‘Belief’ seems to be the key word.
Neil Adams has it. We’re told the players have it. We, the supporters, are told we must have it. And, for good measure, I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that we must keep it. Or is that the ‘faith’? Anyway, you get the gist.
But there is only so far an unswerving and unshakable belief (or faith) will get us. At some point very soon it has to be replaced with points. Otherwise…
Last Sunday’s display from those in yellow was stirring enough – and we somehow ended the day in better spirits than we started it – but still I would have swapped the performance for a soul destroying, Mourinho-style 1-0 win. Without question. I suspect we all would.
Yet, in the spirit of ‘believing’, we extracted enough from 70 minutes of glorious failure to convince us that survival is still a reality. We have to – what is the alternative?
But in the cold light of day we’ve been marooned on 32 points for over a month. Not since the win over Sunderland – the one we thought had taken us to the cusp of safety – has the points total headed in an upward direction. Hardly the momentum required as the mire looms ever closer.
To add fuel to the fire those around us have been dallying with that odd concept called winning; the upshot being you find yourself two points from the brink with three games to play – and not three that would be of anyone’s choosing.
Like most of us I suspect, my ‘belief’ (there I go again) fluctuates on an almost hourly basis. From adrenalin-fuelled certainty that survival will be assured with a final day victory over Arsenal, to forlorn resignation that said match will be no more than a torturous wake from which the only ‘prize’ will be not finishing bottom.
And it’s agony.
In my forty-something years I’ve lived through six relegations (and six promotions) and, while I actually expected it to have been more, age certainly does nothing to lessen their pain.
Our own Ed Couzens-Lake wrote a fine piece a few weeks ago in which he highlighted the cyclical nature of football. For every peak their is a trough and for every promotion there is a… (one ‘r’ word is more than enough for this piece). Equally, as hard as it is to comprehend or grasp, that lot down the road will, at some stage, likely reclaim (temporarily) the crown of ‘Pride of Anglia’
Not a pleasant thought of course , but unfortunately one that will probably occur, albeit hopefully later rather than sooner.
Talking to a Southampton supporting colleague a few weeks back reminded me just how fragile Premier League status really is and how quickly it can disappear. He described how when City and the Saints were locking horns in League One – just four short seasons ago – Portsmouth were lording it up at the top table (albeit on a downward curve) having thrown in an FA Cup for good measure along the way.
Yet now the shoe (or the Nike Hypervenom) is very much on the other foot – even if Pompey’s fall from grace was perpetuated by the type of financial shenanigans that seem to follow Arry around the country. And that, for me at least, is a stark reminder of how nothing in football can be taken for granted.
But that doesn’t mean we should sit back and accept the inevitable, even if Messrs Lineker and Savage think we should. It just means we’ve mentally prepared ourselves if the unthinkable happens – both in terms of the ‘r’ word and swapping pecking order places with that lot.
But enough of defeatist talk. There is still a season to be salvaged and this is no time to look at form and logic. We know all too well the conclusion at which they arrive.
Now is the time to pour scorn on the doom-mongers who assume a Giggs-led United to be a tougher nut to crack than the David Moyes version. Of course Old Trafford will be rocking at the prospect of the Class of ’92 occupying the home technical area, but for all their wide-eyed admiration of Sir Alex are these boys really better equipped to set up a team to face City than Moyse?
Naturally the relief factor will be there – as it was for many at Craven Cottage – but a solid shape to the City line-up that won’t leave them exposed a la Sunday lunchtime will be a good start and will hopefully ensure one. I fully expect Neil Adams to have learned his lesson on that score and hopefully tomorrow his players will heed his warning with regard to not conceding early on. To do so would likely be a recipe for disaster.
If, on the other hand, City are able to frustrate early on then perhaps the Giggs-factor will be short-lived.
What it does need however is for City to score; preferably more than once. And we’re back to ignoring form and the stats again.
For the last seven month too much time has been spent proving the bookies and the pundits right. It’s time to finally buck the trend and make one or two eat their words.
For too long I’ve ended my match midweek piece by saying now’s the time for actions rather than words. For too long the words have been hollow.
Now is the time to finally deliver. No more room for glorious failures. Now we need points.