Everyone is doing it, it seems.
The press do it, I do it myself and if you’re brutally honest, I bet you do it too.
As we get going in our Championship adventure the temptation is constant to compare it with last time. The spectre of the successful 2009-10 season is looming a little bit, especially given our mixed start to life in the second tier.
When we lost to Huddersfield, one of the first thoughts I had was that we’d already exceeded the total number of home defeats (0) from the last promotion, and registered half the number of losses in 2 games that we recorded that entire season. Miserable old sod eh?
The fact is, this is both pointless and totally unfair.
For a start, the 09-10 season was a total fluke, as Mike Ashley buried his head in the sand and left the club to it. Fortunately for all concerned, Chris Hughton rose magnificently to the challenge along with a core of key players and 100 points was exceeded, when a more common prediction was that we’d ‘do a Leeds’. Success was by happy accident, not by planning or design.
More pertinently, that was then and this is now, and looking back over, achieves very little. These are different circumstances and success may not be as easy to come by. I’ve always had a belief that promotion is the key goal to any second tier campaign, and while winning the trophy is brilliant (and makes for a more relaxing spring), I will be equally as content with any route back to the Premier League, from where we can hopefully kick on.
Given the widespread changes that have happened and will hopefully continue in the next week or so, this may involve a degree of patience, and it is from this that I believe there is actually a valuable lesson from looking back at the last promotion.
It’s easy to remember that whole season as a cakewalk but I’ll have you know, there was a time when it looked like it could all fall apart, before a pivotal moment where I believe the season swung.
In mid-September, following a strong unbeaten start, United lost their first game at Blackpool. A week later they exited the league cup, recovering to smash Ipswich 4-0 before embarking on a sudden dismal run of four games without a win (home draws with QPR and Bristol City followed by timid losses at Forest and Scunthorpe).
Going into the next game at home to Doncaster, there was talk that the wheels had come off, as top spot had been surrendered and two wins from eight made the early season running look like a flash in the pan. Another insipid showing was served up as Donny came in deservedly leading at half time – I distinctly remember breaking a rule of my own and buying beer in the ground to drown my sorrows at things going so terribly off-track. The rest of the Championship could scent blood, they had figured us out and this was going to be terrible.
Andy Carroll’s equaliser late in the second half only tempered the misery, as this would still be a poor return from both the game itself and the recent run. I can still see the moment, deep into injury time after the disenchanted had started filing out, when Kevin Nolan moved towards goal and unleashed a 20 yard drive that smacked in off the post. Relief, massive relief and the start of a seven game winning streak after which we never really left top spot.
The crowd that day were very antsy as I recall. Probably rightly so given the questionable status of the club and the continued mismanagement at higher levels. This time round I believe we need more patience. At last there is a long-term plan; finally in Rafa there is a figure we can get behind.
I believe that this season we have enough competence and quality to go all the way. If however, all doesn’t go according to plan, the lessons learnt from the past give confidence that at some point that Kevin Nolan moment will come.
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf