Georgie Kelly offers hope amid the identity crisis ... David Rawson's Rotherham United fan column
It’s a curious thing to do.
If it’s not literally true then saying it raises the stakes, opens up a space for discussion that’s hard to close down again.
If it is true, then saying it out loud puts extra weight on what’s already an important game, adds complexity where simplicity might be more useful.
And it makes a draw unacceptable.
Draws are unsatisfying things at the best of times, requiring interpretation after the event as moral victories or effective defeats, only ever truly making sense in context of the results before and after.
A draw in a game that was supposed to be determinative? A hollow thing indeed.
But somehow it fits. Because what are we at the moment if not a team of nearlys, maybes and not quites?
A team that wants to keep the ball better, but starts every move with a punt upfield and a lottery of tussling and scrambling for scraps.
A team with excellent crossing ability, that consistently turns down the chance to play the ball into the box in open play and plays its corners short.
A team determined to play the way you’re “supposed” to play in this league, undone in defence by recipe balls into channels from the opposition.
If we have an identity, it’s in our refusing to be conclusively anything.
If the home crowd’s subdued, it’s because it doesn’t know what it’s meant to cheer.
The intricate passing in the final third that buys time to play the ball back to the halfway line? The back-to-front clearance that sets up the latest wrestling match between Hugill and a defender? The order and discipline of the shape? What?
It will cheer chaos. It loves Kelly, chaos agent. He’s raw. He does things that the coaching manual does not approve of.
But he plays on instinct and impulse. He makes things happen.
We might be utterly rubbish, battered and beaten, but he offers hope in its purest form. Wild, foolish, irrational.
In a team of almosts, he’s a “what if?”. He probably won’t change anything, but, also, he just might.
Fans relish the “what ifs”; the manager seeks to eliminate them.
There’s the disconnect. We see the hope in the unanswered question. The manager sees the risk.
This is why his raising the biggest “what if” of all is such a dangerous move.
If everything else is controlled, dampened, tamed, then where else is the space for chaos? For hope?