It was a strange feeling this morning with no game to look forward to, only the dread of following the fortunes of the teams around us. For my training ride, I therefore thought that I would cycle past Chelsea`s ground at Stoke D`Abernon in order to commune with the beautiful game and ponder on the likely outcome of the afternoon`s fixtures.
Armed with the statistics, I found myself having to make difficult decisions (as if they would have any bearing on the actual results).
Naturally, I hoped for a draw at Bloomfield Road as we don`t want Blackpool to disappear up the table, while it would keep Wigan below us on goal difference. If there had to be a victor, let it be Wigan … by a narrow margin (we could have done without the minus six goals in the last two matches). Similarly, I wished for away victories at St. Andrew`s and Upton Park, realising that I had to let some teams fly the relegation zone in order more firmly to embed others in it. On the other hand, a home win for Everton against Blackburn would do nicely.
As I settled down rather anxiously to watch Gillette Soccer Saturday with Jeff Stelling, I had to fend off my wife … somehow aware that the Wolves were not playing this afternoon, she thought that I would like to go out and help her choose a new front door.
She finds it hard enough to understand why I want to put myself through the agony of listening to the Beacon broadcast of the Wolves match, while simultaneously watching a murky freeview picture, beamed in 30 seconds after the sound (It`s a pity that in the gap one cannot warn the defenders to cover the striker ghosting in behind them and in doing so alter the course of the game). So, to spend the afternoon listening for occasional reports of other matches when I could have accompanied her to a home furnishings megastore was beyond her comprehension. Having made a vague gesture of doing the ironing, I took up my position behind the sofa, watching through latticed fingers and occasionally wrapping them round a bottle of beer chilling in the fridge. Within five minutes WHU and Wigan were a goal up … then, it started getting better.
Well, it`s 5.06 pm now and I have just watched Jeff Stelling run through the table (though I had already done my own calculation) and we can breathe a sigh of relief. It`s still in our own hands because, if we win the game in hand, we will leap-frog WHU, Blackpool and Wigan. Moreover, we have to play two teams, Sunderland and Blackburn, in freefall, the latter match at home on the last day of the season. We all have to be there for that game because it could very well decide our fate.
How is the team going to react to this afternoon`s results? Positively, I hope, because MM has once again played his ‘Get out of Jail` card, if only indirectly. Even so, Bill Stevens, the Wolves` sports therapist, is going to have his hands full over the course of the next few days, as the players fret the week away. Given that the stance of the team and management all season has been one of unwarranted complacency, the outcome of today`s matches will confirm the impression that the soccer gods are on their side. So, they should be able to play without tension or pressure.
I have my ticket for the Fulham game and look forward to a confident team performance, operating within a flexible 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation. Surely, MM will not cock it up by going 4-4-2?