Nobody wants to hint at negativity ahead of the weekend’s games. But it’s not exactly calculators at the ready is it? For the first time in a while I’ve been tempted to look at fixtures and the table. Whatever happens we can’t be relegated on Saturday; but if we lose to Birmingham, barring the two teams into administration option the axe could fall on Monday at Coventry if Norwich pick up a few points (away to Swansea then home to Norwich).
But enough of that. It just ain’t going to happen. The team responded well last Saturday, winning a game that I really couldn’t see us emerging with anything from, given the extra motivation that Southampton had in light of their troubles. And if they’re in need of a some extra factor, can I please point out the idea of losing to a team containing the utterly unlovely trio of Marcus Bent, Lee Bowyer and Kevin Phillips, backed by those perennial charmers that support the team, does not bear thinking about. Clearly they will be up for it after their win against Wolves and as the faltering of them and Reading has opened a window for Sheff Utd and even Cardiff to claim a top two finish. At the least it will be stiff test of our improved form, but that will make victory only the sweeter.
Birmingham and Coventry. Any contest against Birmingham reminds us all that the best game ever played at St Andrews didn’t involve them. But their supporters did manage to get involved in my experience of that magical night. The police instructions to the few thousand Charlton fans at the end of the game were that they were holding the Leeds fans in the ground for a while and that it was best to leg it to the centre of town and the train home (it should be noted that the Leeds fans we did encounter later were entirely well-behaved). That we did. But when passing a branch of MacDonalds that looked as if it was designed for Birmingham, some congregated youths asked if we were Leeds fans. We joyfully announced that we were instead followers of Charlton, assuming that this would bring out the love, only to have various Ronald products hurled in our direction. Then of course some years later there was the aftermath of the stirring 0-0 draw on the final game of the season which denied them a play-off place. The Birmingham fans were allowed to walk across the pitch and past the away enclosure on their way out. Here too, to be fair, the first few waves were well-behaved and applauded the Charlton fans. But then came the Neanderthals. As for Coventry, well it was the guy stopping his car (which contained children) on the way back to the motorway after our 3-2 cup triumph to kick in our headlight.
All sins of the past for sure. Let’s just hope they have since learnt how to lose with grace. I’m going to have a tough enough time as it is trying to explain to my French partner Suzanne, who will be at the game on Saturday, along with a nephew of hers, exactly what a Brummie accent is. Maybe I’ll just show her my Slade LP. So come on Therry, you’re playing in front of de facto compatriots on Saturday (I know you hail from Guadeloupe but it’s near enough). After all, they will get to vote for the player of the season too. My only disappointment since Racon’s splendid return to the team is that there’s no sign yet that the crowd can adopt David Essex’s Rock On as a song for him (‘hey, did you boogie too, Racon’). Maybe there just aren’t enough of us left old enough to remember it.
On matters French, it is my sad duty to report that my adopted second team, Lyon Duchere, have suffered something of a dip in form of late. After their excellent February 2-0 win over Villefranche-sur-Saone, which put them fourth in the league (CFA Groupe B), they lost 2-0 away at lowly Jura Sud, drew 0-0 at home with St Etienne B (a match I went to), lost 3-0 away to Martigues, drew 0-0 again at home, to Andrezieux (thereby failing to gain revenge from the previous 1-0 defeat away to them, which I also witnessed), lost 3-1 away to GFCO Ajaccio, drew 0-0 at home to Marignane (can you see the pattern emerging here?), and most recently were turned over 3-0 away at CA Bastia.
With no wins, three draws and four defeats in their last seven, La Duch have dropped to 13th in the 18-team league and with eight games left (I think) thoughts of a possible second consecutive promotion are clearly off the agenda. There would even seem to be an outside chance of relegation if they don’t get their act together quickly, with Lyon Duchere on 55 points and the bottom team on 48 (you get three points for a win, one for a draw, and one for turning up). I haven’t seen any confirmation that in February/March they brought in Curbs to give them lessons in how to see out the final third of a season when it seems there’s little to play for, but the results speak for themselves.