Mediocre season personified

IT started with defeat at home and finished with a flourish to end up ninth, but for the most part the 2008-09 season was mediocrity personified.

Derek Davis

IT started with defeat at home and finished with a flourish to end up ninth, but for the most part the 2008-09 season was mediocrity personified.

Realistically Town's chances of making the play-offs were over well before it was mathematically impossible at the beginning of April with a 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United.

Even the home win against Norwich was overshadowed by the knowledge that they would not finish higher than ninth and it was then that Jim Magilton paid for his failure with his job.

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After virtually three full seasons in charge, and having spent the best part of �20m in that time, not reaching the top six was unacceptable.

The simple answer as to why Town failed lies in the failure at home - just eight wins,.

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Away form was marginally better with nine wins.

Losing almost a third of their games home and away - one more than the previous year - meant Town were never in with a chance and the graph showing the peaks and troughs of the campaign highlights how ordinary they were.

During a period in December - perhaps coincidentally the time when the 'selected eight secret meeting' took place - through to the loss at Bramall Lane, Town virtually flat-lined in 10th place.

But you need to go beyond the numbers and stark statistics to find out why Town flopped.

It was a season when many players, for a variety of reasons, were played out of position and the tactics were chopped and changed with bewildering consequences.

Rumours of dressing room discontent were never far away and while the manager talked about the team spirit, his players were getting stuffed 3-0 at home by a Southampton side doomed for relegation, and were doubled by Doncaster Rovers.

There were good moments too, doubling Reading, a goalless draw at Wolves and that 3-2 win over the Canaries, who had triumphed at Carrow Road two days after the meeting that upset the manager so much when it was reported.

Jon Walters offers a clue in Mel Henderson's book Match Of My Life as to why his season did not replicate the one before when he had been player of the year.

During the chapter describing the 6-0 win at home over Bristol City he talks about how he adapted, and enjoyed playing wide right.

Walters describes the importance of having David Wright behind him at right-back with the way he linked and overlapped.

Wright was more often than not forced to go to left-back due to injury or suspension so rarely played in his best position.

Missing from left-back, where he had been by and large so successful in the previous two seasons, was Dan Harding.

Walters clearly missed him and in particular the accurate and regular diagonal balls towards him, quite often in space, that he and Town were able to exploit.

Getting rid of Harding proved to be a huge mistake by Magilton and the widespread belief that there was bad feeling between them off the pitch didn't help team spirit.

The left-back position, indeed the left side, was Town's Achilles heel in many ways.

Alan Quinn manfully played there with some success, but clearly central midfield was his favoured position.

David Norris and Owen Garvan also tried their luck but it was not until Luciano Civelli arrived in January that the Blues looked anything like a balanced side, and that was not to last for long.

Sometimes, though, a team can suffer paralysis by analysis when simplicity should be the key.

Roy Keane went for square pegs for square holes, even bringing back Matt Richards after a two-year absence, and even when enforced changes were made, a motivated Town ran out 3-0 winners at Cardiff City.

They carried that on in the first half at home against Coventry City in front of a revitalised Blues crowd, although the second half offered clues as to just how much work Keane still has to do to improve the squad.

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