The opening goal at yesterday’s Hibs-Newco game was a mirror of the chance James Forrest scored in the first semi-final a day earlier. Both goals had to be snatched at waist height, presenting a challenge to keep the ball down. With the score at 3-1, Newco’s Connor Goldson had a similar opportunity, if only he had the same hunger as Forrest or Boyle, the result may have been different.
After the game, the despondent Newco vice-captain questioned the hunger his side had shown all season. I have sympathy for the player, he was frustrated and trying to make sense of a decline he is unable to arrest. Is it really hunger, though?
I’ve played in teams a million levels below the Scottish professional game where no amount of hunger could lift my team. No one wants to lose, ever, it does not happen, but it takes a huge amount of symbiosis to transform a losing side. You cannot just want this phenomenon into existence.
I’ve heard countless fans, as well as professional players including some at Celtic, complain about the attitude of others in the team. No one has ever said, “I’m not really up for it today”, it’s always someone else who has the problem.
What Connor Goldson has detected is not a lack of hunger, he was talking about Newco, one trophy in their history, no one is full after the first course. It is more subtle than that.
The club had no money to invigorate the squad in the summer. A third of them are in their mid to late 30s, another third are in the final 18 months of their contracts and have not been presented with an acceptable extension that would settle their futures, while at least half of them were not very good to begin with.
What Goldson attributes as a lack of hunger is a manifestation of poorly addressed structural problems – he would have been far better explaining the problems in this manner. His new manager is now cursed with the responsibility of banging his fist on tables and shouting lots to ‘get them hungry’. It’s bullocks, a remnant of the 70s, as relevant to the game today as the Gullane Dunes are to sports science.
It is a challenge, but football clubs need to lose with some perspective, even accept that losing may be a likely outcome before returning to a successful plan. Screechy demands for fight and hunger are for losers who will never consistently escape that state. It is for others to decide whether we achieved this since losing became likely last season, next month’s #Tooraloo Final will prove informative.