Nine defeats in thirteen games would ordinarily leave a manager on thin ice.
And whilst Stuart McCall will certainly be feeling the pressure following a dismal run, he has been given a reprieve from the majority of supporters not least because of the tools (or lack of tools) he currently has at his disposal.
In fact, there has next to no criticism aimed at McCall so far, with fans refusing to place the blame at his door following a shambolic summer transfer window under Nick Daws.
McCall has been dealt one of the worst hands imaginable since he took over from Daws at the end of August. With our best players sold in the summer and not adequately replaced, one can only speculate as to whether he was truly aware of the enormity of the task he signed himself up for.
Admittedly desperate to get back into the game, a key draw to Scunthorpe was likely to have been the financial backing previous managers have enjoyed – with McCall regularly bemoaning losing out on key transfer targets to the Iron during his relatively successful time at Bradford. And with the club hovering just above the relegation zone approaching January, McCall will need the very same backing from the Swann’s if he is to turn things around and avoid the drop.
His efforts to stop the slide so far have not been helped by crippling injuries to key players, sweeping illnesses and sporadic suspensions and try as he might, he has been unable to plug the leaky defence which is statistically the worst in the Football League.
But whilst injuries have been almost as regular as the back of our net bulging, at times he has also been let down by some of his most experienced players.
James Perch is one player that has come under fire and it is easy to see why. His lacklustre performances are a far cry from what fans had expected from a player of such experience, particularly considering he has played the majority of his career at a higher level. He has so far failed to fill the void left by Neal Bishop – whose release has turned out to be one of the worst decisions made last summer.
Perch’s reckless red card after just half an hour at Southend was simply not acceptable for a seasoned pro, well aware we were already painfully short on numbers in both the full back and central midfield roles he has filled this term. The defeat at Southend was compounded by the fact they have an injury crisis of their own and were without doubt one of the poorest sides we have faced this term.
Discipline has also been a problem for one of the only shining lights of the season so far. Matty Lund has been one of the few players that has emerged with credit, but for an experienced player he is also displaying a lack of discipline which we can currently ill afford.
Whilst it is fair to expect Lund to pick up his fair share of bookings in his role as a combative midfielder, ten bookings in his last thirteen appearances is borderline ridiculous, particularly as a large number of these have been avoidable. Whilst you would not want to temper his enthusiasm, with Funso Ojo out for another month we can not afford Lund to be missing if we are to pick up a single point between now and January!
The loan contingent have also failed to impress, due to a perceived lack of effort or simply a lack of quality. Ike Ugbo, who failed to fire at Barnsley or Milton Keynes Dons is replicating that underwhelming form here and it is hard to see the club extending his loan spell once it expires.
Whilst McCall may have had the final say on the Chelsea striker back in August, Ugbo had already been identified prior to his arrival and his omittance from the starting line up in recent weeks may point to the fact he will be heading back to London as soon as his loan spell is over.
Whilst there is no denying that he is trying his best, his performances of late have proved he is not ready for League One football and our very own Kyle Wootton is frankly just as able in the role until we can bring in some real quality to partner Lee Novak in January.
We then have the curious case of Stephen Humphrys, who looked to have bags of talent on the opening day at Coventry but has left fans (and players) questioning his commitment to the cause ever since. Humphrys, who clearly has the potential and the attributes to make it at a decent level, may be harder to shift in January. However, he is another player that has been overlooked as an option from the bench in recent weeks, which may or may not be indicative of McCall’s opinion of him.
Whilst we are not privy to what is said on a weekly basis in the dressing room, McCall has refrained from being overly critical in public as he tries to eek out as much as possible from the current crop of players. But with January fast approaching, perhaps it is time for a few home truths to be told.
The window will be a key indicator as to whether he retains any faith in the squad and the individuals that continue to make errors on a weekly basis. It will also give us an indication as to whether the board are still as hungry for success as they were under the well backed Mark Robins and Graham Alexander, as it becomes increasingly obvious with each passing defeat that fans will not tolerate another poor transfer window.
Whilst December will be a tough month on the field with Doncaster, Luton and Peterborough all on the fixture list, January will bring a challenge of a different kind.
A notoriously difficult period in which to strengthen will be made even harder by our current league position and desperation for quality additions. A club languishing just above the relegation zone are unlikely to attract the same calibre of previous successful loanees such as Ryan Yates or to some extent Ivan Toney and with recent January efforts leaving a lot to be desired, it is going to be a very interesting period indeed.
Time will tell whether the board back McCall with the same clout as the previous incumbents but despite the current poor run, fans are seemingly confident he is still the right man to take us forward and rebuild.
For some, their support is unwaivered, even if it means he has to start again in League Two.