31.12.2002 It's just too quiet. Nothing has come from the club that gives any of us any cause for optimism for the future. Peter Doyle has given an interview to the Barnsley World website. The thoughtful, probing questions were posed by his employee Rob Knowles, who made Jeremy Paxman look positively kitten like with his aggressive refusal to be put off by platitudes and spin. Or maybe not. The questions had to be submitted for pre-vetting, and no doubt they were sent for prior approval by PD, simply to ensure that the questions were pertinent and relevant of course, certainly not so that prepared answers (or, as was more often the case the case, non answers) could be given to our ruthless interviewer! My own interview technique with my consultants has, as I have said before, been somewhat too successful, eliciting responses that I would, with hindsight, have rather not heard. Nevertheless awkward questions do have to be asked eventually, otherwise how can you deal with the reality of a situation, as opposed to the slightly rose tinted version that is your preferred option. And in the same way is it not incumbent upon Mr Doyle to start to treat us as adults? The longer he leaves the club in limbo, saying virtually nothing, with no full time manager appointed and not even a hint that any money will be made available for improving the playing staff, the more persistent will be the rumours of ground sales, relocation, even the closure of the club. Coming out of administration should have been something to celebrate, an opportunity to regroup, to realise what is really important and to get behind the club and it's new management structure. Instead I am left with this rather strange feeling in the pit of my stomach, that feeling that you get when you don't exactly stop functioning, but when you know that something just isn't right. A regular question that my wife asks me is 'How many percent are you today?' Most days it's 90 – 100, and we carry on. If she were to ask me the same question about this deal, I would be down at around 40%. O.K. the club is still here. And that is no small achievement. So why are so many convinced of the 'ulterior motive' that surrounds the deal. PD came out and said that this would be an open club, no dark corridors, everything open and above board. So where is this transparency now? There was a clear and transparent threat to those who dared to be dissident supporters in his recent statement that went something on the lines of 'it would not worry me if I had to close the club down, and I wouldn't have to go to court to do it'. If that is what he meant by transparent I almost prefer the cloudy, ambiguous version. What is very strange, and quite worrying, is the report that the League and FA have yet to ratify the takeover deal. Whilst some might celebrate this, my worry is that this deal may be the only one, unpalatable as that may be, that offers the prospect of survival for the club. I'm not sure I could cope with more weeks of speculative rumour about non existent bids from reluctant so called millionaires or supporters groups. Things are pretty quiet on the pitch too. To lose against Crewe was no hardship, they are a good side and will no doubt feature in the 'shake-up' at the end of the season. But successive defeats against Mansfield, and the embarrassing capitulation against Notts County highlighted just how far the club has fallen in the last two years or so. I was reminded of the events against Walsall last year, when with the game at our mercy we threw away the three points that ultimately cost us our place in Division 1. The turgid, uninspired victory over Port Vale was no occasion to celebrate, and a win against Northampton on New Years Day would be the proverbial 'double edged sword'. Yes we certainly need the win, but that would probably allow those running the club the excuse to confirm Hodge's appointment as manager on a full time basis. He has done nothing so far to indicate that he has the personality or tactical awareness to motivate those in his charge to give the supporters hope for the future. Indeed the opposite can be said to be true, with somewhat bizarre team selections, and after match outbursts that promised much but delivered very little. As with Peter Doyle, in the limited time available to him, Hodges has done nothing to suggest that he is the man to lead us into the promised land, or at least into some sort of stability. There are those who say that he is the 'players choice'. If that is the case then I think we should worry even more. I would not want our next manager to be chosen by the bunch of spineless wasters who have contributed massively to the implosion of Barnsley F C. I am of the opinion that the only reason that performances may improve towards the end of the season is that, with so many of our players out of contract, it will be in their interests to put themselves in the 'shop window'. Well good luck to them. There are around 500 players still looking for clubs following the summer clear outs this year. The same, and maybe more, will be released this season. The myopic bunch of players that we have now are playing their last few months of competitive football, but dedication and application could have seen them with extended contracts right here. Instead they will be seen for what they are – potentially talented players, but with no commitment, heart or application, intent on sticking two fingers up to those supporters willing them to be successful. A few years ago, following a 7–0 thrashing against Reading, Allan Clarke took his players on a trip down a local colliery. It was a simple message, and a brilliant way to state the obvious – footballers just don't know how lucky they are, and if they wanted to know what the real world was all about they had a quick and salutary lesson. It's a bit difficult to find a pit to take them down these days, but in my experience Hodges might consider a quick trip round the local hospital wards. Try a children's cancer ward. The players could see strength, courage and resilience in massive quantities. It's enough to humble anybody. Even the most arrogant, cosseted football player. People often tell me that I cope pretty well with my condition, and that they would not be 'so brave'. Well believe me, I'm not brave, in fact more often than not I'm scared shitless. But I have seen so many instances over the years of real bravery, and extraordinary courage. None more so than when I have spent periods in hospital in Birmingham. The adult ward was over the top of the children's ward, and you could go down and go in if you liked. I never did, though I did look through the windows on many occasions. What I saw was quite amazing and totally blew me away. Kids with no hair, amputations, chemo drips, the full monty. But the staggering thing was the vitality of the children, this was a very happy place to be. Cancer survival rates in children are higher than in adults. Lance Armstrong, four times Tour de France winner, cancer survivor and my all time sporting hero – just shading Ronnie Glavin – ascribes this to the fearlessness in children. They have no knowledge of what it is to have cancer, or it's implications, and just want to get on with life, and get back to having fun. Would that our players could stop playing with fear, could see that they have lives that are the envy of most, and that they have a privileged existence that many would give their eye teeth for. Anyway, lets hope for a better 2003 than 2002. It could have been worse, and if the doom merchants are right 2003 may well be worse. But I cannot live my life without a healthy dose of optimism, so I will stay of the opinion that 'something will turn up', and the good times will roll again at Oakwell. It only remains to thank you all for your good wishes and support, and to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Cheers everybody!!!!