Illusions Of Delusions

In most circumstances, a final minute equaliser is a positive sign for a football team. Whether it’s through self-belief or simply better fitness, it shows that the team has an edge about it which can transform seasons.

Except last Tuesday night’s last minute equaliser against Scunthorpe saw little cause for celebration or hope for Sky Blues fans and the team were rewarded for their efforts by being roundly booed off the pitch. It was a display of frustration against a team that has ambled into a relegation battle through its ability to let games pass them by.

Fans favourite Marcus Tudgay is finally showing the form to justify the undying faith put into him by the fans.
Fans favourite Marcus Tudgay is finally showing the form to justify the undying faith put into him from the crowd.

In some ways, the past few performances have been encouraging. The new loan signings have added that missing dimension of pace to the team and we are a lot better to watch. Players seem to want the ball and work hard for the team. We should have beaten Scunthorpe and Rochdale, both of whom have caused problems for the best teams in this division. Even Marcus Tudgay is looking like a useful player now.

The frustration is though that we still aren’t getting results and the season is now getting to the serious bit. This was a difficult month with games mostly against teams challenging in the upper echelons of the division. But we are now six games without a win and sit bottom of the League One form table with teams around us starting to kick into gear. That collapse against Gillingham and Gary Madine’s missed penalty against Yeovil are looking very costly at this moment in time.

Every time this season that we have looked like turning the corner, we have suffered bad luck with injuries or refereeing decisions but more often have produced performances oddly lacking in intensity. It feels like Steven Pressley is still not sure how he wants the team to score goals which seems to be evident with the way the team goes to pieces once we get the ball into the final third.

It feels much more like we are set for another chastening defeat, a complete overhaul of the set-up of the team and more loan signings, than actually turning the corner. At various points this season Pressley has done just enough to create that illusion that things will eventually get better if we stick with him. With the potential risk of relegation to League Two the cost of this all proving to be only an illusion, how long can the trick go on for?

The knives are out for Steven Pressley with fans increasingly critical of his every move. Pre-game, his team selections are derided as increasingly random. During games, the chants of ‘Pressley out’ have began in earnest, alongside the dreaded ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’. Post-game, his interviews are taken either at face value or more cynically are seen as the manager taking Sky Blues fans for fools.

Had Newcastle won the league title in 95-96, 'I will love it!' would have been seen as it's defining moment.
Had Newcastle won the league title in 95-96, ‘I will love it!’ would have been seen as it’s defining moment.

So much of what a manager does is based on perception. Pressley was criticised for changing the defence from the Walsall game despite two of the back four being injured. The same fans that are chanting ‘Pressley out’ were sycophantically asking him for a wave not so long ago. When we were doing well, Pressley’s post-match interviews were barely the topic of any conversation.

It’s all what is known as confirmation bias – ‘the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.’ The focus on stuff like Pressley’s post-match interviews is only partially about the actual content, it’s the fact that they are increasingly happening after defeats. It’s the same reason why there is an increasing attention paid to the performances of ex-players that Pressley got rid of, it confirms an existing theory. Again, if we were winning games, the form of Carl Baker and Gary McSheffrey would be a mild curiosity.

If this sounds like I’m being critical of fellow fans, I apologise. Everyone has the right to opinion and you are free to call me a deluded idiot and list your reasons why. Personally I feel that the focus on tangential stuff like post-match interviews to judge a football manager is a diversion to the real business of focusing on why the team itself isn’t winning games.

The Ricoh Arena is not a nice play to play when you're not doing well and wearing Sky Blue.
The Ricoh Arena is not a nice play to play when you’re not doing well and wearing Sky Blue.

Wild conclusion here, but why I think people are focusing so intently on all of this stuff is because they simply have had enough of Steven Pressley. For a while now I wondered whether one more defeat would lead to the atmosphere at home games turning nasty. The reaction to last-minute equaliser last Tuesday is pretty good evidence that we have probably now past that point.

It was already going to be a tough battle to get us out of this mess with the form we have been displaying this season. But when a large section of the fan-base have lost faith in the manager and are desperate to find yet more evidence to disavow him, the pressure on the players is going to be ramped up that one notch higher.

Despite my own faith in Pressley, the easiest thing to do right now to take some of the pressure off the team would be to get rid of Pressley. It is looking like that rift between him and the fans is growing each game with some unlikely to be satisfied even if our form does improve between now and the end of the season.

It seems apparent to me that there is no willingness at boardroom level to sack Pressley and it looks like he has a lot more time than most want him to have. Just like 18 months ago, the fate of our club rests on the ability of Steven Pressley to manage a seemingly impossible scenario.

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