This season - I`m not convinced...
No matter whether you're Man Utd, Nantwich Town or the Dog and Duck FC, pre-season is always a time for optimism and blind faith that this year will be the year your team become the immortals you always believed they had the potential to become. Unbeaten run? League Winners with a record amount of points? Double demolition of your fiercest rivals?
At Crewe we`re usually no different…but if you`re in the Crewe area now and keep really quiet and listen carefully, can you hear that buzzing that isn`t the washing machine…I didn`t think so. The wave of optimism that usually sweeps Gresty Road and beyond at this time of year seems distinctly muted.
I`ve only seen one Alex pre-season friendly this year, but it was all I needed to see to get a distinct and sour flavour for the season ahead.
Blackpool was the game in question and I was less than inspired. The same old lightweight midfield was evident, same tippy-tappy passing, same impotency in front of goal spurning chance after chance, same in-decision at the back…I could go on.
I want us to do well, I desperately want us to do well, but for me too many of the faults from last season haven`t been resolved and I already feel dejected that a season of mid-table mediocrity beckons.
I keep trying to convince myself that the playoffs isn`t a distant dream though, Dario seems to have finally gotten the spine of the team right and it gives me hope that the marbles it looked like he had lost last season are firmly back in the bag.
We have one of the best goalkeepers in the league when he gets fit, Steve Phillips, fact. We now have one of the best defenders in the league in David Artell, fact. We have Lee Bell*, fact. We have one of the best strikers in the league despite his critics, Calvin Zola, fact.
*Now taking into consideration how far the Alex have fallen in terms of league position and status over the last few years, and with more than a hint of disrespect, signing Macc Town`s Player of the Season is not a coup for Crewe, especially not when the player is Lee Bell. He will do a job for us no doubt but please stop using the Player of the Season accolade as if I should be made up, please…
…also Dario trying just short of using plastic injection technology to physically mould Bell into the figure of Kenny Lunt isn`t helping either; Lee Bell is not Kenny Lunt and never will be and another lightweight passer of the ball a la Westwood and Murphy is not what I believe we need. We have all learnt to accept Dario idiosyncrasies by now though and for a man of his stature in the game, questioning them would be, well, out of the question.
The spine of the team is there, the strike force that would have fired us into the playoffs last season if the league was based on goals scored has been retained and look sharp. Shaun Miller isn`t yet on fire but keep those extinguishers on standby, by all accounts he added a few logs to his stockpile over pre-season and could set ablaze anytime.
Westwood and Murphy, those lightweight pair I mentioned earlier are the two best midfielders outside the championship, quote Lee Bell. Joel Grant who scored double figures last season can`t get a look in, Matt Tootle is flourishing in his favoured right-fullback position, and Patrick Ada is on a mission to prove Dario was wrong to leave him out last season.
Clayton Donaldson looks hungry for goals, Byron Moore is chomping at the bit from the bench, and left-fullback Blanchett looks a real steady (cough) Danny.
Who am I kidding with all my pre-season doom and gloom, poor wit and narcissism, nobody…we can do it, our time has come fellow Alexandraites to support our team back to the promised land of League One.
At least Hereford can travel home on Saturday evening knowing they were beaten by the future unbeaten, record point taking, Port Vale whipping, League Two champions, and take some consolation forward as we march on.
This is Dario`s last hurrah, have faith…I think I have!!
Ps, on a serious note…if you haven`t yet got your season ticket(s) and you are undecided then get yourself down to the club money in hand and support the team on and off the pitch this season. Even if the magic 3,000 isn`t surpassed, you won`t see more entertaining football in League Two next term.