It’s hard to move on, even when we desperately want to. To forgive and forget and put it behind us, a clean slate and never mentioned again. Sounds easy, but it’s hard.
It tends to be the first thing that gets mentioned in an argument, in moments of weakness or moments of fear. And it’s even less likely that everyone will move forwards together. But no matter how hard it is, sometimes it’s essential.
Max Power has been a great player since he joined in the summer. He had played well in every game and was, in my opinion unlucky to be sent off against Oxford. The second card at Bradford was a stupid kick out and, in everyone’s opinion an aberration, the result of abuse he’d received throughout the game. I’m not excusing it but I’m saying it’s understandable. One of the biggest shocks to me this season has been how keen teams are to kick lumps out of us, especially when they can’t match us technically. That day, Power made a mistake (which he apologised for) and we needed to move on. Two red cards in such a short time was unfortunate but hardly proof of a poor signing or, as some suggested, a player who couldn’t cope with the pressure.
Walsall proved that we hadn’t moved on. People went from ‘thank God he’s back’, ‘we’re so much better with him in the team’ to shouting that he should be ‘sent back to Wigan’, ‘not fit to wear the shirt’ and ‘a mistake’.
The fans made their apologies after the card was rescinded but that was too late. Our darts had hit and Power has said that he was at the lowest point of his career after the comments made. He needed our support not our bile and anger. And what followed in his performance against Barnsley, was his first poor performance for the club, weighed down by what had happened. He was nervous about making a mistake. Worried about what the referee, the opposition player and the fans would say if he mistimed a tackle. We need to give him an environment, especially at the Stadium of Light, where he can be confident playing his game the way he plays it knowing that we won’t get on his back. We need to be understanding. Understanding when he doesn’t make a tackle at first and then, in the future, understanding when he makes a bad one. He has already shown what an asset he is to the team. He needs to move on and put his red cards behind him, but so do we.
For very different reasons, Duncan Watmore also needs our help to move forwards.
There is an inevitability as he returns to the first team for the second time after a serious knee injury that he will be thinking about the knee, about his fitness and about his ability, carrying a twice operated on knee. Each tackle, each sudden change of direction, each energy sapping game will take its toll mentally as well as physically. It’s important we let him move on in his own time. Jack Ross will be applying enough pressure without us saying he looks off the pace, or unsure in his game or backing out of the occasional challenge. We have to support him, the manager’s decisions about him and know that he is doing his best.
Our fans showed their class after Charlton’s penalty. Our reaction was not ‘here we go again’ but rather ‘we refuse to go there again’. We showed we really were ready to move on. Power and Watmore have the ability to win us the title but we need to get them through the next couple of months with understanding and praise before they repay us in March, April and May with title winning performances. It’s time for us all to move forwards, not forgetting the past, but remembering that, with our help, the players can move on from what’s happened and achieve their full potential at the club.