We at least now know, following Southampton’s (very welcome) failure to win at home last night, that just a point on Saturday would be enough to guarantee a top-six finish. But of course we don’t just want that; and it is too soon to put a stop to hopes of automatic promotion, as Parkinson says. OK, all we can do this Saturday is win and see how the land lies after that. With Millwall at home to Orient, Swindon away to Wycombe, and Leeds at home to MK Dons. It’s not a set of fixtures that inspires hopes of fresh external help, but you never know – and all the other teams will probably be thinking the same. There’s no way around us having to win the final three games, including Leeds, but I’m sure nobody’s forgotten that Millwall play Swindon on the final day, so at the very least if we win the final three we’d move above one of these two. We just need more slips, hopefully starting on Saturday.
I’ve not been writing much of late, in part because at this stage of the season there’s no transfer gossip, no thoughts of anything other than supporting whatever X1 takes to the pitch, and not much left in the way of permutations to mull over. Add in a work-related trip to Amsterdam and having to miss the Southampton and Colchester games, plus the odd need to actually do some work (fraud charges against a certain US financial screwed up my weekend) and there’s not much opportunity for idle comment (which is not to say that the comments on other blogs are not always welcome).
It’s not going to change much in the near term as I’m supposed to be flying off to Lyon tomorrow for a week with my partner Suzanne, ruling out a trip to Exeter. Of course, I’ve no idea if the flight will happen. There is a contingency plan involving a train under the channel and picking up a TGV on the other side; the trains to Lyon are all full, but I’ll argue the toss if and when I’m on one without a ticket and happily ensconced in the bar. Possible justifications include weddings, christenings, illness etc. Might sound more convincing than the need to get to Lyon in time for a Lyon Duchere game on Saturday.
Being stuck in Amsterdam for the Colchester game did prompt some contemplation on past experience of waiting for news of Charlton games. Over the years I’ve had more nervous periods waiting for texts etc (although this time around all I wanted was one confirming the final whistle, not the succession of news about Lisbie, penalty claims etc which a helpful friend was forwarding, each of which prompted fears of an equaliser); and I’ve celebrated the relief of confirmation of victory in worse places. This sort of thing can give rise to all sorts of superstitions and prejudices. New York for me will always be associated with the (temporary) failure to finally secure promotion last time around (home defeat to Huddersfield I think it was), Paris is just an invitation for misery (away loss to Fulham and most recently only a draw at home to Gillingham), we’ve only ever lost in the cup to non-league opposition when I’ve been in Lyon (which doesn’t bode especially well for this Saturday), and the less said about Italy the better (especially a ‘welcome to the Championship’ home game against Scunthorpe).
However, Amsterdam is maintaining a good track record (away win at Hull and now the Colchester victory). It isn’t right up there with Tokyo (which involved getting up at some ungodly hour to find out the result in the second leg of the play-offs against Ipswich – and swearing at my mother for probably the only time in my life; well, fancy answering the phone and telling me “it was 1-0 I think” ... “yes but to who for fks sake”) but is probably on a par with Madrid (where I managed to find a bar to watch the last 20 minutes of a glorious but ultimately futile home win against Villa).
I’m not sure if all this is widening or narrowing my horizons. After all, I can’t be sure if the best omen is my location or activity. It can’t just be having a glass at the time as that is common to all the previous episodes (except on the one occasion in Tokyo, given the time). But then again both times I’ve been wine-tasting, in France and London, we’ve won. Both times against MK Dons, so maybe that is specific to games against them.
Perhaps the bottom line is not to rely on the lucky Charlton socks and pants, or the python skin boots, and ensure that, if it’s the play-offs this time, I find someone who’ll fly through the ash to Tokyo in time for me to book in for a wine-tasting during at least the second leg of the first round (seems the dates for these games have been outlined, so at least there’s some chance for planning). But if wine-tasting is the crucial element on both occasions I’ve been with my partner, Suzanne. I’m sure she’d love the idea of being whisked away to Tokyo for a surprise long weekend, but rather less convinced about the future of the relationship if I outlined the real reasons.
The compensation for being away this Saturday is the opportunity (if I make it to Lyon) to take in a Duchere fixture, at home to promotion-chasing Jura Sud. Duchere seem set for a mid-table finish in France’s CFA Groupe B, which is perfectly respectable after their promotion last season. Their games still aren’t exactly goal-fests (21 for and 22 against in 28 games so far), and I could of course have opted to support Lyon’s other team, the one contesting a Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich. But as was the case when taken to The Valley aged three, the die has been cast.
If I get to Lyon there is of course the problem of getting back. I booked a flight to return on the morning of the Leeds game, with enough time to get back. That was before the ash. It’s a bit of an understatement to suggest that others have more serious travel problems, but so far my timing looks good: flew back from Amsterdam the night before the ban, hopefully off to Lyon just after the ban is lifted. I think we’re in uncharted waters when it comes to the omens for games against Leeds when stranded overseas. May it not come to that.