16 July 2014

The line in the sand

As summer creeps by force a teary goodbye to the Copacabana sand, disturbed as it was by flip-flop of Hoddle and sun cream of Strachan, and get acquainted with the empty squad numbers of Andre Gray and Ronnie Henry.

After much speculation, it can be of little surprise that our blistering 30 goal striker Andre and us have parted ways. As much as the thought may irritate, the chance to go to Championship Brentford is too big an opportunity for young Gray to refuse, remembering where he came from not so long ago and where we still are.

Don’t worry lads, we are still #back an’ all that; but we’re also still only division 4 and much, much less of a draw than your Littlewoods Cup final programme might suggest. As you wait for your Champions Selfies to be developed let your cold showered thud back down to earth be this: for the right price we might still have to sell our best players to teams like poxy Brentford.

And it was sort of ever thus wasn’t it? Brentford are not the Galacticos that we might have imagined hosting the next phase of Andre’s career, but the underwhelming groans from Luton supporters have a similar pitch to those heard at news of our talent landing at Burnley, Wolves and Reading in the past. Goodbyes are never acrimony free but the way Andre departed leaves us with just the right amount of rose tint in our Eric Morecambe specs and a few quid to play with.

Henry was a funny one. Cards on the table:  I was never his biggest fan. Solid enough at right back, he rarely looked the leader he was purported to be on the pitch and following his video plea after the Lincoln game I cringed and cowered at the thought that our drifting into Non-League obscurity would be to the soundtrack of that Ronnie Henry from Stevenage telling us in the stands that it was all our fault.

History will record, however, that Captain Ron’s intervention was crucial and one of football’s steepest declines was finally beginning to reverse after a draining 5 year stay in the cupboard under the stairs, decorated with endless Blue Squares and riddled with Skrill. He even started to look the leader, Cambridge away being a good example.

After Lincoln he drew a line in the sand I suppose. The manager was firmly behind his captain, as were the players; in the end I think most supporters probably thought “let’s just stop being dicks for a season and see what happens, eh?”

So, eventually, it was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to Henry. Captain of the side that got us back in the league. Wearer of ill-advised snoods. Tan of Buckle.

At his vintage it’s both no surprise that he was looking for a good deal and that Still thought we could do without, Henry not being as young as some and nowhere near as hungry as others in the back four.

The best thing about the last 12 months is that the club they have left seems much stronger than the one they joined not long ago. And in-part due to the energy of Gray and the brass neck of Henry, it’s now larger again than the sum of its parts. More together than when Drury left. Riding a Still wave.

Can the two players be replaced? Of course they can. Maybe not by individuals, maybe by a slightly different way of playing, and it might even take a little while, but at the time of writing the squad looks pretty strong and well capable of having a crack at the millions of promotion places available in the football league.

Even though Ron’s gone, it would be good to remember not to tread too quickly back over that line he drew in the sand all those months ago.

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