For me it was November 2016. With the team winless and rooted to the bottom of the league, it was blatantly obvious that Moyes had been scarred from his failure at Man United and didn't have the heart to see out the job. With Allardyce out of work and a two-week international break coming up later in the month, it seemed the perfect time to act after the 4-1 hammering off Arsenal and save our season.
"You can't keep sacking managers" was the retort. We had to take our medicine and stick by him, for better or worse.
Shortly after, the team did something we can only dream of now and put together back to back wins to give a glimmer of hope. But with Watmore and Anichebe suffering long-term injuries, we headed into the January transfer window in desperate need of reinforcements for us to have any hope of survival.
"Give the club the benefit of the doubt" was the cry, despite Moyes himself dismissing the prospect of any potential signings improving the team. "Judge them at the end of the window."
So, the transfer window came and went, yet somehow, we ended the month with a weaker team than we'd started with following the sale of Van Aanholt. With the team meekly surrendering its Premier League status amidst a run of 8 games without a goal, fans turned on Moyes, but it was too late. The damage that might have been prevented six months earlier was already done, and we were already all-but relegated by the time any serious pressure was exerted on the manager.
Maybe if we’d stood up for ourselves earlier we might have forced the club’s hand. But we didn’t and paid the price. You live and learn.
I spent most of this summer quietly seething at the club for their lack of ambition and recruitment of the likes of Grayson, Steele and Vaughan, but again held my tongue. I tried to convince myself that a bit of positivity might reignite some of the passion within the club and spark an upturn in fortunes, but by November we were bottom of the league again and looking for another manager.
It’s now mid-February and, with 14 games remaining, we have just 5 wins to our name all season. It looks highly likely that we’ll suffer back-to-back-relegations; this time into the 3rd tier for only the second time in our history. By anyone’s standards, the current team must be amongst the worst we have ever assembled, the owner has disappeared off the face of the Earth despite assuring us in November of his ongoing commitment, and the Chief Executive has repeatedly patronised us.
If now isn’t the time to act, when is?
“Instead of protesting we should fill out the ground, cheer from the rafters and show any potential buyers what we’re all about”.
What, and show them that we’ll willingly accept any old shite? That they could run the club into the ground then disappear off without recrimination and we’d still turn up en masse cheering? No thanks.
In an ideal world, yes, it would be great to see the SOL rocking again and roaring the team on to survival. But it’s a pie in the sky idea that is never going to happen in a million years. In an ideal world it would be nice for Short to chuck in another £50m and fund a promotion push in the summer but that isn’t going to happen either.
Gary Bennett summed up the situation perfectly post-match. 27,702 fans turned up to watch us lose without fight; the highest attendance of any team in the country on Saturday. Why do the players need to wait until 48,000 turn up before they perform?
“But Short wants out anyway, what’s the point?”
Why does any protest have to be solely about getting Short to sell up? I agree, Short would gladly sell the club so turning up singing “Short out” is a waste of time, but the way he has simply washed his hands of the club and left us to face the music is nothing short of disgraceful. We should be shouting from the rooftops about the damage he and Bain have caused over the past 18 months, not to mention his disastrous and error-filled tenure before that.
Compare the coverage of Short and Mike Ashley in the media. I bet a good chunk of neutral fans could barely even name our owner, let alone list his wrongdoings. Our fans are mocked and sneered at for the number of empty seats on a matchday and Ashley painted as some kind of evil villain, despite the fact that the Mags have the manager they’ve always dreamed about and are financially stable in the Premier League. I am not proposing that we hold mock funerals or misspelt bedsheets, but they have highlighted their cause and receive far more sympathetic coverage than we do.
When he arrived at the club, Martin Bain preached to us about value for money, yet we’ve continued to sign crap and sell them on at a loss. Why should he not be held accountable for that? Bain promised to reconnect the club and the fans but – like Short – went missing once the shit hit the fan last January. Should he not be called out on that?
What would protesting achieve? Well, let’s be honest, singing songs outside the Murray Gates isn’t going to force Short to sell up. It might just put pressure on he and Bain to rethink their strategy going forward though, if there is one at all. They’d be forced to acknowledge any demonstration outside the main entrance on a matchday for fear of upsetting their corporate guests.
And if it doesn’t work, so what? We’d have all wasted half an hour of our time but, if nothing else, would probably feel better for venting after wasting 90 minutes watching them play crap…
I’d much rather go down swinging than with a whimper again.