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League One

Andy Ritchie's Blog 15

28 November 2012

It's been a strange old week for football fans hasn't it? We heard some disgraceful chanting at White Hart Lane, and Rafa Benitez had to endure a torrid reception from Chelsea fans before and during his first game in charge of the Blues, which left me stunned I have to say. We're not like that in npower League 1, are we? I sincerely hope not.

As a manager I occasionally had to put up with the odd punter telling me I didn't know what I was doing, but honestly speaking it was water off a duck's back. I just ignored it. Thankfully I never had to listen to thousands of people having a pop at me, or demanding that I leave, as I don't how I'd have coped with it.

I understand supporters' frustrations but no good has ever really come of booing your own team or manager. This season, managers at this level will get criticised, but hopefully it will never get to the stage where we see a repeat of what we saw at Stamford Bridge.

One manager who's well liked at the minute is Crewe Alexandra's Steve Davis, who at the time of writing says he's poised to sign a new contract with the Railwaymen. It's well-deserved recognition for the work he's done at Gresty Road.

There was a point where it seemed nobody was ever going to be big enough to fill Dario Gradi's boots in the Crewe dug-out, but Steve Davis has made it look surprisingly easy.

Crewe's tradition of attractive passing football has been maintained by Davis - the fans and board wouldn't allow it not to be - and they're competing well at this level following promotion last May. You have to remember that Nick Powell and Ashley Westwood were lost to Premier League clubs in the summer, so although Crewe aren't setting the world alight in npower League 1, they are putting in a decent showing.

It's been a fabulous period for Leyton Orient, who have racked up five wins in 15 days - a far cry from their disappointing early season form.

One of my good friends is an O's fan and only a month or so ago he was telling me he thought manager Russell Slade would be sacked any day, but he now reliably informs me that the supporters are no longer calling for his head! It's amazing what a month can do in football.

This weekend sees Milton Keynes Dons tackle AFC Wimbledon in a hugely anticipated FA Cup second round tie. It's live on TV and I shall definitely be tuning in.

I'm pleased that the Wimbledon fans decided against boycotting the match. It will be a special occasion and if they'd missed a famous win I think a few of them will have had major regrets. It's nice to see them get behind their side and I have no doubts it will drive on their players.

This clash is going to have a serious edge. I know that there's great animosity between the clubs, but from a football perspective I enjoy matches that have that little bit of needle. The players should relish it, too.

If I were in charge of either side I'd make no attempt to pretend it was 'just another game' because they all know it isn't. I'd urge them not to get over heated but I wouldn't want my men to lose any of their passion either. Most footballers play better when there is an edge on the game. As long as it doesn't boil over this meeting should be a belting FA Cup tie.

Karl Robinson's men warmed up for it with a classy 5-1 win over Colchester United at the weekend, inspired by 19-year-old loan striker Patrick Bamford.

This young lad was bought by Chelsea for £1.5million last year having made just two appearances for Nottingham Forest, so he's been through a lot of emotions in his career already I'd imagine. Living with that price tag at such a young age can't be easy.

His loan spell will empower him greatly, though. Playing for points and to please fans is an experience that just can't be replicated in the Under-21s Premier League. First-team football is pressure, but a good pressure.

He'll learn more from his time with MK Dons than in an entire season with the Blues' reserves.

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