What happens is that things can’t exist in their own right. Everything gets drowned, swamped, by context. And if the context is that everybody is very, very angry – and we all know that’s the context right now – then everybody has to be angry about everything. And if there’s nothing specific to be angry about, something will be found, won’t be questioned, and will spread mimetically until it feels like a real reason.
I’m not saying that what happened at this game was satisfying, pleasing or enjoyable (although large parts of the second half could be described using just those adjectives). And what happened subsequently in the Cup was also disappointing, although scarcely unexpected. But what seems to be happening now is that because we’ve lost games, far too many games, some pretty appallingly, every single defeat is appalling and everyone involved is a hack.
City have played pretty badly on several occasions this season. At home against Wolves, and against Charlton, we produced some of the worst football I can remember seeing at Ashton Gate. It was hopeless, pathetic. The players came out of those games badly, the manager worse. And the first half at the Den was up there with those performances. The second half, however, far less so. We drew the second half and could easily have won it, could easily have won the game, had chances for Sam Baldock, Neil Danns and Albert Adomah been taken. There aren’t three City players you’d have wanted to see those chances fall to more, but on the day none of them could finish.
But because we’d been playing poorly, that defeat – away to a team well above us in the league and on a good run of form, by a single goal – is hissed and spat at by the fans. Defeat in the Cup, to team above us in the league and, since Henning Berg’s departure, on their own good run of form, is even worse. In a way it wasn’t when Cardiff and Boro were knocking us out in nearly identical circumstances, except for our league form being better. The individual results don’t get reacted to. Because our recent form is bad, the argument goes, each individual defeat must be bad. McInnes out.
Except that our recent form isn’t that bad –perhaps it would best be described as indifferent. In the league (and you’ll forgive me for not caring remotely about the Cup) we’re on W3 D2 L4 since we finally emerged from that bleak seven-game losing run. 11 points from 10 games isn’t much to get excited about, but it’s 50 points over the course of a season, enough to keep us up in any of the past four years, and contains good results at Ipswich and Boro as well as that six-pointer victory against Peterborough. Not great, and nothing to write home about, but not, surely, a catalyst for the sort of rage infecting the fanbase at the moment.
We need to keep picking up points, of course, but the signs are that we will do. Another drop-off could be lethal, yes – but this isn’t another drop-off. It’s defeats in two tough games. It’s not a catastrophe and it’s not the worst we’ve ever played. It’s a disappointing week, no more, no less.
To me, the next month or so looks huge. Games against teams who look tough on paper – Leicester, Leeds, Ipswich, Blackburn, Forest – but who the league table tells us are inconsistent outfits ranging from 5th to five places from bottom. It’s a pick-and-mix run, perfectly illustrative of the rank and file of the Championship. Carry on picking up points in that run and we’ll be looking OK, even if we do lose a couple of them. Improve our form – and would fans of Peterborough or Sheffield Wednesday have expected their form to improve so dramatically until the very second it happened? – better yet. Slump back into the bad old ways of autumn, though, and there’ll be no case for the defence any more.
I’ve had the same tough old season as everyone else. I can’t say that the name Derek McInnes occupies a soft, warm space in my heart. I’ve not, frankly, had a great deal of fun. But I’m going to work on the assumption that bad days and blips don’t get managers sacked, certainly not at Bristol City. If he was the right man after the Charlton defeat – and we’ll all have our own opinions about that – then I can’t see how his stock has fallen further in the interim. That’s the context I’m looking at. And it’s because I think the next month is so pivotal that I’ll be there for those home fixtures, heart in my mouth, larynx at full blast, doing what I think is the right thing: supporting the manager as long as he’s there and the team as long as I am.