As I sat down to write this tonight, I couldn’t help but think of how much has changed since I last wrote one of these. Three weeks ago, just days before the start of the season, before the arrival of any of Jack Fitzwater, Kane Wilson, Josh Gordon and Isaiah Osbourne. To think, back then nobody had even heard of Morgan Ferrier. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in such a short space of time, where the mindset has turned around completely from thinking we were all but destined for another season of struggle, to now where we’re all desperately trying find reasons to keep our feet on the ground, andconvincing each other that we shouldn’t let ourselves get carried away. To me, this raises an important question.
Seriously, why would we not allow ourselves to get carried away, and to openly admit that we are?
Let’s look at the reasons not to first. We’re only 4 games in, so less than 10 percent of the season has gone, and the bookies were predicting, on paper at least, that we had one of the easiest starts. We still only have two centre halves, and only one of those is ours. We’ve also not played a side yet that has required us to come up with a Plan B yet. To me that is the acid test; at some time in the coming weeks we’re going to come against a side, with a manager, who is going to work us out and stop us playing. And when it works, future opponents are going to study that and try and replicate it. It’s something that seemed to happen at times under Smith, teams that came to Banks’s and tried to out-football usually failed and left with nothing. The so-called lesser sides, who came with spoiling tactics and hoping to nick a point, usually ended up leaving with all 3 more often than random chance would suggest they should. Or at least that’s how I remember it. How do we deal with that when it arises, and how long will it take us to adapt?
Now let’s move on to the reasons why we should be optimistic, and there’s one that’s so obvious I’d have inserted it here in big flashing neon letters if this sites text editor would allow it.
BECAUSE WE’RE NOT IN THIS POSITION VERY OFTEN SO LET’S BLOODY ENJOY IT!!!!
I mean it. When we last had a promotion push in the Dean Smith desertion season, the one thing that I couldn’t get my head around is that everyone seemed so desperate for it not to happen. Clinging to any setback in the hope that maybe now we could consign ourselves to the playoffs where we would ultimately lose and the team would inevitably be dismantled. Granted, that’s what eventually happened, but that’s not the point.
Let’s rule out superstition to start with. Maybe you were worried about getting too excited and jinxing us? But, we didn’t go up, and the team was dismantled, so it didn’t prevent anything. How about because we were so scarred by past failings that we didn’t want it to hurt so much? But that wasn’t the case either, it did hurt, a lot. Up until three weeks ago, it still did. How about not wanting Shrewsbury or Coventry fans to take the piss out of us if it all blows up in our faces around mid-March. Well they’ll do that anyway won’t they, so it isn’t a factor. So being all “let’s not get carried away” isn’t actually protecting us from anything. So why bother fighting it?
The next reason I ask the question is that, for the two seasons between the last promotion push and now, we have all very much been getting carried away. The club has been doomed, we’ve been mentally relegated in both seasons with the worst manager in our 130 year history, and the club had apparently declared open warfare on the fans. Except, none of that actually happened. Whitney wasn’t the worst thing to ever happen to the club, he was rightly moved on, the club is still here and we’re still in this division. Most of the trauma of the last two years has been emotional rather than physical. In fact, I still believe had the emotional state not been so bad, the physical side wouldn’t have suffered nearly as much, but that’s a debate for a bygone era. The point is that pretending we were never in with a shout if we do eventually slip away won’t prevent it being gut wrenching when it happens. But that’s what supporting your team is all about, why would we try to deny ourselves the emotional enjoyment of the ride whilst it lasts.
We’ve also played some alright teams so far (I appreciate I’m writing this as two of our early season opponents, Gillingham and Scunthorpe, have just been battered at home 1-4 and 0-5 by Sunderland and Fleetwood respectively). I can see the argument for suggesting none of them will threaten the top 6 this season, but I’ve also not come away from any game so far thinking “If we finish below these we’re in trouble” like I did against the likes of Oldham and MK Dons last season. And that’s a big thing for me. We may well get turned over by the likes of Sunderland and Portsmouth, and if your aim is to top the division that might be a problem. But if you’re hoping to be in around the play off spots come the final third of the season then, if we’re beating, or at the very least taking points regularly, off the sides that are going to be occupying those 10th-18th spots come the end of the season, we’re putting ourselves in contention. So what if we end up losing over two legs to Barnsley, we’ve recovered from it before, and we will do again. It’s taken us some time, but we do seem to have our Walsall back.
What’s more, most of our key players are still on two yeardeals. Cook, Ferrier, Gordon, George Dobson are all already signed up for next season. So if we make a good go of it and fall away, we won’t be having to start from scratch with a huge rebuild in 9 months time. We may cash in on one or two, but they’re not going to walk out the door for nothing at the end of the season.
Next up is Rochdale. I wasn’t going to go, but I can’t stay away at the minute. It looks a potential banana skin given their two home games so far have finished 0-4 and 1-4, but we know we’re not going to win them all. A win wouldn’t mean we were going up, a defeat wouldn’t prove that we definitely won’t.
Is it still early days? Yes. Am I excited by this team? Yes. Do I think we can continue to play as well as we are? Why not. Am I dreaming of a promotion push? Yes.
Am I going to pretend otherwise? Absolutely not!