Yes, I know this is going to put the mockers on it, but its too late. I've already thought it - and as any good Christian knows that's bad enough. All that needs to happen is we beat West Brom and Watford lose to Plymouth – and we’ll be top at five o’clock. It’s been a while since we’ve had the possibility, so let me enjoy it while I can. I’ll enjoy the reality even more.
At the start of the season I thought West Brom would feature less at the top than last season, with no big new signings and a further year away from the top flight. Just goes to show what I know. As it is now, provided we end up Champions - and leaving aside the vain hope that Scunthorpe and Colchester get promoted with us (on the grounds that they should occupy two of the three relegation spots next season) - I hope they get the second spot. They play better football than Watford. And every time I think of West Brom I remember they used to be my second team.
The very good reason for this came in the form of a distant cousin from the Brummie branch of the family. No, we don’t like to talk about them (even less about the Welsh and Irish components – I am after all a typical Englishman) but for her I’d make an exception. For her I made the trip, with my father, to The Hawthorns to watch West Brom beat Arsenal 1-0 in the fifth round of the FA Cup in early 1969. This was because, perhaps having sensed my adolescent lust following a rare visit from these relatives, my father promised me we’d go up to West Brom if we got them in the cup.
As it happened, having seen off Palace in that epic replay at Selhurst Park, we were narrowly edged out 2-0 by Arsenal only for the Gooners to get the Baggies in the next round, so we decided to go anyway (in the event West Brom won 1-0). I remember the Arsenal game as my uncle, an Arsenal fan (bloody hell, this is like exposing my entire family as a bunch of losers; thank heavens for my father and I for restoring some family honour), got us tickets in one of the posh (seated) stands. When Arsenal fluked their first I asked my father for permission to swear. I think he expected a quietly mumbled naughty word, not his son standing and shouting ‘f**k it’ at the top of his voice surrounded by celebrating Arsenal fans.
Bottom line is I have no bad memories of The Hawthorns. Even though my unrequited attentions still cause me pain, I console myself with the reminder that she was twice my age, which might have explained her poor judgement at the time. Come Saturday I will think fondly of her – and trust that when it’s all over I will still think fondly of that particular part of the county.
What is it about East Anglian managers? I thought Peter Grant (where is he now?) covered himself in shame by labelling Danny Mills a ‘cheat’ after the game earlier this season. Of all the things Mills could have been called after that one ‘cheat’ was about the least appropriate as he could easily have had one or more of their players sent off. Now we have Jim Magilton berating his players for Saturday’s performance, promising new signings in January (if he is given the money).
Hold on a sec Jim. I looked at one or two Ipswich sites before Saturday and the gist was that supporters were imploring him to go with two forwards from the start against us. And anybody who had done their homework would have known that we have a very poor record if we go behind at home, and that our defence is far from watertight. So what did you do Jim? Go with one up front and such limited ambition that Ipswich had no serious attempts on goal in the first 40 minutes. They were 2-0 down before a forced tactical change – which was greeted with ironic cheers by Ipswich fans - was made and 3-0 down at the break. And of the goals we scored only the second can have been said to have been a defensive howler: I have now seen the first in The Championship highlights and what a beauty it was; I could have sworn after the game on Saturday that our second came back off the post before Iwelumo put it in the net (there was obviously something a bit off with it; it seemed to have come off his shoulder); and while their defence was sloppy in allowing Reid to set up the third it was a super strike by Ambrose.
So who should really carry the can for the performance and result Jim? Is there perhaps an element of trying to divert attention from your tactical errors by blaming your players? If I was the guy putting cash into Ipswich I’d take a long, hard look at who I wanted to be spending it. As I’m not, and as I’m a Charlton fan, more power to your spending elbow. Having you in place and Bryan Robson at Sheff Utd could still prove our passport back to the top flight.
On the game, on second viewing the straight red did look a little harsh on Fortune. He clearly threw their guy to the ground but with no punch thrown. Their forward should be ashamed at himself for the writhing around clutching his face. I doubt there’s any mileage in appealing this decision but it looks worth it to me (I didn’t have a problem with us appealing against Sam’s sending off, only the stance we seemed to take when the appeal was overruled).
I should add that I agree completely with the sentiments expressed by Peter Varney in the Ipswich programme. I suspect a two-tier Premiership is the best way forward – or to put it another way it offers the best protection for a club like us as the top flight is reduced in size before too long. With luck it would dilute the financial consequences of being relegated from the first division, albeit by implication increasing the downside of being relegated from second to third. Still, if that helps push Palace to where they truly belong more power to it.