So, this is it. Sunday and it's all to play for, winner takes all, one final push and we've made it etc. These are comments I was expecting to hear regarding our playoff challenge. Sadly, while they are still relevant points the context is completely different. As we all know, we simply have to win to give ourselves the chance of survival. Personally I think if we win survival is all but guaranteed because I can't see ALL of the other four clubs in the same mess as us winning. I'm not being ultra optimistic here either. My optimism died some time not long after the season started. But I really do think a win will see us safe. Question is, can we??
A lot of people seem to think it's a guaranteed three points for us and that the worry is that other teams will win too. I'm not so sure it's the best attitude to take. Sheffield United really do have the capacity to make all the other permutations irrelevant by beating us. They have something to play for, albeit only the faintest of chances of a playoff spot. They're riding high in the form tables with a decent away record, and having deservedly beaten Bristol City in their last match I feel sure their confidence must be high. So we're facing a determined, talented and focussed Sheffield United. If only they hadn't beaten City (or better still, if Brian Robson was still in charge!) I'm sure they'd be coming here with a slightly different attitude.
However, I suppose that's neither here nor there. All we can concern ourselves with is our own team. I think in the four key relegation matches it's all about the managers more than ever. Sending the team out with the right mental attitude is the key here. Not tactics, formations or anything like that. Preparing a team that will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get that win. A team that fights for everything but can remain calm amidst the chaos. A team that does all the simple things correctly, and remains concentrated and focussed for the entire match. A team that feels motivated to put right the things it has done wrong. I don't know what goes on in the dressing room before a match, I just know that I want to see a Saints team giving absolutely everything to try and salvage something from this train-wreck of a season. And I have confidence that Nigel Pearson will deliver on that and that we will see those qualities come through in our players. That in itself doesn't guarantee anything but it does give us more than a fighting chance.
I'm resigned to Sheffield Wednesday overcoming an already safe Norwich City, and Coventry will surely at least draw with a jaded Charlton, who've done very little since the playoffs became unassailable. Blackpool have a tough one against Watford and it's too close to call so there's a little encouragement for us there.
By contrast, can Leicester confident right now? I've no axe to grind with their fans but I don't think Mandaric (and no, its nothing to do with the Portsmouth connection) and Holloway have endeared themselves to many. Can Holloway raise his team to beat Stoke? I know a lot of Foxes fans take heart from the fact that they destroyed WBA on their own patch which was undoubtedly impressive, but I think his attitude has been a bit suspect recently. In interviews he hardly ever seems to accept that they're even involved in this fight. It's all bad luck, not converting chances, in a false position etc. So what's he going to say to his boys on Sunday? Personally, I'm confident they'll capitulate, possibly with an early red card. Not sure why, it's just a feeling i get.
So realistically it's between us, Leicester and Blackpool. Good luck to both, may the best team win etc. No matter what the outcome I can't wait for it to be over now. The season's been too long, too farcical and too painful to continue any longer. COME ON SAINTS, WE LOVE OUR CLUB, PLEASE DON'T PUT US THROUGH ANY MORE HELL!!!