We shouldn't be down there - but we are! - 29/04/2003
We’ve played tremendously over the last few weeks, and really, if we’d played this well earlier in the season we’d be fighting for a European slot. It's hard to believe we’re still looking over our shoulders! We’ve lost only two out of eleven games and played Arsenal and Man Utd in the same period. But, the league table shows us to be only two points clear of West Ham although we’ve already hit the so-called 40 point safety target!
It’s quite an amazing season when it comes to the battle to stay in the top flight. Both our and West Ham’s form has been so good, and as a result, Leeds, Fulham, and Villa are still very capable of going down. Birmingham have done ever so well and are now well clear of trouble. Looking at the fixture list we’ve a tough away trip to Southampton, some will say they’ll have an eye on the cup final, but their players will also be looking to impress Gordon Strachan and secure their place in the cup final team. They’re a good team and play nice football, but I’d be looking to get amongst them and see how strong their appetite is for the game. It’s then Boro at home, they’re a terrible away record and let’s hope that continues. However they’ll be looking to finish the season in style and we’ll have to be at the top of our game to get the points.
We can look around at the other fixtures and gain confidence from the fact that our nearest rivals have some tough, tough games. West Ham have to entertain Chelsea and that’s a hard fixture at the best of times. However Chelsea are battling for Champions League football and most will fancy the away side getting at least a point. Their final game is away to Birmingham – a club who are really flying at the moment. It’ll be a celebration for Birmingham and with the players they have, they’ll be determined to finish the season in style – a hard game to get anything from! It’s not any easier for my old mate Peter Reid, they ONLY have to face Arsenal at Highbury and then play Villa at home in the last game! Villa aren’t safe themselves and if they fail to get a result on Saturday, it’ll be another massive game at Villa Park.
To be quite honest, anything can happen! But it’s in our hands, we’re playing great football, we’re in a consistent run of form and you’d expect us to pick up a couple of points in the next games – that’ll place massive pressure on West Ham and Leeds and it’s going to go to the wire.
Talking of pressure, I’m going to the Shrewsbury game tonight. They’re playing Carlisle at home and anything but a win will mean relegation out of the league and into the Conference. I’ve still got a few friends down there and have a lot of happy memories from my time in Shropshire. Everywhere you look there’s pressure and tension - football…and they call it a game!
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