|Time to step up men.|
The JimmyG2 Column
Nervous about tonight? I am. Actually I'm embarrassed and nervous. In fact I am more than a little irritated, embarrassed and nervous .How could we have let it all slip away so spectacularly? Lose our fourth in a row tonight, depending on whether Chelsea and Arsenal gain points on us again and we could be bidding farewell to the hopes and dreams so brilliantly nurtured this season.
Excuses, we have plenty: uncertainty over the fate of Harry, first in court and then for the England job; the threefold series of blips that coincided with the revival of Arsenal and Chelsea; the shock of the sudden collapse of Fabrice Muamba on the pitch at White Hart Lane and the postponement of our cup tie.
All these take their place in the catalogue of reasons why we may not be up for it tonight. Of course this is not a forgone conclusion. Firstly we haven't been playing badly, Arsenal excepted. Fabrice Muamba is making what seems to be a wonderful recovery from which our support staff can take some credit and from which we can all derive some hope.
There is no reason why we cannot win tonight and put the whole recent series of episodes behind us.
Those still dreaming of finishing above third, and I mean 'dreaming' will hope that Chelsea beat Man.City. But I stopped looking up a while ago and I am now casting anxious glances over my shoulder. Come on City, and Everton, and QPR. Who would have thought that we might be worrying about Liverpool. Well me anyway.
But it's still in our hands. The Gods have stopped helping us with results and we have to do it for ourselves. We have to go onto the pitch tonight, play our best players in their most effective positions, play our football and win a football match. Simples. Everyone but Harry seems to know what the mantra, 'best players in their best positions ' means.
The time for experimentation, if that's what it was, is over. Van Der Vaart behind Saha, Modric and Parker in the middle and Bale on the left taking account of likely missing players.(Adabeyor and Lennon. If either is available they should at least start.) Back to basics. Quick start, early goal and grind it out if necessary.
Stoke have won once in 37 years at WHL: and lost their last 8 games in London. They are amongst the lowest scorers away from home in the league. If they win it would be their first ever league double over us. So what is there to fear except, as Roosevelt said, 'fear itself'?
Anyone who feels that they cannot face playing after Wednesday should be excused but doubts may be raised about their mental toughness. What happened in midweek was a shock but despite all the emotional outpourings it was not 'family' and the players must get on with the job at this particularly crucial moment in our season once it has been decided that the game is going ahead.
Waving imaginary cards, diving, protesting decisions and professional fouls are not 'family' either. The family of football is a self indulgent myth and what happened against Bolton was a natural human response to a fellow human being in distress. So no excuses, no feeling sorry for ourselves vicariously through Fabrice. Win this game and move on.
Have I convinced myself? No of course not, but I trust that Harry has convinced the players that sick notes are just not acceptable, not from the doctor or even from your Mum. Time to step up men.