I really love it when we get positive: four wins, four clean sheets, and forecasts of a good win against Sheff Utd tonight. But usually I find its better if I don’t join in. So for the record I will not be unduly upset if we come away with a draw (provided of course this is not from 4-0 up with five minutes to go). Four points from tonight and Burnley on Saturday would be fine (and should be sufficient to make Pardew a shoo-in for an overdue manager of the month; seems he is on the shortlist: is there really a published shortlist for this? I know we’re sad …).
Its possible that I just don’t believe that we are so good at the moment as to deliver five wins in a row. Yes, things are moving along well, but no, everything isn’t perfect. Yes, the defence is looking much better of late, but please don’t tell me that four games and none conceded hasn't involved an element of luck. Of course I hope it holds, I just wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t, especially with that poseur Beattie around.
As others have hinted, but we don’t want to shout too loud for obvious reasons, I feel that Warnock hasn’t had the credit he deserved for taking Sheff Utd to the Premiership and almost keeping them up. He clearly operated in a fashion which, while not attractive, got the best out of the players available. He won’t be able to reproduce that at Palace of course, due not least to the Jordan factor. But credit where it’s due. Dumping him for Robson and wasting at least the first third of the season as the team gets used to a different style is just what the doctor ordered for us. But as and when they do get it together they are bound to be a threat, not least because of Beattie.
That said, there is the opportunity tonight for the team to really come of age. There are always moments/matches/short spells which come to define a season and this could be one for us (even though of course we still have to play home and away against Watford, West Brom and Ipswich, so the real tests lie ahead).
Looking back at our three recent promotion seasons, in the first under Lennie at Selhurst Park it was a game against Sheff Utd that I think convinced us (maybe the team as well) that we had what it took to get into the top flight. They came to what we despairingly had to refer to as our ground on a good run, with a strong team, and with realistic promotion pretentions. On the day we outplayed them in every department. The result might have only been 2-0 but it was more conclusive than that.
In the second, the play-off season, for me it was when we played Notts Forest and Middlesbrough at home in short succession around Christmas/new year and thumped them both. After that the team grew in self-belief (although the mid-season signings and Sasha coming through also had something to do with it).
Of course, last time around it had something to do with that run of wins (so ludicrously ended at home against Swindon). Is there a danger of peaking too soon this time? Well, I’ve never felt that a 20-game winning streak for Charlton at any time is too soon. Getting promoted at the last is great to look back on, but we’ve done our time in that department and running away with the league still looks like plan A to me.