Here We Go Again?
Is this, ‘Here We Go Again?’ Or the real making of this Dagenham & Redbridge side under Daryl McMahon – a side at a crossroads…
The state of play:
An ‘absolute disgrace’, the ‘worst half of football in [his] whole managerial career’ – ten games in and the Daggers are feeling the pressure, the expectation firmly pressing down on their shoulders. Those comments were made by a fiery McMahon last night in response to his side’s 2-1 defeat away to rivals Aldershot.
The expectation upheld by everyone at the club, uttered at a fans’ forum just 2 metres away from McMahon, by Managing Director Steve Thompson – ‘We expect to be there or thereabouts this season’.
Back in August, that was laughed off by Daryl, “No pressure!” he retorted with an air of confidence, confidence in what was on paper a fantastic squad. But this expectation which McMahon carries on his shoulders is no longer resting with the weight of a feather, it is weighing down on him – a burden.
‘Nobody said it was easy’ as Chris Martin exclaims, and that is something I’m sure Daryl knew all too well with his experience in the division. But, deep down I’m certain he believed like many thought, the likes of Barnet being in supposed financial turmoil with a mere 5 players just weeks before the season’s commencement (whom we have since lost to 2-1); those countless other clubs like the Bees (rumoured to be on the edge of collapse) – would see the financial powerhouse of Dagenham & Redbridge battle it out for top spot with the likes of Stockport and Notts County.
The Daggers, every other day it seemed, announcing signing after signing, with each one, opponents were impressed – resigned to the fact they were inferior – Dagenham supporters were buzzing. Despite everyone knowing money wasn’t everything, they knew it was a huge factor, and the likes of proven goal-scorer McCallum in your ranks would mean you were halfway there.
Boy, have we been brought back down to earth.
Some may say that the optimism never rubbed off on them and the potential for it to be a ‘Same old Dagenham season’ was very real – deep down though, everyone thought we were in with a shot - however small. Though this may seem like the opening to a Season Review in which the Daggers ended 17th (again); McMahon sacked in February and all had been lost - we aren't yet at that stage, far from it!
This is what could very easily happen however, if we don’t have an upturn in form sharpish and go on a Winter run, which - the side who call Victoria Road home - are to be fair, accustomed to doing.
As McMahon conceded in his interview on Saturday evening: deflated, disillusioned, disheartened – ‘these next two months will define our season’. Now, he’s right, as he was about a whole host of things in that scathing, though honest, interview at the EBB – an interview where the picture epitomised his situation with the supporters. Daggers TV’s camera showing Daryl in the dark as the floodlights and poor lighting pictured him as a silhouette; the players warming down on the pitch in the light.
supporters took a less sympathetic approach to the management than other
shareholders, whose comments we’ll move to later, fans putting the blame on the
manager. This so prompting the title of this article: ‘Here We Go Again?’. Yes, #McMahonOut has begun, déjà vu.
In attacking the players, some, "We've waited ten games for now … to turn up and the time has come now where we can't trust [them] in the squad anymore,” meaning that “We have to move forward with the ones that we can trust and rely on." He didn’t hold back.
This is where he was, equally admired and ridiculed, when he labelled such a woeful performance and result ‘an absolute disgrace’. The Gaffer had put himself in an impossible situation with supporters, and speculatively the players, who could seemingly praise and ridicule him in one breath – admiring his honesty and yet making clear the fact, as one fan had it – “You set up that ‘disgrace’ ’’
Now, it’s not as if McMahon didn’t admit to his own wrongdoings in the honest face-up to the camera. His selection not quite right from the off he conceded. But, the way he made his mistake seem minimal, supporters didn’t take to very well and felt that as far as the manager’s analysis went – his blame scales were hugely imbalanced.
