So we had two correct predictions for SAFC v Boro, both from Middlesbrough fans (Smoggie and the WAY interviewee Thomas Keen). There was no prize mug for this match – they may be a bit sparse this season – so they must be feeling a little like those who pick the same lottery numbers every week but forget to buy a ticket the Saturday they come up.
The Shrewsbury Guess the Score is also just for fun, if fun properly describes our mood after way Sunday’s game.
Malcolm Dawson’s powerful, heartfelt piece on Saturday set the scene, sadly, for another rotten start to the home programme.
It seems beyond belief that two of the men mightily responsible for last season’s version of the annual escape act, Younes Kaboul and Lamine Koné, are a) gone and b) probably going.
Whether or not we believe Kaboul had such pressing family reasons he had to move to Watford – London is not even four hours away by train, and London still a long way from his native Saint-Julien-en-Genevois – is beside the point. As is the story of Koné’s back.
I would like to know exactly how hard we tried to keep either of them. Was Koné simply stringing us along in claiming he wanted to stay and would do if only he got his promised – now delivered – new contract offer?
Players come and go and, if a club is prepared for unwelcome departures, it shouldn’t raise a huge problem. Sunderland, naturally, were unprepared. Pete Sixsmith was more impressed than I by Papy Djilobodji but it was his first game, he had to cope with the loss of his central defence partner John O’Shea before the second goal and will surely grow in stature and confidence.
But two games into the season, and only nine days to go before the transfer windows clatters shut, we look a sorry mess. As Gary Bennett said on Sunday, Donald Love and Paddy McNair were best seen as “for the future.” Both have been thrown in at the deep end. Far better attacks than Middlesbrough’s lie ahead as the season progresses and our defence, if not seriously strengthened – before the wretched Koné is allowed out of the door, not as a desperate late scramble afterwards – risks being torn apart by some of them.
As for Shrewsbury, the match finds me in the same downbeat spirit we have become accustomed to before the opening league cup games in most recent seasons. A win will seem hollow given the point-free start to the Premier League season, a defeat will just pile on the agony.
But maybe if we can advance in style against Moyes’s old side (96 starts between 1987 and 1990), with goals for those who need the confidence boost scoring brings, can set us up for an improbable result at Southampton on Saturday.
It is clearly absurd to write the season off after two defeats, one at title-chasers (as last season’s opener at Leicester, turned out to everyone’s surprise to be) and one to a newly promoted side (and look what happened to Norwich). Moyes does not help by talking already of a relegation battle – and we all know how different it will all look if we sneak a win at Saints and then put paid to Everton and Koné after the break.
Have a go. And Ha’way the Lads.