A week of two halves
It was an unfamiliar feeling on Saturday evening, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with the wonderful quality of post-pub food at the renowned Ali Tandori.
I`m not a huge fan of watching our games on TV - this is normally because we seem to play reasonably well, receive no luck and end up on the wrong end of an unflattering score line. And despite high hopes and all the hype about us being the 'form team`, normal Sky TV service was resumed.
However, Mr. Lambert`s old friend 'Expectation` was possibly guilty of being present again. As was proved, Swansea City are a formidable outfit at the Liberty Stadium, where they have the best defensive record in the league and are second only to QPR in the number of points earned.
It was always going to be a very difficult game and Swansea proved to be well-organised, difficult to break down and clinical with their finishing. I`d even go so far as to say that the way they kept Grant Holt so ineffective, and the quality of the (first two) goals shows that they are possibly the best side we have played all season.
It did highlight the true value and form of Wes Hoolahan though, enough for even Paul Lambert to concede that he was missed. His ball retention and penetrating runs make him an important cog in the green and yellow machine, and he will also be missed at Vicarage Road tonight if (as expected) he fails to recover. He could be too important to take a risk on, but let`s leave that for PL to decide.
The other event this week was much more positive. It should not be underestimated how important it was to secure the services of Grant Holt for another 3 years. Not only does this mean our talisman is happy, hungry, content and willing to commit his future, it also means the club are doing a fantastic job in protecting their best assets.
God forbid, should Holt be the subject of any transfer activity, this new contract guarantees that the club will be due a sizable sum of money to go and find a suitable replacement. In no way am I hoping or expecting this to happen, but to let the contract to enter it`s last year would have been careless.
David McNally, again deserves credit for steering this through and for clearly being so genuinely delighted at the outcome. I`m certainly glad to see this being agreed well before the promotion race reaches it`s conclusion.
For some of the other players, the future looks less certain. Of the players out of contract in the summer; no doubt the club will hope to retain promising youngsters Jed Steer and George Francomb for at least another season or two, whilst Matthew Gill`s lack of first team appearances appear to suggest he will move on.
Where things are less certain is with Chris Martin. It is easy to forget the role that Martin has played in getting us into the top two places. He doesn`t score as many as he should and his off the field behaviour is not ideal, but what is not in doubt is that he does have quality.
He played a key role in the demolition of Ipswich at Carrow Road, and is possibly underrated in this role by the fans. He was felt good enough to start ahead of Simeon Jackson for the majority of the season and is always a threat.
Whether the manager deems his performances over the last two seasons outweigh the risk of potential further troubles remain to be seen. I really hope we do decide to retain his services, based purely on ability he still has bags of potential, it would be great to see another local lad in the Premiership!
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