Billy Braced For Different Test
All hail Billy! I'll admit it, when he was announced as the successor to Colin Calderwood I was nervous. Billy struck me as someone who had fallen out with too many people in too many places to be the person to unify the over-pampered squad, over-expectancy crowd and complex board/transfer structure that greets whoever is the incumbent in the City Ground hotseat.
Over time he has won me, and it seems most others, over. Billy is a passionate, clever, driven man who has a personality that demands the best from squad, fans and board and a track record both outside and inside this club to prove that he is worth going along with. He has signed good, young prospects to improve the squad but also smartly picked out Camp, Adebola and most importantly McKenna - as leaders throughout the spine of a squad that under Calderwood was too timid for the cut and thrust of Championship football.
From a simple point of view Billy's grievance with the sheep-botherers helped him form an instant bond with the club and the elements of the crowd who go for that sort of thing appreciate his touchline cheerleading and visible affection for fans after the games. In fact the feeling I get now is that for the first time since the Paul Hart play-off squad the fans have a genuine affection for both the manager and for several 'characters' in the squad - something sadly lacking in the days of also-ran cloggers and faceless non-entities of a few years ago. If you don't know what I'm talking about take a look at Lee Camp when we next win a game - the man goes on his own little celebration in front of each stand in a way that harks back to the famous Psycho fist pump.
Is any of this important? Actually I think it is. The crowd is happy with Billy and likes the players which must make them feel liked and welcome - a mutual relationship that will hopefully help us keep together a clear squad of players for a change.
The results this season show we have graduated from the tame away defeats of 12 months ago to a series of toughed out draws at some very tricky venues. If we can keep and build on this set of players then we will be well set to make the next step and start winning away at the big hitters - the secret to breaking into the promotion spots.
Like the team with McKenna at its heart, Billy is also a tougher personality at the helm than we've had for some time. The Championship is a difficult environment where a boss must stand toe-to-toe with people like cockney ankle biter Gary Johnson, Championship veteran Dave Jones, jack-the-lad Ian Holloway and total moron Neil Warnock.
Our prowling, snarling, growling Glaswegian has the strength to match these and the rest and has set up a side that is more at home with the type of football needed to succeed in this league. The Championship is full of teams with strong, solid centre backs, tough tackling and hard working midfielders and quick and strong strikers. Not many teams have the vision, finesse and creativity to grace the top stage but as the well-worn cliche goes you have to 'compete' and 'earn the right to play' at this level. In most games we can now do that.
But one manager who is a little bit different, and vastly under-rated in my opinion, is the Doncaster boss Sean O'Driscoll.
With seemingly no budget whatsoever he has developed a side that play some of the most attractive football at this level and showed the fight needed to pull well clear of the relegation spots last year.
The Black Country born boss also bamboozled Billy's successor - who often struggled to overcome O'Driscoll's charges while in residence on the banks of the Trent. The Donny boss is a clever tactician - who sometimes seems perhaps rather too obsessed with the intricacies of the tactics board, but nevertheless makes superb use of his resources.
His presence on the touchline next to Billy marks a different type of test. Calderwood seemed unable to adapt to counteract the clever interplay of Donny's stylish side, to the extent that the utter embarrassment they dished out to his charges last Boxing Day put an end to the Stranraer supremo's employment.
Having stood up to some of the tougher combatants of the technical area, Billy will now need to show a different type of acumen on Saturday - as will his ever-improving side.
It will be interesting to see if he can shake the Donny hoodoo and add another three points to a total that is impressively 14 points better off than the sum accrued after 17 games last season.
In my opinion a strong show from McKenna to boss a crucial midfield battle and a return of the ever-dangerous Blackstock could hold the key to breaking the recent form.
Saturday may not be that significant in the grand scheme of things, but for me it could show us whether Billy has the brain to match the brawn required to continue the impressive progress made since he arrived on the scene in January.
The grim S O'D vs CC record -
Away - Lost 1-0
Home - Lost 1-0
Home - Drew 0-0
Away - Lost 1-0
Away - Drew 0-0
Home - Lost 4-2
P6 W0 D2 L4 F2 A7 GD-5 PTS2
Many thanks to t10red for another great article. You can check out more musings from the man himself, by Clicking Here