guarantee success and we can still achieve results with a squad of hand picked "cheaper" players, like in the days of *gulp* Redknapp.
It sounds like a stupidly obvious thing to say but we'll understand the relevance of yesterday's game a hell of a lot better come Saturday evening. If the players can bounce back and produce a performance worthy of a Premiership football team then we'll be some way to forgiveness; if it's a pile of poo then it'll be slightly worrying that we can't get over a setback quickly - which again will question the coaching staff who have to motivate the players, it's their job after all.
Saturday can't come quick enough. Hopefully the squad are as keen to get last night out of the system as the fans. A solid performance and I can put my optimist's hat back on and pretend last night was a bad dream.