I’ll go onto the reasons behind this anger, aside from the result, in perhaps one of the most talked about post-match interviews in a while, so much so, Principal Owner Peter Freund was to get in on the action in the Twitter comments:
|Majority Shareholder, Peter Freund, in his reaction to Daryl McMahon's interview following a 2-1 away defeat to Aldershot.|
In which he seemed to vehemently defend Daryl, who in recent weeks has come under fire, and the manager’s passion for the club which Peter seemed to use to explain his frustration. The onus appearing to be put on the players to deliver better performances, nothing to do with ‘strategy or budget’, but about ‘playing with HEART and being a DAGGER’. Therefore, aligning himself with the Irishman’s views, the players should be doing more.
Fans of the club seem to be at times even bigger fans of our owners, one described Peter Freund and the consortium as ‘unreal’ with a virtual applause, to show their gratitude just yesterday. Yet, while most agreed with the sentiment and were grateful for the owner’s intervention, many took issue with the supposed deflection of the blame – being a shield for McMahon’s own faults.
Behind The Reaction:
What are those faults? They range from tactical set-up, style of play and simple team selection. And, obviously those ingredients after ten games have so far formed into a recipe of disaster; the Daggers sit 19th with a mere 9 points out of a possible 30 - two places and points above the drop zone.
Let’s begin with the set-up, it was a 4-2-3-1 which some had raised questions about given the likes of Panayiotou, Kandi and Bettamer leading the line for an unforgiving Aldershot. Even in the studio on the Shots stream, it was discussed Kandi (ex-Dagger) would annihilate Wright with his pace – the same said for any of the home side’s front three.
The ‘pundits’ in that instance were right, so too were the supporters that raised concern. McMahon changed to his favoured 3-5-2 at the break along with a change in personnel, which we’ll move to next, and it was a lot better but we didn’t take our chances and ultimately – it was too little too late.
Let’s go again on the first half but this time the style of play, perhaps the biggest issue supporters had yesterday and have had since October, we seemed to sit back and bypass the midfield playing route one from the outset. The opposition won everything in the air, with one pass, for the first goal – our defences were sliced open. We changed it at half time, but as Daryl himself said ‘You have to play for 90+ minutes, not ’45.’
Finally, team selection, and fans were less than pleased with the omission of Myles Weston, who has impressed in recent weeks and did so when he was introduced in the second half. They were also left angered by the exclusion of Rance, favouring Brundle, and then there’s the cases of Eleftheriou and Robinson – they’re a whole other story!
Now to my view, it’s not great. The start – awful on the results front – 9 points out of 30. On the performance front: inconsistent, unsatisfactory, glimpses of quality. On the whole post-match interview, I stand with McMahon on the fact some players haven’t been up to it and I admire, perhaps more than most, his honesty and openness in his frustration.
I contrast that to Taylor, and you begin to see why he doesn’t get the same hostility, Daryl’s passion and hunger shines through and he has the best intentions for the club at heart and feels more involved than his predecessor ever was. The way he said something along the lines of: ‘At the moment the club is heading to 17th, where it has been for the last 3 years, we want that to change’ it set out his desire and ambition.
That, I think, is what drives me to give him time as he said himself he needs to learn from the mistakes he has made – learning on the job doesn’t make you a bad manager – we knew he wasn’t the most experienced when he came in. Though, I do criticise the selection and formation, as long as that changes I’m convinced results will come. So, as it stands I won’t be tweeting #McMahonOut, but I expect improvement and a result to match a winning performance on Tuesday.
I don’t believe as some have claimed, the FA Cup games papered over the cracks, I feel we’re able to achieve something with this manager and squad and we were on the up – this could also be the making of McMahon’s successful tenure. We are at a crossroads, carry on and it’ll be the breaking of the side, take a right turn and this’ll be looked upon as the making of a successful Daggers team.
These two months will define the season and that definition can make for good reading still – it remains to be seen. Equally, he could be out of work by January.
So, ‘Here We Go Again?’ – not for me – not just yet. I think there is more to come. But, I’ll assess more after the Weymouth game, where, if we don’t get a result - my opinion could very well change.
Questions are being asked: the supporters demand a reply.
For now, stay safe and COYD!