The Mark Douglas Column

Wednesday 03 April, 2002

The ghosts of City past and future

While the City midfield might have been staffed to impressive effect by the ghosts of City past and future, Stuart McCall and Tom Kearney respectively, it was the enduring problem of scoring goals which haunted us as we failed to exorcise the spectre of relegation against Norwich.

There it was: neatly packed into ninety minutes were all of the problems which have undermined our season. Lack of concentration at vital moments, a forward line bereft of confidence and, more tellingly, talent, and absolutely no good fortune whatsoever. Home defeat number eleven: they all just blend into one in the end.

For those players drinking in last chance saloon, whose contracts come up for renewal in the summer, it must be last orders for Gareth Grant and Lee Sharpe. Grant, for all his earnest commitment and desire, cuts a less than convincing figure when he actually makes the first eleven and Sharpe's huge wage demands have hung like a millstone round his neck this season. Judging by the reaction that their names got when they were announced before the game the Valley Parade faithful reached the conclusion on the fate of these two long ago: they won't be missed.

In the end, then, the Norwich defeat didn't change all that much. Our future still depends on the actions of others. Not just relegation rivals Barnsley and Walsall, but also Steve McClaren at Middlesborough. If he decides to reward the artistry of Benito Carbone with a permanent residency at the Riverside City can start the rebuilding in earnest. If he doesn't, and Carbone can't find another club, we might just have to make do with Grant and Tod after all.

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