The Clog Blog: Day Three - The More Things Change
THIS season, we have been using the hashtag #WeAreArgyle on our social media.
To some, this will simply sound like 'orrible 21st century corporate football but, you may be shocked to know, we mean it.
Part of what we mean is to embrace our uniqueness. No-one has our name, few have our colours and our geography makes us special, too. We need to spread the word of how special we are - but I do not mean to the world. I mean to ourselves.
I tend to think that we are not positive enough or proud enough of our club. The phrase 'typical Argyle' is thrown around way too often. If we must use that term, let us try to make it into something that we can embrace. 'Typical Argyle, getting it right again.'
Today, for the second year running, we visited Feyenoord, and like last year, I was struck by the feeling aorund the club. Everyone was friendly, civil, courteous - but bursting with pride. It felt like they were so, so happy to representing Feyenoord, whether working security, serving us food or running the team.
I want us to have that feeling. We are getting there, but still have a way to go.
Little things can help us along the road, and plenty come from the manager. At breakfast, I noted that Derek and all his staff were wearing white shirts, with the players all in green. I was in black.
"Rob, I've got you a white shirt," said Derek, promptly. After breakfast, he was as good as his word, handing me a white t-shirt, so I matched up nicely. My only gripe was the initials on the shirt: GS. Goodness me, I hope that people there thought I was Goal Shooter for the Argyle netball team or something, because it would be awful if they thought I was Greg Strong. (Miss you, Strongy!)
In all seriousness, if we win the league this season no-one will ever put it down to Derek making sure I matched up sartorially. But it is symptomatic of hs attention to detail, and thinking professionally, presenting a strong, together, co-ordinated image of our club. I am all for that.
Our party this year is 34-strong - although sadly to be depleted to to 33 soon. Get well soon, H. Of the 34 that arrived, I think just 10 were here in Delden two years ago: Derek, Paul Wotton, physio Paul Atkinson, Neil the kit, analyst Matt Neil, me, David Fox, Gary Sawyer, Graham Carey and Yann Songo'o.
That's rather a big turnover in number. In all of this, the most consistent thing is the badge, the club, the name. Long after we are all elsewhere, Argyle goes on. That ought to be remembered.
For now, though, this group are the club, as far as 2018-19 goes. Whether they love Argyle or not is sort of irrelevent. They need to love each other. They need to become friends, family, brethren. And I saw a superb sign of that tonight.
You may know of the initiation trend in football that new players tend to have to sing a song before all their peers. Both of the last couple of years in Delden, we have had an evening where a glass has been 'dinged', and those new players are invited to sing for their supper - or pay a monetary forfeit.
Usually I choose not to talk much about this, as I consider it to be something that ought to stay 'in-house'. I will broadly continue that policy here, but I want to note that in previous years maybe 30-40% of players have stepped up to sing, with the rest happy to to pay up. Tonight, every player that signed in the summer took their spot; so did new pros Sangster and Cooper; so did strength and conditioning coach Ollie 'Pep' Osborne; so did now-full-time goalie coach Rhys Wilmot, defying all stereotyping and proving that not all Welsh men can sing beautifully; one of the new signings even got up twice.
I have not seen Paul Wotton, who did his own little turn, so happy in ages. Frankly, most of the singers were rubbish. But that is not the point. I bet Ed Sheeran is hopeless at keepy-uppy. The point is getting up in front of your mates, not taking yourself too seriously, and having fun to please the group. That is what will have pleased Wotts. Smiles all round, increasing bonding and the spirit of cameraderie. The spirit of 'we'. As in #WeAreArgyle.
And we are, aren't we?