By Alec Johnson
Our club is incredibly well run - that's not news, but it's always worth reminding everybody. Huw had his hands in the right places during the transfer window, working very closely with Laudrup and his team of Vikings. We can also have confidence in the club to manage the budgets within our means. Once Bony was signed we were always in the market for loans and freebies.
If there is a bullet to fire at the club, it has to be in the direction of the ticketing department. It is beyond painful and the frustration lies across the board with fans, irrespective of status in the supporter hierarchy. It cannot be that difficult to promote an efficient processes for purchasing tickets. Frustration ranges from three hours to three days. They will get it right eventually - they always do in the end - but it’s taking far too long.
We also know we are now a big club. Each season highlights the growth curve that we’re on. In fact we are a bigger club than our last opponents West Brom these days! While they struggle to fill their seats at the start of a season we still have a short supply, by some five thousand or more. How things have changed since we met in the play-offs twenty years ago when we were in awe of them - even intimidated by them - in almost every way.
Our core has become Spanish! As long as we’re winning most won’t care, but if the tide turns then the Spanish archers will be out in force with their "they don’t understand our league" arrows. Individually they all bring something a little different, with only Pozuelo worthy of being classed as typically Spanish. Pozuelo is a very exciting prospect and has the best feet since Alan Davies. Let’s hope he gets plenty of opportunities to start to shake those dancing feet.
Most impressive for me so far has been Michu. Playing in the deeper role he affects every area of the pitch and is never more than twenty yards from the ball, while his energy and passion is contagious for the whole spirit of the team. At the Hawthorns last week I followed him closely and don’t recall him actually giving the ball away once. His awareness and unselfish play embodies everything that the great man Laudrup stood for on the pitch. He is our standout performer, scoring or not.
We don’t have the biggest squad - 22 could be classed as small for a club entering four competitions, but every position has adequate cover and, barring any disaster, we will be safe until May. However I would have added an extra body or two myself.
Loving it. Our style of battering teams at home and sitting back away has worked through the double headers but may need to be reconsidered for the group stages where away points will be vital. If we change this style and adapt could we progress? I think so. There is no reason why we can’t run through to springtime and beyond. Turin in May sounds great!
For those hitting the panic button - stop. There are at least ten weaker squads than us, but the way we play the game requires a lot of confidence. A third league defeat to kick off the season may have seen the rest of the year take a different shape but thankfully that wasn't to be. The win against West Brom away was huge for us. We will develop from here and pass the ball under different circumstances and give Liverpool a tough game next week.
Our real place in the pecking order will be visible come ten games in. We should be sitting in the mid-table positions looking ahead to a decent November and December, kicking off with our nasty neighbours.
On that topic...
... Nasty neighbours
I've sort of got used to seeing them hanging around us in the top flight now. I'm not surprised by their energetic start, nor by their apparent love of set pieces and whacking it 90 yards to create the odd chance from a second ball. My prediction remains that they will struggle and slip away into the abyss, followed quickly by Odd Job at the helm.
He remains the coolest man at the club and it is with no surprise that clubs continue to circle, with Benfica seemingly very interested in him. I had complete faith in him through the summer and have total faith in him seeing this season out, beyond which I believe he will move on. When he eventually does up sticks, it won’t be to Benfica but to a title contender in one of the big four European leagues. He would have deserved it and will reach the very top within a couple of years.
So, it’s as you were this season, with plenty more action than we are used to at this level. Let’s enjoy the ride, who knows how long it will last!