Date:Friday October 9 2009
Wednesday fans love a scapegoat, it almost doesn't seem right without one, and the latest in the line is recent addition, and captain, Darren Purse.
Well, the former Cardiff City man is enjoying sharing that accolade with defensive partner Lewis Buxton, it wouldn't be right for him to shoulder all the blame now would it?
But for most Wednesdayites, and the media, the Owls club captain has come under most criticism of late, mainly due to the high expectations put on him at the start of the season, and the fact that boss Brian Laws handed him the captain's armband almost immediately.
First thing's first, Purse has been below par since his arrival, below the expectations of most Wednesdayites, not just as a the supposed tough-tackling centre-back we all knew from his time with the Bluebirds, West Brom and Birmingham City, but also as a leader.
He came to S6 fairly early in the close season and gave Wednesday fans plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
An experienced, tough, Championship centre-back who would no doubt be an excellent partner for Mark Beevers or Richard Wood at the heart of the defence, someone for the latter two players to look up to and follow.
Expectations were high, and he was all set for a fall.
An interview with the editor of Vital Cardiff before the season outlined some concerns - that he gave his all for Cardiff, was superb in some games for them, but he got dropped due to mistakes at the back and never really got his place back as a regular first team player.
The concerns were there, but nevertheless, us Owls, myself included, thought he'd be a solid addition.
Whenever a player has such big expectations, especially in a such a key area of the pitch, it's going to be difficult to match up to them, and Purse has proved just that.
He made a solid enough start against Barnsley and Peterborough, despite Wednesday getting just a point from each match, when in reality three would have been on the cards before the season had started.
But since then it's been a slippery slope, with the performance at Pride Park last weekend looking like it could well be the straw that broke the camels back, as far as boss Laws is concerned when picking his side for the clash with Coventry City next weekend.
I've heard some thoughts as to why Purse has struggled, expectations aside, with one being the fact that he's having to cover for Woody, and more so, Buxton, as well as carry out his own defensive duties.
I have to say I don't buy into this one bit.
If anything, Buxton looked quite solid for us last season at the back, and has struggled since the arrival of Purse.
Where else can we point the finger? Are the midfield not doing enough to help out at the back? Focusing too much on the attack and struggling with support for their defence? I don't buy into this one, either.
Have people just stopped to think that Purse maybe just wasn't the top quality Championship defender people made him out to be?
I'm not rubbishing his qualities, I've no doubt he's had a good career which has included promotion with Birmingham City and West Brom, but promotion's where he's been surrounded by top quality players from back to front, his mistakes maybe haven't been noticed as much.
At Cardiff, too, he was part of a fine defence which included Roger Johnson at the heart of it, and even then he was often placed on the bench.
Purse is a Championship-quality defender, there's no doubt about that, but whether that's a top end defender or an average defender, that remains to be seen, hey, some reading this will no doubt think he's a bottom end defender from what they've seen so far.
But the ball's in Purse's court now, he has it all to prove, and if he comes through the next few weeks having changed some opinions of Wednesdayites, then he could well have passed his most difficult test yet.
He might have to fight for his place back yet, with Laws threatening to change the side for next weekend's clash, and Purse could be one player to get the chop, with Beevers and Richard Hinds both looking to make a start.
But his next few performances in the blue and white stripes could be his most vital performances in recent seasons.
Leon Clarke shook off the scapegoat tag last season with hard work and the right attitude, and I'm hoping Purse does the same...
Date:Friday October 9 2009
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