“One must fight to get to the top, especially if one starts at the bottom.” – Franz Kafka in ‘The Castle’
This time last year there was a team rooted to the bottom of the table, with little chance of survival (although definitely more than Villa have now) and it’s fair to say, in a bit of turmoil. Points-wise, they weren’t a million miles from where we are now and they knew they had to win matches to survive. Something set them apart from the teams around them, but it wasn’t the players, it wasn’t the manager, it wasn’t even the chairman, it was the fans.
I vividly remember the atmosphere they generated at home matches, with inflatable clacker boards and unrelenting support for their team. We should remember, they humiliated us 3-0 at their place.
That alone should be inspiration for our beleaguered supporters, and the message is quite simple: get behind the team, make some noise and we can be consoled with the knowledge we have done our best.
I realise I sound like a broken record, this is the rhetoric of almost every article I write, but I feel it is necessary to stem the tide of unequivocal negativity that seems to ooze from the terraces like stinking green pus from a gangrenous wound. Much like stinking green pus, negativity is not pleasant, is not helpful and should be squeezed out as soon as possible before becoming entirely septic. Leicester managed to do that, and at the time of writing are top of the Premier League. Top. Leicester.
I’m not suggesting that their success has been achieved simply because the fans supported the team, but it has certainly helped, at the very least it has not hindered them. The King Power stadium, with a capacity of just over 32,000 is a nice place, but it is no St James Park, and if they can produce the kind of environment that inspires players to play beyond their capabilities, then surely we can do the same?
It worries me that in a city such as ours, the smell of defeat is quickly proliferated, spreading from fan to impressionable fan, and then transmitted audibly from the terraces to the pitch.
It is often the case that the more optimistic of us are moderate in our views, but don’t mistake that for being ‘less passionate’ or ‘caring less’, it just means that the stoic are more even minded and willing to judge football matches on the merits presented, rather than the hand-me-down opinions of others.
The accusation aimed at this brand of supporter is that they are burying their heads in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the dire situation the team is in. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are all angry, we are all morbidly depressed at the situation, and we all wish it could be different, of course we do; only the clinically insane could be actually enjoying the season we are having.
However, following the latest defeat and in the face of adversity there are those of us who would prefer to give the players a lift and push them on to scrape their way out of the mire. A football match is never predictable, and if we consign ourselves to defeat before a ball is kicked and berate players for a perceived lack of effort or ability, then that is the reality we will have to endure.
Having said all of the above, I have noticed a marked change in supporters’ attitudes in recent matches. The away support at Stoke was, once again, magnificent, and at home matches there seems to be an improved willingness to cheer the lads on. Maybe the realisation that our job is to support is getting through.
Hopefully I won’t have to campaign for positivity and support for much longer: we will beat Bournemouth, surprise the Foxes, tw*t the Mackems, snuff out the Canaries, batter the Saints, choke the Swans, feed the Scousers (I don’t know what I mean by that), condemn Pardew to relegation, pi** on the Villa and fry the Spuds (we might lose against City). Howay the lads!!
OK, that was my evangelical contribution, the head I put on during the match.
Now, in terms of what might actually happen: we are screwed. McClaren, bless him, he doesn’t seem to have a clue. I feel for him, I really do. Whatever he tries seems to be falling flat and despite performing reasonably well at home, our away form has been diabolical, shocking.
We have once again been victims of injury, coupled with a pretty threadbare squad, albeit strengthened in the winter. We have to ask ourselves whether it might be time to bring in a rescue specialist for the remaining matches, poor Steve just doesn’t seem up to it. That could do more harm than good though, just ask Alan Shearer.
Looking at the upcoming matches, we have to play a Bournemouth team on the up, it’s not going to be easy, but I expect a backlash from Stoke and for us to win that match, another corner turned. Unfortunately, and this is becoming increasingly Kafkaesque as I alluded to at the top of this piece, we then play a Leicester team flying high and full of confidence. I cannot see us winning that match, in fact, I see a humping on the cards, just in time for the derby…which we cannot lose, we must not lose, but, sadly, I expect we will lose. It could be the nail in the coffin.
I know I said earlier that we should not expect defeat before a ball is kicked, I was talking about a state of mind entering the stadium, this is a measured prediction among friends. We may get a draw, which will expatiate the importance of the Norwich match. They are so bad right now that on current form even we might be able to grab 3 points away from home, but I won’t be betting my mortgage on it. To look beyond that right now would be to disregard form, which as we know is permanent, whereas class….
Sad as it seems, our season seems to boil down to the derby. Win, and we have a chance of survival. Lose, and we will find it difficult to come back from. Behind the next corner we turn is a big hole, let’s just hope we can take a leap over it.
By the way, if we do survive, Mourinho is available…
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