We’re coming together as a team - 21/12/2002
It’s been a tough season, what with adjusting to football in this division and the much publicised financial situation. But some five months in, I think we’re coming together as a team and within range of a play-off place. It’s a tough and competitive league, a few weeks ago we were looking over our shoulders at the wrong and of the table, but, prior to today’s game, with three home wins on the bounce, we find ourselves only 6 points away from third place! It’s now 9 out of 12 unbeaten – and we aim to keep that going. Christmas and New Year is always an interested time of the football year, with so many games crammed into such a short amount of time, the table can change quite a bit. It’s not easy trying to put your finger on how we’ve found better form of late, perhaps it’s the fact that the lads have gelled recently – we’re playing so many games and the team has been relatively stable. I also think the gaffer’s influence is coming though. You might think that a strange statement to make – he’s been here for getting on for a year, but all last season was spent in a desperate effort to stay up. It’s one thing facing a relegation battle, and another building a team for the medium to long term.
Injuries have also taken their toll on the club, but at least we seem to have turned the corner. OK we’ve still Rav, Branco, Mawene and Lewis Hunt missing, but it’s certainly not as bad as it was! Craig Burley is a big player for Derby, and now he’s back in the team we’re feeling the benefit. Let’s just hope the injuries continue to improve, if so, we’re a good chance to improve our league position. I think the play-off’s are an achievable target, although both Portsmouth and Leicester are flying and looking good for automatic promotion. It’s usually the case that a team runs away with the title, just look back at Man City, Fulham, and Sunderland – all went up with quite a sizeable lead. Whether Pompey or Leicester can keep going, only time will tell. But for us, having to make up 20 or so points is a massive target.
Today’s game at Coventry will be tough, last year they had similar problems in adjusting to life in division one, and with Gary McCallister taking charge this term, I feel they’re on the right track. He’s a great player with an fantastic ability strike a shot and spray 40 yard passes around. At approaching 38 years of age, he’s an inspiration to those of us in our thirties. Let’s just hope he doesn’t hit a cracker today! After Coventry, we face Grimsby at home – a game we should be looking to pick up three points. We’re then on the road to two teams who are handily placed; Reading and Wolves. If we can take points from these games, we’ll give ourselves a great chance of moving up the table.
As for me on a personal front, well I’m really enjoying my football. The responsibility of the captaincy is something I thrive on, and I’m looking forward to the new-year with confidence. After I had the suspension I’ve returned feeling fit, my legs are doing fine, and my wing-back role allows me to get further forward – something I enjoy. I hope the team can give you a good Christmas, we’ll certainly be doing all we can to bring you as many points as possible!
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