Dundee United vs Partick Thistle – Matchday Twenty Eight

A warning, this isn’t really a ‘review’. This is actually going to be one of those blogs that doesn’t really have a plan or a structure to it. I will start to write, see where it takes me and then try to sum things up at the end, with a small announcement regarding the next few weeks.

The last seven days, football wise, have not been enjoyable. Dunfermline away was a no-show and then on Tuesday night we put in a very average performance against Ayr at Somerset (the highlight of my evening being my Pie and Chips with some Ribena to wash it all down). Then, yesterday, we had a game that really summed up our recent form. A similar lineup, shape and system with a similar end product, not much creativity and a lack of any spark to get excited about. Glorious…

As Sarto Mutiny pointed out on Twitter – “This should be a lot more enjoyable than it is…

Really the blog post this week should just end there, because that is how I feel. We will win the league, we will be in the Premiership next season, BUT this has been a real slog in recent weeks and at the moment it shows no real signs of changing. Dreaming of away trips to Tynecastle and Pittodrie is fine, but in the here and now it is a grind.

So, what has happened?

Well, for some the blame lies at the door of Neilson and his team. The shape is always the same, the system always predictable and the line-up never really changes. For me there is some reason to aim frustration at Neilson given those factors. I get quite bored of reading the same names each week, and although we have been hampered by injuries there is no reason why we can’t experiment a little bit with personnel. If we are going to lose points, and we will, then why not at least give Sporle, Mochrie, Glass et al an opportunity to show what they can do. If it turns out they can’t cope or that they need more time to develop (Glass and Mochrie), then fair enough, we at least tried. Fans are clambering for Glass in particular because he tries to be unpredictable. Being two footed and full of confidence gives supporters something to get excited about and at this stage we are all waiting for inevitable title but we want to have some fun along the way too.

As a fan I am more than happy to be surprised with a few changes each week, given the credit in the bank. It wouldn’t be a Laszlo-esque tombola and we are not in any immediate danger. We are not a defeat away from disaster, we still have breathing space, so let’s have a change of shape or line-up to keep things fresh. Play Appere alongside Shankland, or at least play Bingham alongside Shankland for a spell of time. With Bingham it has been the case of signing a striker but playing him out on the wing and his limitations there are glaringly obvious. Again, give Sporle a chance on the left (and if he is crap, so be it, but we tried…)

We’ve definitely been hampered by other factors too. Stanton leaving, in hindsight, was a mistake and we have been unlucky with injuries to Clark, McMullan and Butcher in recent weeks. The form of certain players has also played a part, with our fullbacks now looking much less confident than they did a few weeks ago and the central pairing of Harkes and Powers struggling to find their feet (although to be fair to Harkes he was very positive yesterday). McMullan is a shadow of the player he was earlier in the year and even Appere is looking a bit shy in confidence at times.

Shankland is more and more isolated, with his frustration also showing. We need to get service to him and we need to be more open in the way we play. Once again, fans are within their right to be happy about the ‘bigger picture’ but also disappointed with the recent form, the football is pretty rubbish at the moment and there is no hiding from that.

This moves me on to the fan reaction. A touchy subject but one that is unavoidable given our reliance on social media for views and opinions. The bottom line for me is that football, by its very nature is reactive and impulsive. Yes it is sensible and pragmatic to look ahead and see the prize at the end of the road, but each week, each 90 minutes? Fans only care about the here and now, and for me that is really perfectly okay. Growing up you only care about the passion and reaction during each game and that stays with most of us during our footballing life. We all know that this is an endless road, season after season, ups and downs, but the best bit (and worst bit) about football is the 90 minute window (with the pre-match build-up and post-match de-brief providing all the window dressing).

We all spend energy, time and money watching our team so the need to vent after a poor game should be allowed and fans should be given the space to do so. We all love this club and would never even dream of turning our back on United but with that brings this passion/anger/frustration/joy. If that wasn’t there, what we all have left to talk about? Have you seen how boring the summer is without things to moan about?

Others have a zen like ability to detach but it is okay to also get a bit heated.

The ying and yang of football fandom…

All of that leads me to something that I have internally debated about all weekend. Something that I want to share, but at the same time don’t want to share. It is something that I am not really keen to talk about publicly, but it is something that I need to at least allude to given that I will be taking a little break and how it has affected me.

My job is a very unpredictable one. I work in a very intense environment, each day bringing its own challenges (I wouldn’t have it any other way, it is a job I love). On Friday I arrived at work and I was met with a situation that is something you can’t prepare for and one that easily became the most difficult day in my professional career. This will continue to be part of my job, and by extension, personal life moving forward but the situation itself isn’t about me, I just had to be there to help. I’m not writing this for any sympathy, again the situation isn’t mine to use as a crutch, I am just trying to put into words something that has affected me. I’ve spent most of the last 48 hours thinking about, ironically given some of my earlier writings, the bigger picture in life.

I came home from the game last night and I felt like I had to do a match review and look at social media, it occupied my mind, and it distracted me. I woke up this morning worried that I had to do a match review and respond to social media, again it distracted me. There are other things that should distract me.

I love football, I’m constantly thinking about it, watching it, reading about it and writing about it. That won’t change. Some people might think that doing a blog is a bit geeky and not worth the effort, people have told me that it is a waste of time but that is fair enough (it won’t stop me doing it). I suppose what I am trying to explain is that football is my release it always has been, but it can also be a bit of a weight on my mind, and given what happened on Friday (and that it will be a part of my life for some time) I think it is a good time to be taking a little mini hiatus so that I can temper some of my footballing brain energy. I will still be active-ish on Twitter/Instagram, for little short bursts of opinion, but as far as blogs go it is time for a break.

I don’t want any sympathetic comments about this post, please don’t turn it into that kind of thing. As I mentioned earlier this isn’t something that is about me, it isn’t a thing that is mine, but it is something that has affected me. It is also the reason I am not talking about what it actually is (and equally that isn’t also me trying to get attention or do this for some kind of reaction).

To sum up what I am trying to say I will finish with something of a cliché. Be supportive, look after one another and be very, very grateful for what you have, because in a moment it might change. Unlike your football team, who will, by and large recover, there are certain things that won’t.

Thanks for reading, I will be back soon.