All credit to the diehards who will be there to the bitter end against Barrow, but I cannot face the sight of Nene Park any more this season and think therefore that page 23 in my season ticket book will remain as intact as all the special vouchers for big cup games at the back. Love the optimism of going to the trouble of printing those – almost as good as the days when in our programme, the date of the FA Trophy final was faithfully recorded. Just so we could take care to keep the date clear.
So farewell Blue Square Premier – it’s been fun. Or at least it was for most of the first season and the first part of the second. Looking back, it stopped being fun pretty much the day Cooper signed off with a win at Cambridge Utd. Tomorrow’s trip promises to be a slightly less jubilant occasion. Not that things would necessarily have turned out much different if Cooper had stayed. Leeds would probably still have overwhelmed us in the replay, so no potential jackpot tie at Old Trafford. The lease would continue to have run down with Ladak still at odds with the world in general. Diamonds would still have folded. And we’d still be at Nene Park now. Cooper wouldn’t have lasted that long – no one could with Ladak, for one reason or another – and with Ladak at the helm we’d still be in the shit.
The one appointment since he got pretty much right was Marcus Law and maybe if he’d been retained, with the budget that Maison wasted, we’d be sitting at least in mid table now. For all the ex League clubs crammed into this division, there really isn’t a lot of quality around. Luton and York took us to the cleaners twice but everyone else has just looked slightly better than ordinary. Or maybe they knew they didn’t have to play to their potential to beat us, and did just enough whilst keeping something in reserve? That was certainly how Alfreton seemed to be playing it. Yes Alfreton, treating us like Djokovic easing past the world no 98 in the first round.
Still, it could be worse. Yesterday it took Mansfield all of 13 minutes to open the scoring, which represented about our third best start to a home game all season. And in the first half their keeper was certainly the busier. He untangled a knot in the corner of the net, attended to some nasal grooming, solved a Sudoku and filed his tax return – so all in all a very busy spell for the Stags custodian. Plus nearly 900 of their fans parted with good money to watch this spectacle, which will help meet the NP running costs for at least another week.
Now that we’re down, could Westwood finally abandon his ‘spin the wheel’ approach to selection and give some of the under 18s a few games. Is there really any point in seeing more of the hapless York, who couldn’t look more at sea if he was adrift in a slowly deflating dinghy, or Van Engel – a poor Dutch version of Danny Mills, who is now a poor English version of himself. Westwood too can sit things out, having added to his individual red card collection having been sent off for what he described as “personal reasons”. What, like having a secret rubber fetish? The mind boggles.