Pre Rotherham thoughts

For once, we’ve had a quiet week – and I don’t just mean not having the Saturday/Tuesday/Saturday/Tuesday/Saturday grind of recent times…

OK, we’ve got two games in four days that could have been easier for us, but on the flip side we only have one calendar month left of what has been an, ahem, “testing” season.

It’s funny how after Easter Monday we will be in the last month of the season. Especially with just four games left. We could be safe by then, although we probably won’t be.

There won’t be any sort of Rotherham report up until Easter Sunday, unless I do a very quick one tomorrow evening (I’m covering West Ham v West Brom on Saturday, and I get to see Upton Park for one of the last times). But when I do write it, I hope it’s another step forward.

You don’t need me to tell you that there’s still too many games for it to go badly wrong for us, and the need to keep grinding out points is still very real. There’s still some apprehension about, and we’re not totally relaxed, although it’s a different sort of tension to how it was when we were propping up the Football League.

I think that’s the fear of letting the hard work of the last month – hell, since NA got here – slip away at exactly the wrongest of wrong times. These aren’t the easiest of games, although that can work both ways of course, and we’re still likely to need to keep digging.

Paranoid? Perhaps. I guess that because of the shit we’ve dealt with this season, and how no two teams in this division have managed to wilt and die yet, we’re still very conscious of that. I do sense that the manager and players know it too, and if nothing else they know the value of being complacent.

Certainly Harry Pell and Alan “Benno” Bennett know this. I’ll leave you to work out the logic of Pell not scoring so it ensures it keeps us up 😉 But he was there last year with Hereford, and he would know the dynamics of relegation dogfights.

Benno’s comments to the Hounslow Chronicle earlier this week were eyebrow raising in two ways. Firstly, I hope the management team have had a word about his sleep patterns. Although it does prove that he’s committed to the cause – you certainly can’t deny his attitude and influence over the rest of the squad.

But just as importantly, he wants to be here next season. He obviously won’t play for peanuts, and like his manager he’s openly mentioned behind-the-scenes stuff. If people at the club aren’t listening, they should be – your manager has said it, one of your most influential players is saying it.

Who else is saying that too? Or thinking it?

I don’t really read other blogs, being an arrogant journo type who writes for the national newspapers, but I saw this from TwohundredPercent after the York game, which summed things up quite well:

There is a sense around Kingsmeadow that the club will turn a corner if it can just get to the end of this season whilst preserving their position in the Football League.

Three weeks from that game, it’s still pretty accurate.

In the last SW19 update, the comment was made that the next four points will be the hardest to get. I still believe that, and won’t be happy until we’ve got at least those (although it still won’t make us mathematically safe), but it would be ironic if the big emotion now is lack of patience.

It’s pretty clear we want – and need – to be safe as soon as possible. A neutral observer would say that even with everything this season, we are as good as safe. And that might not be totally inaccurate. The Accrington manager after their game at Gillingham on Saturday was asked by a complete nobhead of a journo* about the relegation scrap. His words? Well…:

“I still think we are going to need two or three wins to be safe this season, if you get three wins you will be very, very unlucky to be relegated.”

* – come on, I had to ask him it.

Now, that’s Leam Richardson of t’Stanley, who are on 43 points. Three wins would take them to 52 points, which is our one-win-and-one-draw prediction. And I guess he’s expecting that two wins (or one more point for us) will be sufficient, because of how the other sides around them will do.

We have six games left, and we are more than capable of getting four points from them.

Even from tomorrow, Exeter and Gillingham.

A loss at NY Stadium will sting us again, but it won’t be a major catastrophe. Obviously, we’d still need to bounce back and get at least a point against Barnet, but you suspect everyone knows that.

Also, there is one other thing to bear in mind about teams right down the bottom – and something we have known about ourselves too often this season. When you’re that low down, it’s actually pretty tough to get runs of form going. Especially if you were like we were between October and December, which you have to assume the bottom four are right now.

The likes of Aldershot, York, Stanley and Plymouth HAVE to win. Draws are no good for them. And they have to keep winning, too. We clearly need to keep putting points on the board ourselves, but we are in a position where we have done exactly that and the confidence has returned.

OK, we’ve had a bit of good fortune too, if the first half hour against Morecambe was as grim as it sounded, but we’ve been owed that this campaign.

It might have been said before, but it’s worth saying again – we’re in one-more-push territory now. It’s almost like the finishing line has suddenly snuck up on us, but it’s within grabbing distance.

I’m not going to count my chickens, lest you’ve bought Kinder Surprises instead, but there have been times I wouldn’t have thought the Easter period would have arrived…

One more thing. I notice there was an interview with TB in the local Guardian today. Where he praises NA, which is nice of him.

While I can’t help noticing he uses “they” when he refers to us (DA still says “we”, although TB always was more of an Aldershot man anyway), he did give out the impression that he thinks he was replaced because of some pre-planned transition that he agreed to.

Maybe he does genuinely refuse to believe he got axed because of his record in the 91 Club?

It’s interesting that NA and this week Neil Cox have been scathing about the fitness levels of the team when they arrived, and the implication of whose regime it was they inherited. Even now, they obviously don’t think it’s as right as it could (and should) be.

However, we have heard more from TB in the last couple of weeks, via the Aldershot programme and this interview, than we have since he got sacked. NLP puff piece notwithstanding. Maybe there’s a move to rehabilitate him? The rumour mill suggests he’s going to be at the Exeter game…

I’m in no doubt whatsoever that there will be a couple, or a few, who would love to see him back at the club in some capacity – especially if he can’t get another managerial job elsewhere. Personally, I think that once things change in the summer, and the inevitable bloodletting is, er, let out, we must draw a line under his involvement and move on with our lives.

That’s probably the main thrust about reading those comments was – it just reminds you how quickly his era has already passed. Granted, there are still issues that happened under him that will need to be sorted in the summer, but one suspects a lot of that will get dealt with before we start next season.

Tomorrow, we will go up to Rotherham with some trepidation but also some belief we can actually get a result too. And there have been too many times this season when I really couldn’t have written anything like that…